My Amateur Radio Adventure
As a young 10 year boy in 1957, having a Short Wave Radio had always intrigued me. I would order the Allied Radio Catalog and would drool over the Band Scanner SWL Radio Kit that they advertised. The price of $25.00 was a fortune to me at that time, so I just dreamed that one day I would own a Short Wave Radio and discover the mysteries of short wave radio.
Being a typical kid in that era, I would often find the treasures that my urban neighbors would discard in front of the apartment buildings where I lived. In 1961, one such find was an old RCA Broadcast Band and Short Wave Receiver.
Upon dragging this dirty box back to our small apartment, I immediately plugged it into the AC socket and found that most of the tubes would light. It also had a strange green eye in the center of the radio! My mother would often repair our old Black and White TV by changing tubes, so I figured that if I replaced those tubes that didn’t light, maybe I could get this radio to work.
Living in the city provided us with a wealth of stores, one of which was the local TV Repair Shop where I secured the tubes I needed. Upon returning with the tubes I needed, and replacing the bad tubes, I was surprised when the radio came to life and the room was filled with static. Upon connecting a random piece of wire to the antenna lugs, I began hearing our old favorites “Oldies” stations on the AM Broadcast band. Later that evening as I moved the dial across the 7 Mhz band, the Green Eye closed I stumbled onto a station signing W3IOU who was talking with someone who I couldn’t hear. Could this be the ham radio stations that I had hear about who were on the short wave bands?
At school the next day, I looked for a younger kid whose house had a large antenna on the roof and I told him what I had discovered. His reply was ‘sure that’s ham radio and my mother and father are both hams. He invited me to his apartment a few blocks from where I lived and introduced me to his mother K2UXW Trudy Forbes (SK) and his father K2QMS Roy Forbes (SK) who would later become my Elmer’s.
On one side of their kitchen, in their small apartment, was a desk filled with all sorts of radios, dials and switches. Trudy and Roy explained to me what ham radio was all about and I was hooked. They encouraged me to study for my Novice License and gave me the study materials from that era, all from the ARRL. From that day forward, I was always asking Roy and Trudy questions and stopping by their QTH as I continued my studies.
In late June of 1962, I took the 5 WPM Code Test and the written exam at the Forbes QTH. Every day during the months of and in August of that year, I would race home from school to our mailbox to see if I got a letter from the FCC. Finally, that day arrived, and as I ripped open the envelope, WN2CZB was listed above my name and I had my Novice Ticket. At that time Novices were allowed 2 Meter AM privileges and Roy K2QMS lent me a Gonset 2 Meter AM Transceiver to make my first QSO’s.
I had saved enough money to buy a Heathkit Twoer (2 Meter AM Regenerative Transceiver) and had made a QSO to a station in Conn with a Ground plane Antenna. I had worked my first DX station and I was hooked on DX’ing from that day forward.
My Novice year passed in a flash and although I was able to save enough money for an HQ-110A, I never got enough money for a transmitter so I didn’t get the chance to operate on the Novice bands on CW.
After I passed my Technician Test, I was sure that I would be issued the call sign W2CZB since that call had not been issued. I was very surprised when my license arrived and I was issued the call sign WB2CZB. To all the old timers at time, my call sign labeled me as one of the new kids on the block.
I continued to operate on 2 meters until 1965 when I purchased a Ameco TX62 which gave me the 6 Meter Band. I erected a small 3 element Yagi on the roof of the apartment building where I lived and discovered the Magic Band. I was working out to the mid west on Sporadic E and even heard the Bahamas on CW! I was hooked on 6 meters, which is still my favorite band.
In the following years, I upgraded to General, began my carrier in the Police Department, the US Army Reserve and got married, so my operating time was limited. It was after our first son Scott was born and we moved to our own home in Hillsdale, NJ, that I began to actively chase DX on the HF bands.
Knowing that I wasn’t going to achieve a high country total with a General Ticket I began to study for my Advanced and finally my Extra Class license. At this time period, the exams were given at the FCC Office at Varrick Street New York City. I thought that the Advanced Class theory was more difficult than the Extra Class theory at the time. I’ll never forget the old school desks where you were required to copy by hand one full minute of copy at 20 WPM. I was concerned that the elderly looking examiner would be able to read my poor handwriting. But he did and I passed and walked out with my Extra Class License.
I was now able to get to operate in those first 25 Khz where all that DX was hiding from me. It was at my small lot in Hillsdale, NJ (50 feet by 104 feet) where I achieved 50 Mhz DXCC #48, 50 Mhz WAS # 676, 50 Mhz WAC, 50 Mhz WAZ # 9, and 155 countries confirmed on 50 Mhz , using a 5-element yagi at 55 feet and a KW.
I also achieved Honor Roll Status on HF using a 3 element tri-band yagi and wire antennas, along with 160 Meter DXCC # 131 with an Inverted L with radials running all around my small suburban lot.