Ron D' Eau Claire, AC7AC
(formerly WN6QAS, 1952, W6QAS, AC6Y)
I can't count the number of homebrew rigs I've built and used a few times before starting on something new.There's another story behind that for me. My first Novice rig was a simple homebrew 6V6 oscillator using parts scavenged from an old radio using a circuit found in "How to Become a Radio Amateur". The tank coil was made from bell wire woven on a circle of nails and tied with string. The supply delivered about 300 volts and at about 50 mA it ran 15 watts, d-c input, probably making between 7 and 10 watts output on 80 meters. As soon as I got my General I modified it to work on 40 meter CW. I used that rig for a couple of years, always dreaming of something bigger, but money was very tight.
One of my buddies, Gary, panicked when his long-awaited Novice ticket arrived some months after I got mine, WN6QAS. His station was assigned KN6ABD. Clearly there was a terrible mistake; everyone knew the "K" prefix was assigned only to Ham stations on military bases. Gary called the FCC district engineer's office in Los Angeles before daring to use the call. He found out that the FCC had finally run out of W6 calls: fellow Novices in Redlands, CA; WN6FUO, WN6PZO and I had received reassigned calls from SKs or lapsed licenses, and they had run out of the available 1X3 combos using the W prefix. So the FCC began assigning "K" calls to civilians.
But we all became just W6FUO, W6QAS, W6PZO, K6HAA and K6ABD as we upgraded. The only distinction in calls was that Hams, after some period of time on the air and having a Class A (Extra) license could request a 1X2 call, just dropping the last letter if the combination was still available.
All of my mentors, Brooks Rettig, K6GGS (ran a machine shop in Redlands), Field Gray, K6HAA (Jack Webb's art director on "Dragnet" and for his movies), Col. Brook Sawyer, W6CV (Retired WWII Signal Corps and insurance agent in Redlands), and Les Burger, K6ETY (my High School "radio shop" teacher) are gone now. I only kept in touch with Les over the years. He quit teaching and we worked together as technicians and technical writers at Lockheed Aircraft and Sylvania Electronic Defense Labs before he went back to sea pounding brass as a "sparky" (Les had been torpedoed several times during WWII doing just that in the Merchant Marine). He came ashore again in the late 60's and went to work at KPH in Pt. Reyes. I was living in the San Francisco area so we saw each other from time to time.
I wanted a 1X2 call, like my Brook, W6CV, but back then it took a number of years of being licensed, not just holding the right class license. By the time I was eligible they were no longer being offered. So, when the 2X1s came along in the 70's, I took a deep breath and submitted my application and got the 76th 2X1 issued in California, AC6Y. The first few times I got on 20 CW with it I created pileups until some very irritated ops realized I was just another "6" and not some exotic dx-pedition, Hi!
The one-year "Novice" period and the old Class B Ham licenses were wonderful that way - especially the Novice license I think with its distinctive call and special sub-bands. It was our playground. Our learning workshop. I can remember lusting after the 40 meter band as soon as I could get my General. Immediately after losing the N in my call I moved onto 40 meters - 300 beautiful kc/s of CW - feeling like I could at least do the right thing; Feeling like I had earned the privilege of roaming that band and the other bands too.