Dan Bathker, K6BLG
(formerly KN6BLG, 1953)
The FCC did a Great Thing by initiating the Novice license about 1951. As a teenager in the Los Angeles California area in May 1953 at the age of 14, I Timidly took the old Pacific Electric Suburban streetcar from Burbank 'all the way' to downtown LA - 15 miles 'over trestles and through a long tunnel' - cost a Dime (Each Way) - to The Federal Building, an impressive 10-story edifice - about the tallest that could be built in LA in those days - (earthquake concerns and fairly primitive structural-dynamic engineering and computational abilities then). Found my way upstairs and despite The 'Intimidating' Official Federal Radio Examiner, I passed the written test without trouble, and passed the 5 WPM code test 'shakily'. Wow - the Federal FCC room had these Heavy Old Solid Oak 'Library' tables that we Mere Applicants had to sit at and 'do our stuff' Under The Watchful Eyes of The Official Examiner.....
After a seemingly long wait, a Little Tiny Envelope came in the mail 6 weeks or so later - WOW - KN6BLG - "Boston-London-Germany" - sometimes aka "Boys Like Girls" --
Can't find that old ticket, but I did find a slightly later envelope dated 9-21-53 and a later ticket showing Sept. 1953 - for the Technician class - Hey, One Step at a Time - and also showing 1-28-54 for the Much Sought After General class ticket - see photo 1 - (Every Novice Wanted to 'rid' themselves of that "N" in their Call "As Soon as Possible" then). "Boy" - Talk About Incentive then....the FCC 'did it' masterfully. 'We' Novices even ordered QSL cards withOut the "N" printed, in Expectation of winning a better ticket 'soon'. We would temporarily (and thrift fully) just write-in a tiny "N" between the K (or W) and the 6 (the 6 in 'these parts' of the US)....
Those of course were the days of homemade 6AG7 to 6L6 crystal controlled 'toob' transmitters. It was OK to buy a receiver, but it was basically a 'given' that you really ought to build your own transmitter. It took a Lot of Months of newspaper deliveries to just buy the toobs, much less the transformer, iron choke, caps and resistors but I got it together, a '35 Watter' documented in an ARRL1953 QST - and it worked. Best DX was Utah (with a now-understood NVIS Near Vertical Incidence ionospheric propagation mode - as results from a from a very Low but full 1/2 wave 80m horizontal antenna). (WOW - a Big Deal for a kid to 'project' his shaky fist even that far, then). I well-recall the (only) crystal I had - a 'real-low' one for the old 3700-3750 80m Novice sub band - on 3702.6 kilocycles (kHz these days) - heck, those Old Hot Toob receivers would Drift in frequency almost that much then. SSB was 'just coming in' but the darn old receivers didn't do well stability-wise - Wavery Mickey-Mouse Voices with SSB, at best. CW was 'easy' (sort-of) if you had somewhat of a 'fist' and an 'ear'. SSB voice - Just Too Difficult for Beginners then - even the 'old guys' had troubles with SSB then.
Then, being an Inquisitive Type who hadn't Quite electrocuted himself Yet, I actually figured out how to "series-up-aiding" the secondaries of Two 350-0-350 volt transformers, while parallel feeding the '110' vAC primaries. This, and a couple ancient 866-Juniors (Mercury Vapor) rectifier toobs and an Old White-Base 807 that a local 'old' ham gave me, that got me 700 vDC - full wave rectified - Clean 'big' power with the 807, maybe 75 Watts - "I did it with the overpowered 300 Watt soldering iron" my dad allowed me to use - his 'tern-plate' (galvanized) sheet-metal air conditioning duct sealing-class iron, 'way too powerful for light electronics, but of course I did not understand that at the time.
The station then - see photos 2a,b,c - show the usual early 50's stuff - Left-to-Right - 1/2 of a WWII USN bunkbed - my brother had the other half - an affair with crossed metal bands and little 'springs' arrayed only horizontally (nothing vertical) at the ends of the metal strips, with a 'tick' (a thin mattress about 3 inches thick) - (Well, I grew-up "sorta-straight" Despite that) - (my brother did too) - then the usual WRL World Radio Laboratories US Radio map on the wall - from the old Leo Meyerson outfit in Council Bluffs Iowa that helped many 'kids' not to mention 'Old Guys' get on the air with minor but critical 'raaadio parts'- then the 'Halliscratchers' S-53 receiver (a DOG) - then the usual QSL and SWL cards - from far away places - ("THIS IS Radio Moscow, Moscow, THE USSR"), as used to boom-in then (as well as Their RFE [Radio Free Europe] SW Jammers against 'us'). We the US had our SW jammers too, against them, beamed into the USSR - 'radio war' - - and then in the photo, the ARRL standard logbook. And then THAT Power Supply, the twin 350-0-350 volt seriesed transformers, the iron choke, the 866-Jr's, and the OLD 30's 0-100 engraved knobs on the transmitter. The power supply caps (I seriesed-up 350 or 400 vDC electrolytics WITHOUT 'Benefit' of voltage 'equalizing' hi R resistors across the 700 vDC) - I didn't understand that detail then yet - those caps would frequently 'go smoke' on me due to unequal voltage 'sharing' (I understood that detail only years later)...
Apologies, but photo 2c is quite bad - but shows my key screwed-into the (then) at least 50 year old Solid Walnut desk (my dad had a FIT over that) - and the 'modern' GONSET 2 meter 'Communicator', a 10 Watt or so AM voice 'rig' that I later ran in my '41 Ford - 'chasing girls' while yakking on 2m - 'Early Multitasking' -- then a Heathkit VFO, a Heathkit "VT-1" (as I recall) - a VTVM - Real Great Stuff back then.
As I said, the FCC did a Great Thing with the old Novice license. FCC "gave" us so many Incentives - so much so as a 'poor' kid I was actually 'driven' to get a BSEE (if only to understand raaadio 'stuff'). Did that (somehow) (Only Flunked Feedback Control Systems) (and Differential Equations II) (heh heh) - then later traveled the world thereafter (Well, not Africa nor Antarctica, but pretty much everywhere else) - later still, did a 10 year stint frequently assigned to Geneva Switzerland-the ITU (International Telecommunications
Union) (Study Group 7, Space Radio). The ITU-R develops the International Radio Regulations, a treaty-status document published periodically. One of the best parts of working at the ITU was getting 'station privileges' at their station 4U1 ITU - worked some Real HF DX from there - also some 432/144 MHz satellite stuff from there -- see photo 3.
Here's a Little and Primitive website I 'managed' to assemble after retirement.
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