Paul Danzer, N1II
(ex-KN2DGR, 1953; K2DGR; W1DQJ)
Novice Days 1953
I was a teenager - 15 years old, the January or February of 1953 when I passed my novice exam. In those days you had to go down to an ancient building in lower Manhattan and deal directly with a cigar-smoking FCC examiner. He had a fierce reputation among teen-age hams - we were all
scared of him - but little did we know that he always went out of his way to help kids.
In those days there were real radio stores in New York. I learned code by renting a paper tape machine called an "Instructograph," from one of them for fifty cents a week, if I remember the cost correctly. It had two spools for the paper tape, a variable speed motor drive, metal contacts that read the dots and dashes cut through the paper tape, and a vacuum tube tone oscillator.
I passed the in-person exam first shot, but then followed the longest 4 or 5 months of my life. Just when I passed the exam, and was waiting for the little piece of paper to arrive in the mail so I could go on the air, the FCC lifted the freeze on new TV stations. For reasons lost in the mists of
time, they had frozen all TV station license actions. The timing was such that after passing the exam, and of course waiting to know my call - the FCC paper mill stopped processing all applications except those of TV stations.
Every day I rode the subway and bus for an hour and a half back from high school. The last two blocks on foot were unbearable, and each day my mother told me "no mail."
Finally, in June, the precious piece of paper arrived. I was now KN2DGR. By this time, of course, I was ready to pass the general exam. The next day I went back to the FCC office - it was not far from my high school - and passed it. The new license appeared two months later. Hanging on the wall of
my shack today are two QSL cards dated August 1953, addressed to my novice call, and confirming my DX from Queens, NY to Greenwich CT and Dayton Ohio. I must have been thrilled with the Dayton contact!
My first transmitter was out of an ARRL book, and was a 6L6 built on a pair of 1x2 pieces of wood. Unfortunately, it did not work. With limited experience and skill I naturally took it apart and carefully rebuilt it. Still no success. I changed to circuit of another configuration out of the Handbook, and still no success. Curiously, the problem was I was always getting output, even when the key (A J-38 of course) was up. How should I know the key was missing the little insulating washer belo w the center contact?
My first receiver was a surplus 6-tube WW2 marine receiver with an usual configuration. No RF stage, two IF stages, metal case and AC/DC. The shockpotential was very high; one side of the line was wired directly to the chassis and case! Naturally I added a BC-453 as a Q-5er and a FL-5. If you are not familiar with those numbers, well you just have not been around long enough.
My novice days, or almost novice days, culminated in receiving an official FCC notice that a neighbor was complaining about my station. TVI? No, she claimed I was interfering with her washing machine. Remember, these were the days of electromechanical timers - washing machines did not have the electronics they have today.
These were also kinder, more gentle days. I called the FCC office and asked what to do. After the FCC engineer stopped laughing, he told me just to reply to their letter that I have examined my 6L6 transmitter and can find no way it could be interfering with the washing machine in question.
de N1ii - Paul Danzer
Ex KN2DGR, ex K2DGR, ex W1DQJ