Rick Faust, N2RF
Those Novice Days
It was the fall of 1952 and the place was Falls Church High School located in northern Virginia in the town of the same name. I saw a notice posted on the school bulletin board saying that there would be a one hour club period each week and individuals interested in starting a club should find a faculty sponsor. I immediately approached the chemistry/physics teacher and asked if she would sponsor a school radio club. Happily she agreed to do this and I posted notices inviting all with an interest in radio to the first meeting.
At this time I knew very little about ham radio. I had tinkered with old BC sets and saved enough money to buy a shiny new Hallicrafters S-40B at Sun Radio in downtown DC with which I listened to the ham bands. However, I didn't know any hams and didn't know how to get licensed.
Boy did that ever change when four licensed operators showed up at the first club meeting as well as about a dozen others. I was elected president of the club with the provision that I get a ticket post-haste. My mentors were Pete Buttner, W4YVO, Buddy Smith, W4YZC (now W4YE) Bob Colby, W4VRM and Bob MacDowell, W4VGS. By February of 1953 I had managed to copy the required 5 wpm at the little red schoolhouse in DC. Soon after passing the test I had my HB 6L6 rig ready to go.
Unfortunately, the FCC was swamped at this time and it was April before my Mom handed me the little envelope which made me WN4ZNQ. There followed lots of on-the air QSOs as well as visits to the member QTHs . Other members were also stimulated to get licenses including Mac McGee, W4ZNU, Bill North, W4ZLA, Tom Watson, W4APQ, Charlie Landon, W4APM, and Bob Houston, W4EMN. We also got the club call of W4BRN for use at the school with Buddy Smith as trustee.
These visits built friendships that are fondly remembered. One reflection about the changes in ham radio since our novice days has to do with VHF gear. The contrast between todays's HTs and Bob MacDowell's SCR-522 (2 meter surplus) can't be overstated. A rack of dynamotors fed by large selenium rectifiers made it necessary to remote the rig from the very noisy power supply. The ARC-5 family of radios were my answer to VFO operation when I earned my General ticket.
A memorable incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon when I was trying to modify a BC-459 by adding a doubler stage to permit 20 meter operation. As I tested the rig the phone rang and it was the tower at National Airport. I was messing up tower communications and was told to QRT. Fortunately, the tower operator was also a ham. Lot's of memories from those first days in ham radio. I'll always treasure each of them.
Rick Faust, N2RF