Ray Cadmus, W0PFO
(formerly WN9EUM, 1954)
I had the good fortune of attending a high school where one of the teachers was an active ham. My elmer, and that of many others over the years, was Brother Leo Schultz SM - W9SWB (The old "Short Wave Bug"). We had a small radio club, just five or six of us as I remember. The after school sessions started with code practice then moved into the physics lab for theory and lots of fun demonstrations.
Bro. Leo started us out building a crystal set. You know, the old fashioned kind with a galena crystal and cat's whisker. Always pinched for funds, I bough the cheapest wire I could find for the coil. Believing that experience was the best teacher, he let me build with it. When it didn't work as expected he pointed out that it might have been better to have used insulated wire...
We all took the novice exam at the St. Louis, MO FCC office. Some of us passed, my buddy Tom didn't make the code first time. That was probably good for me as he lent me his receiver to get on the air. I still remember that fine old National FB-7 with the plug in coils for 80 & 40. Not pretty but it worked. Bro. Leo loaned me a home brew 6L6 rig to get me started. My first antenna was a wire run under the eaves of our little house. My folks didn't want wire showing so the big oak trees went begging as antenna supports.
My early attempts at contacts were less than spectacular. Finally, one of the local hams came by to see what was wrong and discovered that I was very carefully tuning the pi-network for absolute minimum power. Once taught how to properly tune the rig I was off on a wonderful adventure.
I soon moved on to General Class and with the help of my folks and some part time jobs went through a series of rigs culminating with my pride and joy - a Harvey Wells Bandmaster transmitter. While I loved that rig, it's poor quality audio insured that W9EUM became W9 Everlastingly Under Modulated. Perhaps that is what nudged me into mostly CW operations.
A bit of job hopping, chasing the next great computer programming assignment, took me through WA6JWL, WA7FFV, back to W9EUM and finally W0PFO. I'm now retired in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. If I ever get a decent antenna up I expect to be back on QRP CW trying to regain some lost code speed.