Gary Liljegren, W4GAL
(formerly WN0ZAQ, 1954)
Des Moines, IA
When I was 11, a family friend, John Moffet, WØSVD, let me sit in front of his up-to-date Collins lineup: 75A3 and 32V3 and listen to the magic of ham radio. He told me of a local ham, Duane Farris, WØEHH, who was a Presbyterian minister and was conducting Novice classes and teaching Morse code. Almost every Saturday morning, I would take the bus out to the end of the line and then hoof it another mile to Duane's church. His hamshack where he taught the classes was in his church office. In the picture, taken by a reporter from the Des Moines Register and Tribune, I'm either 11 or 12. I'm the one with dark glasses. Duane was about 34.
WØSVD gave me a National SW-3 receiver from the '30s that I used while learning about ham radio. Gee I wish I had that receiver now. I gave it away when my dad bought me my first station.
I took the Novice exam from the FCC in April, 1954 on my 13th birthday, and flunked the code test. My hand was sweating so badly, my fingers kept sliding down the #2 pencil. From April to December, I worked on getting more proficient. By about December, the FCC had changed things and people with General and above licenses were permitted to give the Novice exam. Duane gave me my test, I passed, and my license arrived in January 1955, with January 4th as the date on it. WNØZAQ.
Sometime in the next year, I ought to be able to find the picture of me and my first station: my dad bought me a used Hallicrafters S40B and an 80/40 commercial CW transmitter whose name I have forgotten. My logbook which I still have has pages and pages of me calling CQ and calls of stations I was trying to work with almost no success. It was probably a month of operating before I discovered that I could turn down the RF gain and find my crystal controlled signal in only one place on the dial. It is honestly surprising that I stuck with it.
By the time I passed the General in July or August, I had upgraded to a Viking Adventurer and had worked many of the states plus a VE4 whose call I have forgotten, but whose name was Gord Duffy. How's that for impact!
Now here we are in 2010. I have been licensed for 55 years, I'm 68.