Alvin Burgland, W6WJ
(formerly WN6THP, 1953)
My novice career was a washout. I was first licensed as WN6THP in 1953 at age 20. I had to drive up from Laguna Beach to take the exam in Los Angeles. I had worked for two years out of High School for the telephone company hoping to get transferred to Laguna Beach. That became a lost cause so I started school at Orange Coast College in the fall of that year. All my time was spent with school work or my part-time job driving a taxi in Laguna, mostly on weekends. That was a neat job for a school boy and a liberal education in itself. I was relicensed as a Technician after I graduated from CSU Long Beach in 1957. That's when I became W6WRU. FCC at that time was assigning the W6 and K6 1x3 available licenses before beginning to issue WA6 call signs. About that same time my mother became licensed as K6UFI (Unidentified Flying Insect). She was a great pal and often joined with me and my six-meter traffic net friends on our social outings.
Actually the story of how I became a General Class amateur is more interesting. Although my college degree is a BS in Business Management, I became more interested in computer programming and eventually found myself working for Collins Radio Company in Newport Beach. This was 1963 and Collins was developing a message switching system for a major airline on a state of the art high speed computer. I was writing I/O software for the project. The Newport Beach facility had a caged inventory lockup area with all sorts of Collins radio gear on shelves. I noticed that they had a complete KWM2 station with PS and outboard PTO. It turned out that the ham gear belonged to a Sales group in Cedar Rapids who had used it at a ham convention on the West coast and left it in Newport Beach. I called the manager in Cedar Rapids and he offered to sell me the station complete for 500 dollars. What's more he would send it through the Santa Ana repair facility to have all the latest engineering change orders installed so it would be like a brand new KWM2A! Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity. Suddenly, I had a complete HF station and only a Technician Class license. That was MY incentive licensing program! I studied CW diligently and had my general license in about six weeks.
In 1963 the test was also offered in Long Beach at the Coast Guard station. I decided to try my luck there instead of the Federal Building in LA. The tester was a CG Chief Petty Officer and the ambiance was very informal. He had a portable tape recorder which was set up on the desk of a classroom with tables and chairs for about 30 people. I counted twelve of us taking the test. He played us some code as a trial and asked if we wanted the volume adjusted or to change seats before he began the test. His laid-back attitude certainly had a calming effect on me. Seven of us passed the code test and went on to take the written exam.
I'm a Charter Life Member of ARRL. (Charter because I was one of the first 300 hams to become a Life Member when the program began. Last time I checked there were only 166 of us still living.) Early in the year 2000 I got an email from ARRL informing me of an easy upgrade to Extra Class. This based on passing the current Extra Class written exam (Element 4B) before April 15, 2000 and then submitting the upgrade after the 20 wpm requirement went away in mid-April. This is how I became an early "Extra Lite" ham having credit for only13 wpm code speed.
To celebrate my advancement to Extra Class I wanted a 1x2 call sign. I was hoping for W6RU, W6WR, or W6WU since I had been licensed as W6WRU since 1957. While getting better informed about the process I had a couple of applications dismissed. I actually got some good help from the lady at the FCC Gettysburg office who canceled the licenses of deceased amateurs based on requests mostly from family or friends. Darlene Reeder (since retired) helped me understand how the canceled call sign of an amateur who died more than two years ago would become immediately available for reissue using the vanity program.
I then began checking out W6Wx call signs beginning with W6WA to find one whose holder showed up on the SSDI list as having expired more that two years prior. The first one I found was W6WJ. I really liked the CW sound of that call sign! The prior holder was a man from Hemet, CA named Stanley Pryga. I called the Riverside County Clerk's office to see if I could obtain an official copy of his death certificate. I guess the person I spoke to liked my story about why I wanted it. They mailed it to me for a $15.00 fee on my charge card. FCC's Ms. Reeder had told me she would accept a copy of the SSDI data but I wanted to know what happened to Stanley Pryga. From the death certificate I learned that he was 81 when he died of multiple traumatic injuries suffered in a one-vehicle accident while driving his pickup truck which left the roadway and struck a power pole. The coroner found that he suffered a heart attack causing him to lose control of the vehicle. Rest in peace, Stanley.
I began to answer questions about vanity applications on vanityhq.com based on my experience obtaining W6WJ. Then I decided to write Panning for 1x2 Gold to share what I knew about finding a vanity call sign. I should say that not all critics are happy with my essay. There are some hams who want to keep this information secret so only a select few 'worthy hams' benefit. But I am a democrat who will help all seekers. I helped a boy of 13 to obtain W6YB. I told him that YB could stand for Young Boy or the old existential question, Why Be? He liked that. He's now a college lad and still an active ham. I'm glad I didn't rule him out because he was not an old timer. I've been a vanity call sign Elmer to more than 100 amateurs since the year 2000. I have enjoyed helping others. It's payback for many years of an enjoyable pastime.