Don Minkoff, NK6A
(WV6HYE, 1959, WA6IYK)
Saturday night was time for Gunsmoke on channel two if my memory serves me correctly. The family Emerson black and white 19 inch TV was hooked up via 300 ohm twin lead to a bow-tie antenna that also picked up interference from our neighbor three doors away. Every time Charley, W6NQX, would transmit, he would interfere with our TV. I would run down to his house and shack (which was in the garage and always open) to complain. I was hooked watching him tune in distant DX stations on his National HRO50. I even got to plug in different band modules. I was able to listen to both sides of the QSO before being dragged home by my mother. This was probably in late 1958. I was 11 years old.
I would spend many days and nights listening and even talking to a few stations while visiting Charley. At home I listened to shortwave stations on an old multi-band radio where I could hear W6NQX on AM phone but still only one side of the QSO. I needed a better receiver. Paper route money, mowing lawn money and even shoeshine money got me a Hallicrafters SX99 receiver from Thrifty Electronics in Van Nuys. There sure were a lot of electronics stores back then. Olson Electronics, Thrifty, Valley Electronics on Sherman Way, Panorama City Electronics, Allied, Lafayette, and a few I forgot.
I built a one-tube code practice oscillator that had a nice raspy sound. My initial entry into learning code was from a cardboard semaphore toy that had the code on the back and you squeezed it to make flashes (black and white horizontal lines).
I took a class at Valley Electronics taught by W6DDB, I believe, during the summer of 1959 and soon took my Novice test. August of 1959 I became WV6HYF. I went out (a big chore for a 12-year-old who didn’t drive) to Henry Radio on Olympic in West Los Angeles. I lived in Panorama City near Van Nuys. I bought a used Heathkit DX40. I strung up a dipole and used a knife switch for my transmit receive switch. I bought crystals for 40 meters (7199, 7175, 7160) and 15 meters. I still have all those FT243 crystals.
I began as a 7th grader at Robert Fulton Junior High in September 1959 and joined the radio club. I don’t recall much but there were a number of hams in that club and a station on the second floor. I also joined the San Fernando Radio Club, W6SD. I later purchased a used Hygain 18AVQ. All band ground mounted vertical. I was using a straight key that I borrowed from Charley. A J44. I still have it. I later purchased a Monarch enclosed Bug.
My big DX during my Novice year was Hawaii on 15 meters (see my first DX QSL card above). I have my entire original QSL cards from my Novice days but have yet to find my own original card or my license. Those days many card shops would send out offers and specials to new Novices. Brownie, Little Print Shop out of Texas.
I was not fortunate enough to upgrade to General or Technician during my Novice year of activity. I sure did try. I failed a few times at the FCC office in Downtown Los Angeles. One time for the code and a few times for the theory. It would be a few more years until I finally passed and became a General.