Bill Penhallegon, W4STX
(formerly KN9CTD, 1956; K9CTD, 1956; K3BXP, 1957)
When I went on active duty in the Army in 1955, I was 24 years old. I had been in ROTC while in college and had a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Jefferson Proving Ground near Madison, Indiana was my first post. The Proving Ground had been built during WWII for the testing of artillery ammunition and other munitions and my assignment was in the Instrumentation Branch. The Proving Ground was an Ordnance Corps installation that had less than a dozen officers and no enlisted men. Civil Service civilians did the actual firing of the artillery at the range and all of the other work at the Proving Ground.
Since I had always been interested in amateur radio and there were a half dozen hams in the Instrumentation Branch, I started practicing Morse code with these Elmers and before I knew it I had taken the Novice exam by mail and was on the air on 80 meters with an end fed wire antenna, a homebrew 807 transmitter and borrowed RCA AR-77 receiver. My Novice license was issued on 3-19-56 and I had KN9CTD as my call sign. This was all great fun and the magic is still there.
My first crude homemade QSL card was a photograph of a 155 mm gun firing at night. A copy of my QSL and a copy of my Novice license are attached.
After being on the air as a Novice for a few months I took the Technician test by mail and dropped the "N" in my call and became K9CTD. This license was issued on 10-8-56. The FCC didn't bother to cancel my Novice license probably because it was only good for a year.
The FCC only traveled to neighboring cities every six months to give exams. I drove down to Louisville, KY, and successfully took the 13 wpm code test. My General ticket was issued on 1-14-57.
When I moved to Maryland the FCC gave me the call sign K3BXP and when I later moved to Florida I was given W4STX. After moving to Florida I received my Advanced license and then an Extra class license with the 20 wpm test.
I have been a continuous ARRL member for over 50 years and a QCWA member over 25 years and, yes, the magic is still there.