Dan Cron, W6SBE
(formerly KN5ELI, 1956)
I got my novice license at age 11 in 1956 as KN5ELI. My dad was W5CFN and my younger brother Ron, age 8, was KN5ELJ and we lived in Hobart, Oklahoma. In those days, the novice was only good for one year and was non-renewable. We novices had little 50 Khz segments on 80, 40 and 15 meters and maybe ten meters. I don't remember any others but I know we didn't have any privileges on 20. For phone, we had 2 meters AM or CW from 145-147 Mhz. A lot of novices wasted their time on phone and at the end of the year they were not ready for their general code test. Some of my earlier memories as a young novice was watching my dad operate his 5 ft tall, glass-enclosed homebrew transmitter with all the tubes which glowed different colors. For my own rig, I used his Johnson Viking 2 and a Hallicrafters SX-28a receiver. We had a center fed dipole fed by open-wire feeders with 6-inch porcelain spreaders. This antenna was stretched between two 55-foot power poles donated by the local electric company. In those days, hams were a valuable resource and Dad had all kinds of public service awards on his shack wall for his communications during ice storms and tornadoes.
That year, we moved to California. My Dad worked for the CAA, later FAA, as an instrument landing systems maintenance technician. We settled in Ontario, California a few miles from the International Airport there. I was issued the call WA6GRG in California in 1959. It took me a little while to get my general after my Novice expired in 1957. I finally convinced the FCC that I should have a 1x3 call since my first call would have been a 1x3 when I upgraded. (KN5ELI would have become K5ELI when I upgraded if I stayed in Oklahoma. I got my W6SBE call in 1974. I had held WA6GRG through high school and held it for 14 years.
I became pretty efficient at CW and it became my favorite mode. Long before they had memory keyers, I had put a meter relay and a diode into the audio output circuit of a reel-to-reel tape recorder and pre-recorded my QTH, name and information for the first transmission in a normal QSO, I only had to add the RST into a blank on the tape. I had plenty of time to log my QSO's while the tape recorder did it's thing.
In 1959 or 60, during my high school sophomore year, I was down on 40 cw when I heard this loud signal and a call I had not heard before. It was Moose, WV6PJQ, calling CQ. I answered his CQ and learned he was in the same town as me. He invited me over to see his station was consisted of a Heathkit DX-60 and a Hallicrafters receiver and a dipole strung through the trees of his yard. That's where I met his daughter Penny. Penny was in the 8th grade a couple years younger than me. I knew there was something special going on but didn't really realize it fully. I hung around and Moose took me and my brother Ron with him when he went to buy equipment for his new print shop.
Three years later, I had graduated from high school and was attending college. My mode of travel was a motor scooter. I went over to Moose's house for a visit and asked Penny if she would like a ride on my motor scooter. A few scooter rides and I had her attention even though I wasn't really what she was looking for at the time. She wanted a Troy Donahue type man.
A year later, I was working in a Jewelry store as a stock clerk and Penny happened to come in with an item she wanted engraved with her name. I asked my boss at the jewelry store if I could do it since I knew how to work the engraver. I then worked up the courage to ask Penny for a real date. After a whirlwind romance, we were married in 1965. It took 14 years worth of begging to get her to take ham classes and she finally agreed to go and took our 12-year-old son, Doug with her. She and Doug passed their novice and her tech exams in 1982. We used 2 meter talkies to keep track of each other for a number of years. When the FCC lowered the code speed to 5 wpm, she and my son both received their general class tickets with no further examinations. Her first call was KB6CCI and my son is still KB6CCX. My dad had been a ham licensed by the Department of Commerce before the FCC existed and was now deceased. While in California, my dad was licensed as K6GGB so when the vanity licensing began, it was first opened up to relatives of deceased hams and their calls were available to family. Penny got Dad's California call K6GGB and still uses that call.
I am still active on CW and you can usually find me on the bottom of 40 meters. Dan W6SBE