Bill Husted, KQ4YA
(formerly KN5JFG, 1961)
It was so long ago that I had to get a calculator out to figure out when I was a novice. My best guess is that it was in 1960. I was about 14-years-old or there abouts. I'm just guessing.
But I don't have any trouble at all remembering my station. After spending months looking through the Allied Electronics catalog I settled on a used SX-99 that drifted like a boat in a strong current. My transmitter was a Heathkit DX-40, it had already been assembled when I purchased it used along with the SX-99.
Truth is, it was a good thing that the DX-40 had been assembled. I remember trying to build a really simple Q-multipler from Heathkit about that same time. By the time I was finished the innards of the thing looked as if someone had sprayed molten metal in there.
Novice license in hand, I installed a double pole, double throw, switch for the receiver and transmitter. My antenna was a 20-meter monoband beam that sat on concrete blocks on a flat garage roof. Wait a minute, you might say, novices couldn't operate on 20. That's right but that was before I had heard of SWR. So I loaded that sucker up on 40 and 15 with no problems at all (after carefully tuning the transmitter using a light bulb). Incidentally, that beam was given to me by my uncle, Bill Key, W8JHT. After a lifetime of living around the globe including Japan, Germany, Alaska and gosh knows where else, he and his wife live not far from me now. And, despite the close distance these days, we usually say hello to each other on 40 meters on Sunday mornings to this day.
When I was a novice - KN5JFG (just for girls) - I lived in a tiny Arkansas town with an odd name: Arkadelphia. What I am saying is that I wasn't exactly an international sophisticate. So ham radio let me broaden my horizons way past 14th Street. I met people around the world at a shaky 5 words a minute. But I also tuned the shortwave bands and heard Big Ben chime on the BBC and listened to the news from Moscow (my dad was sure that I would be put on a list by the FBI when I got a SWL QSL from there), tuned in to the Voice of the Andes from faithful old HCJB and became an armchair world traveller.
After my novice year my parents drove me to Little Rock to take the general exam. I never even got to take the written test. I was pressed to copy 13 words a minute on a good day and - with the pressure of sitting at a long table with a bunch of grownups - well, I didn't have a chance. My results from copying the code looked very much like a encrypted message from a spy.
There was a whole long life that - other than listening - was radio free. Then back in the early 90s I got interested again (just what ham radio needed, another old guy). So now I'm KQ4YA and - unlike my novice days - have some decent modern radios (as well as an old Hammarlund, an object of lust that I couldn't afford as a kid).
But, and you won't be surprised at this if you were around during the novice days, there's no way that I'll ever be as thrilled again as in the days when I was using one of my three crystals to tap out my old call KN5JFG.