Rick Tavan, N6XI
(formerly KN3QDD, 1961)
An elementary school friend in Maryland had a Heathkit AR-3 "communications" receiver. We used it to listen to Voice of America, Radio Moscow and other loud broadcast stations. I nagged my Dad to get me one, which he did in about 1959. He didn't trust his ten year old son with a soldering iron, so he built the kit, discovering a new outlet for his already active kit building interest. Electronics were more fun than balsa wood or plastic! Dad and I built many kits over the years.
At home with my own AR-3, I ran across the "Professional Free Loaders," a ragchew net on 40M AM. These were the first hams I ever heard. Guessing that the big tower up the street might belong to another of them, my Dad and I knocked on his door and met Ken Cox W3VNF. He explained the hobby to us and showed off his enormous Johnson Viking 500 AM transmitter. We found the local ham radio store, Uncle George's Radio Ham Shack, run by George Pasquale W3NJT (coincidentally my Dad's initials). Armed with an address from the Callbook, I wrote to Katie Gibson K3BHU to learn more about her PFL net and got a gracious response and more encouragement. We read the ARRL License Manual and Learning the Radiotelegraph Code, learning the code by sending to each other. We took our Novice exams at Uncle George's in the Spring of 1961, becoming KN3QDC and KN3QDD. My Dad sprang for a luxury Hallicrafters HQ-170 receiver and an Ameco Novice transmitter, his second kit. I bought some crystals. We printed up a nifty QSL card with both calls, proclaiming ours "The Father and Son Station." You never included the Novice "N" on your card in those days, knowing that you would upgrade before running out of cards. Until then, we penned in the "N" by hand.
My Novice days were exciting, indeed, including the worst report card I ever carried home shamefully from school. This resulted in a post-homework restriction to my operating but did not temper my interest. Conditions were good and we managed to work a bit of DX with a simple vertical and a 15M rotary dipole built from a QST article. Remember the two pieces of EMT mounted on a 2x2 with a small coil in between?
Around the end of our Novice days - having taken the General exam at the FCC in Washington, D.C. - I submitted an entry in a 25-words-or-less contest sponsored by Hallicrafters. I completed the sentence "Hams should use VHF for local communication because..." with the rather obvious "...it will free up the HF frequencies for the amateur's vital public service work," winning a 6- and 2-meter transverter! I had no idea what to do with it, so we traded it in at Uncle George's for a tower, beam and rotator. In retrospect, that seems like a very favorable exchange, so I suspect my Dad threw in a little cash. Our station evolved and I got involved in contesting through Field Day with the Rock Creek Amateur Radio Association W3RCN and CW traffic handling on the MDD NCS net. It was the start of a life-long passion for all things amateur radio.
Rick Tavan N6XI
Web page: rtavan.googlepages.com