Terry Schieler, W0FM
(formerly WN0CNO, 1962)
I was first licensed as WNØCNO in 1962. After developing a strong interest in SWL (Popular Electronics callsign: WPEØBXN) with some buddies from school, I found my ham radio Elmer in Andy Roewe, WØIFC (SK), a local TV repairman and whose daughter attended school with me. Two nights a week I rode my bike over to the Roewe home after dinner. Andy taught me the code and drilled me on the theory and Novice exam questions. Mrs. Roewe fed me homemade cookies.
I passed the one-year-only Novice license my first try. Back then, you waited months for the FCC to process and send you your license. There was no operating allowed until you had the actual paper license in hand. Most of us didn't even begin watching the mail box for two months after taking the test. But, after two months passed we waited daily at the mail box until the prized "FCC ticket" arrived.
My "co-Elmer" was O.J. "Mac" McQuigg, WØQHL (SK), an engineer at KSD-TV (Channel 5) in St. Louis. My Dad was a staff musician at the station. I would go to the studio with my Dad, sit in the control room with "Mac" and study the Novice exam license guide while Dad did a live TV show. "Mac" made my first antenna for me. It was a 40 Meter dipole.
While studying for my Novice exam, I had constructed a Knight Kit R-100 receiver. After taking the exam, I used the 90 day wait for the paper ticket to build a Heathkit DX-60 transmitter. I had crystals for 40 meters and 15 meters. The dipole that "Mac" made for me was resonant on both bands, so I thought I was pretty hot. The antenna was switched between the transmitter and receiver by a Dow Key antenna relay. My headphones were military surplus ($1.00) and my key was a "retired" military J-38 that my cousin had brought back with him after the Korean War. (I still have the J-38 and have restored it beyond its original beauty.)
Like many, my most vivid memory as a Novice was the day that my first license arrived. After ripping open the envelope and discovering my newly-assigned Tenth District call sign, WNØCNO, I rushed to my bedroom and fired up the R-100 and DX-60. I practiced sending my new call a few times...off the air....to build some badly needed confidence. But, I was scared silly at what I was about to attempt. The coax from the rig ran out my bedroom window to the dipole which was strung low between two trees in the back yard. Certainly, no one would hear my signal. That thought only temporarily eased my anxiety.
I checked the frequencies of my two 40 meter crystals on my R-100 receiver. Both were clear. I chose a crystal, flipped the DX-60 to TUNE and quickly peaked it. By then my hand...no, my WHOLE BODY was shaking profusely as I sent my first CQ. Tuning across the band I heard a fairly strong station calling me. Yes, ME! Sending MY CALL SIGN!! I had never experienced that before. Simply amazing!
Shaking harder than ever, I began to answer his call. I had done it! I had established two-way communications with another amateur radio operator using equipment I had built myself.
About that time, my mother walked into my bedroom and saw me shaking violently with my hand on the J-38 key. Without a word, she immediately took the broom she was carrying and in one big, powerful swipe, knocked the J-38 key from my grip, off my desk and onto the floor. A beautiful natural slap shot that could have made her an NHL prospect for sure!
She was stunned (and a bit embarrassed) to learn that I had NOT been in the process of being electrocuted and that she had NOT just saved her son's life. I hastily gathered my composure, completed the QSO and soon had my first QSL card on the shack wall. The first of many.
Great memories. Thanks for the fine site.
Terry Schieler, WØFM
St. Louis, Missouri
Also: ZF2FM Ex: WNØCNO, WAØCNO, NØDFH