Ted White, N8TW
(Formerly WN8WQC, 1967)
Spring of 1967 was a fun time. I was a Sophomore in High School, and my Father and I were having a good time on CB. Meeting new people, and having fun with friends. But we both knew something was missing. Dad was an Engineer on the B&O Railroad, and a fellow Engineer was a "Ham", so we visited John, K8CJH, one evening. John was a General, and had a Swan 400 setup, so he let me listen to it, and after a while he made a contact with a "Ham" in Australia. I was hooked. Before we left he loaned me a few books, and told us what we needed to do to get "Novice" licenses. Dad and I worked on the theory and code. Dad had used the "American" Morse on the railroad before switching to engine service, as a telegrapher, so he had a few problems with the "International". Dad and my Grandfather had both been telegraphers, but Dad switched to engine service, to become an Engineer, while my Grandfather remained a telegrapher, till his retirement.
We studied the theory, worked on the code, and in early Spring we went to John's house, took the code test, filled out the applications, and then waited on the theory tests from the FCC. When the tests arrived at John's house, we made a trip there, and on a nice Saturday afternoon, we both left John's house feeling confident. Then we waited 6 or 7 weeks for the licenses to arrive.
I got home from School on day in early May, and Mom said that I had received a letter from the FCC, but since Dad was taking a nap before getting ready for work, I would have to wait till he woke up. I still didn't know if I had passed or failed. Patience in a 16 year old is not very good. So homework and sports with some HS friends had to do. Dad woke up in the early evening and gave me the envelope. In it was my "Novice" license, already about a week old, as the Post Office took a week to get mail from Washington, D C to us here in Ohio. Dad was issued "WN8WQB" and I got "WN8WQC".
We figured they were issued that way as our names were in alphabetical order. After supper, we went down to the basement, turned on the Knight T-60 and Hallicrafters SX-140, and heard WN8VPD calling CQ on 40 CW. I gave him a call, on 7188 KC, and after a short chat with Bob, near Detroit, Michigan, I was a "Ham". I still have my "Novice" logbook, and there are many entries with CQ but no contacts, and many contacts, but nothing replaces hearing someone calling you for the first time.
I still keep that first logbook, Bob's QSL (WN8VPD), and my "Novice" license. The years have come and gone, many friends are now SK, but memories remain. Those were good days, for a HS Sophomore, new to Ham Radio. 41 years ago seems like yesterday, listening to "BBC", "Radio Moscow", and others, and using those crystal controlled transmitters on 7188, 7160, 3740, 3707, and a few others found at the local hobby shop. That year went by quick, but I have been a licensed "Ham" since then. Ham Radio has helped me through growing up, bad times, and now being retired due to handicap. Those days as a "Novice" were fun, using low-priced equipment, and calling CQ on one frequency, then tuning the receiver across the "Novice" band looking for a reply. You may call CQ on 7188, have an answer on 7160, but always listen for your callsign.
My dad was WN8WQB as a Novice, in 1967, and then WA8WQB as a Technician from 1968 till he passed away in 1983. Dad had been using the "American" morse on the railroad, as a telegrapher till he switched over to engine service and became an engineer until his passing. His Father, and younger Brother had also been telegraphers on railroads. But morse on railroads was coming to an end, and when I was old enough, in 1969 to graduate from high school, I decided that I would end the family tradition. It was hard not to be working on the railroad, but sooner or later the tradition had to end.
In addition to my Dad, my Mother also had a Novice license. Her call was KA8USZ, and she got it in 1984, if I remember correctly. Dad always tried too hard to get Mom to get her license, but she resisted, until Dad passed away and then got it just to have it. Mom had been in the Civil Air Patrol during WW2, and had helped teach the Morse Code. She was in the High School Band, and said theMorse Code was like music. This was 5 years or so before I was born, and several years before my parents met. Mom passed awayin 2005, never using her license or upgrading, but when she was studying for the Novice, the Morse came back to her as if it was still the mid-40s, when she was teaching the Morse in the Civil Air Patrol.
Strange how things work, but I tell friends that I was using and that I learned the Morse before I was born. Can't learn that "American" Morse like my Dad and others did, using it many years ago, but like my Mom said. Just takes a little practice, and it comes back.