Pete Malvasi, W2PM
In the mid 1960's I was still in grammar school but very interested in radio. We lived in Little Ferry, NJ a suburb of NYC about 10 miles west. I took the CB bootlegger path at first - until one late Saturday evening around midnite when our doorbell rang and I was summonsed up stairs from the basement shack by my dad. It was the FCC who in those days had mobile monitoring stations - a white Nash with a HRO500 dash mounted receiver and rooftop DF loop. The agent was, fortunately, a ham - Dave Popkin then WA2CCF (note the suffix). He asked me if I knew I was violating the Communications Act of 1934 and that was subject to a fine of $10,000, 10 years in jail, or both. After nearly wetting myself I promised to stay off the air but Dave suggested I get cracking on the Novice exam and become a ham. I took that summer (1965) and since I was a nerd spend most of the time with Ameco code practice records (78rpm) and W1AW. By October Arnold W2RVR (SK) administered the Novice exam and told me I was copying at 22 wpm - from his McElroy Bug (which I now own in my key collection).
My father, who always wondered about my radio interests (the FCC was the second Fed visit to our house, 2 years earlier the FBI came by asking why I was so interested in writing letters to many radio stations behind the Iron Curtain (Radio Prague, Budapest, MOSCOW, etc.). In one letter I said "I'd really like to see your city very much - especially where that bearded guy Lenin is buried in the cool glass coffin". He blamed my interest on the dreaded neighbor who was a ham - as whenever the TV went a bit fuzzy he'd look outside and see the basement lights on his shack and say "he's at it again that ^^&# guy". One night I went outside to look into that basement window and saw John W2SGI (SK) at a table with wires, switches, lamps, knobs, speakers, QSL card all over the place. I was amazed - and hooked - for life. Now my shack looks like that and it's my wife who says "He's at it again"
In those days the Novice ticket was good ONLY for 1 year and you had to upgrade to
General within 60 days of the expiration of the Novice ticket else start all over again - after a 2 year wait! So I was paranoid in prep'ing for the exam in NYC with another infamous FCC man - Mr. Finkelstein. See George Marko's comments about him on his blurb on your site. When I went to NYC to take the exam, I apparently aced the technical part and that didn't go down well with Mr. Finkelstein. So he made up 5 more questions on the fly to make sure I really knew the stuff. Then he gave me the code test twice because I aced that too. He refused to tell me if I passed and said I'd hear in the mail within 90 days if I would be granted a General. As my Novice was expiring 30 days later I was really sweating being off the air for a while. But a week later WB2BYQ license arrived in the mail.