Bill Continelli, W2XOY
(Formerly WN2MAM, 1969)
I became interested in shortwave, CB & ham radio in 1962. I started Canisius HS, Buffalo, NY in Sept 67. I joined the radio club, K2AVS, run by Father John Sturm, SJ, who was the 'Prefect of Discipline' at the school. At the time, I was mostly interested in shortwave listening, and I didn't get my Novice license until Nov. 69. Fr. Sturm gave me my Novice exam. I learned the code via the K2AVS 'Instructograph'. (Do you remember those?).
After I got my license, I didn't have a home station. So I used K2AVS almost everyday during lunch and after school. The station consisted of a DX-100, which was a 100 watt AM/CW transmitter, and 2 National receivers, a NC-183, and another one (can't remember which model). The DX-100 was designed for higher power, VFO operation. It had one crystal socket, deep inside the rig. Changing frequencies was a 'hot' experience!
K2AVS had 3 crystals. 3820 kc (80 meter Novice band), 7153 kc (40 meter Novice band) and 7050 kc which tripled to 21,150 kc in the 15 meter Novice band.
For my first year as WN2MAM, I only operated K2AVS. The station had an 80 meter dipole, mounted on top of the school, which ran thru a Johnson Matchbox. I had many QSO's far and wide. I remember having a regular schedule with a Novice in Odessa, WA, on 15 meters. I can't remember his call, but he was also operating a school station. I would call him after school on 21,150 kc. It was his lunch period, and we would chat about school stuff for about 20 minutes.
One odd thing about the DX-100, it would not go down to 75 watts input in the 'operate' position. In the 'tune' position, it had about 50 watts input, 30 watts output. This was enough for many QSO's.
In December, 1969, I got a Heathkit HW-16 for Christmas, as well as a Heathkit GR-64 SW receiver. With school and homework, it took me 3 months to build them. We lived on a small city lot, so I put up a 40 meter dipole. K2AVS loaned me his grid dip oscillator, and I tuned it to resonate at 7100 kc, and 21,200 kc (dipoles resonate also on odd multiples). I also bought 8 crystals from Jan crystals (4 crystals for $5). 4 of the crystals were in the 40 meter Novice band, the other 4 were between 7035 and 7075 kc, for use on the 15 meter Novice band, as well as 40 meter General
use once I upgraded.
My dipole was next to the house and only 20 feet off the ground, so I didn't have the 'big' signal I did at K2AVS, but I still had many QSO's. Every day, I would rush home from school to operate MY station that I had built!! I purchased some QSL cards from 'The Little Print Shop'. (Remember them?). I put up a map of the US and southern Canada on the wall, and used pins to mark the locations of the stations I worked. Eventually, I think I logged about 20 States and 3 Canadian Provinces.
The Novice license at that time was 2 years, non-renewable. By June 1971, I was nearing graduation. My code speed was about 10 wpm, not enough for the 13 wpm General test. So, in early June, I went to Fr. Sturm and asked him to give me the Technician test, which was only available via the mail. My logic was to maintain a license while I worked on my code speed.
Fr. Sturm was furious. He grabbed me, pushed me against the wall and yelled 'YOU DO NOT GET A TECHNICIAN LICENSE! GO TO THE STATION AND USE THAT INSTRUCTOGRAPH UNTIL YOU CAN DO 13 WPM SOLID! YOU WILL PASS YOUR GENERAL BEFORE YOU GRADUATE!' Shaking with fear, I ran to the radio room and started to practice. For 2 weeks, the Instructograph and I were best friends. I got up to 15 wpm solid.
I was fortunate that I lived in Buffalo, NY. The FCC had a field office there, and gave amateur exams every Friday. Sometime around June 15, I went to Fr. Strum and asked if I could skip school on Friday morning. 'Why?' was his gruff response. 'Because I'm taking the General exam that day' I stammered. 'OK' he responded, 'but be back here at 12 noon, AND TELL ME THAT YOU PASSED!'
Friday came. I was shaking with fear. I got on the bus & went to the Federal Building. I was the only one taking the test that day. Soon, I was sitting with headphones on, pencil and paper in front of me. Suddenly, I heard a noise in the headphones. What is that?
OHMYGOSH, IT'S CODE!! I GOTTA COPY THIS!! ONE FULL MINUTE WITHOUT ERROR!! 65 CORRECT CHARACTERS IN A ROW!! QUICK, QUICK, PICK UP THE PENCIL!! WRITE!! WRITE!! DON'T JUST SIT THERE!! OK, OK YOU'RE DOING IT. WAIT, WAS THAT A 'U' OR A 'V'? WAS THAT A 'J' OR A '1'? DON'T GO BACK!! KEEP GOING!!
Then, silence. I looked down at the paper. Ugh, what a mess. Before I could fill in some of the gaps, the FCC examiner took my paper away. I sat paralyzed for 5 long minutes. Finally the examiner came out, a big smile on his face. 'You passed' he said. He said I had copied 3 minutes straight without error, and had missed only 5 characters total.
I took the written test in a fog. It seemed so easy. Again, he said I passed, with 44 out of 50. (The examiners were not supposed to tell you the actual score, but I guess he made an exception for me because I was so scared and pathetic, and I was the only one there).
I floated to the bus stop, and back to school. I ran to the Prefect of Discipline's office. 'Father, I passed! I passed! I'm a General!!'
It was the only time I saw Father Strum smile.
One week later, I graduated. My General license came the week of July 4. I was now WB2MAM, a full General. I got on the HW-16, plugged in a 'General' crystal, and called CQ. It didn't matter that I had no VFO, I was in the General band, with a license that could be renewed forever.
36 years later, I still feel that thrill.