Dennis Kidder, W6DQ
(Formerly WN6NIA, 1969; WA6NIA)
It all started in 1964 with the Alaska earthquake. My next door neighbor was Bob, W6QJU. Bob was handling emergency traffic out of Anchorage. He was on a break from his efforts and saw my father and I out in the yard. He motioned us over and told us about the events that had unfolded up north. Bob then invited us into his Radio Shack.
Bob's daughter, Cheryl, and I used to "hang out" together, being the same age and all. And, while I was constantly visiting their house, the "Shack" was off limits. The only time I had ever seen Bob's shack before, he was not there and the equipment was dark. This time, however, everything was full of life! I was dazzled by all of the lights, dial, switches and gadgets, of which I had no clue as to their function. Bob was patient and showed the setup to my dad and I. Well, while my dad found it interesting, I was hooked.
I never found the answer to this, both Bob and my dad are gone, but I think secretly they plotted together to get me interested in ham radio. My parents were always wonderful at supporting and encouraging me in my endeavors. Next thing I knew, Bob was helping me to learn the Morse code and giving me material to start studying for my Novice license.
But as luck would have it, Bob and his family had to move away before I could complete the task. But, the seed had been sewn - it was only a matter of time for it to sprout and take hold.
By 1969 I was a Junior in High School and an Explorer Scout. My post was invited to participate in an Amateur Radio Field Day. I found ham radio again! I helped log through the night for the 40 M CW ops. What a thrill! I was hooked once and for all. I sought out the school's ham radio club and made friends with Sid, WN6MRM - now KF6CE. His father, Harrison, W6PM, encouraged and helped me hone my Morse skills and got me through the theory. He administered the test and I passed! I would now be a real ham!!
After much anticipation and anxiety, my ticket finally arrived. It seemed like months. In those days, it probably was! I had assembled a station from surplus gear I had purchased at a club auction - and BC-454 receiver and a BC-696 transmitter. An AN/ARC-5 set. All for the outrageous sum of $11.00! But, what to power them with?
When Bob, 'QJU, moved, he had left me with a treasure trove of radio parts: complete radios, chassis, tubes, transformers and such. Talk about a jump start to a junk box!
Out of this mass of "stuff" I managed to cobble together the necessary bits and pieces for a power supply and crystal oscillator (right out of the '66 Handbook). I had a working radio station.
The afternoon my license arrived, I could barely wait to try out my new privilege. 'MRM and a few of my other close radio "buddies" all wanted to be there, but I was too impatient. I couldn't wait. I turned on the power supply, tuned around the 80 meter Novice segment and heard nothing. Well, it was the middle of the afternoon and it was 80 meters. What did I know at that point?
Hands trembling, I sent that nervous "CQ" and signed "WN6NIA." My nervousness soon turned to sheer terror when I heard a faint "WN6NIA WN6NIA DE WN6GLR WN6GLR K." SOMEONE WAS CALLING ME!!! What do I do now? Calming down, I went through the process of switching from receive to transmit: RX power supply to standby, antenna switch to transmit and TX power supply on. Had I forgotten anything?
"WN6GLR DE WN6NIA R ES TNX BT UR NR 1 UR NR 1 QSO BT" and so on. I will never forget that afternoon. Milt's QSL card is one of my most prized possessions. That afternoon changed my life forever.
Harrison and Sid introduced me to many other ham friends, of which they and two others became my Elmers. Bill, W6DR and Chek, W6DQ, were two of the most gracious and giving individuals I think I have ever met. I learned a lot from my Elmer "team." After all of these years I still possess and use many of the things that they gave me, but most of all, knowledge. Knowledge that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things radio, whether it is operating technique, or home brewing some gadget.
Alas, Bob, Harrison, Bill, Chek and Milt are all silent keys. Their gifts stay with me, however, and I am proud to have been granted Chek's old call, W6DQ. In that small way I can honor him as one of the fellows who helped give me my start ham radio that then led to a life-long career in electrical engineering. I truly believe that without them, I would not be where I am today. Their giving continues to inspire me to follow in their footsteps, helping others get started and continue in this wonderful avocation we call amateur radio.
I am happy to say that although we are separated by hundreds of miles, Sid and I are still good friends. Ham radio and the Internet have made that quite easy.
73 DE W6DQ (ex-WN6NIA, WA6NIA)
P.S. I think that it was the influence of another ham I knew as a kid -- K6RQT -- here's a guy that took radio to a higher level ... long long long before the vanity program, he changed his NAME to match his call sign. In the 1960 Callbook he was listed as "P. Ron Terry K6RQT." By the time I knew him, he had legally changed his name to "Ron Q. Terry." He was quite a character. He had three radio shacks in his home. He would buy and sell gear like it was candy. We used to think of him as the Henry Radio of Palos Verdes. And while he had closets full of stuff for sale, his main station was a Drake 4-Line. He had a LOT of money ... and he liked to play ... he raced cars, boats and even had a hot air balloon until his wife made him get rid of it. In his later years he started building street rods. He too is an SK. He really was something else. Great guy. Always willing to spend time with us kids. And of course, we loved to go and see his "toys."