Fred Soper, KC8FS
(formerly KA5CXZ, 1978)
I got interested in Ham Radio at an early age, probably about 9 or 10, we had moved to the farm so it was about 1958 or so. My mother had this big (at least big to me at that time) RCA victor radio with four or five bands on it, I always listened to the third one down, that was CW, of course I didn't know what they were saying, but I would listen to the rhythm for hours and wonder what they were saying and where they were.
Years later in high school I mentioned this to a classmate and he said there was a guy down the street with all kinds of antenna's in his back yard and he had been told he was a HAM, I said what's that?
Anyway, I finally got up enough courage to knock on his door one day and his wife told me he was in the shack. I thought this was a building out back so I turned to leave and she called me back and pointed me in the right direction. I walked into this room, and it was glowing with a soft light from the big ole AM pieces of radio equipment that lined the walls. And an old man was sitting at the desk pounding brass.
Well to try and shorten this story a little he died before I got my license and Radio took a back seat for many years. Then in 1977 I met N5XU, Dick Griffin, My Elmer and Later, best friend, Dick didn't own a microphone, but he could talk to you and copy 35 to 40 words a minute CW at the same time. He was amazing. He bought me a study book from radio Shack (that was when they actually sold ham supplies), and taught me the code at 5 wpm. One day he said, "lets see what you have learned, and gave me a test on knowledge, then he said let's check if you have been practicing your code. And sent me a message on an oscillator and the last line said, "If you can copy this, congratulations, you passed." I did pass, but only by the skin of my teeth, I didn't even know I was taking the test for my license. A few days later my license came in the mail and I bought a set of twin drakes from a man I met at the radio club (See Novice photo) and I was in business.
I thought I had a great antenna, and I called CQ every night with no response. (I know now a wet noodle would have done a better job) One day Dick said, how many contacts have you made? I said none. He asked what kind of radial system I had put down on the all band vertical he helped me to erect. I told him I had an 8 foot ground rod. He helped me put down a real counterpoise system and went Home.
I sat down later that night and called CQ, as I had done on numerous occasions, But this time a call came back to me, I just set there, heart racing, hands sweating and shaking so bad I couldn't send with my J-38 keyer, (A gift from Dick).Finally my contact asked if He was my first contact. I said Yes, (not knowing C was yes in code) he said he thought so. He told me to set back, take a deep breath relax and enjoy the contact. He would stand by and wait until I was ready. I waited about 5 minutes, hoping he was gone and called again. He wasn't, and we carried on a great QSO, I was hooked!!!!
Dick Griffin, N5XU, became a Silent Key at 32 years old from a kidney disease before I upgraded. Ham radio lost a great CW operator and a good man upon his death. I will never be the CW op he was, but he taught me to enjoy the challenge of CW.
These are the real ops, the guys that are there to help the newbie's. I hope someday, someone will honor me with the title of Elmer!!
Fred Soper KC8FS