K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities
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Jack - W4SON/9N7SON

I passed Class B Ham test in early 1951, just before my 17th birthday. Novice began later that year, and I already had a Harvey Wells TBS-50C, thinking I could later 'at least' get a Novice ticket, if I kept flunking Class B every 3 months. Then I could get on 2M 'fone with the Harvey Wells.

I took the test early. I heard "test fright" was a big deal, & I wanted to have a "test run". They sent a lot of "V V V V V V" to begin with, and I printed out the dots & dashes - hoping that letter would come to me before the test was over. By the end, I knew it didn't matter, as I also missed a lot more!

On the 4th try, I passed the code, but flunked the theory. I had spent too much time on code, and had forgotten the cramming I'd done months earlier.

I kept on practicing CW, and was copying W1AW practice pretty solid at 15 WPM by the time I passed both on my 5th try. By then, I had memorized parts of the test text - "Emergency exists in zone ???? [I always forget numbers!] , and "A gaunt spark was heard in the cans". They were using the same Instructograph tape - on the last 3 exams, anyway. I don't recall hearing the "V V V V V V" again - but I spent extra time on that letter, just in case.

Dad had a cigar box at the PO, which he assigned the # "Box 500". He received a lot of government mail, and often just put it in the bottom of the box, until "later". My ticket arrived during the week, but Dad didn't realize it was address to me, until he went in to work on Saturday AM. When he came home for lunch, he stopped by my Ham shack, in the back yard, and handed me the license - apologizing for the delay, and for opening it. That was April 14 - my then g/f's birthday. Many, many years later, I kidded her, & told her that I knew what day of the week her 17th birthday was on!

I won SS for TN in November, 1951, 7 months after getting my ticket. After those 2 busy weekends, my straight key fist was shot. I went to a bug, then built a keyer a few weeks later. Before 1 year, I was rag chewing at 40 WPM. My Radio-TV Elmer came over one night, and was surprised to see me in a 40 WPM QSO. He asked me what the guy had said - either to see if I was copying, or because he couldn't! He was only a CW Ham then, since the 1930's - but always used a straight key.

I struggled on my own mostly when first learning the code. My Elmer was busy at the local Radio & Electric Shop, and he was getting swamped with TV in late 40s & 1950.

I lost the set-screw for the right-angle headphone plug, that adapted headphone tips to a PL-55. I went in the auto repair shop near the Radio Shop to borrow their hacksaw & vise, to cut off a 6-32 screw, & cut a slot to make the set-screw. The auto painter there recognized me, and walked up to see what I was doing. I sorta' hinted I was working on a technical electronic project [haw!]. He was on my paper route, & I'd known him for several years. Andy had been a radio op in the army, and was taking the NRI correspondence course on the GI Bill. This included building a radio RX, & simple test equipment. He was also trying to study for his Class B, but was rusty on the CW.

We began studying together, mostly at his QTH. We also took my CPO & practiced while fishing on a river bank a couple of times. He read in the paper that a Nashville Ham club was running CW & theory classes, so I rode the 18 miles each way with him a number of times. Once the class moved to a guy's house, he stopped going. On the nights he couldn't make it, I'd pretend to take the bus, but ride my Harley 125 "motorcycle" all the way to Nashville. I rode it every week for a couple of months, and worked hard to catch up with the others, and soon passed them all [6 or 8 total].

My fishing buddy received W4SQE the same time I was issued W4SON. If you recall, you received a "flunked" notice from the FCC in a couple of weeks, if you didn't pass the theory. After not wanting that early mail, I was really anxious after a few weeks. Dad worked in the local Post Office, and knew a lawyer at the FCC. He called him, and asked him to check on my test, & call sign. I didn't know this for many months, but finally put it together. I "think" the lawyer had my application pulled out, and maybe issued the "SON" call for fun. Anyway, I received my license a couple of weeks before W4SQE got his, and got the "earlier" call.

While in CLE, I stopped by in the company van to take the Extra Class test. First, I ran home to get my bug. Then, I had trouble parking, had to run for parking meter change - and was a couple of minutes late for the test. The examiner wasn't happy, and told me to go away. I asked him if I could take the First Telegraph test [as I already had 2nd CW], & he said to come back at 1 PM.

I drove back to the Falls to pick up my 2nd CW license. By the time I was back in the PO test area, I was late again! Angry didn't begin to describe the inspector. After he commanded me to "GO AWAY !" I meekly asked "may I take 2nd Radiotelephone?" He threw the application at me, & I took the test. I had never studied for 2nd phone - except years before, when 2nd CW [Element 6] study guide referred me back to portions of Element 3]. I handed in my test, and tried to slink out. At the door, he called me back, and asked if it was important enough to know if I had passed. I sat down, and he had to tell me twice that I had passed. I forgot the score, but I was happy! He was miffed - & it was obvious to all of us. If the test had not been multiple choice, I'd have never passed.

I didn't go for Extra until ~12 years later. I goofed when renewing the 2nd CW ticket once, so I lost it, and never did get the First CW. I had worked for Mackay Radio & Teleg. Co. as Marine Svc. Engr., and worked one shift a week as CW RO in our KLC shore station, as well as vacation relief. The manager signed my ticket as though I had been a full time RO - but I had calculated I had just barely made the "one year" with my total operating time over the several year period. When not on a service call, I'd hang around the station, and assist the day RO. I'd open up an additional band, and try to scrape up traffic, or put his messages on our WU or TWX printers. We had a single op station, & the day shift was busy at times.

I have more FCC stories, but this has been too long already.

73, Jack W4SON 9N7SON

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