As another page in my life turns over and I enter my seventieth year on this mortal coil, I look back at my life as a ham operator and other things.
I first got interested in amateur radio at a very young age, as a Cub Scout. One of the badges earned was for proficiency in Morse Code. Of course at that age, you did not have to achieve any great speed, but simply had to be able to copy simple text sent at about 5 wpm. I discovered early on that I had a natural affinity for those unique sounds. I remember listening to short wave broadcasts on our old Philco floor model radio, and occasionally I would tune up or down from the broadcasts and hear sounds that resembled short breaths of different lengths. When I asked our instructor at Cubs what they were he replied that they were likely hams sending Morse Code over the air.
He went into detail describing what ham radio was and told me that he was in fact, a ham himself. His name escapes me now, but I remember like it was yesterday, being down in the basement of our church amidst the pipes and furnace ducts and listening to the sounds as sent on a Code practice buzzer.
I asked him how I could make the old Philco produce the sounds as well. He asked if we had a second radio in the house, to which I replied, “Yes”. He told me to put the second one on top of the other one and see if I could hear the local oscillator signal from it. He explained what to listen for. I tried it one night and, lo and behold, all of a sudden the whooshing sounds became real Morse Code, sent much faster than I could copy.
When I became a teenager, I realized that I was different from most of the kids my age. While they were off chasing girls, I was spending my time tinkering with radios. My brother Gary and I even figured out how to modulate the local oscillator in our BCB radio with a record player and were able to broadcast on the top end of the AM broadcast band. Our signal was heard as far as 3 or 4 hundred yards away. Needless to say that venture didn’t last long.
My brother went off to university, became a teacher at the local High School, became a ham (VE1AQF now SK), married and had two lovely daughters. I went off to the RCAF, was assigned to Communications school, got booted for a transgression which has hounded me ever since, and returned home.
In January of 1966 I left my place of employment, in Moncton NB, one afternoon and sauntered off to the local examiners office. I had decided to become a ham, like my brother. I had been studying the schematics and the literature, and had already received my 40 wpm from the RCAF. The test was aced and the Morse was a non issue. In fact I was asked by the examiner to please slow down so he could copy.
I chose the callsign VE1IJ as it was easy to send on CW. In December of 1966 I came to Ontario to see if I could make my fortune. Life was a struggle for the first couple of years but somehow I managed. In 1969 I met the young woman who would later become my XYL and the mother of my children. My ham life took a back seat, but was never out of the picture. I continued to get on the air primarily as a rag chewer on 40 and 20 meter CW.
After a few relocations for one reason or another, we found ourselves on a two acre property near the hamlet of Maxwell, Ontario. For many years I had been using an old DX40 along with a Kenwood/Trio communications receiver. In February of 2000 my brother Gary passed away from cancer. In his will he left me his 2 meter radio, a KDK, with 25 watts and no tone board. I quickly discovered the local guys on 2 meters and found myself one night on a traffic net. I thought to myself – this is it!!! This is fun!!! I became involved with the local ARES group and assisted them with communications for parades and the like.
One day I happened to be at the local IGA and met another local ham Walter Stoyko VE3FFN. We got to chatting and he mentioned that he had a Yaesu transceiver which he was selling and would I be interested in it? Duhhh. Interested? I bought it and now I had HF as well. I forgot to mention that in the year 2000, Industry Canada decided to do away with renewing ham licenses and instead made them all permanent. In addition it was decided that all hams who had never upgraded to Advanced status would be automatically given the higher status. This came into effect on April 1, 2000. So now I could operate voice on HF.
My FT101E came with some issues such as always transmitting on a different frequency than it was receiving. New radios offer split operation, but I had it when I didn’t want it. I learned how to compensate for this by using the RIT. I was asked one day if I would be the liaison from the ARES net to the Ontario Phone Net, to which I replied, certainly. At the tender age of 56 I was entering a whole new phase of my ham life. I was becoming a traffic handler.
In 2005 we once again uprooted ourselves and relocated to a quiet property on the Skootamatta River near the village of Tweed. By this time I was firmly involved with traffic handling. I was liaising from local nets to section nets, from section nets to region nets and even on to area nets. I became an occasional NCS on EAN Cycle 2. on February 22, 2007, according to my log, I checked into the Hit and Bounce Net for the first time and received three messages. The NCS that day was W2EAG. Not long afterwards I found myself on the slow version of this net, the HBSN. On June 23 of the same year I took my first stint as NCS on HBSN.
Later I became the manager of the slow net but relinquished that role a year or so later.
Now to the present.
I have been involved, in one role or another, with HBN and HBSN for over eight years now. In all that time I have never heard a better, classier or better behaved group of operators. These guys (and gals) are the creme de la creme, IMHO. Many of them are also involved with the official NTS nets as well but I have found the Hit and Bounce Nets to be the most fun. Sure, once in a while I will get my wrist slapped by the manager W2EAG, but always there is a reason.
Of course now I am also involved with the Transcontinental Corps or TCC of NTS on CW. I spend some time on voice nets as well. I have been NCS on EAN Cycle 2. I regularly check into that net to pass traffic, but I always seem to gravitate to my roots as a CW operator. I have never really been comfortable being involved with spoken conversations with others, obviously as a result of my childhood spent alone much of the time. But put me in front of a Morse key and I am happy.
Now, as I enter my seventh decade I look back and can only wonder – what if? If it is true that our life is preprogrammed into our brains from birth then I guess I had it pretty good. Sure there was the unfortunate incident when I was 18 but it has not severely affected my life to any great extent. I have my lovely wife of 43 years, Barbara; our daughter Laurie-Ann; our two wonderful granddaughters, Jennifer and Danielle and of course our babies, the German Shepherds Jasmine and Kobe. We are in the process of selling our current home and have already purchased another lot nearby on which to build our next, and hopefully last, one.
I am finally going to get a proper tower. I have obtained a total of 64 feet of DMX tower along with a 4-el Cushcraft beam, Hygain rotator and all the cables. There is just enough room on the new property for a full size 160 meter dipole, so of course I will have it up there along with the remainder of my skywires.
I think I can safely say that my remaining years as a ham will be at the very least, interesting.