In 1967, when I was 15 years old, my father was sent to Vietnam and my family took up residence in Columbia, SC for the year he would be absent. #Three houses up the street on the corner was an interesting home…. interesting because of the wires stretched across the yard in the trees, which all seemed to run into a small shed in the back yard where the man who lived there spent a lot of time. #I stopped by and introduced myself and found that he was a “Ham” radio operator. #He soon became my “Elmer” and started teaching me about Ham radio. #Using an old paper tape machine, I started learning the Morse code. #However, I was an impatient teenager and soon tired of the lessons and eventually stopped visiting him.
In 1981, I “rediscovered” Amateur Radio and became determined to obtain my ticket. #I enrolled in a Novice license course and soon passed the tests. #I was a Novice for a total of three days, receiving my Novice ticket in the mail on a Saturday, then traveling to the FCC field office in Kansas City the following Tuesday where I upgraded to Technician class. #The following month I returned to the field office and upgraded to General class, and a month or two later to Advanced class.
The unique thing that happened to me occurred the morning after I returned from the Kansas City field office, having upgraded to General class. #I rose early and went to my basement ham shack, eager to make my first HF voice contact. #I tuned around on 15 meters and heard a station calling CQ. #I answered the CQ and we began chatting. #He was in Columbia, SC. #As we talked, I began feeling that something was familiar about the callsign of the gentleman to whom I was speaking, and I finally asked, “Jack, do you live at the corner of Norwood Road and Satchel Ford Road?” #He replied, “No…. but I used to.” #To my utter amazement, my very first HF voice contact with my brand new General class privileges was my old mentor and Elmer, Jack Kauffman, W4GFZ! #I had the opportunity to stop in and visit him on my next trip through Columbia. #I was saddened a few years ago to learn of his passing. #I have always been grateful for the early inspiration he gave me, even though I let him down as a student. #His key may be silent, but his transmissions are still propagating out there in space. #Thanks, Jack!
Tim Hardy, KC0PA