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Issue #23: Life Lessons from Ham Radio

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Jul 7, 2023.

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  1. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Teddy! It's an honor for me to have you posting such comments on my article, Dave
  2. KC5OFM

    KC5OFM Ham Member QRZ Page

    What an awesome story! To me, this speaks so much to character (good/positive) building that matters so much in life. No real Elmer to speak of, but I had a neighbor who was like a grandfather, and great friend. He taught me a lot about respect and good character. Thanks for sharing.
  3. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you Michael. You made my day! Dave
  4. N1LOU

    N1LOU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Dave, a slightly off topic question, but why does your avatar look like Al Pacino? I have to be honest, its kind of distracting and not in a good way.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  5. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Lou -- Ha Ha. Funny guy. That's a photo of me, dressed up in old fashioned (turn of the century) radio experimenter outfit, from about 1972 or so and it's our logo for the column. It was taken in one of those tents at a State Fair where they do old-style B&W photography. That was before Al Pacino was Al Pacino! (He might have been Baby Al). And by the way, that darn big fish is mighty distracting in your avatar. Keeps reminding me that I should be outside with a pole in my hand. Dave
    WD4ELG likes this.
  6. WD9AWR

    WD9AWR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the inspiring story about your Elmers. It brings back some memories . . .

    I had two Elmers when I got my novice license in 1977. One was a guy a year older than me who I met at our high school when I heard him say he had an RF burn on his hand. I asked how he knew what an RF burn was. So I met Dave B, whose call at the time was WB9SEV. We became friends and started a small amateur radio club on Scott Air Force Base, knowing of no other hams.

    I made a T shirt with "Scott Amateur Radio Club" printed on it. Not very professional looking, but readable. I was wearing it in the Base Exchange one day and a guy said to me "I didn't know Scott had an amateur radio club!" I told him we were a new club, just a few high school guys.

    He became my second Elmer. Norm Sullivan NZ5L SK now. His call at the time was WB8VLG. He was in the air force and married, about 30. But he was friendly and hung out with our little club.

    A memorable experience with Norm was a day trip over to nearby Scott Lake where we threw a wire up in the trees next to the lake and worked CW with a Heathkit HW8 QRP rig. I think this was my first contact. At least it's the first one I have a QSL card from.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great story Mike. You must have had a general interest in radio to jump in initially. I loved hearing AM radio stations roll in and out at night time, with their different disc jockeys and so on. That's what got me initially interested and then meeting my two Elmers took me into real action instead of just reading magazines and so on. Sometimes a kid needs "inspiration" and that's what my two provided to me! Dave
  8. W5OHM

    W5OHM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    My elmer was Gerry Schader, almost fifty years ago. I don't remember his American call. His German reciprocal call was DA2BA and he was a technician for an army air defense missile installation.

    Gerry took me and a buddy through basic electronics, amateur radio rules and regs, and Morse code to five WPM, prepping us for the mail-order version of the technician exam. Gerry got us licensed. I became WB5UKJ/DA4BT.

    Gerry's tutelage in Ohm's Law was the beginning of a career in electric power - industrial and utility - that has been my career.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  9. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Dale. That's an inspirational story, especially that it was the fire behind your interest in electric power, and the move you made for a special call sign just underlines that. Nice post, thanks. Dave
  10. W9TR

    W9TR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    What an emotive story Dave. For me it also ties in with your short take on age discrimination in amateur radio.

    An Elmer is a unique creature, especially for an adolescent or even younger kid.

    Adults in a kid’s world are usually in positions of power. Teacher, parent, minister, the neighbors, relatives, etc. It’s an asymmetrical relationship, and often the only type of relationship a kid or teenager will have with an adult.

    My Elmer’s were many as I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with some very active clubs and a lot of hams.

    Everyone I met through amateur radio was nice enough to me. But most discounted me at some level due to my age. I was kid. A smartass kid to boot. To be fair I thought a lot of the people I met were dolts. Maybe a mutual dis-admiration society. Dunno. :)

    But a few patient hams really dealt with me on a personal level and challenged me to get better, do better, and learn more. These hams put up with the brash adolescent I was and reached out to help me out, in life, not just ham radio.

    Fast forward 50 + years and I have lost touch with all of them. Shame on me. They were gems and I didn’t realize it at the time.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  11. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Tom. I agree with you on the loss of names/calls of those Elmers. I felt the shame writing about it, as I lost their names and detail in my history. Why it didn't seem important for so long, and why it is really important to me now -- that's a mystery. Dave
  12. KE8TSH

    KE8TSH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was fortunate enough to have two Elmers before I got my license a year and a half ago, John (KC9ON) and Neal (KM4YEB “SK”). I joined the TOMARC club in Gaylord Mi. in September and got my ticket the following January. Both gentlemen provided encouragement and sound advice on how to get started and not waste money on unnecessary gear.

    Reading questions posed on various forums often saddens me because these folks don’t seem to have the benefit of more in-depth dialog necessary to fully comprehend the issue being discussed. Thank goodness John and Neil always tolerate my incessant what if’s!
  13. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hey Don, thanks for jumping in, and I agree with you that while it's great to have "YouTube" Elmers and forums like these at QRZ, that doesn't really cut the mustard for truly befuddling questions. Some YouTube videos are just completely ludicrous, some (Josh, Dave) are really great. And you can't really go back and ask questions. If you're truly going to succeed in building a solid foundation for the hobby, a new ham has to watch good video, has to read good content, has to access forums, and MUST have local contacts from a club who are local and helpful. Thank Goodness I had those. Sounds like you did as well! Imagine even building an antenna or cutting a dipole and so on without a mentor. Dave
    KE8TSH likes this.
  14. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had at least two mentors in amateur radio, one in learning Morse and proper operating manners, and one in the technical aspects, which later became my main interest. The first was SM4AXL, who by coincidence both my physics teacher in 7th grade and my Dad knew but for different reasons.

    My Dad did not know that he was a radio amateur, but my teacher advised me of the local club where SM4AXL was president when he had learned about my interest in amateur radio. He showed me the thrill of Morse operations and also advised about the best way of learning the "art and skill". I was also invited as a club member.

    When my licence exam came closer, you had to be 14 to get a licence, I got the opportunity to make a few "on-the-air contacts" as a guest operator so I could feel confident about the Morse test.
    At the club, I had shown interest in VHF operating, and SM4COK noticed me and invited me to his home station and demonstrated some entry-level VHF gear and construction practices.
    I left him with a few crucial parts and some guidance how to build a workable transmitter and converter.

    After applying for the exam, it took almost 6 months before the paperwork was approved and I could appear at the Government examiner. Formally, I had to wait until the exam was graded to hear if I would get a licence or not, but the examiner had looked at both the ink tape of my sending test and the transcript of the receiving and told me off the record that "it looked good".

    The waiting time was used under SM4COK's guidance to get the transmitter and antenna working properly. When the licence arrived I had already been heard by him and a few others testing the transmitter in a supposedly "non-radiating" dummy load, to their amusement...

    My first QSO:s were with SM4COK and a few other locals during a memorable December afternoon after coming home from school and finding my licence documents in the mail.

    I got a lot of advice and assistance during my early Novice years from him which made him patiently answer a lot of really silly questions, and was also later introduced to meteor scatter and other more exotic propagation modes. Also, I became introduced into "anti-TVI" measures by him, which made operations during TV hours acceptable at home.

    When I moved from my home town in 1976 for University, I kept in contact with my mentors and my old club, and visited sometimes to find out what was going on. Sometimes our paths crossed at "ham-fests".

    Having been a club officer in 1973/74, I was invited to the 75 year anniversary celebration in 2014, and met a few of the still remaining oldest members, but it stood clear that their ages were showing.

    In 2020, I learned of the passing of SM4COK after a brief illness,
    but the pandemic made it not possible to attend the funeral.
    But I wrote his obituary recalling own memories and the influence he have had on my "amateur radio career".

    I feel fortunate to have met some really great mentors over the years, and now when I have become "old and grizzled" myself, I try to be a mentor both in my profession and in amateur radio.

    W7DGJ and W0PV like this.
  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you Karl-Arne. Sweden doesn't sound that much different than the USA. So much of amateur radio is "common ground" across the world. A wonderful aspect of what we do! Dave

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