Upgrade to General Class License
In 1965, I passed my General Class License test and was issued my WB6RQM call sign, which I held until 2021. I was able to purchase a surplus 70 foot tower from Hughes Aircraft Company. With the help of my dad, we installed in at our home in Stanton, CA. I purchased a used tri-band (20, 15, and 10 meter bands), 2 element cubicle quad antenna. I learned a lot from my experimentation and fine tuning the antenna. Unfortunately, I had to take the antenna and town down before I joined the Army in August 1969.
I went to work for Hughes Aircraft Co in May 1969. I joined the Hughes Amateur Radio Club and was able to operate the ham station using their Navy MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System) and provide free phone patches to those serving in Vietnam. It was extremely rewarding to provide a means for our service members to speak with their families.
At the time, we relied on phone patches to connect a telephone line to a radio. Radios operate half duplex, which means only one person can speak at a time. Telephones communicate using full duplex, meaning people at each end of the conversation can speak at the same time, and often, they do. I had to constantly remind folks to speak one at a time and to say ‘”over” when they were finished. That way, I could change from transmit to receive, or vice versa.
My Ham Activities While I was in the Army
While I was undergoing training, I had little time or opportunity for ham radio activity. I did manage to listen to the ham bands when we were training with Army radio equipment. I did meet a fellow soldier stationed in South Korea that had his South Korean ham license.
While I was stationed in West Germany, I was able to apply for a German ham radio license. My call sign was DA2EM, which was a special type of license issued to U.S. service personnel stationed in Germany. I was also issued an Army Mars (Military Affiliate Radio Station) call sign, which was AE1EMA.
My dad shipped my Heathkit HW-101 transceiver to me while I was in Germany. I was able to install a dipole antenna in the attic of our 3 story barracks. I remember talking to some hams on the east coast of the U.S.
Return to Civilian Life
After I left the Army in 1972, I returned to work at Hughes Aircraft Co. I met Carol, my future wife at Hughes and we were married on September 6, 1975. I was active in the Hughes Amateur Radio Club and was a member of their Emergency Communications Team. I also joined the Hospital Disaster Support Communications System (HDSCS), which was a group of local ham radio operators that supported hospitals by providing emergency communications during disasters. This included earthquakes, fires, and internal hospital telephone system failures.
I don’t remember exactly when, but I decided to improve my code speed and study the technical requirements for the Advance Class license. The technical side wasn’t difficult since I had graduated from Fullerton College in 1982 with a AS degree in Electronics. The 20 words a minute code requirement wasn’t too difficult because I was able to copy around 30 words per minute while in the Army.
In 1997, my wife of 22 years, Carol, lost her battle with cancer. This brought many changes to my life. One of them was my interest in ham radio. I kept my hand held and mobile radios, but loaned my Icom IC-751A to my brother to use. A month or so after Carol died, On my birthday, August 15th, I attended Harvest Crusade and became a Christian. Two days later, I met Catherine in an online chat room and spent much of my time getting to know her. We were married the following July and we bought a house in Westminster. It is a wonderful home, but not the best for ham radio. Our home has underground utilities. However, the homes on the next street are a couple years older and have above ground power. So, there are power lines to the north and east sides of our property. Not a good situation for a ham living near the southwest corning of the U.S. I did put up a 2 meter/440 MHz vertical antenna and did some operating at first, but that soon waned.
Let’s jump ahead 20 years. I’ve been retired from Boeing since 2005. My brother bought a new HF radio, so mine was sitting idle. So, I brought it home with me when I returned from a visit to Forest Ranch. I struggled with trying to figure out the type of antenna that would work in our pie shaped lot surrounded on two sides with power poles. Catherine and I bought a converted 1967 Greyhound bus as our RV. One of my brother’s ham friends, Don, WA6VWW, owned an RV and had good success with an end-fed random wire antenna. So, I decided to build one for our bus. It works fairly well, so I decided to do something similar on our house. It does the job, but is quite noisy on 80 and 40 meters. So much so, I find it difficult to talk to other hams unless their signals are fairly strong. You can find more information about these antennas on the “The Antennas I Have Used” page on this website.
My brother, Larry, has been legally blind for a number of years now. He really enjoys working CW on the HF bands and also operating on the higher VHF and UHF frequencies. He is also enjoying some of the newer digital communications modes, such as D-Star, DMR, and Fusion.
Following his lead, in January 2021 I purchased a device that connects to my computer and provides the means to talk to other ham radio operators without a radio! What’s really exciting, using the internet, I can speak with hams around the world. Although, I do feel in a way this is “cheating”, I want to find out if my interest will remain to a point it justifies the purchase of new radio equipment.
The Next Chapter of Our Lives
On October 15, 2021, I was granted a new callsign, W7RQM. This change was caused by the decision my wife, Catherine, and I made to move to Arizona, My brother had requested, and received his new call, K7GND, when he and his wife, Ida, moved to Oregon.
On November 9th, 2021, Catherine and I left California for the next chapter of our lives in Dewey, AZ. We arrived after dark, but were able to park our bus in the driveway, and unload the important stuff for our first night in our new home.
More to come…