Amateur (Ham) Radio - My Beginning


While serving in the Navy, with the help of our ship's radiomen, I was able to call home and talk with my family via ham radio which at the time was the only way any of the crew could talk to loved ones while at sea.  I knew when I was discharged, I would try to get my ham license to also perform phone patches for ships at sea.  Little did I know my desire to become a ham would also help me obtain my first job in broadcasting. (see my experiences at WBNS).

In my spare time, I built a small room in our half basement of our first home, and began listening to shortwave radio.  At the time, for someone to become a ham, they needed to learn morse code also called CW.  This was very difficult for me, and I spent hours on my used National NC-109 General Coverage Receiver listening to the ham bands trying to copy code signals.  The black box behind me in this picture, is a machine called an Instructograph that used paper tape that helped me learn Morse code.  Remember, this was a time before home computers that help many learn morse code today, although code is currently not required.

After awhile, or in 1967, when my code speed was finally up to 5WPM, I obtained my first ham license (novice) which was WN8BCO.  I bought a used transmitter and spent hours on the air talking to anyone that was slow enough for me to try calling after hearing their CQ.  As my code speed increased to 13 WPM, I passed my advanced amateur license test and became WB8BCO.

My first card was a stock card with my call letters on it.  I worked hard to design and develop a personized QSL card that I would send other hams after making contact with them.  That first one was alright, but I designed it in the wrong direction to be displayed by other hams.  Then after moving to Lancaster, Ohio I made one with pictures of area covered bridges, but moved before I could have it printed.

After moving to Athens county, I wanted to come up with a different card and decided to write other ham operators around the country with BCO in their amateur calls to get some ideas.  Although I didn't get many ideas from my mass mailings, I did receive some interesting cards from the widow of 'D. A. Crossley W8BCO who had been a ham since 1920 or earlier.  His widow sent me his card from 1921, maybe earlier, was when he was just 8BCO.  She also sent me a card he had received from 2BK a Mr. C.E. Trube, the ARRl Dist. Supt. from Yonkers, NY.  These two cards are very rare and are from the spark gap days (Info Link), and I'm glad I'm able to share both these special cards that Mr. Crossley valued so much.

While working in Athens, an artist friend of mine (Sooz) helped me design my current QSL card using a picture from one of my Heathkit rigs.  This card design allows me to move anywhere on the east coast, writing my address just below my call letters.

During the years since 1967, I've had many rigs besides my more than complete Heathkit station when I lived in Guysville, OH. While looking at that picture, did you also notice the small Ten-Tec transceiver on the top left? Even though I had a full line Heathkit Station with a 2KW amplifier, I also loved to operate using low power or "QRP".  During my many contacts, I was able to talk with KA6YVT from Calif. which allowed me to receive a 1000 per watt low power award which is currently still posted in my Ham Shack.

During my years as a ham operator, I've been able to talk to places like Paris, Germany, Italy and even the Squaw Island DX-pedition. A DX-pedition is usually a remote island where no amateurs normally live, giving other amateurs a chance to have a contact with that island. (learn more about DX-peditions from this link).

Equipment For Sale
I've decided to sell my Ten-Tec Omni6+ Transceiver. This transceiver is American made and upgraded from a basic Omni6 to the plus model by Ten-Tec and purchased from Ten-Tec. As you can see, the condition of the rig looks and it works like new. Please contact WB8BCO for additional information.


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