Welcome to my Ham Radio Page
(revised July 13, 1988)
Amateur Radio (or being a Ham Radio Operator) has been a part of my life for a very long time. I will use this space to give a little background on how I got started. You can press the Restoration page button above and see some of the rigs that I have restored as part of this hobby.
For those that have heard my story before don't leave too quickly, here are some pictures of my Ham Shack and antennas. (There is a link to return you back here)
I had wanted to become a HAM in my Junior High school days, that is when I became interested the magic of radio reception and transmission. I had constructed a one tube regenerative receiver and was able to receive short wave broadcasts. My father's big Coronado radio in living room also had short wave bands to listen to. My father had a big outdoor antenna so this radio did pick up many of the ham radio bands. I did not know what all these strange noises and voices were all about so it took a lot of books from the library to explain some of these mysteries.
I had constructed the one tube set from some of these same books with the parts from some old radios that I had scrounged from the junk piles. This was possible because the town of Alta. had just converted the electric power from 220 volts DC to the newer 110 volt AC power generated by there new diesel generator. This produced a lot of obsolete electrical equipment and many old battery operated were converted about the same time to the new dial system. The batteries along with the discarded DC equipment became treasures for my experimentation.
My first transmitter was a single tube wireless microphone circuit. It was not supposed to be connected to a large antenna and I found out why. When I hooked my father's antenna to this the signal was received about 30 miles away, Dad had been informed that I had been heard by one of his customers as he listened to his favorite radio station frequency! Dad of course worried about me getting in trouble informed me that that was not to be repeated again! The Pearl Harbor attack put an immediate hold on getting any form of a radio-transmitting license. It did not, on the other hand, keep me from listening to the short wave frequencies until I entered the Navy
It was in 1952 that I took a correspondence course, from the National Radio Institute of Washington DC, with the goal of obtaining my commercial radio license to be used as part of my work in Brey's Radio. This course included the parts to make a transmitter for instructional use. I had not really thought of this small transmitter as anything to get on the ham bands with. In my mind it was a learning experience on the theory of radio transmission. This transmitter was setting in the radio shop window as a display when a gentleman spotted it and stopped in to inquire if I was a radio amateur.
This man, who became a very good friend, was Ole Refsell. As we chatted he informed me that he was a ham and his call was WØTTT. After many visits, he persuaded me that I should get my license. I can't say that I jumped into this, the impulsiveness of my youth was pushed to the back burner as the needs of a young father with a family to feed weighed on my mind.
I did get interested enough to rent a paper tape machine to teach me the International Morse Code, which was a requirement at that time. The FCC had just created a new series of licenses, Novice and Technician. The novice required a code test of only five words per minute and a written test. There was not too much published on what the written test was like. I learned later that the American Radio Relay League did have a study guide which would have helped. Ole persisted in his persuasion and finally got me to go to Des Moines, IA with him to take the test. He was going to upgrade his ticket so that he could get on some of the higher frequencies with a mike and talk instead of using the code.
I passed the novice written and just barley passed the five words per minute code test. While talking with some other applicants I was persuaded to try the technician class that same morning. The FCC personnel were not the cordial people I thought they'd be and in one case I saw them frighten a young lad so bad I doubt that he passed any test. They were very blunt in answering any questions about the procedure of taking the test. After a wait of approximately six weeks I did receive the two licenses in the mail.
This waiting time gave me plenty of opportunity to construct my home built transmitter and purchase a receiver. There were not too many places in 1952 that sold ham equipment, and like most amateurs, I did not have the funds to pay for this so it was purchased on a time payment plan from World Radio Supply in Council Bluffs. The receiver finally selected was a Hammerland HQ 129 X.
I had some trouble making the transmitter work correctly but WØTTT helped me to understand some of the operations of a transmitter of this type and after rebuilding the antenna to suit the transmitter I solved one of the problems. I operated code (CW) for some months before I was able to even try to pass the next higher class. This was the general class, which required the CW speed to be passed at a 13 word per minute rate and also a more comprehensive written test. The theory portion of the written test was not that difficult for me as I was still studying theory at every chance I could.
Operating CW on the novice bands during this time was a real challenge. The narrow CW frequency's allowed to the novice was real crowded with other operator's. We had to use crystal control of the transmitter and 75 watts or less. My power was about 15 watts input power, and who knows what the output was since no output meter was available. I did a lot more listening than transmitting at first but did make a contact or two in an evening. These contacts were all in the US none outside the country (which is referred to as DX).
I was happy to finally get my General class so that I could talk with a mike to Ole and some other people I had met from nearby. It was through these early contacts that I met another very close friend, Bill Hassing , WØFAJ in Jackson, MN. I then began to have regular chat sessions on the 160 meter band (1.8 MHz) and also started to check into daily nets on 1.805 kHz (evenings) and 3970 kHz (12:30 during the lunch hour). This made me more aware of other hams in the statewide area and kept me informed about picnics and gatherings of hams, which was an opportunity to meet the voices that became part of my daily routine.
This hobby continued to grow and continues to be a big part of my life. In fact if it wasn't for this hobby my entire career in the electronics field probably would not have been as interesting. I also credit this hobby with helping me learn of the new advances in electronics and communications. The changes over the past 50 years have been unbelievable when you consider that first transmitter I made as a kid.
As I mentioned, this hobby is still a big part of my life and one of the primary activities is the construction and repair of all types of equipment for use in the hobby. I haven't spent much time DX work or contest operation, I find that local contact to be the most interesting. I do maintain and have for many years a twice a week schedule on the 75 meter band with a longtime friend Glenn Thomas W5INU who lives in Oklahoma.
I presently have a small collection of vintage Hallicrafters receivers and some of the other older tube type equipment that was used. You can see these in the restoration page as previously mentioned. My present radio shack has some of the newer solid state transceivers, such as Kenwood TS 830, Yaesu 1000 MP. Perhaps if I get more skilled with my digital camera I'll include a couple pictures in a later update.
I have also been very active on the 2-meter (144 MHz) band. I feel as though I pioneered 2 meter AM operation in this area by having the first rig to operate on this band. After producing a lot of unrest with the early TV receivers in this area I switched to the 2 meter FM mode. The compatibility of VHF AM and the AM TV was not very good, and since my business was selling and repairing TV's i thought it wise not to upset my customers by crowding their evening entertainment.
I have constructed my own 2-meter repeater and it is presently in daily operation from our local airport beacon tower. This repeater is not a wide area coverage machine but does seem to do adequately for local use. It is used for local storm watch spotters when the need arises. This 2-meter band now replaces, for local communication, what we used to use the 160-meter band for. But like many others I am still drawn 160-meter band in the fall and winter months, when static levels are low. There is a nightly net for weather information with a five-state area and of course many friends I have chatted with over the years.
As I close this I am reminded of the very huge favor my dear old friend Ole did for me the day he stopped into my shop to chat about that transmitter setting in the window. He helped open a door to me that has helped develop friendships that have lasted all of my adult life. I think of all the guys and gals that have taken time to chat with me, attended outings and watched my family grow up. Those are and remain the special times that warm my heart. I can honestly say I have never met a ham that did not openly offer help, advice, and friendship to those of us who share this hobby.
I'd love to name each and everyone one of them that have meant so much to me but I don't want to forget a single one. So in closing, to all those of you that I have met through Ham Radio thank you for making my life richer.
Mel (or as others know me WØMDM)
I mentioned my friend Glen in the text above, you can vist a page we published in honor of his birthday and our many years of friendship by clicking here.
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