Friday, November 16, 2007

When You Hear "C. Q.," What Do You Do?

Amateur (Ham) radio is a very exciting hobby as well as an extremely beneficial one. I received my first F.C.C. (Novice) ham license in 1965. A ham named Bob Stephens gave me the initial exam. I bought an old shortwave receiver for $50 and an Ameco transmitter kit for $15. The transmitter had a power output of 3 watts and was designed only to transmit with morse code. The beginner’s license was valid only for code. Now-a-days, I understand there no longer is a code requirement to become a ham.

My wife and I lived in an older house on Harriot Street in Beaumont. I did not yet have an antenna so I attached the transmission line to a metal screen window. I sent out a call in Morse code hoping to hear a reply. My very first contact was a fellow named Henry, who was in Cuba.

My next contact was with London. Not England, but London, Ontario, Canada. Within a few months, I made contact with 4 foreign countries and 26 of the 50 States using that little 3 watt transmitter.

Finally by 1967, with the assistance of another ham, Roger Dillon, I earned the highest (EXTRA) class ham license and purchased a nice station with a microphone and proper antenna. My new station ran 200 watts in power.

One day, Mike Gulley and I were adjusting my transmitter. Speaking into the microphone, I said, “Hello … hello.” A voice replied, “Hello.” Turned out to be a ham who was working with a U. S. Weather Station at the South Pole. He was inside of an ice house that had been cut into the actual ice cap. He could transmit for only a few minutes because his transmitter crystal would get too cold and cease functioning. He would have to warm the crystal up in hot water on his stove. Then he could transmit for another ten minutes or so. He had a copper wire antenna laid out on the ice. Since the ice was nearly 100 feet above the ground, he had a great transmitting signal without needing an antenna pole or tower.

Other interesting contacts included Mission Control during the Mariner IV Mars probe. They were asking Hams to give them signal strength reports. Also, I was fortunate to have a “first-day” contact with the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colorado, when they began frequency and time transmissions from that location. I communicated with the Senate Office Building ham station in Washington D.C. Also with hams in all 50 States and numerous foreign countries.

Probably my most intriguing contact was while using Morse code and contacting a ham who was blind and deaf. He copied the code by placing his hand inside of the speaker cone in his receiver. He read the vibrations. Amazing.

On more serious notes, there were opportunities to assist with emergency communications during the Alaskan earthquake in the late 1960s. Also, as a member of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service Network (RACES), I served as the radio liaison for Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beaumont. Hams all over the world have innumerable opportunities to assist with communications during times of local, state, national and international emergencies. When all electrical power fails such as during a hurricane, hams stand ready to jump in and provide communications using batteries and/or generators.

Any ham will be more than happy to share additional information with you about this fascinating and very worthwhile hobby. Three of those hams are:

Walt Lombard, President, Beaumont ARC, (409) 727-1071.
Tootie Heintschel, President, Jefferson County ARC and County Emergency Coordinator, (409) 962-1435.
Mike Faucheaux, VP, Beaumont ARC, and teacher of ham license classes,
(409) 727-1071.

Winston Hamby, KF5D
The Beaumont Enterprise


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