50 Year Anniversary Contact

 

50Yrs

Pat W7YCN on the left and Dick W7YTZ on right during our 50 year anniversary QSO February 8, 2005 at 4:30p.m. Pat helped me study for my Novice exam and when I received my license he was my first contact. So, here we are 50 years later.

55Yrs

On February 8, 2010 at 4:30 p.m., Pat and I again had a QSO on 3714 Khz, now 55 years later from that first contact. From now on, Pat and I plan every five years to keep making our contacts at the exact time of that original QSO. Maybe Pat will get another SX-42 receiver and Harvey Wells Transmitter for the 60th year QSO. I will keep my old S40B Hallicrafters and Heathkit AT1 just for the event.

 

W7YTZ History

Early in the summer of 1950, a long-time family friend visited our farm in Olympia, Washington. It was traditional during those years to have chicken dinner on Sunday, and my job, in preparation for that dinner, included picking out the fattest Rhode Island Red from the chicken house. After dinner on that unforgettable Sunday afternoon, Bob (W7SFO) placed a small box in my hands. I hurriedly opened it! It contained a Howard Model 430 communications receiver! Can you imagine my surprise and excitement? I was only eight years old! It had knobs and switches and a slide rule dial with all sorts of numbers that my eager and inquisitive mind would eventually learn to identify in the weeks to come. Bob talked with me all afternoon about his fascination with ham radio, which had begun in his younger days. This is the first time I had ever heard the word “ham” mentioned during family gatherings. The following weekend, my Dad helped me extend a wire from my upstairs bedroom to the barn, some 200 feet away. I will never forget the thrill of turning on my Howard 430 for the first time! Crackles, static crashes and voices from far-off lands inspired me and instilled the love of radio in me that has remained with me all my life. During that same summer, the Korean War began and less than a year later, my uncle Don, who was in the Marine reserves, was called up and shipped to Korea in the role of a CW operator. Over the next few years, I listened constantly to my Howard receiver. In the summer of 1953, when I was 11 years old, Uncle Don came home from the war. On one of his Sunday visits to our farm, he noticed I was still using the Howard receiver, so he proceeded to explain the Morse code to me and then, on our family typewriter, showed me how as a Marine Corp operator he had copied CW on the typewriter. By now I had gotten hooked on the concept of ham radio and had developed an eagerness to learn everything possible pertaining to this intriguing hobby. At age 11, I began the challenging study necessary to acquire my Novice license.
Living in the country, far from town, I had no contact with any hams that I could call upon for help in my studies, so my progress was slow. In the spring of 1954, we moved from the farm to a suburb of Olympia. I enjoyed being closer to my school friends and able to engage in more activities. One fateful day, my mother told me she had heard of a boy about my age who was a ham. Very soon, I was on the phone with Pat, Wn7YCN, a recent Novice. My spirits soared as he expressed an interest in helping me study for my exam. Pat and I shared many happy days (and still do) discussing the world of ham radio. I was thoroughly impressed with his “wonderful” ham shack, which consisted of a Hallicrafter SX-42 receiver and a Heathkit AT-1 transmitter. I watched and listened enthusiastically as he made CW contacts, and due to his inspiration, I was soon ready and eager to take the test. Also by this time, I recognized the need for a better receiver and, of course, a transmitter. Pat was looking to upgrade, so he sold me his Heathkit AT-1. Every Friday night, C&G Electronics was open until 8 p.m. They sold used and new ham gear; so one Friday night my Dad took me to find a receiver. A Hallicrafter S-40 was about all my budget could afford. I hurried home and connected it to my antenna! What a difference from the old Howard receiver! I also had to pick a frequency for the transmitter by purchasing “crystals.” I chose a Peterson Radio Company quartz crystal, labeled 3714. This would be my “home” for the next year. In early January 1955, I passed the Novice exam with “flying colors.” My license was issued on February 1, 1955. When I arrived home from school on February 8, my mother handed me an envelope with an FCC return address. My license was finally here! What was my callsign? I ripped open the envelope and there it was . . . . Wn7YTZ. I called Pat and at 4:30 P.M. that afternoon, I made my first CW contact with Pat, Wn7YCN, on 3714 kilocycles.
After my initial Novice contact, I made many friends on the air and was surprised at the number of teenagers involved in this hobby. It was shortly after that the Pacific Teenager’s Net (PTAN) was formed. In those days, when your Novice license expired, unless you obtained a General license, your hamming days were over. The rest of our high school days, we enjoyed radio club meetings, field days and DX. Many nights and weekends were spent with my friend Pat, both studying for the General License. We dreamed of VFO’s and AM voice QSO”s and being allowed more than 75 watts of power. We had to drive to Seattle to take the General exam before an FCC examiner. My friend Pat passed his test on the third try. I was having a hard time with the written, and it took six tries before I passed. On February 16, 1956, the FCC removed the “n” from my callsign and finally my “ham world” was complete. Many nights you could hear W7YCN and W7YTZ on 10M playing chess until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. This was accomplished by each of us having a numbered chessboard and each moving the other’s pieces, as well as his own, around the board. Also, during the summer of 1957 the sunspot cycle was at its peak; little did I know these were band conditions that occur only once in a lifetime. One day, experimenting with just how little an antenna it would take to work DX on 10M, I happened to have a 16-element co-linear broadside 450 Mhz array. I placed the antenna on my bed, ran a 300-Ohm twin lead to the output of my newly assembled Heathkit DX 100. I proudly commenced to work many VK’s in Australia and delighted by telling them I was using a 16-element beam. To my amazement, I was receiving signal reports from 5-8 to 5-9 on AM. In those early days, my appreciation for low SWR, antenna matching, let alone the proper resonant antenna, was non-existent. My hamshack was alive with RF. Those were the days! From 1955 through 1959, I traded, bought and sold receivers and transmitters on a regular basis. I moved from the S-40 Hallicrafter to an SX-28, then the greatest receiver ever made (according to National). The NC-300 hit the market – minimum down and $14.26 per month – I bought a brand new one! My transmitters were Globe Scout, LYSCO, and the Heathkit DX-100. One day, a neighbor, intrigued by my Globe Scout, traded me a six-foot rack with a homebrew 300-watt transmitter. It caught fire one day and almost burned the house down. I traded him back for my old Globe Scout!
Between spending half of my high school years thinking about girls and the other half, about ham radio, I managed to graduate in 1959. My love for electronics led me to enlist in the U.S. Army Alaska Communications System (ACS). After basic training and electronics school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, I was sent to Juneau, Alaska, where I spent the next two years in the world of submarine cable, microwave radio communications, HF radio bush phones and cable carrier communications systems. By then, I was deeply involved in a trade that would become my lifelong career.
After my discharge from the Army, I took a job as a radio technician for the Washington State Patrol and remained with them for a total of 27 years. During a break in that employment, I spent two years at the first 24/7 COMSAT earth station at Brewster Flats, Washington. I retired from the Patrol in 1991 and went on to perform several electronic undertakings with the FAA.
During all the years in my chosen profession, my passion for ham radio has remained strong.
I had always managed to maintain a ham shack and was forever experimenting with new forms of radio communications.
By 1959, my good friend, Pat, W7YCN (with a new general license), and I had lost contact with each other. During our high school days, we had shared activities including ham field days and club meetings, and other various hamming adventures. Pat went into the field of education and moved to San Francisco where he taught political science at the City College of San Francisco. He had a busy life and found little time for ham radio until, prior to his retirement from a full-time teaching career, he regained his interest in this earlier avocation. He began collecting the old tube-type equipment similar to what he had as a teenager. In those “50's” years as teenagers, we only dreamed of owning Collins and other “high class” radio equipment. It was way beyond our financial capability at that time, so Pat was enjoying now being able to purchase this “finer” radio gear. This gave him a renewed enthusiasm for ham radio and he began making frequent contacts.
In 1991 a series of events caused our paths to cross and we took up where we had left off years before. Our reawakened friendship sparked an even greater interest in our hobby and we began to make weekly contacts between San Francisco and Olympia on 75 meters. These “weekly” contacts turned into “nightly events” as we caught up on the lost years. I was elated to discover that Pat was planning to return to the Olympia area to retire.
In 2003, I began to think about the possibility of duplicating my first contact as a Novice, which had been with my friend, Pat, W7YCN, on the exact date and hour as it had happened in 1955. I would need to obtain the same model of receiver and transmitter that I had owned then. After several swap meets and Ebay auctions, I found what I was looking for - a nearly perfect Hallicrafter S-40b and a “not-so-perfect” Heathkit AT-1. The AT-1 final amplifier required a complete rebuild to restore it to its original design. Working with tube sockets, large coils and large variable capacitors invoked nostalgia and reminded me of the old days. I also rummaged through a box of old parts, and there was my old J-38 key. To enable this “historic contact” to happen, Pat also began searching for “antique” equipment. He would need a Hallicrafter SX-42. He finally found one, but we spent many hours making his acquisition perform properly. Unable to locate a Harvey Wells Bandmaster transmitter which he had used in 1955, Pat decided to try a homebrew transmitter that at least had the same “807” final and planned to utilize this for our 50th anniversary QSO contact.
Now we were ready! We planned our schedule around the appointed historic “time” and on February 8, 2005, at 4:30 P.M., 50 years to the date, we made a CW contact with restored equipment to equal 1955 and get this, I still have the original PR crystal for 3714 Khz. It was a moment to remember, and a time to reflect on how far amateur radio has progressed. Yet, tuning across the bands with the crackle, noises and voices so like the ’50’s, it heightened my memory of the day my Howard 430 first came alive.

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