I was a Novice from June 19th to December 12, 1968 and made about 700 contacts.
The majority of my contacts were made on 40 and 15 meters. The remaining
contacts were made on 80 meters using my 40 meter dipole. In October of 1968 I
ventured to downtown Baltimore City to the FCC field office located in the Customs
House to take the General exam. Thirty days later I went back and took the
Advanced test. Back then, you had to go to an FCC field office to take the
Technician, General, Advanced, and Extra class exams before an FCC examiner. If
you did not take the exams back-to-back you had to wait 30 days before you could take the
test again. The test consisted of a code test where you copied CW generated
from a paper tape machine for 5 minutes using a pencil and paper to copy the code.
To pass you had to have one minute of error free copy. Once you passed the copying
porition of the test you were required to send some plain text to the examiner using a hand
key at the required speed until he told you to stop. After successfully
completing the code portion of the test, you then took the written test which
consisted questions with multiple choice answers. After completing the written exam
your answers were checked (by Mrs Wilson in the Baltimore FCC office) and you were told if
I approached upgrading conservatively, studying for one exam at a time. I
received my General ticket on December 13, 1968 and my Advanced ticket in late January
1969. After receiving my General ticket I started working 20 meters using the
second harmonic of my 40 meter crystals. After a few days of operating on 20
meters, hearing more DX in a week than I had heard in six months as a novice, I was bitten
by the DX bug and would never recover from it.
The photo above left was taken in January 1969. The photo shows the Eico 720
transmitter, Hammarlund HQ-110A receiver, Eico 722 VFO and a homebrew antenna relay box
(on top of the Hammarlund HQ-110A). After working "rock abound" on 20 meters
for a few weeks, I purchased an Eico 722 VFO kit which I promptly built and put on the
air. In those days Novices were limited to crystal controlled transmitters with
a maximum DC input power of 75 watts (about 50 watts RF output). During the time
I was a novice I had about a dozen crystals so I could move around the novice bands.
What you see in the picture above is my novice, general, and advanced station which was
setup in the basement on a make-shift operating table consisting of an old record player
supporting the table top which was an old chalk board. The photo on the right is
yours truly at the controls, circa spring 1969. By the time this picture was taken
I had worked and confirmed some of my first DX contacts on 15 meters and had added a
homebrew antenna tuner. I operated this station setup through mid 1972.
In July of 1972, after my return home from Scotland, I added a Drake 2B receiver and an
Eico 730 plate modulator to the Eico 720 so I could operate AM phone. In the 70s
there was still a fair amount of AM phone activity. I operated AM on 40 and 10
meters and became active in the local chapter of the 10-10 International Club which
conducted it's nets on AM.
My first DX contact as a Novice was with Brazil, PY5ASN on July 10, 1968. Ram
answered my CQ on 15 meters. During the QSO I had no idea where he was located, but
did my best to copy the strange callsign and complete the QSO. I did not find out
where he was located until I looked up his call in a callbook at the Kahn-Ellert store
in Baltimore city several days later. Kahn-Ellert was located on TV Hill under the
1000 feet tall TV tower. The bus that I rode to and from college made a stop near
there. I would visit Kahn-Ellert regularly to buy crystals and drool over the ham
gear. I did not know this at the time, but Charley Ellert and Mr. Kahn were former
FCC associates of George Sterling, the original holder of W3DF, the call I would eventually
acquire about eight years later.
The QSL cards on the wall in the picture (aboveleft) were my first confirmed DX
contacts, PY5ASN, DL5AO, KZ5KZN, and G3CVS, all worked on 15 meters in the Novice band.
During my six months as a Novice I worked 15 countries, all on 15 meters, and
46 states on 40 and 15 meters. Working DX was a challenge for the "rock-bound"
novice. When you heard a DX station he almost always was not on your crystal
frequency, so you would call and hope that he would tune plus and minus his transmit
frequency. The experienced DX operators would do this, but there were many who
did not and worked only those on their transmit frequency. Once in a while I would
get lucky and have a DX station answer my CQ, but that did not happen very often.
I graduated from Baltimore Junior College in June of 1969 with an AA degree in
electronics technology. Both of my buddies moved on to full time jobs after
graduation. I immediately enlisted in the Navy before the Army drafted me for
service in Vietnam. I entered boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois on October 2,
1969. After 11 weeks of training in frigid Illinois, I completed boot camp about a
week before Christmas 69 and spent the holidays on leave at home. I had joined the
Navy thinking that I could further my education in electronics by attending the Navy's
Electronic Technician (ET) School. I scored very high on the tests given in boot
camp but found out that there was more to going to ET school than scoring a 98 out of 100,
namely another 2 year commitment to the Navy. I was unwilling to commit to a 6 year
enlistment before I knew if I was going to like 'Navy life.' When I turned down
the 2 year extension, I was offered a rating as a the Communications Technican
(CT) with 20 weeks of 'A' school in Pensacola, Florida. I was probably made this
offer because I had scored a 100 percent on the morse code test given in boot camp.
I gladly accepted that offer.
In early January 1970, I shipped out to Florida to attend Communications 'A' School
at the Navy Communications Training Center (NCTC), Cory Field, in Penscola, Florida.
From early January to early May 1970, I attended school during the day and operated from
the base club station WA4ECY during my non-duty hours. The club station was well
equipped, consisting of a Swan 500 transceiver, a Swan KW amplifier, and a Mosley TA-33 on
a 70 foot tower. There were about a dozen active club members. Shown below are
two of the club's QSL cards. I graduated from 'A' school in early May at the top of
my class and was able to pick my first duty station. I chose RAF Edzell, in
northeast Scotland since it was one of the Navy's best duty stations. After 'A'
school I went home for a week of leave before leaving for Scotland.
The entrance to RAF Edzell.
In mid-May 1970, I shipped out to Scotland for an 18 month tour of duty.
My tour of duty was was later extended to 25 months. The trip was an interesting
one. I rode a bus from Baltimore to McGuire AFB in New Jersey where I boarded a
Boeing 707 bound for Germany. This was my second plane trip, the first being the
flight from Baltimore to Chicago for boot camp. After a short lay over in Germany,
we flew to Ayr, Scotland where I took cab to the train station, a train to Montrose, and
finally a taxi to the base.
RAF Edzell, near the village of Edzell shown belowleft, was located midway between the
larger towns of Montrose and Brechin near North Sea on the east coast of Scotland.
The base, a World War II Royal Air Force Base leased by the Navy, a communications building
surrounded by a wollenweber antenna shown the photot below right, which was located on
an air field about a mile from the main part of the base. This building was where
I spent all of my on-duty hours. The building was manned 24 hours a day, seven days
a week. We manned rotating watches, working two day watches (7 am to 4 pm), two eve
watches (4 pm to 11 pm), then two mid watches (11 pm to 7 am) before taking 80 hours off
and starting the cycle over again.
At first I used a bicycle and the local bus transportation to get around.
There were two busses that stopped at the base each day. During my off duty time,
I would ride into Edzell and up into the nearby mountainside with one of my buddies
(non-ham). For the first six months I used the busses and the bicycle to get
around visitng Edzell, Montrose and Brechan regularly. In early 1971, I took driving
lessons and obtained a British drivers license and started exploring more of the
countryside by automobile. My first car was a 1963 Austin A40 which I purchased from
a local bloke. I visited Edinburgh several times, Glasgow, Inverness, Loch Ness,
Aberdeen, Dundee, St. Andrews, Fettercairn, Stonehaven, Brechin, Montrose, Forfar and
others, the names I no longer remember. In late 1971, after many miles, the A40
developed mechancial problems so I scrapped it and purchased a second hand Singer
Sunbeam (not a sewing machine) which was a larger more comfortable car for touring on
the Scottish roadways.
My first car, a 1963 Austin A40................................an the Singer Sunbeam
Shown below is the entrance to the village of Edzell, about 4 miles from the base and the communications building where I worked.
I typical scene along the roadways in the north of Scotland........... and Balmoral Castle.
After settling in at RAF Edzell, I applied for a reciprocal license in the summer of
1970 and was issued the callsign GM5ASI. I made my first contacts as GM5ASI in
August 1970. The photo and accompanying article shown below was published in the
base newspaper, The Tartan Log. I operated regularly from the club station which
consisted of a Swan 350, a two element GEM quad on a 30 foot TV tower. We later
(I think it was spring 1971) erected an 80 meter quarter wave vertical which was made
from old TV tower. I spent many hours burying 60 quarter wave radials under this
antenna to improve DX performance. The Drake 2B receiver shown next to the Swan 350
belonged to another club member, Steve, then WA4UAZ, now K4EU. The Swan receiver
was as "broad as a barn door"on CW. The Drake receiver and vertical allowed me to
contact friends back in the U.S. who kept nightly schedules on 80 meter CW. I worked
80 and 40 meters with the vertical and 20, 15, and 10 meters with the quad. Most of
my on-the-air time was spent on 20 and 15 meters looking for DX and my friends back home.
During my two years in Scotland I was able to work 191 countries and all states.
When conditions were good there were many nights when I stayed up working U.S.
stations on 20 meters past local sunrise. When I was off duty and not chasing DX,
I spent most of my free time in Brechin and Montrose. Brechin had a pub called
Jolly's which was a popular hang-out with the Navy guys and local female population.
Brechin had a nice restaurant where you could have a great steak dinner (genuine
Angus steak) for about 2 pound,(4+ dollars).
The town of Edzel located about 5 miles from the base and the radio club
The article in the Tartan Log. I was a friend of the reporter who had an interest in amateur radio.