by Ron Youvan  KA4INM
  I was born at a very young age, by 13 I was trying to learn the required MORSE CODE, to become a HAM. (The idea of a signal traveling through space enchanted me!) I had my Dad drive me through all of the nearby neighborhoods as I searched the trees for wire antennae and the back yards for beams.*  When I saw one, I would have my Dad pull over,  I would ring the bell and ask to see the HAM radio operator, when I met him (never a YL or XYL **) I would ask him if he could help me learn morse code, and without exception, was told: "I've no time."

  When I heard that there was a "Commercial Radio Operators" license that doesn't require morse code, I got a First Class Radiotelephone Operators License, and became a broadcast engineer.  In 1973, after 10 years of work and 2 years of marriage, a fellow I worked with,  Tom N4?? included me in a (bi-yearly) code class he gave in his kitchen. For 5 weeks or so I went to his house after supper and on the 6th I passed the NOVICE exam with a score of 100% on the written and 100% on the code, five minutes of solid copy, with no errors, about 3 quarters of a page.  On October 13, 1973, I became licensed as WN4GHP.

(I never wanted to be a NOVICE!)
  This turned out to be a BIG mistake, not learning the code, but learning it at 5 words a minute, (13 wpm character speed) and the letters only part.  My first contact, an OM in Delaware ended disastrously with him sending his QTH, lots of times, with a "_ _ . . _ _" between the city and the state, a character I didn't know, a comma.  For over 10 years after that, I only got on the air with people from work.  In 1990, my renewed license came back with an expiration date of ??-??-00, meaning the year 2000, making me decide to do more than just read QST, Ham Radio magazine each month and be a NOVICE.  So I bought my first VHF radio, the next day I took the test, I missed two, but I became a TECHNICIAN class amateur radio operator.
(I never wanted to be a TECHNICIAN !)

  My first 2 meter radio is a Drake TR-22C a 12 channel crystal controlled portable with 1.50 watts out with about 4 (quartz) crystal pairs installed.  I built a 5/8s wave antenna out of a 11 meter mag-mount that I bought for this use.  I was never a C.B. operator, although I fixed a few.  (remember I had a First Class Radiotelephone License, since 1963.) I worked FB from all over Tampa, but I needed beam from Plant City, because of a tower shadow.

  Because 146.94 was the only crystal pair that I had on the frequency of a local repeater, I borrowed an H.T. from a NON-HAM friend and heard the BARS Monday night NET (TNX George WD4CNI) discovering that there is a "HAM CLUB" in my area, after over 30 years of searching for one, then after a long search, I finally found the BARS club.

  Over the years I tried to learn the code by myself and I learned a lot of wrong, when I took a BARS code class, I was fighting to un-learn as I learned.  The result was not what I had hoped for, beginners were going to GENERAL and OT's became EXTRA CLASS.  I had only great improvement to show for my effort, but my motto is "DON'T EVER GIVE UP!"  I took a second BARS code class, studying with the MASTER POUNDER (brass) Fred K4TN with only 3 in the advanced class, (we knew the code [mostly]) Fred could easily recognize our problem areas and make us work on them, by playing code tapes that were rich in our bad characters.  I can now send (from my head) and receive (in wrighting) 15 or 20 words per minute without much trouble and I agonize that I can't get on the air more.  The moral of this story is: "Not everything comes easily, but if you want it and are willing to work for it you will get it."

  Morse code isn't hard, a SIX YEAR OLD boy passed his GENERAL test (written and code) 2 weeks before he started kindergarten. When I finished kindergarten I didn't know what a letter was!  (They sure hit me hard with that one when I got to the first grade!) That kid obviously had help and lots of it.  I never had a HAM living within my neighborhood. (that I could find)  Learning morse code is learning a skill, new skills require practice.

  My mentor (now called `Elmer') when I was 13 to 18 was Herbert S. Briar Jr. W9EGQ, which some might remember as the writer of the HAM column in "Popular Electronics."  He lived on the very far side of Gary Indiana from me.  I moved to Plant City at age 18.

  My future?  God willing I will learn the code much better, when I become one twelfth as good as Fred K4TN I will start teaching the code, but I plan on teaching more about "how to be a HAM" than I have seen taught, as well as our history, how we got HERE. After 35 years of reading, (and ARRL membership) I have some idea.
  * always on telephone poles, never on towers (a land of a more friendly power company)
 ** although I never met a female HAM, (back then)
I heard them a lot on 40 and 20 meters, before all HAMS disappeared from "shortwave radios," by the change from A.M. to SSB.

(C) 1997 Ronald M. Youvan KA4INM