I didn’t get my first ham license until 2003, at the age of 63, but my interest goes back over 55 years to my childhood, when I found my first Elmer (ham radio mentor). My uncle Manuel, an engineer, pilot, ham radio operator and amateur astronomer, was my role model as a child. I was an inquisitive kid always asking questions, and he usually had scientific explanations for them. He instilled into me the notion that “science is the metric by which the universe around us must be measured”.  I can still hear my uncle Manuel calling CQ CQ CQ, this is W6CCW, W Six Cool Clear Water, W Six Charlie Charlie William calling CQ. For a young boy of eight, it was magic to hear a voice rising above the noise and returning the call from some far off and exotic place. Uncle Manuel, or Manny as the hams called him, was an electrical engineer, and had worked in the reconstruction of Hickam Field in Hawaii just after the attack on Peril Harbor. He had been a ham since the 1920’s and Ham radio was his passion, though he was an avid aviator having owned several airplanes over the years. After the war he abandoned his profession to work in Quement's Electronics store, where he managed the ham radio department for the next 30 years or so. He influenced me greatly, always encouraging me to get my ham ticket, but I was always too busy with family, school and career. In his footsteps though, I too became an electrical engineer and a pilot, leaving ham radio still an important “to do” on my long list of hobbies. I worked at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA for 38 years, and I retired from my position as Project Manager and Head of the Instrumentation and Controls Section in 2003. My time had finally arrived, and I obtained my Technician Class license, with call sign KG6SMZ. Those magic times of long ago still haunted me. The CQs traveling around the world to, or from, faraway places were still out of my reach. So, in 2007, I obtained my General Class license followed by my Extra Class license just 3 weeks later. Unfortunately, Uncle Manny did not live to see this. I checked QRZ to see if W6CCW was available as a vanity call sign, but I was too late, someone else had claimed Uncle Manny's call sign. It was a disappointment, but I was able to get a vanity call sign with my initials. Now I was ready, with a minor exception. I didn’t have a HF rig, nor did I have enough knowledge to balance performance with my budget.

I remembered the call sign of an old acquaintance from many years ago. On a whim, I called KI6JD on 156.52 MHz. I nearly fell out of my chair when James came back almost instantly. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had found my new Elmer. James eagerly and patiently brought me up to speed in operating procedure and etiquette as well as providing valuable technical insight. With the help of my new Elmer and after a few months of study, I settled on a Yaesu FT-950. Now I find myself reminiscing to those days long ago, whilst calling CQ. My first Elmer had finally succeeded in passing on the legacy of ham radio to me. My second Elmer got me on the air and has become a good friend. This is the stuff that Ham Radio is made of!

My meager equipment has been sufficient to get me on the air and I am enjoying 2 meter FM, 40, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meter SSB and PSK31. I am currently running:

IC-8000V 2 meters
17’ Colinear antenna 2 meters
FT-950 HF
SDR-IQ Pan adapter
AT-200 Pro Auto Tuner
New Carolina Windom 66’ HF

Antenna design is my main interest at the moment and should provide all the fun, and frustration, that I can stand for a long time to come. An amplifier will most likely be the next major addition to my station, if and when an appropriate deal presents itself.
In the meantime, I will continue barefoot, and perhaps our paths will cross for a nice QSO.


Gene K6ELC