WØAKI Why Radio - In some ways Amateur Radio is like the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each person finds their own way into Ham Radio and each characterizes it by what they find most valuable.

To me, Amateur Radio was a way of re-inventing myself, its a new beginning with new vistas that seem almost unlimited.

I would like to share the Amateur Radio journeys of some of my friends with you. I think, you will find that you probably have many things in common with them.

I encourage you to take the time and resources you have available for such pursuits and use them to explore this wonderful hobby. - Helen, WØAKI

To contribute your journey, please Email it to info@w0aki.com
Dolores, KDØCIV Cece, WØCMR Lori, KDØEPN

Jacob, KDØHHL - I got interested in amateur radio from my dad. He was a ham radio operator back in the day with the call sign of n0oon, but then we moved around a lot and he let his license expire because he didn’t get the renewal letter. Many years later I found his old HT and started listing to police departments. One day my dad put the HT on a repeater used by hams. So I started listing to that, but I wasn’t interested yet. Once my dad started studying for his technician license I decided I wanted to go in the hobby also, so I started studying. About a month later I tested with cliff cave VE team and passed with flying colors. I now have my call sign KD0HHL, and am learning CW or Morse code and studying for my general test so I can have more HF Bands.Top

Bill, N3DVI - My amateur radio career started out in (what I thought for years) was an unusual way. My father had a very small radio repair business in 1958. One day I wandered into the upstairs room where he was just finishing the repairs on an old RCA floor model radio. This was one of those multi-band models, with an extensive set of short wave bands.

I asked if I could “listen” to it for a while. Dad knew full well I would be trying all the switches and gadgets on it and figured if it could survive a ten year old’s curiosity - it was well and fully repaired! After tuning around a bit on one of the bands I came to a funny ticking noise that someone was sending. Then it stopped and a man’s voice came on saying, “This is radio station WWV, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC. At the tone the time will be . . .” I was stunned. Here I was in, “little” Washington, Pennsylvania and the “man” was in the nation’s capitol (somewhere a very LONG way off) and I was hearing him plain as day! I was hooked!

This radio thing was fascinating to me. I plied my father with innumerable questions; which, Dad answered as best he could. He then set up another radio and let me listen to “code” (CW) for the first time. “Wow! You mean that’s people talking to one another, Dad?” That was it! I had to learn this and become a “ham” as Dad called them.

Well, desires and reality are two different things. Not long after that first experience with ham radio we moved to the country and the families “fortunes” turned rather austere. Despite this Dad managed to find an inexpensive CW course on a couple of LP records. We both worked like mad on that course – and got exactly – nowhere! Dad gave up, I didn’t, but had sadly resigned myself to being forever an SWL (Short Wave Listener).

As a kid I couldn't afford much ham gear. My Dad and I built an old Knight kit "Ocean Hopper" regen rig. That was the total of my "station" for many years! I dreamed of the day when I could get on the air.

In 1968 I did two things that changed my life forever. First, I joined the US Navy and went to electronics school there. Second, I got married to a fantastic gal who could put up with a career Navy type. It was while in the Navy that we met Chief Sidney Allen and his wife Bernice. The chief was my first “Elmer” in ham radio. With his help I got “almost” good enough to pass the 13 wpm code exam for General. Sadly “almost” wasn’t good enough, worse we got underway for a long cruse just after that and ham radio got put on hold for years.

Then in 1984, while stationed a Bethesda Naval Hospital, my wife let me get a Heathkit HW-8 QRP rig and put it together. Having finally managed to get my Tech Plus a few months before and at long last having HF privileges in the old "Novice" bands, a rig, and a brand new code key just aching to be tried out, the excitement in our house could have been cut with a knife.

Once more reality collided with expectations and it was pretty discouraging. A QRP rig is a poor competitor with all the big stuff out there; especially, when the operator is as green as grass! The code thing was a real stumbling block – again! Then one night I stumbled onto the old Maryland Slow Net that met nightly at 6:30 Eastern Time. I had somebody to talk to! Not long afterward I also discovered and checked into the Tennessee Slow Net. They were great!

Unfortunately, the only way I could get on the air was to go mobile. It seemed that every community in the greater DC area was highly prejudiced against amateur radio operators with their “unsightly antennas” and “mindless” interference with everyone’s TV and radios. What a pain! Even mobile, I had to hide out on a rural wooded road and throw my antenna up in a tree every night. Finally, the cops ran me off because they didn't understand what I was doing there! That was so discouraging I was off the air for years until we moved out here to Missouri. Now nobody cares about my station or antennas out here on the farm we purchased and I'm on the air - a lot and loving it as much as I had always dreamed I would!

After getting back on the air I remembered CW and decided to improve. Recently, I managed to get my 15 wpm proficiency award from W1AW and am quietly working away on 20 wpm. Then I discovered a wonderful group of hams called the Straight Key Century Club or SKCC. They were dedicated to helping teach CW and using it. After a short time I remembered good old Chief Allen and all his patient help. He’s a silent key now, so saying thanks isn’t all that easy. I decided to become the help to others that he was to me and signed up as a “Elmer” with the SKCC. The rest has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Oh, about that “unique” start thing I mentioned at the beginning? I was telling my story to, Dave AB0LJ the other day. He listened and got this big smile on his face. After a few minutes he said, “That’s how I got started in ham radio too. My Dad also had a repair shop and my first ‘contact’ was also WWV on an old floor model Dad had just repaired!” OK, so much for being, “unique!” Top

Don, KD0JBN - My interest in ham radio goes back to about 1977 when I was in 7th or 8th grade. My dad was into CB and at a meeting of his CB club I started talking with a man named John (don't remember his last name or callsign) and he told me about all the places he talked to using amateur radio. Shortly after this I started working with John to learn code, how radios work, FCC rules, etc. After a few months of this he became a silent key. So, it all got put on the back burner for a LOOOONG time.

While in college I worked two summers as an intern at the National Weather Service Office in Mansfield, Ohio. While working there I learned about the Skywarn Network. Whenever we had severe weather, 2-3 hams would come out to the weather office and hook up some radios in a back room. As an intern, part of my job was to sit with the radio operators, as they wrote what the observers reported, and take these messages to the Weather Service officials to update watches and warnings. That got me interested again. However, being a full time student didn't leave much time to study for my ticket.

Skip ahead about 20 years - I was browsing some weather web pages when I came upon the St Louis County Skywarn page. This sparked my interest again and I searched online for information about getting licensed, getting a radio, etc. After about a month of studying and taking the online practice tests succesfully, I was ready to take the real deal - and passed! I received my Technician License on December 13, 2004. I saw my name on ULS that afternoon and made my first QSO with Tom Hutchings (KØTHA) on the drive home.

Although I got my Technician license through self study, learning radio operation and accepted practices has come from the help and advice of my many friends and Elmers in the St Louis and Suburban Radio Club.

My original call sign was KCØTNJ, but a year after I got licensed, my wife got me KDØJBN for Christmas as an honor to my family. my wife's name starts with K, my name starts with D, my three sons' names from oldest to youngest start with J, B & N and we live in "zero land". Top

Dolores, KD0CIV - When I was a little girl, there were two things that I wanted (I was what was called a tomboy then!) - a radio and a Red Ryder BB gun. Things were different in those times. My dad told me that young ladies just don’t get those things. As my family was very musical, I learned to play several instruments instead but I also became very interested in some aspects of science.

Much later on, as my big, exciting family was grown (Norman N0CALL and I have six children), some other things started to pull together. I had been back teaching for some number of years and science had become an important aspect in my classroom – gardens, weather, human body, mold growing, etc. It just so happened that I was out with another teacher at the weather center in St. Charles and who else should be there, but Mark KB5YZY, our current president, with a ham radio display. I went up to him and said I though ham radio was dead because of computers. He said no and told me that it was very much alive and extremely important. I got some brochures from him and shortly after contacted the SLSRC. Cliff KC0SCV responded and invited me to come to a meeting.

Now, I knew absolutely nothing when I went to that meeting. When I announced my interest and intent to go into ham radio, there were members who came up to me, gave me their card and offered to help me. Don KD0JBN was one of those people. Don gave me wonderful advice. Cliff came out to my house and helped me with the radio that I had bought. Steve W0SJS has been there to help me with advice many times.

Since that time, I have learned about the volunteer work the club does. Over and over again I have felt the support and seen the support that is given to each member. To me, it is like being a part of another big, exciting family!

School and music still keep me very busy, but with my current job, it looks like I will have more time to give to learning more about operating a radio and time to volunteer to use my radio and knowledge to help others.

I couldn’t be more excited and proud than to be a HAM, the opportunities are endless! Top

Cece, WØCMR - Helen speaks of re-inventing herself through amateur radio. For me, becoming an amateur radio operator opened a new chapter of my life as well. When I was studying that first license manual, I had no idea of how my life was about to be changed by this hobby, the kind and generous people I would meet and soon call friends, and of my outlook on life in general.

My journey with amateur radio started at my place of employment in an elevator where I overheard two gentlemen talking about what sounded like “radio stuff”. I was very curious about their conversation because I always thought ham radio was interesting, but never knew anyone that was a ham. When the elevator doors opened, one of the men headed to the building’s Café, where I was also going to grab some lunch. He happened to work on my floor so I felt comfortable in asking him, “Are you a ham radio operator?” He said yes and we talked for a bit. In this short conversation, I learned that ham radio was a multifaceted and amazing hobby, much more interesting than I had thought. Soon after that, a Technician Class License Manual magically appeared on my desk, and with the encouraging conversations that followed, it wasn’t long before I stopped reading the manual for fun and actually started studying the material with the intent to take the test. After I passed the test, he became my Elmer and helped me get my station started and on the air.

What I think is really special about amateur radio is its history. The hobby is as old as the history of radio itself. It has always been about experimenting and sharing knowledge because radio amateurs have been on the cutting edge of wireless technology from the beginning. It fosters the concept and spirit of mentoring—Elmering—more so than any other hobby. This creates a unique community atmosphere among hams that transcends all walks of life. When I entered the hobby, I remember being amazed by the generosity, willingness to help, teach and share knowledge that came from the hams I met both on the air and in person. I have much to “pay forward”. I am looking forward to building upon what my Elmers have given me and to pass that knowledge on to others.

What is exciting to me about amateur radio is that along with the fun of communicating with people all over the world using whatever mode suits your fancy, there are so many things to learn, explore, and do in this hobby. It is hard to become bored with a hobby that you can pursue so many different aspects of it and in which you can also make lifetime friends. Top

Lori, KDØEPN - Many people who know me probably thought I was the least likely person to ever become interested in amateur radio. I probably did too! I never had a very strong interest in science, and I didn’t like math beyond algebra. I had an interest in mechanical things, but no one in my circle of friends or family was involved in radio or even electronics that much. One aptitude test in high school identified “literary” and “mechanical” skills, and I wondered, “what would I ever do with that?”

My interest in radio began purely through my involvement in community emergency preparedness and Manchester CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). I heard about an amateur radio technician class for the Eureka CERT, and all of us in the area were invited to take part. I had also taken first level Search and Rescue training, and learned about the great need for effective communication in emergencies and the limitations of the FRS radios available to non – licensed operators. I decided to sign up.

The class was great. Each week the instructors had some kind of “practical example” to show us - morse code keys from one of the guy’s collections, a solar powered radio station, simple “go” boxes they could grab and deploy quickly in an emergency, portable radios suitable for hiking and backpacking, an exercise using FRS radios to practice emergency communications and talking to net control. I was hooked.

My interest beyond the practical application to emergency situations was actually piqued the very first night of class, when our instructor talked about the different amateur bands and the possibility of radio contacts all over the globe. I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to stop with the technician’s license, but right away work on my general. That is exactly what I did. I ordered the general book and took and passed both exams the same night at the end of class.

It is hard to put into the words the excitement of assembling a station, learning and improving it, and tuning into a conversation, responding with your call, and receiving a response! There is excitement in not knowing if the band conditions are going to have me talking to Kentucky, Canada or the Canary Islands, but I’ve contacted all 3! All through the bands, domestic contacts or international, there are people communicating with one another – through voice, code, digital modes. I’m reminded of the Creator who designed us for relationship, who is also the Creator of the radio waves that enable us to communicate back and forth.

I would just add that I’m enjoying the opportunity to expand my horizons –to learn and appreciate both the science of radio and the art of communication. The possibilities are endless. I’m learning skills that I can use in an emergency and give back to the community, while enjoying the diverse contacts along the way. Radio is something that clearly unites us. I’m building friendships with hams of all ages and from all walks of life – older, younger, men, women, from all different backgrounds. Some may have apparent limitations – mobility, vision, etc., - that might prevent them from being fully involved in some other activities. Yet, radio can transcend those things. Each shares the knowledge, skills, abilities, resources that they bring and the result is building community all over the world. Top

Tori, KC0EEP - I was first introduced to ham radio as a youngster through a book in one of those series of books that parents subscribe to for their kids that they mostly don't read. (I still have it, by the way). I was interested, but came from a musical household where science had very little place. I never did well in science, yet was still fascinated - especially by Morse code. Had a boyfriend whom I think may have been a ham - but with the lack of support at home and the way relationships go - it was again a bust for ham radio.

It wasn't until I was almost 40 that I had another chance to check it out, this time due to a free class offered by the St. Louis county R.A.C.E.S. program, which I found out about through my work as a security practitioner. I either wasn't ready or could not attend the testing session, so instead went alone to a VE's home for a testing session in a very small home in South St. Louis County. One might say that that was crazy for a gal but it was an official testing session and I needed to take that test!

Without an Elmer, I tried to learn more and get on the air, which I finally did in time, but it was a struggle. I also attempted several times to learn code, with very little success. One day on the air in the car, I had the "golden opportunity" fall into my lap when an SLSRC club member was so gracious and welcoming on the air that I just had to take a chance and attend a meeting. I was amazed to find many many more like him, and abundant encouragement besides! A better method to learn CW also came to my attention shortly thereafter, and with more study - the pieces finally began to really make sense.

Once that happened, I found myself with the world at my doorstep, so to speak! I found the hobby/volunteer opportunity to have all of the best aspects of a good detective story - mystery, skill, sleuthing, problem solving, community serving - all in one! Add to it the wonderful friendships revolving around practical purpose that benefits others, and the only regret is that I didn't start sooner.

For me, having the opportunity to connect with the people behind the voices that I heard was the key in so many ways, and it didn't even matter if they had any knowledge to give me. What always mattered most, was belonging to a group of caring operators that were up for solving problems together, because after all, helping others grow makes the group as a whole stronger and better able to serve our community. That, to me, was worth working on, so that I too could make a contribution as a ham operator, and hope that I will for a long time to come, despite my late start on it. Top

Steve, WØSJS - Although I have been a Ham for some years now the hobby seems always to be fresh and exciting to me. I guess I started my journey towards becoming an Amateur when I was a youngster. I was a quiet and reserved youth and often felt most comfortable from the sidelines, so to speak. But, I was always very observant of people and very interested in learning about new things. So, it did not take me long in my youthful searching to find my way into the technology of the day. As you might expect it was quite different than that available to young people today but it was still exciting. One summer I set out to become a short wave listener (SWL) and built an AM receiver that used a Galena crystal and coil as the main components. I persuaded my parents to let me put a copper wire from my bed room window up to the roof and then across the yard atop my mothers clothes line poles and that became my receiving antenna. When conditions were good I