HOW CAN A LUDDITE GET HOOKED ON HAM RADIO? A RURAL FAMILY OF AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS.
I will be honest and admit that I do not embrace new technology, and struggle in a society that seems so quick to understand and grasp all things high-tech. When it comes to amateur radio, I also do not understand many facets of the electronics, but I enjoy the science involved, and have come to depend on the emergency communication abilities it provides in disasters and everyday life.
I am very shy, which may come as a surprise to some. Radio allows me to talk with people from all over the world as well as nearby without the stress of personal eye-to-eye and hand-shake contact. I enjoy and appreciate that, and really value the camaraderie of the Hams.
Who got me hooked? My husband, Dave (WB6DWP). When we were first dating, he called me using radio autopatch. That was intriguing. He also helped out alot with emergency communication at disasters, describing his experiences working on the Marble Cone Fire in Monterey County. He often handed me an HT while we were zooming around in his 1958 Morris Minor and asked me to handle third party traffic. It was fun.
Fast forward to after we were married and moved up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, surrounded by redwood trees and hillsides. Dave felt it would be useless to put up a radio antenna because the reception was probably terrible. He even let his license lapse. Fast forward again to when our oldest daughter, Gretta, was about 12 and wondered why the 1958 Morris Minor had a funny license plate number of “WB6DWP”. Dave explained, and even pulled out his Kenwood HT that still worked. We could hear people talking on it! Gretta and Dave studied amateur radio together, until one bright and early Saturday morning, they drove together (not in the Morris) to Sunnyvale for Gretta to take her Technician Class test. She passed with flying colors…KI6NTL was off and running. She researched various VHF/UHF antennas and helped Dave (who had managed to re-instate his license with the FCC) install them on our roof, along with a homemade HF antenna strung between redwood trees. She joined the Santa Cruz County Amateur Radio Club before she could drive, and volunteered to serve as Vice-President.
Not to be out-done by his older sister, our then-11-year-old son Stu asked to take a Technician Class License study session offered by Cap Pennell (KE6AFE) and Reed Cotton (N1WC) at the Felton Fire Station. He heard it discussed on one of the weekly nets that Dave and Gretta regularly checked into. I drove him to the weekly classes, and we studied the book together. On test day, he urged me to also take the test. I rolled my eyes because I really didn’t think I could pass, but to humor my wonderful son, I tested. Stu finished quickly, and passed easily. With great dread, I approached the examiner when he called my name. “Do you want to test for your General License today?” In disbelief, I asked him to repeat what he had said. “You mean I actually passed?!!” I blurted. Stu and I had a good laugh, even though I was still shaking because I had been so nervous. Voila….Stu is KI6TKA and I am KI6TKB.
Not to be out-done by her older sister and brother, or to be the only non-licensed Ham in the family, our daughter Bria began studying with Dave. The abstract concepts that radio presents did not come easily for Bria, but she was determined. She studied online, madeflash cards, took various local classes, and even a Ham Cram, and finally tested with a wonderful passing score at a testing session sponsored by the San Benito County ARES leaders. It was a marvelous day when Bria got her KM6HBM call sign.
Having a family of amateur radio operators has been fun, as we all helped together on various community service events. Amateur radio also has helped us stay connected over the years during multiple times in disasters. Such was the case late one night when a massive fire in our neighborhood caused some of us to evacuate and later find each other. Radio communication enabled us to stay in touch with Dave, who, with a handful of neighbors, got blocked in by the Sheriff and witnessed flames from a screaming propane tank shooting 75′ into crackling redwood trees, and saw two houses burn completely to the ground.
That story is forthcoming next month….