My friend, ACØVW, is planning on visiting me the day after Easter. He’s just re-licensed for the first time since he was a boy, and he is eager to get on the air. Trying to figure out what kind of temporary antenna we might be able to set up, I dug into a junk box and came up with a couple coils of old twin-lead that we could use to feed a doublet.
I could tell by the way the twin-lead was methodically coiled and taped with strapping tape that my dad had been the last one to handle it. As I uncoiled it and measured how long it was, my fingers were quickly coated in white, powdery residue from the aging, well-weathered insulation. Suddenly, I realized what I was holding. Surely this must be what my dad used to make the radials for my first antenna, a Butternut vertical that he set up for me on the roof back in 1978.
And just as suddenly, something else struck me. My dad was really my first Elmer. No, he wasn’t a seasoned ham radio operator when he started helping me. But he was a very seasoned electrical engineer — and a fabulous father. He may not have been able to help me out with operating procedures, but he sure did help me get on the air when I was a 10-year-old boy.
Take a close look at that picture of my first ham shack, up at the top of this blog. See those little squares of paper neatly taped to the front of the Heathkit DX-100 transmitter? My dad put those there. They were little notes to help me as I learned to tune that great big tube-fired rig. The laminated sheet of paper in front of the transmitter is, as I recall, a list of settings that my dad figured out for the antenna tuner. And that straight key — the very thing that first got me interested in ham radio when I stumbled across it in my dad’s shop — was lovingly screwed down to the desk by my dad, permanently marring the beautifully finished surface of the desk he had built years before this hobby became part of my life.
My dad went on to become licensed as NØARQ, and he homebrewed some great stuff. Some of it made its way into ham radio magazines, and a fabulous spider-quad he built back in the early 80’s went into an ARRL Antenna Compendium. I couldn’t have built any of those things back then (some of them I still couldn’t design if my life depended on it!). If it weren’t for my dad, I would never have gotten on the air. But because of my dad, I did — and enjoyed using some really fine gear, too.
Today is my dad’s birthday. I didn’t get to see him today, but the memories came flooding back when I held that old, powdery radial in my hands. Dad really was my first Elmer, and so much more. He led me to Jesus Christ when I was a young boy. Years later, when I was a freshman seminary student, he led me to a high view of God’s sovereignty. And to this day, he leads me by example to be a loving father and husband.
So thank you, Dad.
And happy birthday!