Ham radio has a sense of tradition. I appreciate this more as an adult. As a fourteen-year-old I just wanted to get on air.
I had upgraded to my technician and general class license. This happened around 1991, before the restructuring. Upgrading to technician meant that I could finally go on 2 meters, the popular band with all the big local repeaters. A repeater takes a weak signal from a walkie-talkie, which we call an HT, and repeats it so people can hear it over a wide area.
I got a Kenwood TH-F6A for Christmas. It looked like a big walkie-talkie, with an odd rubber button for the push to talk. It provided the best accessibility for the blind at the time, providing audio feedback through different beeps. I loved it. I remember going on a local repeater on Christmas afternoon, W3UER if memory serves. I could already talk to them through their 220 MHz link, but now I could get on 2 meters like one of the big guys.
A few months later I stumbled on the WM3PEN repeater. It sits atop a building at the University of Pennsylvania in the city. They had their weekly net going on, like a round table, and I tried checking in. I had trouble making the repeater from Swarthmore, a suburb of the city.
“Try standing on your bed.”
suggested a helpful ham. As a kid I thought nothing of it, and shamelessly jumped up on my bed. It may have helped. Either way, I remembered the frequency 146.685 MHz and the helpful people there. Some radio clubs did not treat me so kindly.
When I got back into the hobby in 2019, I found myself in a much different place. Now I lived in a condo in the city. This means no outdoor antennas. I began with the antenna which came with the radio, a coil of wire with rubber around it. We call this a Rubber Duck. I got the Diamond SRH320A, an upgraded rubber duck, and thought I’d try going on air.
To my delight I found a repeater on an old frequency I remembered, 146.685 MHz. They had a net going on, like a round table. A nice sounding man ran it. He gave his name as Charlye, K3CJ. The first week I felt too scared to check in. The second week I started to warm up. Finally I decided to give it a try. Charlye asked for checkins a number of times, and after the regulars gave their call signs I decided to make my first transmission. I felt so scared.
“You’re a bit quick on the trigger! Can you come back with your call a little more slowly?” K3CJ had heard me. No going back now!
“This is kilo alpha three tango tango tango.”
It went from there. Charlye advised me to upgrade to a better antenna, so I did, first to a J-pole and later to a vertical. I started checking in every week. I soon discovered the Elmer Net which preceded the main net at 07:15 PM, later moved back to 07:00 PM.
A cool guy named Steve ran it, W3AZT. As he drew to the one hundredth net he announced that he would stop after a hundred to attend to his Mom. The final net soon came, and we did not have a plan. I wondered if I should offer to run it. I felt a little hesitant because I have to deal with headaches, and don’t know how I will feel on any given day. I needed a backup. As I thought this, my friend Cliff spoke up.
“This is KC3PGT, and I can run the net, but I can only commit as a backup.”
That did it. The net drew to a close.
“Well, we’re reaching the end of the net, and I don’t know what we will do next week.” said Steve.
“I’ll do it.” I responded.
I ran the net up to #137, and Cliff thankfully filled in a few times. We had a great time. Little did I know what this would prepare me for.
A few weeks ago, we received the sad news that Charlye would retire from running the net at the end of the month. He ran it since 1998, 23 years. As the only remaining full time net control, it seemed logical that I should take over the main net. I didn’t feel like doing any ham radio stuff for at least a week. My brain needed to process this. I felt good after a lot of thinking and a well run board meeting. I plan to combine the best parts of the Elmer Net and the general net. I don’t know exactly what I will do, but I hope you will join me. I will listen for you on the Holmesburg Amateur Radio Club Weekly Net.
It feels surreal to run the net that I remember checking into as a kid. The cycle continues in the world’s greatest hobby. 73 (good luck and best regards) to Charlye, K3CJ. 73 to the Holmesburg Amateur Radio Club. And 73 to whoever told me to jump up on my bed.