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Sunday, December 8, 2013

HAMs - when communication was simple.

When I married Barry Beall way back in the sixties, he was already into communications which became a major interest that he pursued all of his life. I paid little attention but was somewhat impressed when, on our first trip to his home in Rockmart, Georgia, while still miles away, from his car he talked to his father, Hugh, on a citizens band radio. Today we have cell phones, but before cell phones we had mobile phones, and before that we had CB radio and HAM radio. 

Barry usually bought the latest electronic device on the market. Today, if he were here, he would probably have us in the poor house because he would want the newest gizmo that comes out. He did have a Blackberry when few people I knew had one.  

As a child he had been impressed with his Uncle Ralph and Aunt Mildred who had set up a HAM shack in their home. According to Barry, Ralph and Mildred talked to people all over the world from tiny Cedartown, Georgia.

A few years into our marriage, my husband met some local HAM radio operators. Before I knew it, he had invested in all the paraphernalia it takes to get on the air, including a huge antenna on the house and another on his car. To go beyond the novice stage in amateur radio, one must know Morse code.  One night I went with him to a class, and the men there insisted I should learn it as well. Just for fun, I said I would try, but had no real interest in it. The dots and dashes made absolutely no sense to me.

For weeks we listened to an audio tape of Morse code. It was fun to talk about and see how much I could remember. Barry taught me why the code was created and how it was used during war, etc. Finally the day came when Barry thought he was ready to take the test. I said I'd take it at the same time, not caring if I passed or failed. When we were done, the instructor surprised me when he said, “Glenda, you passed. You are now eligible to apply for a HAM radio license.”

Shocked, I heard him say, “Barry, you didn’t pass. You can take it again later. I’m sure you’ll pass it next time.”

I felt awful. Barry was crestfallen, to say the least. I think he was a little embarrassed that I had passed and he had not. Barry had been a German Linguist in the Army and worked with highly classified information. He was intelligent and much smarter than I in this kind of thing. I think he tried too hard because it meant so much, while I hardly tried and was not a bit anxious.

He passed the test the second time and we both received our licenses and call numbers. He was WA4KCL and I was WA4KCK. I think he was pleased that I became a HAM even though I never got on the air. I went with him to HAMfests and social events. I loved meeting interesting people, and we made some good friends. One couple, both doctors, were amateur radio operators in our group of friends. 

Barry's HAM call sign. I lost mine somewhere along the way.
Call Sign: WA4KCK
Grant Date: 07/25/1996, Expiration Date: 07/25/2006, Cancellation Date: 07/26/2008
Registrant: Glenda C Beall, 445 Chatuge Ln, Hayesville, NC 28904
Call Sign: WA4KCL
Grant Date: 07/11/1996, Expiration Date: 07/11/2006, Cancellation Date: 07/12/2008
Registrant: Hugh B Beall, 445 Chatuge Ln, Hayesville, NC 28904

I had no interest in talking to a person in Japan at 3:00 a.m. I think Barry enjoyed listening more than talking. I still preferred to use the telephone when I wanted to hear from someone. I complained about the time he spent in his upstairs HAM shack, and I teased him about his hobby. Little did I know the boom that was coming in communications, and Barry and his friends were forerunners. He bought one of the first computers on the market, the Commodore 64. His interest sparked my own, and I eventually learned how to use a computer as well. 

The biggest thrill for our local HAMs in Albany, GA was the night of the presidential election when they set up a station outside of JimmyCarter’s home in Plains, Georgia. Barry and several others stayed up all night and reported around the world what was happening on that auspicious eve. They were among the first to spread the word that our own South Georgia neighbor, one of the most compassionate people to hold the office, would be the new President of the United States.

These memories came back to me today as I read a funny,interesting essay by Bob Grove on his experiences with early radio and his interest, from childhood, in communications. Read his bio to see where it took him. 

My next post will be a poem I wrote, tongue in cheek, about Barry’s love for early radio communications. Stay tuned. 

5 comments:

Maren O. Mitchell said...

Glenda, this is so interesting about you and Barry being HAM radio operators. And so fun to read!

Ellen said...

I enjoyed reading about your HAM days. Suppose it's akin to looking at the night sky via a telescope? :-)

abbiescorner said...

Well, I guess that just goes to show that if you want so much to succeed at something, don't try too hard. It's too bad this couldn't be applied to writing.

StaciB said...

What a delightful story Glenda! Looking forward to reading more :)

Glenda Beall said...

Thanks folks for reading and leaving your comments. I hope to post that poem this weekend. It is so old, it is not in either of my computers.