... Ham Radio County Hunting History/Archive

History Happens: AE3Z Bio

Don, AE3Z (Aug 2012)

OK ... this is how I became a ham and how I got into County Hunting ...

In 1955 when I joined the Navy in Buffalo, NY the recruiters asked me what I wanted to do in the Navy. I said "I wanna be a cook!" I was 18 years old at the time.

Well, when we all got to Bainbridge, Maryland for boot camp, they tested us all over again and I tested very high in Electronics and code recognition. Every boot was tested for Morse code recognition. So, I was labeled a Radioman which at the time was a very critical rating (short of manpower). As most of us know, the military does what it "thinks" is best for us all.

I went thru boot camp and on to Class A Radio school and in order to graduate, you had to be able to copy 36 words per minute (with a mill) with just about perfect readability.

Fast forward to the fall of 1966. I was stationed with Compibron Ten Staff aboard the USS Boxer, a helicopter carrier in the Caribbean Sea. We had pulled into Roosevelt Roads for a few days visit and I had planned on going over on the Naval Base at Rossy Roads to call home. The price at the time would have been somewhere around $300.00 for a five minute phone call via satellite at that time. One day preceding this, I had been talking to one of the Electronic Techs on the ships crew and he had mentioned something about "ham radio" and that they could "run phone patches." That morning, my Master Chief and I were sitting on the Flag bridge of the Boxer drinking coffee when the phone rang. The Chief answered the phone and handed it to me. The voice on the other end said "I have your wife on the phone if you'd like to talk to her!"

Of course, this blew me completely out of my socks and I could hardly talk. He had explained that it was just like a telephone except that after each transmission you had to say "Over" so that the operators knew when to switch back and forth. And, IT WAS FREE!

Well, after that little incident, I went down and found where the guy was operating from and I said "I don't care what I have to do, but I want to be able to do that."

After we returned to the States in December 1966, I went to a local ham store in Norfolk, Va., bought a general class book and after studying for two weeks, went and took the General class test. I got my license issued in March 1967 and when the Staff went aboard the USS Guadalcanal (another helo carrier), a friend and I set up a ham station and ran phone patches for the entire crew and 1500 Marines on the next cruise we made to the Caribbean. I ran thousands of phone patches over the next 12 years before I retired in July 1978 with 23 years active service.

I got into County Hunting purely by accident. In 1995, I was just about done with ham radio. There wasn't much left for me to try and it became very boring. Nothing was happening. I was the first VE to be assigned in Tioga County, PA ... I had been the Emergency Coordinator of Tioga County and President of the local club ... and it was just boring.

A friend of mine called me one day and said that he knew of a guy that had a Kenwood TS-50 for sale. Come to find out, he had won it at a hamfest and was only a Technician and therefore couldn't operate it (legally!) and so he sold it to me. Brand new, in the box. I went home, put the thing in my truck and going back and forth to work, I would check into a net on 40 meters every morning and on the way home at night. And I would just tune around and see what was going on. I came across a net that I couldn't figure out what it was at first ... come to find out, it was the County Hunters net. I had used these guys several times back in the 60's and 70's looking for stateside hams to run phone patches for me off the ships, but didn't really know much about "county hunting." I started listening every evening on the way home and before too long, I said "This sounds like something that might be interesting!"

And, here we are today, a dozen or more conventions later, Five Stars, Bingo II and Masters Gold and headed for Master Platinum. Apparently I found something interesting to do with ham radio, hi. It's been a blast folks ... and I thank everyone that has ever given me a county from anywhere. This could not happen if it weren't for all the folks out there "on the road" putting out the counties. Net controls and all the other "officials" means nothing without the folks out there running the counties."

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