NEW PARK FOR AN OLD HAM
The eighty-two year old man had been a “ham operator” since the tender age of 14. He’d started, as so many had, listening to “short wave” broadcasts and became fascinated with the world of electronics.
In his time, he’d gone through any number of radios from crystal controlled to the latest digital rage of ft8 in which computers handle the heavy lifting of operations.
He’d earned his “extra” class license in front of “the man” at age 16, and, with a straight key, passed the code portion of the examination required of applicants of the time.
He’d served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman and honed his cw skills. After his discharge, he spent his civilian working life as an electronics tech where the world of electronics not only continued to pique his interest, but provided a living for him and his family as well.
Strangely, to him, his own children never showed much of an interest in a hobby he considered one of the most interesting around.
Now ,at 82 and in somewhat failing health, he suddenly found himself an “elmer” to his youngest grandson. Here was his chance to pass on the hobby and share his love of electronics. In fact, the youngster was a bit of a pest about it. There were days the old man just didn’t feel up to turning on the set, but if “ dit-dit” was around it would have to be done…at least for a short phone qso anyway.
“Dit dit” got his pet name from listening to his grandfather’s cw qso’s. As a toddler, he’d hear the code in his grandfather’s “shack” and repeat “dit dit”. Soon, if he wanted to hear the radio he’d go to the old man and say “dit dit” and the nickname stuck.
“Dit dit” was now twelve and even more enthusiastic about the radio when visiting his grandfather. He’d accompanied the old man to a couple of field days and adopted the old man’s love for the “PARKS ON THE AIR” program. “Dit dit” was studying for his license and loved being outside in the park with the old man. He got to talk on the radio and was learning code from a master cw operator. The old man was genuinely enjoying the youngster’s enthusiasm but physically just wasn’t up to going on those POTA excursions like he once did a couple of years ago.
It so happened that “dit dit” was to visit his grandparents again during his Christmas break from school and he thought another POTA activation should be on the agenda. The old man hadn’t been in a while and despite not feeling the best thought it was incumbent on him to accommodate his budding “ham”, not to mention the fact he’d like to engage in that activity one more time himself. So, a date and a park were selected and plans made for the activation.
“Dit dit” had become fairly accustomed to setting up an antenna and getting a radio ready to go and so the old man assigned that chore to him while he busied himself with supervising from a comfortable chair.
About twenty minutes or so later, “dit dit” announced they were ready to go. The old man wandered over to where the station was set up and insured all was as it should be. The plan was to first operate on phone for a bit and then switch to cw. The old man wanted to see how “dit dit” might fair in a pile up on cw. The boy’s speed was up to about 12wpm perfect copy and the old man knew he had to get on the air to get over any fright he may have.
The boy’s first phone qso was across country, which excited him to no end. After a few more contacts the old man asked if he was ready to try some cw. The boy, although a bit apprehensive, agreed to try but didn’t want his grandfather wandering off. The old man had no intention of that since he was feeling a bit more winded than usual and despite not having exerted himself too much.
The youngster began as he’d been taught, tapping out his cq- dah di dah dit, dah dah dit dah. Immediately there was a response, but in his excitement he missed a part of the call. He thought it was Charlie something Uniform Tango. He asked the old man what he missed and was told to ask the operator to repeat. This time “dit dit” got the call as Charlie Uniform 3 Tango, a DX call. They exchanged the required information and the boy was jubilant. Grandpa, did you hear that? Did you hear that! My first DX station on cw!!
The old man didn’t answer, in fact the youngster thought how could his granddad be taking a nap at this time?—his first cw contact and a DX station during a park activation!
The old man had heard the DX station the first time and knew at that point his protégé had both been taught well and had well learned his lessons.
It was now simply the old man’s time to activate the park of Silent Keys.