(HOME) Station AJ8MH - Marquette, Michigan

The Beginning

  [ MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN ]  I got interested in Amateur Radio around 1960 when my grandmother gave me an old AM table radio.  I looked forward to the sun setting, because it made that little radio come alive with music and news from all over the country.  Listening to that radio transported me to many far off places, but little did I know that it was only...the beginning!
It didn't take too long before curiosity got the best of me.  I wanted to know what made that little cream colored box work.  (See picture to the right.)  What were those small lights coming from inside the box?  What was causing the box to keep me warm during the winter, and what was that strange odor?  All I needed was a screwdriver.
(Could it be that only three screws were holding all the little radio's secrets?)
When I managed to slide the radio chassis out of its enclosure, I noticed a couple large glass objects that glowed.  Yes, they were hot, and had a peculiar odor.  (Three mysteries solved.)  There was also an arrangement of metal cans, and a funny looking "thing" that rotated when the front dial was moved.  Upon closer investigation, I saw that this "thing" had a couple of screws on top that looked loose, so I proceeded to tighten them.
(Not knowing a great deal about electricity, I had the radio turned on while it was out of the case.  While tightening the screws, I experienced my first electric shock.  Safety first?!)
Well, I noticed right away that moving those screws made the radio stations jump across the dial.  I would turn the screws a little, and then go looking for the radio station at its new location on the dial.  It was during one of those searches that I heard a man talking to another about antennas and radios. Every couple of minutes each would say "over."
My dad listened, and he said he thought they were called "Ham Operators!"  He didn't know much else, but promised to see if he could find a book on the subject.  (As I recall, he didn't say anything about the radio being all apart, or the fact that the radio was picking up conversations it shouldn't.)
Not too long after that, my father brought home a couple books published by ARRL, the American Radio Relay League.  The books explained that a license was required to become an Amateur Radio Operator.  One was full of study questions and answers, and the second was a guide on how to learn Morse Code, which came in handy while in the Boy Scouts.  Yes, we had to learn signaling in those years.
While studying for the license, I spent many nights listening to the AM broadcast band.  I found it fascinating to hear stations from all across the country, and I must admit, I found it more interesting then learning about Ohm's Law.  For some reason, E=I*R didn't relate to anything I was learning in school.
With the help of Popular Electronic's magazine, I soon learned all about the finer points of "DXing" (listening for distant stations), and how radio stations would send souvenir "QSL" postcards or letters to listeners who would send in detailed reception reports.  (Do you realize that a postcard required only a 3 cent stamp in those days?)  Soon, it seemed that I was always anxiously waiting for the mailman to deliver my next new QSL card.
Many of these cards managed to stay with me over the past 48 years, and a few of them can be seem on the "Broadcast Station QSL Cards" page.  Hopefully, the cards will bring back memories for some of you.
(As a quick side note to broadcast band radio listening, and my interest in radio in general...  I actually got behind the microphone while in high school and college during the sixties.  A few summer vacations, and many weekends were spent working at the local 1KW AM radio station.  I was just 16 years old when I landed my first broadcasting job, but that's another story I'll need to cover in a later chapter.  Additional pictures are at "WDMJ Radio.")
Well, I got off track a little (a lot), but that's how it all started.  My dad bought me a Hallicrafters SX-140 receiver in 1961, and soon after I received my first license.  It was a few months before we could afford a transmitter, so I spent many hours listening to and practicing my CW.  I also spent time visiting our local radio store (Northwest Radio Supply).  I spent so much time in that store, I could have been mistaken for a store fixture. 
Once I got on-the-air, you couldn't pull me away.  Since then, I've listened to, and operating most of the different modes including voice (AM, FM & SSB), Morse Code, FAX and various digital delights including teletype (RTTY), AMTOR, Packet and PSK31.  With Amateur Radio, there is always something new and different to try.  I even experimented with operating through the "Digital Micro-Satellites," and that was a real thrill.
Over the past 40+ years, I've found a world of enjoyment in radio, and I've probably spent more time then I should have listening, learning and playing, but it sure has been fun.
My very first QSL card is pictured to the left.  In these early years, many Novices had their cards made by the same printing company, especially this particular one.
Recently, I came across a picture of the man who gave me my first Amateur Radio exam in 1961.  Ray, W8HK, owned the local photography studio on Washington Street, and was active for many years in Marquette.  He sold the shop and retired to Florida with the callsign K4HK.
Ray is now a silent key, but I still remember sitting in his radio room taking and passing that Novice exam.  Ray's QSL is pictured to the right.
Here are some notes from History:
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was April 17, 1961 (one month after I got my first short-wave receiver), and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was the number 1 record in December.  1962 saw the first American in Space, the Cuban missile crisis, and the first live Telstar TV satellite broadcast.
Thanks for stopping in, and until next time...
Joe (AJ8MH)

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