Updated 26 September 2001 URL is http://our.tentativetimes.net/opine/w9asx.html
Here is W9PPG’s column on his Elmer. Article ©1998 Wm. J. Weinhardt. Email firstname.lastname@example.org(If you are not yet a ham radio operator, an Elmer is the person who teaches you about amateur radio, what we now call a mentor. CW means morse code.)
MY ELMER, W9ASX
My Elmer became a silent key in 1995 and I want to put down some thoughts about him while I still remember. In the late 1940’s, I got interested in amateur radio through a friend of my father. He was with my dad on the Lafayette Police Department and Glen was in charge of police communications and also a ham.
We would go to Glen’s house and I would watch him chat in Morse code with hams in all over he country and world. The blinking blue and orange glow of the tubes in the power supply and transmitter really gave the feeling that something was happening. He was using some ARC-5 surplus transmitters and a Hammurlund HQ-129X receiver. He was also an early QRP enthusiast and I can still remember how thrilled he was after working New Zealand on 40cw with a one tube 117N7 transmitter running just a few watts. This transmitter, I purchased at his estate auction and construction of this kind of a transmitter will be the subject of a future column.
len was licensed as a ham in the early 1930’s and also picked up both 1st Class Commercial Radio Telephone and Telegraph licenses. Before coming to the Lafayette Police Department just before WWII, he had been a radio operator with the Indiana State Police. In those days, they used CW for communication between posts and with departments in neighboring states. In the early days of police communications, the radio officer built and repaired much of the departmental radio equipment since not much was commercially available. In the late forties, I saw portions of the old AM base transmitter equipment that had been used prior to WWII at WQFQ (or something like that were the call letters of the LPD). By the late forties, VHF fm had taken over police communications.
len volunteered for the US Navy after the start of WWII and with his background, naturally wound up as a radioman. He was sent to the Cook radio training school in Chicago and during his naval service was trained in radar which was highly classified at the time. Much of his service was involved with installation and maintenance of radar units and at the end of the war, he was a Chief Petty Officer.
fter I got interested in becoming a ham, he loaned me several receivers with which I was supposed to listen to hams and W1AW to learn the code so I could eventually pass the general class exam. First he loaned me a National SW-3 regenerative receiver and later a Hallicrafters S-11, Super-Skyrider. On this, I spent many an hour listening to the foreign broadcast stations on short wave as well as trying to practice my CW skills. Somewhere around 8-10 words per minute, I met my code stumbling block and I was having trouble with the general class theory. Then came the good news for me. The FCC was going to institute the Novice Class license in mid 1951.
len really put forth the effort to get me ready to take the Novice exam the first time the FCC examiner was scheduled to be in Indianapolis. I went over to his house once or twice a week where he would send me code and drill me on the written test. During the summer of 1951, I was between 7th and 8th grades and the examiner was scheduled for August so as the date neared, the frequency of these sessions at Glen’s really increased. This did pay off when I took the exam since I passed the code with flying colors and thought I did OK on the written exam.
ow I had to get ready to get on the air when my license arrived. Glen had an old Meissner Signal Shifter which except for the power supply he had me strip of most of its parts. This became the basis for a two tube (6V6-2E26) crystal controlled transmitter he designed for me to build. Following his instructions, I built the thing and took it to him to try as I still didn’t have my license. After correcting several of my wiring errors and bad solder joints, he had the thing working and running about 25 watts. For a receiver, he helped convert a BC-454 WWII surplus receiver to AC operation so I could listen to the 80 meter amateur band. I think he was nearly as excited as I when he became my first contact after my license arrived in October of 1951.
eanwhile the local radio club in Lafayette had started training classes for people wanting to become hams. Glen volunteered to be the instructor for these code and theory classes and for a few years, I would help with the code by running and adjusting the speeds of the old Instructograph which used punched paper tape to make the code characters. Somewhere around this time Glen became the county Civil Defense Director in addition to his duties with the Lafayette Police Department. He also maintained and installed communications gear for the fire department and street departments. Even with these commitments, he was always willing to help people individually to upgrade or study for a novice ticket.
ow that I had my Novice license, I really had to put forth the effort to upgrade. Back then, the Novice license was only good for year and if you didn’t upgrade….you were done. I spent as much time as I could on the air making contacts to improve my code skills and one or two evenings a week at Glen’s working on the General class theory. In those years, there was no publishing of an exact question pool from which the test questions were drawn. In addition, you had to actually draw the schematics for the answer to some questions so Glen had a lot of work to get me ready. Although I didn’t think so, Glen thought I was prepared in the spring of 1952 so dad took me to Chicago by train for the exam.
hey first gave the code receiving test and then had everyone leave for an hour while they graded the papers. I was sure I had failed but must have just squeaked by since when we returned an hour later I found I had passed and was told to send a few sentences. With that behind me it was on to theory. Glen had prepared me very well for in July 1952, my general class license arrived in the mail. Over the years, he gave many other newcomers to the hobby the same kind of personal attention.
len was very much involved with other club activities as well. He could always be counted on for Field Day. The club held several at the tower site for WASK radio. Another was held at a Purdue recreation area called the Hills and after the club became owner of a former CAA transmitter site near the present location of the Lilly facility, a number were held there. Glen was always involved with putting up antennas, setting up equipment, and operating CW once Field Day started. I think he always maintained his interest in helping people to get licensed and to upgrade. He usually kept a couple of receivers and transmitters as loaners so that a newly licensed ham could get started.
uring the 50’s he got into ssb as did many other hams around this time. While I think he enjoyed some of the newer communication forms he was truly a CW enthusiast. Coming back on leave from the Navy in the 60’s I visited Glen and he proudly showed me his new receiver. I had kind of lost touch with ham radio for a while during my last couple of years at Purdue and in the Navy. Ham gear had shrunk. He had a black receiver that wasn’t much larger than a shoe box. It was a Drake 2B. Soon followed the newer Drake Twins and various TR series transceivers in his shack. Glen was truly a fan of Drake equipment.
omewhere along the way, Glen started collecting and restoring old radio equipment. Perhaps it was as a result of the interest of his wife Mary in antiques. Maybe visiting antique stores with her got him started by buying some of the old radios he ran across. As the years passed, there was hardly a hamfest within driving distance that Glen wouldn’t attend in his search for old tubes, radios, and parts for his growing collection. It was always an experience to visit his basement and see shelf after shelf of old time radios and communications gear restored or in process. Over the years, he managed to acquire a large assortment of vacuum tubes and usually would gladly give one away to someone who was in search of a particular type.
e was a member of the Antique Wireless Association and made an annual trip to Rochester NY for the big event there. He was also very active in the Indiana Historical Radio Association and had some of his personal collection in their displays around the state.
fter his retirement from the LPD, Glen had the local Motorola Service franchise for the Lafayette area for installation and maintenance of 2-way equipment. In the late 1970’s, Glen lost his wife Mary. All this time, he continued to help other hams and newcomers however he was able. Meanwhile he continued to expand his collection of antique radio equipment and tubes.
y father and Glen used to go out together several times each week for meals after they became widowers and advanced in years. On my visits to Lafayette, I always tried to stop at Glen’s and see what he had recently added to his collection. In early 1995, Glen became ill but still maintained his interest in ham radio until he passed away later that year. Glen Rogers-W9ASX, my Elmer and my friend.
article ©1996 William Weinhardt, email me for permission to use
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