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The Northwest Indiana Novice Gang

Carl Luetzelschwab K9LA (July 2011)

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I received my Novice license (WN9AVT) on October 11, 1961, so October 2011 is my 50th year in Amateur Radio. I've had many enjoyable experiences in Amateur Radio, from traffic handling in the early 1960s (with QIN, 9RN, and CAN), with contesting starting in the mid 1960s (to me a natural outgrowth of traffic handling), and with DXing starting in the mid 1970s. But my fondest memories of Amateur Radio are from my Novice days, especially those memories of the local Novices I met on the air and in person when I grew up in Hammond, Indiana.

WN9BAB QSL The first local I met on the air was Pete WN9BAB (now K6AP) on 40m CW on November 15, 1961. He was using an EICO 720 transmitter and a Hallicrafters S-108 receiver. Pete helped me put up my first dipole antenna for 40m (prior to this I had been using a long-wire with less-than-desirable results). He also brought his S-108 over to my house on occasional weekends (I remember carrying it from his house to my house in a laundry basket) so I would have a better chance of working stations on 15m. The S-108 had an RF stage, whereas my National NC-60 didn't - as such, the NC-60 was somewhat deaf on 15m.

KN9GHL QSL The next local I met on the air was Howard KN9GHL on November 28. Howard had a Globe Chief Deluxe transmitter, and an Allied Knight R-100 receiver. I remember going over to his house and being envious when he acquired a new Hallicrafters receiver - I don't remember which model it was, but it was impressive. Howard is K9GHL today.

K9DHN QSL On December 9 I worked Al K9DHN (now K0AD - current Editor of the ARRL's National Contest Journal). Al was a recent General, having started life as KN9DHN earlier in the year. Al was using a Globe Chief for transmitting and a Hallicrafters SX-71 for receiving. Al introduced me to traffic handling and introduced me to Field Day at the Whiting High School football field with the Calumet ARC, both of which led to my public service activities and my contesting activities.

K9ZLA QSL Several days later I ran into Pepper K9ZLA (Pep for short - his real name was Dwight). He had a Hallicrafters HT-37 and a Hallicrafters S-38C (comparable to my NC-60). Along with K9DHN, Pepper was into traffic handling and contesting (the old ARRL CD parties). Pepper also had a Hallicrafters T.O. keyer, which K9DHN and I longed for. Al eventually built one, and I graduated from a J-38 hand key to a Monarch KY-102 semi-automatic key (a bug) prior to building the keyer in the 1963 Handbook. Pepper is still K9ZLA.

WN9AOW QSL My next contact with a local was with Howie WN9AOW on December 19. He was using a homebrew transmitter with a pair of 807s and a Hallicrafters S-107 receiver with a Heathkit QF-1 Q-multiplier. I don't remember much about Howie, but I did visit his shack one day to see his homebrew transmitter. As best as I can tell, Howie is not licensed anymore.

KN9FUA QSL The second-to-last of my local contacts during my Novice days was with Ross KN9FUA on December 22. It was also on 40m, just like all the others. Ross was using a homebrew rig at 75W input (the Novice limit at the time) with a National NC-188 and a Heathkit QF-1. It took a while to get a QSL from Ross, as he spent a lot of time making sure his homebrew transmitter was working properly. Ross is now K9FUA in Utah.

Finally, my last Novice QSO with a local was with Bud K9WQS on the day after Christmas. He's an SK now, but Pete and I visited his shack one Saturday morning in January 1962. Bud called CQ on 15m CW, and a JT (Mongolia) responded. This hooked me on DXing (and probably led to my interest in HF propagation - how could a signal get all the way from Mongolia to northwest Indiana?).

Other locals that I met personally but not on the air as a Novice (at least I have no record of any QSOs) were Denny KN9YWO (he's K9YWO today), George K9WWT (he's still K9WWT and he was K9DHN's next-door neighbor - I run into George quite regularly in contests), Bruce W9OTN (I visited his house when I was a Novice), and John WN9AMZ (he was several years ahead of me in school, and he turned out to be the instructor for one of my graduate electromagnetic lab courses at Purdue - he's now K9YB in Massachusetts - and by the way, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana is W9YB - good choice by John for a vanity call!).

All in all, my Novice career only lasted seven months. The Novice gang (WN9BAB, KN9GHL, WN9AOW, KN9FUA, KN9YWO, and I) took the South Shore train from Hammond to the Federal building in downtown Chicago in April 1962 for the General test. We all passed, and celebrated by walking down Michigan Avenue to the military surplus stores that were plentiful at the time. I took advantage of this opportunity by picking up some more crystals for 80m, 40m, and 15m (even though I was a soon-to-be General, I still didn't have a transmitter with a VFO).

It's interesting to think of my Novices days - we essentially had a social network with Amateur Radio. Sure, it was slow compared to today's social networks, but none-the-less it got a bunch of us local Novices and Generals together with a common interest (most of us were within bicycling distance). It was also a great way for the more experienced to mentor the newcomers. I still enjoy seeing and talking to those who were part of my Novice career.


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