First-Hand:Early Recollections of Ham Radio

Submitted by John J. Dougherty

It all started with a near-fatal case of pneumatic fever on Thanksgiving Day, 1934. Having just turned eleven, my major interests then were football and bicycles, of which I had one and none, respectively.

A fine physician in Paterson, New Jersey, Dr. Peter Roy, knowing that the oncoming teen years must be spent in a semi-invalid routine, searched for some alternatives. "Do you think you might like short-wave radio?" Sounded fascinating. My only "big brother" brother-in-law and New Jersey Bell Telephone sales-engineer, A.P. Wasdyke, found a 6F7-37 ac-dc regenerative receiver kit. With the help of Western Electric engineer-cousin, Gus Pasch, it was soon wired and working.

At first Dad and I listened only to the New York Yankee games and 190 meter police broadcasts. Personally, though, I spent more and more time listening to the "ham-radio" bands and was licensed on April 19, 1938, as W2LHB. (The thrill associated with ever-increasing long distance contacts is still recallable.) Pat Urghart, G4DR, of Bushby, Leistershire and I celebrated fifty years later on September 3, 1989. Despite the wishes of my sainted Mother that she one day would be able to say, as could her Russian-Jewish friend, Mrs. Eigen, "Mein menschen son, the doctor," a career-pattern in radio/electronics engineering was set.

Most of my fellow naval engineers, contemporary, junior and senior, helped me learn that leadership can be reduced to three different kinds of knowledge; two important ones being knowlege of one's (technical) "stuff' and knowledge of one's associates, bosses and juniors. These, however, cannot be learned satisfactorily until the knowledge of one's self- the most difficult knowlege of them all- is well on its way to being understood. Without this knowledge, one can smash oneself on the rocks of compulsive perfection.