Written July 2001

Amateur Radio Stories


Leonard A. McHugh

New Antenna

Shortly after I received my radio license, it was time to order some equipment. My home is built at the base of a mountain, which is far from the ideal location for radio work. My home is also an old town house about three and a half stories in height with ten-foot ceilings. After thinking about this, I concluded that the ideal location for a nineteen-foot tall antenna would be on the top of my roof.

I mail-ordered a nice antenna. When delivered a friend came to my home to help me assemble this contraption.

After we assembled it, we took it to my third floor. From the back window there was a partial roof from which a ladder could easily reach the top.

When we finally got the ladder out onto the second floor's roof, my friend said "I'm sorry, I can not go up there." He was afraid of heights!

Being of quick mind, I asked him if he had his portable radio with him. When he answered that he had it, the new plan went into effect.

My friend went out into the back alley, where he had a great view of my roof.

I think you can guess what is coming?

Yes, I went up the ladder dragging all of the tools and equipment. From his radio, he directed me to the chimney where I started with the mounts. When this phase was complete, I asked him if everything looked straight. Then I installed the first section of the mast. Again, with his visual observation, I made adjustments until it looked straight to him.

When this task was completed, the rest was simple. I then gathered all my tools and my friend directed me back to the ladder. Job well done.

Radio Road Trip

About ten years ago I went to a HAM Fest with some friends. These HAM Fests are a combination of used and new radio sellers. There are many stands of people displaying their products.

This HAM Fest was about fifty miles south of my hometown. We had no problem finding the location because of talk-in directions; if you were not sure of directions to the HAM Fest, you could tell a radio operator on site where you are and they would give you exact directions to get there.

We spent the better part of the day having a really great time at the HAM Fest. We left for home about four o'clock in the afternoon. I was sitting in the rear of the car next to the door.

Travelling home I said to the driver "You are going the wrong way." He answered, "Be quiet."

As I said I was sitting in the back on the right side of the car. The sun was hitting the right side of my face. Now at four o'clock if the sun were hitting my right side, we would have to be going south, further away from home. As far as I always knew the sun sets in the west.

Again, I said Roger you are going the wrong way and again I was told to be quiet, they are looking for landmarks. I told one of the other guys to tell Roger that he is going the wrong way. Another "Be quiet Lenny!" was shouted.

Now these guys are also hunters and spend a lot of time in the mountains. Surely, they would understand the positioning of the sun, it seemed so hopeless convincing them.

After we went about forty miles the wrong way they finally realized I was correct.

They never lived that down, I was the only blind guy in the car, and the only one who knew that they were going the wrong way!

Interesting Ride

Many years ago I was active with the Pottsville Jaycees. On one occasion I had a very interesting short ride. The Jaycees host an annual soapbox derby. This is a race where kids race gravity - powered, homemade cars. The cars are constructed as a family project and must meet specific safety standards.

Anyway, race day was here. I was assigned the task of releasing the cars and drivers for each run down the hill. There was a ramp on which two cars were loaded. When I was given the word, I just had to release the brake.

A picnic and awards presentation was scheduled immediately after the race. Since I was standing in the hot sun for several hours, I decided to go home and lie down. I had a little too much sun and wasn't feeling very well.

My wife and kids attended the picnic, and there was no way to contact them.

Well, after a few hours I felt pretty good and decided to go back for some great food. I couldn't call for a ride, and the picnic was between two and three miles away at the far side of town.

I grabbed my cane and portable radio and started the trek.

I hadn't walked around this area since I was about twelve years old, but I still had a pretty good mental picture of the terrain.

I walked downtown, crossed the highway, and proceeded up the other side of town. I knew when I got near the hospital I didn't have too much more to travel. I found the hospital and walked a few more blocks to a large curve in the road. Now I knew I was close. After rounding the turn I located the first driveway which would take me up to the park area. I went up the hill and in the distance, maybe two hundred yards, I could hear the kids and music playing. I started walking that way and oops! I was in some woods. I backed up and tried to go straight and again more woods. Every direction I went I found woods. I called out to the kids but they could not hear me. I gave it one more try, and now I found myself in a little trouble. I could not find the driveway.

I took my portable radio and made a radio/telephone patch call to the local police. I told them exactly where to find me. I explained to them that when you come around the curve take the first left. At the top of the hill I was about ten to fifteen feet into the woods. It was starting to get dark and I no longer had the sun to help with directions.

Anyway, about five minutes later, I heard a car coming up the hill. I started walking towards the officer. He asked me how I got there. I described my route. He was quite impressed and explained that the driveway I came up wasn't there twenty years ago. The one I needed was only about twenty yards further. I thanked him and started walking down the hill. He said, "No, get in." I said no problem, I can find it now. And another "Get in." You should have seen everyone when the police drove me up to the picnic. I tried to get the police officer to put on his lights and siren, but he wouldn't cooperate. He wished me well, and told me that he still couldn't believe that I traveled that far using only my cane.

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