Recent emails from two
friends brought new insight into a blog that I had been intending to do for some
As has been mentioned on more than one occasion, I discovered
radio in the late 50s at the age of 10, after reading an article about shortwave-listening in a
drugstore magazine. My father was able to rescue an old GE cathedral from
grandpa's downtown barbershop, where it sat gathering dust for several years in
the back room storage space. Fortunately, it immediately came to life when
plugged in, and soon after dad spent an afternoon scurrying about on the roof of our
3-story house in central Vancouver, my radio-adventures began. Life would never be the same!
recall, the first couple of weeks were spent listening to radiotelephone traffic
between various tugboats and their dispatchers, in the 2 megacycle marine band.
Initially it took me awhile to figure out what I was listening to but found it
fascinating to hear the tugboats up and down the coast getting their daily
It wasn't too much later that I discovered the
international shortwave bands and I was soon keeping detailed logs of my catches
and mailing for a coveted QSL. Friday nights were always special as it meant
I could DX well into the night and not worry about having to get out of
bed for school early the next morning. My 3rd floor bedroom shack was the true definition of 'warm and
cozy' and a memory I will always cherish.
Up to this point I had yet to
discover ham radio. I must have tuned across a few conversations on phone but
evidently hadn't been too awestruck at what I had heard ... perhaps I didn't
know what I was hearing or was unable to comprehend some of the expressions they
were using or what they were talking about when describing their gear. For
whatever reason, the ham radio 'trigger-event' had not yet transpired ... but it
By this time, I had moved upward, from the Boy Cubs to the
Boy Scouts. I must explain that these activities were forced upon me by my
parents and not something I particularly enjoyed, especially the midwinter
camping trips that were always pouring rain or freezing. Again, from
grandfather, I had been provided with an old, virtually uninsulated, WW1
sleeping bag, that wouldn't have kept anyone alive at the western front for
longer than a week. These all too regular winter excursions to the rain forest
were pure misery and if I wasn't freezing to death then my sleeping bag was
usually getting soaked from the river of rain running through the tent ... most
of these weekend outings were sleepless and left me feeling like a zombie for
the next few days. But ... not every scouting experience was bad and in fact, it
was a scouting event that would soon provide the ham-radio 'trigger'!
opportunity arrived for those that wished, to visit a local 'ham station' to
partake in some sort of 'on-the-air experience'. This would have been in 1958
and having been already familiar with shortwave radio, I immediately
A few weeks later, about six of us found ourselves in the
basement shack of Ernie Savage, VE7FB. Although a stranger to me, Ernie was a
well known 75m phone traffic man and an ardent 75m mobile operator. Although he
was only about five-foot two, Ernie was a powerhouse of a personality and most
of us cowered quietly as Ernie tweaked the dials and with a tight grip on his
large microphone, barked louder than his small stature might suggest ... all of
us quietly prayed that Ernie wouldn't pass the microphone to any of
And then I saw it! Although I didn't know it at the time, it was a
pivotal moment in my development and would shape all aspects of my life from
that point forward.
As Ernie reached up to change the frequency of his
mammoth Heathkit DX-100 my eyes gazed upon and then became fixed on the big
Heathkit's green dial ... the magical green dial that could take him anywhere he
wanted to go, with just a twist of the wrist. There was something about its
semi-transparent, alluring green shade that just grabbed hold of me. It was one
of the coolest things I had seen in my first experience with amateur radio and I
knew, from that moment on, that I wanted to get involved in this amazing hobby.
Instead of just listening to signals, I could be making my own!
|Heathkit VF-1 VFO Dial|
Like so many memories from my youth, this moment is still fresh in my
mind ... I can still visualize everything in that room as if I had just left
Ernie's shack. Although the warm orange glow emitted by the dials of the equally
mammoth Hallicrafters SX-28 'Skyrider' were stunning, it was the inviting glow
of the little green Heathkit dial that I found myself focused upon ... how odd
this all seems to me now, thinking about it over sixty years later.
Perhaps the Heathkit engineers had learned of the 'power of
green' from those earlier genius Hallicrafter's draftsmen ... can anyone deny
the alluring appeal of a Hallicrafter's front panel or
|Hallicrafters SX-42 Dial|
Whatever the reason, Heathkit engineers were no
slouches either when it came to luring young radio-crazed boys as well as
full-grown men with their eye-appealing ads and clever designs.
young teen, I could never afford to buy a DX-100 but I was able to buy a VF-1
and added one to my Heathkit DX-20 workhorse. With the lights turned off
in the high attic bedroom shack, the orange dials of the Super Pro and its
backlit S-meter combined with the seductive green glow of the VF-1. It just
couldn't get any better!
Until recently, I had no real idea of why I had
found the green dials so enchanting but an email from Mark, VA7MM, finally made
it all perfectly clear. Mark offered the most plausible explanation ... the
diabolical Heathkit and Hallicrafters engineers had been putting Kryptonite in
their dials ... the stuff that even Superman found overpowering and unable to
It was now so obvious why countless thousands of
young boys and grown men had found these products so difficult to resist ...
seems we never had a chance.