Alfred Obrist
QCWA #4022

Why did you get interested in amateur radio?

I was a senior in high school in Lynbrook on Long Island and I had always been interested in science and technology. The cutting edge technologies in those days were radio and aviation. The problem with aviation was the cost - I couldn't afford an airplane. Radio on the other hand, could be fairly inexpensive if you scrounged components. So in 1935 I passed the test and became licensed as W2IYR. My elmer was W2VL.

My first on the air contact was on November 14, 1935 and was with W2IBW - a friend of mine in the same town. I was using a homebuilt station with the receiver being a two-tube regenerative unit. The transmitter was a Hartley oscillator, operating on 3.5MC with a power input of 12 watts. Immediately after that, I got a crystal from a friend, tore my transmitter apart and rebuilt it with a 47 driving a 45 - power jumped up 50% to 18 watts. My second contact (first with the new transmitter) was also with W2IBW - on November 30th and on a frequency of 3.750KC.

After that I continued to slowly upgrade my equipment. By 1938 I was using a two-tube receiver with a 58 and a 56, and a two-tube transmitter with a 6L6 driving an 807. Most of my contacts were on 80 meter CW but with the antennas and power I was running, the majority of my contacts were in the northeast - I think that Ohio was the farthest west that I ever worked.

And after high school?

When I graduated in 1936, I came to Syracuse to attend the Forestry College and graduated in 1941 with a degree in Landscape Architecture from Syracuse University. That was back in the days when tuition was a mighty $125 per year!

After graduation I applied for a commission in the Navy but they said I was too thin. So I took a civilian job with the Army Corps of Engineers. My first job was surveying in the jungles of Trinidad. Luckily I had brought along a pair of LL Bean boots and they protected me from the snakes - we'd kill a bushmaster every week or so. After Trinidad came Bermuda and being in charge of the water supply for an Army air field.

After several more assignments I came back to the states. Guess what, the war was on and I wasn't too skinny any more - they reclassified me as 1A. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard I applied for the radio program and on January 4, 1944 I boarded the train for Camp Sampson on Seneca Lake. After basic training it was off to Gulfport for technical training and then to Chicago for hands-on radio training.

Following the 11 months of training I was sent overseas and arrived in Casablanca on VE Day - traveling in 3-decker bunk bed luxury on the Queen Mary - along with about 5,000 other servicemen. From there it was off to Naples where I was stationed in Carditelo. That was a major HF communications center for the European Theatre of Operations and was manned by the Navy, Army and troops from England, Australia and New Zealand. After Carditelo I went to Port Lautey in French Morocco and then back to the US where I was mustered out in April of 1946.

And immediately returned to Syracuse?

Not quite. I had known Helen since about 1940 and in 1946 she was living in Seattle - so that's where I went - and we were married. If you work the math you can tell that we're coming up on our 58th wedding anniversary. From then until 1953 I had jobs in several different places, including State College, PA and Cleveland, Ohio. In 1953 I returned to Syracuse, eventually starting my own firm where I worked till I retired in 1983. It was during that time that I changed to the N2AO call in 1976.

These days?

I still operate frequently, usually making 3 or 4 contacts every week. Of course now I'm not limited to 80 meter CW as I have capabilities on all the bands from 80 meters up through 70 cm. I can operate CW but I never enjoyed that mode as much as some of the other folks do so I mostly operate SSB. I've tried EchoLink and made a couple of contacts but the newer digital modes don't interest me that much. I did make a couple of contacts through Oscar-6 just to see if I could do it but that was about it.

In high school and college I was active in track and cross country. I still like to hike with members of the Adirondack Mountain Club and am Membership Chairman for the local chapter of about 1,800 members. And I enjoy the QCWA meetings of course - and trying to figure out what Von Campbell is doing with all of our money!