November 2, 1994

Dear Doug,

I have been meaning to write sooner but it seems other things have been getting in the road. I had better get it done before the next QCWA meeting or I might be too embarrassed to come to the meeting.

Your remarks to Jack does recall many happenings of early ham radio days. QCWA says my start in ham radio as in 1930 but actually I got my license W9DKL, in July 1929. That matters little. When I got your note it started me to thinking. How did this all happen? Maybe my experience is not to unlike others but to me it is somewhat interesting.

I think it was in the mid twenties though a Sunday school paper that a crystal set description was shown and in a childish manner I tried to copy this oatmeal box and all. This did lead me to develop an interest in radio, mind you I was a kid in a small town in South Dakota with no one to turn to for help. This was my first contact with that thing called RADIO, from that time on I learned enough to get my amateur radio license.

My ear;y days were spent mostly on CW, I was quite a traffic hound. W9DKL was found listed in the QST-BPL (Brass Pounders League) month after month in the early 1930's. I don't remember how many years I had been Section Communications Manager. Some times I wonder how we youngsters could have done so many thinks. Here I was a high school student, a movie theatre projectionist, a ham radio enthusiast handling hundreds of messages an editor of a ahm bulletin "Voice of South Dakota" which was printed by Fritz Clemment W9GQH of Selby, South Dakota and with all this I took a correspondence course in electricity which I completed. How did we ever do all that?

How did I end up in the twin cities? With my South Dakota activities I was involved with some convention activities. A South Dakota state convention in Watertown a quite gala affair in which John Sheman then a radio inspector came out to administer ham radio examinations. John came out with his new bride. I don't think he ever forgot that occasion. Then there was the Hamfest AT Redfield where Rex Munger of the Lew Bonn Co. was invited, this was my first meeting with him. This culminated into my latter hiring to the Lew Bonn Co. this hiring occurred on February 15th of 1934.

On December, 1940 I left Lew Bonn to join Northwest Airlines as an Aircraft Radio Communications Specialist being responsible for the maintenance of the air to ground (air born) communications equipment. I left NWA to return to Lew Bonn on July 1946 where I remained until March of 1972 when the Lew Bonn Co. was sold to Crammer Electronics. At that time I set up my own business Edtronics Co.

There were many interesting things associated with ham radio activities since 1934 such as the time my station was set up in an office in the Liberty Bank building in St Paul midway when an ice and sleet storm isolated Aberdeen communications and W9DKL established communications with an Aberdeen ham and spent a lot of time feeding newspaper heads for the next day Aberdeen Morning American. This was in the late 1930's. Oh yes! About this time when Mike Fleming C.E. of WTCN and I designed a transmitter to operate in the neighborhood of 30 MHz, one of the first attempts by broadcasters to operate on high frequencies. Yes this was before FM. There was another nearly disastrous time when at NWA when working the evening shift, I got a call from the ground radio communications operator that the transmitter was off the air and it was us aircraft radio people that got the call to service the problem. On this occasion it was me. I proceeded up stairs to the transmitter pulled the proper switches to cut the power, opened the service door and reached in to pull the high voltage fuse that usually blew under these circumstances, there was a loud bang and flash (luckily I had been trained to always keep one hand in my pocket when doing this kind of work) what happened was that when the fuse released from its clips one end released first causing my hand to brush one of the clips resulting in my hand taking a full 6000 volts from wrist to fingers. My hand was paralyzed for several minutes but did soon recover. What had happened was when I pulled the power switch the blowers stopped running, the tube filaments went dark falsely indicating that the power had been turned off. It so happens that that afternoon Clete Bellinger had been working on the transmitter and had jumped the safety switches and forgotten to remove the jumpers when he went home, so the power supplies were still energized. Luckily I can tell about it.

I guess either of us can go on and on about our experiences so better shut up. I have probably bored you out of your wits by now. I hope that I will be able to get to the next QCWA meeting.

Kindest of Regards

Ben Miller