Robert L. 'Bob' West
QCWA # 32077
I was first licensed in June 1967 as WN8YCD (West Virginia) along with the rest of our novice class. W8GUL (SK) was the lead instructor of our class. Of the original group (WN8YCC--WN8YCG) only Bill WA8YCG and I retained our original call signs. As of December 2008, I'm sad to report, WA8YCG, William H. "Buzzy Bill" Jacobs is also now SK.
I waited (im)patiently for my license to come in the mail. I already had my crystal-controlled, 60 watt Knight Kit transmitter, and an unstable, noisy, unselective Hallicrafters S-38 receiver.
When my one-year novice term ended, unfortunately, I wasn't quite up to speed on code, but in those days you took the Technician license by mail as well. So I exchanged the N in my prefix for an A and set aside my Knight T60 to make room for a Heathkit Lunchbox on 2 meter AM. I got an 11-element yagi on a rotor for 2m. We played a lot of radio chess in those days. To encourage the transition to FM, some of the older guys would come by and tell the set up for a joke on AM, then switch to FM to tell the punch line.
We had an influx of taxi cab radios, so I got an old GE with a couple dozen tubes in it, and it had three switchable crystal positions, so we ran a repeater pair, a reverse repeater pair, and simplex on the repeater output.
Later I saved up for a Drake TR-22C (at the recommendation of WA8NDY) and was able to use it for several years. It also took crystals.
I made several attempts at the 13 WPM. I had to drive to the FCC district office in Pittsburgh, and they only gave the exam quarterly. Unfortunately, I was never quite prepared working on my own. With a lot of practice and working together with my school pal Pete (WN8CGH), we made it over the 13 WPM barrier. We drove to Pittsburgh and passed our 13 WPM, and took the general written exam, and at the suggestion of the FCC Field Engineer, we took the additional written exam to make Advanced Class.
Somewhere around that timeframe, I started the quarterly payment plan for ARRL Life Membership. This was a good idea. In 2009, I received a 40-year pin from them.
To get on HF, I a borrowed HW100 for a while from WB8BMW. I soon found my own HW101 in an estate sale. The original owner did an excellent job building it. I was active on the NTS traffic nets, and with the Drake TR22 got me on the local FM repeater, I was pretty well set up.
One of the most fun things I did was to try for County Hunters. I spent several all-night sessions listening to the propagation change on 75 phone as time went on. One winter night I actually heard my own call from an Alaska station.
WA8NDY and WA8WCK also got me active in WV AF MARS, and I used a Heathkit HW-18 MARS/CAP transceiver (similar to the HW12/22/32 series, but without VFO) until I managed to find a Drake Twins and equipped them with the crystals to cover the AFMARS frequencies.
Through MARS I also got involved in RTTY, and had an actual Model 15 with paper tape. It was big, noisy, and leaked oil on the floor of my bedroom, but I loved it.
My antennas were never much to brag about. I typically put up dipoles, but never managed to get them up very high, so I guess you could say I experimented with NVIS.
Through HF and VHF contacts and local club, NTS, MARS, and state convention activities, I made some very good friends; some of them are still around.
I moved to Texas in 1980 to work at Texas Instruments. I kind of got away from radio for a while. I couldn't do much for antennas in apartments. Oddly enough I was right across the street from Texas Towers when they were at 15th and Jupiter before they moved to their current location on Summit Ave.
I got into Packet a little bit and even had a mailbox set up so I could exchange messages with Buzzy Bill. We had it working very nicely (this was before e-Mail was like it is now!) and I could check every morning for news from home. Then, one day, one of the relay stations in Ohio went away, so our path was gone. No redundancy in those days, so we had to start all over again.
Thanks to lunchtime chats with coworker Walt N5HAF, I caught the bug again, practiced the code a bit and upgraded to Extra. I got active with the TI Activities Association Amateur Radio Club, TIARC. When I joined the club call was K5OJI and later we got the commemorative call sign K5DM.
I spent much of my ham time teaching code classes or helping with VE sessions for the club. I had such difficulty with code back in the day that I determined that I would help anyone who wanted to try.
At one hamfest I picked up a Drake 4-Line and strung a 20 meter dipole from the apartment living room through the hallway to the back bedroom. Since I had the MN-4 to go with the radio, I was hopeful it would work. My one contact was with W8GUL back home. Way too much RFI. Out of consideration for my neighbors above and even in the next building, I shut down, but kept the rig ready for emergencies.
In late 1999 I was "downsized" out of the job (our part of TI had been acquired by Raytheon by that time) and decided to return to 8-land.
I got on HF sporadically, mostly to handle NTS traffic, and have always kept at least a 2m Rig on to monitor the local repeaters.
Since I live between Morgantown and Fairmont I have been participating in both the Monongalia Wireless Association (W8MWA) and the Mountaineer Amateur Radio Association (W8SP). I am also active with the West Virginia State Amateur Radio Council (W8WVA) and WV Chapter 30 of the Quarter Century Wireless Association.
I was elected president of MARA in 2002, and although I have enjoyed serving the club for the past several years, I have finally managed to hand that job off to a younger, more energetic candidate for 2009. A couple of terms have gone by with folks contributing to our ongoing success, and now MARA is under the leadership of our pal Alan, W8OP. Alan is a great contester and DXer, and has kept the club in great form.
I still try to participate in the various activites. MARA is a small club but we have some good times. It's more like a extended family. The W8SP repeaters are on 145.350- [PL103.5] and 443.875+ [PL103.5].
We have conducted the Midnight Convocation of the Royal Order of the Wouff Hong ceremony at our Section ARRL Convention in 2004, 2006, 2008, and most recently at our 54th WV Convention/Roanoke Division convention in 2012. I am extremely proud of the crew. They work hard and do an admirable job.
MARA also sponsors an Adopt-A-Highway. Worked All Counties-WV has been a MARA project. We also have an annual Mother's Day special event station, as the birthplace of Anna Jarvis is in nearby Grafton. Field Day is a major fun time for our group. We have several folks who have their tasks down well, and get them done well. We run 2A, one CW and one Phone, VHF/UHF and satellite, and we try to do the bonus activities like the information booth, the NTS traffic, copying the bulletins, and such.
MWA activities include Special Olympics Summer Games and the Mountaineer Triathalon. At holiday time, MWA provides communications for the Morgantown Holiday Parade, and we have a joint MARA/MWA Christmas dinner.
The MWA website has recently been overhauled, and is looking mighty fine. Check out http://www.w8mwa.org/
We've had Technician License classes at MWA for several years now. We added a General License class. We usually get six to ten new hams per year, and a few upgrades.
A few years ago we moved our classes from the University campus to the Red Cross suite. Some of our members are Red Cross Volunteers, so it works out very well. We schedule the class so that the week following the last class is the next regular quarterly VE Session.
There's so much more for hams--even Tech licensees--to do besides hang around on the repeater. In order to bring more to the classes we teach, I've been trying out all kinds of stuff like Satellite, IRLP, APRS, digital modes, SSTV, FSTV, just about anything that we read about in the magazines.
As of 2011 we are doing Krash Kram sessions in the mornings before the VE session. I am hoping to get in several weekend Elmer Sessions over the next few months (weather permitting). More antenna building, some on-the-air activities, and I think I want to have them build a Code Practice Oscillator -- first for the experience of building a simple circuit, and second, they can use it in a Morse Code Workshop. This should be fun!!
This summer I was honored to receive the "WV Outstanding Amateur of the Year for 2011". I was presented a nice plaque at the 54th WV State Amateur Radio Convention at Jackson's Mill. The list of previous recipients comprise many of my mentors, inspirations, and friends.
73, Bob WA8YCD
August 11, 2015