Monday, May 24, 2010


Looking through my May QST for the umpteenth time, I came across the Silent Key page, only to see that Ed O Donnell, K2YJE has become a silent key. Ed was an "average Joe" Ham, he was not one of your standout celebrity Hams. But what Ed did have was a love of the hobby and the desire to share it. Ed O Donnell taught me how to be a Ham 32 years ago.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was out of school with a full time job. For a long time I had wanted to be an Amateur Radio operator, and the spark ignited during high school; but I did not have the discipline to let the spark develop into a flame. With newly acquired spare time and some disposable income, I was ready! Through the local newspaper, I read about a class being formed on Tuesday evenings at North Brunswick High School as part of their Adult Education program. I signed up and eagerly joined the class. There were about 20 of us there, ranging in age from high schoolers to retirees. Ed made the concepts simple to understand. We were given the ARRL Morse Code class on cassette tapes and between classes we studied and studied and studied some more!

The evening of the test, which was for the Novice class license, we were all a bunch of nerves. Everyone had worked hard and no one wanted to fail. Sensing our nerves, Ed and the other instructor (whose name and call escapes me) gave us a "practice" code test. Needless to say, we all passed and were given our written exam. Back in those days the Novice test was given by General class or higher "Volunteer Examiners" (shades of things to come). Six weeks later, I received an envelope form the FCC in Gettysburg, PA informing me that I was now KA2DOH.

The book we used was "Tune In The World With Ham Radio", which I still have. Leafing though the pages, I can still see my judicious use of red highlighter. And it's a blast to go through this book for some very fond memories:

First picture on Page 7 shows two Hams huddled on a mountain top with an HW-7 or HW-8 hooked to several dry cell batteries. Was this where the QRP seed was planted?

RTTY is shown with a full boat clunker teletype machine with a "printed out" picture of Santa Claus for a demo of RTTY art.

The theory section was still heavily involved with "hollow state" or tube theory that was still the most common at that point.

The advertisement section in the back is the greatest! The Kenwood TS-520-S with the DG-5 auxiliary digital display was the rage! By the way, this rig still had controls for plate current and drive. Other advertisers included ICM (International Crystal Manufacturing), Ham Radio Outlet (with three California locations!), Heathkit (providers of my Novice receiver, the HR-1680), Henry Radio, Harrison Radio, Burghardt Amateur Center (from whom I would buy my first transmitter, the Drake 2-NT), Ameco, Rusprint (still around!), and Morse Code Instructograph among others.

The bottom line is that Ed helped me get my ticket and started me down a long, winding road on which I still travel today. If it wasn't for his help, his enthusiasm and his encouragement, there are a lot of friends, good times and memories that I have now that wouldn't have been. And he taught me one other, valuable lesson .... to take the knowledge that he passed on to me and to share that with others in turn. And that my friends, is the best way to say "Thanks" to your Elmer.

Thank you, Ed and may you always have good DX and great propagation from the Big Shack in the Sky.

72 de Larry W2LJ

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