Radio Rescuers Journal

Rescuing the Orphaned or Abandoned from the Final QRT


From the Radio Rescuers Journal, entry #1.

I just found out recently that Charlie is an SK. Silent Key, that final promotion and title of respect only a ham can earn.

Charlie was a huge guy. Reminded me sort of like Fred Wynne, from the Munsters or Car 54. And just as full of myrth, as i knew him. His face didn't tell it, you had to amuse him before it came out.

I did just that, i guess.
Charlie worked at the local radio store. When i knew him, he was just entering his 60s, had seen lots of rigs in his time, and had comments on them all.

He was also patient. I would come in, not really able to buy anything, just kinda picking over the surplus the store would tuck in a corner here or there. I would grab an occasional 40 uF/ 450v. filter cap, or a 6SN7 lying at the bottom of a well picked over box, and ask him how much. He'd look around and say "I think they were extra. Get 'em outta here!" and i would oblige.

"So, what'cha makin' these days, Gary?"

"I'm gonna try again on that 6F8G regen."

"Good for you."

The Radio Store was just down the road from where i did my first stint as an Optician. During lunch i would visit the guys at the store. Charlie would hear my voice and come out. "You still using that Breadboard?"

"Yup. Kinda cranky on 40, but i can flip the knife switch in and out on 80, and it comes right on frequency where i left it!"

"That's a boast i hadn't heard in 30 years!"

I did that a lot. I figured the guys would get a little tired of my rambling on, not really buying anything but a 73 mag or an occasional QST. Everyone was indulgent, and Charlie would give me a nod of approval on my small triumphs in my solitary apprehending of the Magic Eye Rack and Panel era. Maybe that's why i never felt altogether stupid when i would notice other customers in the store looking at me from the corner of their eyes, ascance, as they made their TR4 and L4B purchases. Let 'em look. I was part of Charlie's crowd! That crowd that could tell you the makeup of solder by snortin' the rosin.

After a while i began to notice less and less of Charlie. He had gone to part time, they said. He was retired, after all, and had to attend to other things. Radio things, i had hoped. Charlie still built things, y'know.

I got a call at work from Charlie one afternoon. Told me he was cleaning the ol' shack out, and came across some odds and ends that he hated to toss, thought if anyone could make something of them, i could. Come on down to the store at lunch tomorrow. You bet!

Charlie met me there and walked me to his car. There, in his trunk was a footlocker. Upon lifting the lid i beheld an inventory which in my eyes rivaled the Smithsonian! There, in plastic zip-locks, or something like that were neatly laid out by catagory: Verniers, Filter caps in boxes, tubes, new, in boxes, variable caps, unpunched Bud chassis, ceramic tube sockets, Caldwell Linear tapers, and gazillions of stuff i recognised from the back pages of my red QSTs, where the ads were. Laying on top of it all were large black 3-ring binders, containing pages, neatly typed, describing just about every homebrew project Charlie had built since the depression. His Journal. There were pocket sleeves that bulged with neatly arranged magazine articles, superregen projects from the early post-war years, measurments, supply lists, et al., and, well, i suppose my eyes fairly bulged.

"Can you use this stuff?"

I understood what was happening. Charlie was lightening the load. Not just any load. He was giving me stuff you just don't hand over to anybody. I felt as if King Arthur had just handed me Excalibur. "Yessir." said i.

I hadn't the nerve to disturb the order of that footlocker. Honestly, i did not feel worthy. I was the owner of a trust, the tools of the life of a station that was 40 years old, a station that would soon cease to exist.

In short order i assembled that dogged 6F8G regen, saddled it, broke it, and neck reigned it to stable. I made a journal entry, Sept. 1978. Grabbing one of the '76 triodes, i built another regen, a "Cathode Loop" type usually made for the Broadcast band, but just happens to traffic well on 160 and 80 too. Logged them in the journal. I made another 6L6 transmitter. And another. I subbed an 807 in one, with a beefier supply. I moved up to 15 metres with Ron, WD4NFU. Ron, using some of my stash, made his 5 band 6146 rig.

And Charlie nodded with approval. When i could tell him, which wasn't often. He backed his hours down further still. I guessed what was beginning to happen, and being a poor guesser, i hoped i was, as usual, wrong.

I moved to Jacksonville. I left greetings for Charlie at the store, knowing not to disturb him at home. A very private man, seemed to me. The store manager said i was correct. Very private, indeed.

I just found out recently that Charlie is an SK. I needed to enter this into the Journal. Part of the tradition here at wd4nka, y'know.

Some folks are remembered for who they were, and some for what they invested in a life. Charlie will be remembered for both.

tnx om es vy 73. CUL. de wd4nka