K5LAD - 50+ Years of Ham Radio Memories

Volume XVII

Hams from my past

Some years ago, the Reader’s Digest had a section called something like, "The most unforgettable character I ever met." I’ve crossed paths with some unforgettable characters too, but their ‘unforgettability’ may not be quite for the same reasons as the ones who earned that title for the Reader’s Digest stories.

One of the more interesting ham folks I remember was from the 1970s. His name was E.J. and he had a K5 call but I don’t remember the suffix. I also don’t remember his last name but, at this point, I would probably avoid using it, even if I could remember it. E.J. first appeared on the local repeater in Tulsa and his appearance caused us all to sit up and take notice. It seems that another local ham, who went by the name "Tex," had sold him an old Motorola transmitter strip with the power supply. Note that I didn’t say "a Motorola radio" but only the transmitter strip. E.J., for several nights would appear on the repeater with his call and announce his name and phone number and requesting anyone who heard him to please call him and acknowledge that they could hear him. Did someone say "broadcasting?" Is this legal? Of course not. It was not uncommon, during those evenings, for a regular QSO to be suddenly covered by this station that could only transmit. Who was the biggest violator of the rules, E.J. or Tex? I have my opinions but I will press on with my story.

After the "broadcasting" activities took place for several nights, some of the locals did call E.J. to let him know that he needed to have a receiver before he attempted the transmitting. Soon after that, he ended up with an old surplus radio, which did have both a receiver and a transmitter. He became a regular on the local repeater.

One needed to be careful thereafter of answering E.J. because once he was called on the repeater; his next transmission would begin and go straight through and past the time-out timer on the repeater. His first transmission contained, basically, his entire life history. He always told his radio victim that he was X number of years old, that he had been licensed for X number of years and the fact that he had endured X number of head operations which "messed up my eyesight and my memory banks" which was his oft-used statement. If you heard him make 6 contacts you would hear him tell his life story at least six times, although it was not uncommon for him to duplicate his history to the poor listener who failed to escape soon enough.

In addition to that he would tell the recipient that his name was "E.J." and not "V.J." because there’s another fellow on the repeater by the name "V.J." but he was a WA5 and E.J. was a K5 so that means E.J. had held a license much longer than V.J. Everyone received all this information, regardless of how many times they had previously QSOed and all this info was shared, always, during the first transmission until the repeater timed out. How many years one is licensed is not always an indication of the degree of ham intelligence one has, but I continue with my story.

My favorite story about E.J. was one in which I was directly involved. During the 1970s I owned a ham store in Broken Arrow. Saturdays were always the busy times when people came from miles around, often from surrounding states, to visit, eat donuts and drink coffee, shoot the breeze, and only occasionally to buy something. One Saturday morning, someone from Tulsa brought E.J. over to the store as he didn’t drive (remember – those head operations had messed up his eyesight and his memory banks). He came to me and asked about 2 meter FM commercial equipment and what did I have. I showed him several but he was concerned about paying as little as possible so I showed him one that was very inexpensive, an SBE-144. After checking it over, he asked if he could use my telephone. I said, "yes" and showed him the phone.

Would you believe he called my competitor in Tulsa and asked if they had this same rig and what was their price? He’s on MY TELEPHONE talking to my competition and negotiating a deal. I’m not sure what they told him but he finally put the phone back on the hook, turned back to me and said, "I’ll take it."

Perhaps others won’t find that activity very strange but I was a bit flabbergasted. Nevertheless, I made the sale, he was happy and for much time to come he had a nice radio to get on for the repeater. He still continued to "download" his life history during any first transmission, whether he had already talked to that station before and "shared" with them his story. Seems like this might have been around the time that local stations stopped throwing out their call on the repeater ("This is WA5XYZ on frequency").

I have no idea where E.J. might be now or even if he might be a silent key. I haven’t heard anyone mention him for more than 25+ years so I think I’m safe in sharing his story. I suspect every ham could tell an interesting story about someone they met on the air who was a liiiiiiittttttle unusual. Perhaps they might even mention you…….. or me…….. naw…….. not me………..no way………….

Jim – K5LAD     Written June 7, 2009  updated 6/27/09

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