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Ham radio and making new friends

I am in the process of preparing for Field Day…a ritual that I have done for many years now.  I remember when I was asked to take over Field Day, many years ago, I picked up the club’s inventory of equipment from the person who had been running the event and I was surprised when he handed me three grocery bags of cable and wire!  Today, we have close to 30 storage tubs of antennas, coax, PR materials, tents - a complete movable feast.  In fact, we need a small truck to carry it all! My interest in Field Day started  partly from my days as a Boy Scout leader, when I had to manage the equipment for a growing troop with nearly 100 scouts. Field Day is considerably less complicated…or is it?  The best part of Field Day today is that we have developed one heck of a solid team of like-minded individuals who have really made the project fun.  We have a steering committee with at least 12 people – and a huge supporting cast of folks who come out to support Field Day.   Which brings me to the point of this month’s blog…ham radio is about making friends!  I never imagined that my interest in this hobby would introduce me to such a wonderfully diverse, bright group of people.  I know most of us come to the hobby to explore electronics or because we like talking on the radio, and over the years I have pursued those activities with vigor.

But the fringe benefit has been the great friends I have made along the way, from all walks of life.  I can count lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, librarians, businessmen, that have all been attracted to this hobby.  What has been truly marvelous is that while we all have strong political feelings,  that is not what draws us together.  We have plenty of great subjects to discuss without even considering what political or religious persuasion they might hold.   Of course, we can have those kinds of discussions as well,  but in these days of super polarized positions, it is kind of fun to remember what it is like to talk to someone about something other than politics or the economy!  They all may have started out as Elmers, but along the way, they became great friends.

This week, I ran into Bill Steffey, NY9H, a long time member of NSRC who was very active in the local ham radio community until he moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago.  Bill took his great enthusiasm for the hobby along with his huge tower and antennas and has slowly built a ham radio community around him at his new QTH.  He is now President and Field Day Chair for his local club, which has about 125 members.  And I recently saw Mike Anderson, WV7T, another long standing member of this club. When he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs, they took their hobby with them.  Mike is now the center of a robust community largely of his own making.  He has become a very active teacher for all ham license grades.  

These are just some of the folks that I have gotten to know locally, who now are in different parts of the country – still working the hobby.  This doesn’t include the growing number of operators around the world that I have also begun to get to know.  I am not the most aggressive DX’er, but I have done enough to have made friends in several countries, some of whom I have looked up while I was in Germany or France, for instance.

As I was talking to a new group of ham’s at Rich Davidson’s VE exam the other night, I was reflecting on the 10 VE’s who were there to help out, and the number of terrific people that this club and this hobby has brought into my life.  This is one of the fringe benefits of ham radio that I just never imagined would become so valued.  In fact, some of my ham radio buddies have become my best buddies.  Sometimes sharing a cup of coffee – having an eyeball QSO – has kept me off the radio, but make no mistake, ham radio is what brought us together in the first place.

So, get on the radio – make a friend for life.

See you all on Field Day.

Rob K9RST