[AMRadio] Elmer

John Lyles jtml at losalamos.com
Sat Dec 15 11:06:16 EST 2007

My first visit with a ham was when my dad took me out to a small country store in Blair, SC, to visit the late Claude Ragstdale, W4EGH, "Eggs, Grits and Ham". He would work the SC AM net each noon, and he flipped his Valiant/HQ180 combo up to 10 meters and we made a contact with a ham in Tacoma, WA. I was hooked. He set the hook. He had his shack sitting in the middle of the store, with a potbellied stove nearby. When a very infrequent customer came in for a sack of flour, or a R/C Cola, moon pie, or pack of 'shacks' (crackers), he would stop QSO and sell it, then return to his rig. Apparently I wasn't too mike shy. This would have been early 1970s. 

Then I met the late Connie Arrington (call unknown now) who had a Globe champ I think, and a HQ129X or something like that. And another fellow who had a Swan 250, he helped me get my novice as a VEC. I wish I could remember more - sigh. And I had this neighbor who was a tinkerer, not a ham. He played with electronics, tubes, just built neat stuff out in this ancient shed in his yard. For some reason never was a ham, pretty quiet guy - Obie Johnson was his name. He always was building some circuit out of old parts, taking things apart, built an electric go-cart for his nephew out of an old washing machine motor and an inverter he built. He gave me an old failed Eico 400 scope, which I fixed and used for years. 

The final elmer was another guy who worked in broadcast engineering at the local 1250, and also at the control room of the local experimental nuclear reactor (Not Homer Simpson). He really pointed the way for me to get into electronics and become a broadcast engineer at the time, so I got my 3rd, 2nd and 1st class FCC ticket in a few years period. Anyway, the point is, W4EGH was as close to an elmer that I had. He inspired me to continue to pursue my interest, with that Valiant, all the wires strewn everywhere, and a happy demeanor. I remember he would chat a lot with the late Ben Teams (W4AM) near Columbia. I spoke with Claude over the years, even on 75m AM from my Apache, all the way into the late 1970s. Went back to visit him in the 1980s and took a few photos of his shack, polaroids, that I have somewhere. 

Last time i was at my parents home in central SC (2006), I drove out to Blair and his store was still there boarded up. I could still see glass feedthru insulators  on the wall and remnants of wire strung out amoung trees in no apparent pattern, his low band antenna was a long wire with a surplus tuner. He passed away years ago, though, and his store was emptied. 

All those guys are deceased now, but i owe each of them a lot of inspiring me and encouraging me, showing me their hobbies, and influencing me to become a nerd/geek in my own right. Also my father for continuing to introduce me to his friends who were hams, even though he wasn't. 

Happy Holiday to all,
K5PRO (former WN4PRO, WB4PRO)

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