My Dad’s Hobby

My dad's ham radio postcard showing his call letters - K0CRU and the Admiral excursion boat on the Mississippi.

My dad’s birthday is March the fifth. Today he would have been 101 years old. This post is written in his honor and in his memory.

My dad had a hobby that not too many folks around us had. Yep, we were the family with the giant TV antenna on our roof. My dad was a ham radio operator.

Most nights after dinner, my dad would go downstairs into the basement where he had his “shop.” The “shop” was a room built in the corner of our basement where he kept his tools and had a couple work benches. In one corner of his shop was his ham radio equipment. The equipment was a collection of metal boxes with various knobs and dials. My dad also had a heavy microphone on a stand.

The shop was a messy room. One wall had a supply of “tubes” which he used when he had his own business as a TV repairman. The walls over the L-shaped work benches were made of pegboard and were a disarray of tools hanging in an unorganized and scattered pattern. The wall behind the ham radio equipment was lined with “postcards” and a world map. The “postcards” had been sent by those he had made contact with over the radio waves. The map pinpointed, with bright red dots, the areas he had contacted using his ham radio equipment.

Ham radio postcard from Antarctica - the McMurdo Station
1974

Later in the evening, when he went upstairs, he often mentioned what country he had spoken to that evening. “I talked with someone at the South Pole today.” “King Hussain was on tonight.” As a kid, I didn’t think much about it. It was just what my dad did.

If I happened to be in the basement and heard my dad talking over the radio waves, the conversations didn’t seem all that interesting to me. It seemed mostly like he and someone else were discussing strength of the signals. I heard words like “QSO”, “73s”, and my dad’s call letters “K0CRU” – “Charlie Roger United.”

Note which says "Ham shack and Mike in Summer.  Mt. Erebus (volcano) in on right."
Written on back
of postcard from Antarctica

Years ago, when my mom broke up that house and moved into a villa, the “postcards” were taken down and put in a shoe box. I took that shoe box, and it’s been in my basements for over 20 year with only a glance now and then.

Last night, I spent a couple hours with those postcards. It turns out there are 134 postcards in that shoe box. Thirty-seven of the postcards are from foreign countries, and ninety-seven are from the United States. The oldest card in each category is 1955. The newest postcard from a foreign country is from 1974. The newest postcard sent from the United States is 1985.

Ham radio postcard from Boise, Idaho.
1957
Ham radio postcard with a picture of equipment and a couple.
1959
Seattle, Washington

Even the years tell a story. There are lots of postcards from the 1950s. And then lots of postcards from the 1970s. Nothing from the 1960s. I’m not sure why there were no postcards from the 1960s, but the sixties were the busy years in our family of six kids. The eighties had a few postcards with a single one from 1985 – right around the time my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The countries include Antarctica, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Liberia, Mocambique, New Zealand, Tokyo, Uruguay and more, of course. The states include Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and more, of course.

Ham radio postcard from Brazil.
1971
Ham radio postcard.
1970
Ochikawa, Hino-city, Tokyo

Most of the postcards feature the call letters of the radio operator. Some of postcards showcase something from their state. Some have a humorous picture. On the back of the postcards were places to fill in all kinds of radio information. Most of the cards had an area where a note could be squeezed in. I read many notes expressing enjoyment at the conversation – “great talking with ya” and wishes to meet again – “Hope to see you in the air waves again.”

Ham radio postcard showing an outhouse with an antenna on top.  From Aurora, Colorado.
1957
Ham Humor
Ham radio postcard from N.B. Canada.
1970
For my Canadian Friends

Some postcards asked my dad to send a confirmation of their contact. Apparently, this kind of confirmation was needed when applying for license upgrades. I am sure my dad complied. The early postcards cost two cents to mail.

As a kid, because of my dad’s hobby, I knew what a “phone patch” was. I can still see the small, square metal box with a black switch and the words “PHONE PATCH” handwritten on it. Somehow my dad would be talking with someone over the radio, call someone here in the U.S. and “patch” them through, so they could talk with each other.

Postcard from Father Jorge in Brazil
1973

The phone patch was often used for Father Jorge and Father John. These two friends of my parents were Redemptorist priests who were stationed in Brazil. Father Jorge was also a ham radio operator. From what I recall, these priests only came back to the U.S. every seven years. My dad and Father Jorge would regularly make contact over the ham radio waves. My dad would “patch” Father Jorge or Father John through, so one or the other could talk with his respective mother.

My dad also used his hobby to enrich someone else’s life, too. I’ll refer to that someone else as “J.” J was a young man, probably in his 20s or 30s. Most every night, during the good weather months, J would walk all around our neighborhood. J’s walk was struggled and staggered, much like a drunkard, but it wasn’t because he was drunk. He was disabled for some reason. His speech, while understandable, was slurred, and his face was disfigured as well.

Most ignored J, but I always said hello to him, sometimes chatting for a bit. My dad and J connected as well. My dad got J interested in amateur radio. I don’t recall exactly if J got a license and equipment, but I vaguely recall he got some kind of initial license. I know J would often stop by the house to talk with my dad. I would guess, because of his disability, J was lonely – at least at times. I like to think because of my dad, he was a little less lonely.

KN0CRU
My Dad’s Early Postcard
Ham radio postcard from Minnesota
1985
Ham radio postcard
1984
The Seaport at Mystic, Connecticut

We often think of our hobbies as selfish indulgences of our interests. Something we like to do – for ourselves. But is that all it really is? Our hobbies do enrich our own lives as we follow our creative pursuits.

I like to think though, that our hobbies, our example, our sharing of what we love enriches and inspires those in our lives. Even if those in our lives are only there for a brief time – a few hours on a summer evening, some shared moments on a Saturday morning in cyberspace, a passing conversation in person where someone’s passion is expressed and absorbed by another.

The impacts of our creative works may even reach those beyond our current and direct contact. Who knows what heart we may heal or spirit we may lift when we share a photo we have taken, a poem we have comprised, a story we’ve told, a picture we’ve painted, or a post we have written? Is it too demanding to say we may even have a responsibility to do so?

So,Thanks, Dad, for having your hobbies. For giving me the example of interest and passion pursued. I accept this generous gift, and I intend to carry on the tradition as best as I can. I hope you do, too.

Post marked 1957
PRAY FOR PEACE

37 comments

  1. This was an interesting and beautifully written piece, Betty. What a wonderful hobby your Dad had. I’ve never heard that hobbies are self-indulgent, but I can see where some folks who don’t have hobbies might say that, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terry. Looking back, amateur radio was an interesting hobby especially considering these were the days with limited and costly long-distance phone calls and no internet. Maybe I haven’t heard hobbies are self-indulgent directly (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but maybe indirectly – or perhaps inferred. Or maybe it’s just my own self-generated guilt because it can take time and money away from other things. I guess my point is that following our interests can really serve others much more that what it seems on the surface.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your dad sounds like a fascinating guy, Betty. A man up raised six kids, with your mom, but still found time for some great hobbies. That’s called “balance,” and it’s something the world today needs more of. Thankfully, some folks still have it—like you and Dan. Happy Birthday to your dad.🎂🎉🥳

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Betty, have you kept track of how many postcard places you have visited? I love hearing family stories. It keeps the memories alive of those we have lost and introduces them to those that never had the chance to meet them. Thanks so much for sharing your sweet memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so welcome, and I appreciate your comment. I started my blog when Dan and I purchased our travel trailer back in October 2018. I started with the idea to capture the memories of our travels, and it has. But I enjoyed writing so much, I branched out to other topics. So, like for this post and others, it captures some older memories, too. I like your statement of how family stories keeps the memories alive and introduces them to people who haven’t met others. Also, when I write about the past, I enjoy thinking about the events from the perspective of being much older. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed reading about your dad’s hobby and seeing some of the postcards. What a wonderful gift you have in those postcards. By the way, my dad’s birthday was yesterday, 4 March. My dad would have been 93 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Betty, this is so beautiful, and I was riveted reading. I and opened every post card in a new window to read all the details–how wonderful you kept the post cards. The story is fascinating, but also reminded me of Dad’s brother. Uncle Glen was a ham radio operator, from Amarillo, Texas. I recall his talking about some of his various connections. It seemed so exotic!

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    • Thank you for your most kind comment. After reading, I immediately checked the postcards. There are 5 from Texas, even one from Amarillo, but the name is not Glen. Wouldn’t that have been so cool if my dad had a postcard from your uncle? Ah well, they were kindred spirits. It was a bit hard to choose just a portion of the cards. Some of the backs – with the handwritten notes – are also interesting. I appreciate that you really viewed the cards and all their details. Hope you have a great Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Phil. I wonder why you miss the short wave radio. It seems these days with the internet interest for ham radio would have waned, but there are still ham radio enthusiasts out there. They even have Facebook groups now. There are also some Youtube videos about their role and the war in Ukraine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I investigated ham radio but it involved too much time and work for me to pursue. Short Wave was always the abbreviated substitute at the time. Unlike the Internet it is much more difficult to censor. I am not surprised Ham Radio is involved with the war in Ukraine. That has always been a traditional role.

        Liked by 1 person

        • My dad’s joy in the Air Force during WWII was fixing the radios on the planes. So, this hobby was a natural progression. I remember him being on the ham radio whenever there were world events – like an earthquake.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks to your Dad! My uncle was in the infantry in the European theater. My cousin used to do that and you could do some listening in with short wave, though short wave is not interactive. Both technologies are hard for governments to just shut off, that is their appeal. Have a great Sunday!

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I am glad you liked the story. You are right; that even the little things we do bless others. And when we bless others, we can’t help but bless ourselves.

      Like

  6. What a fascinating post! I don’t know the first thing about ham radio, so I enjoyed reading about your Dad’s hobby. The angle that I specially loved about this was seeing the postcards, since I am a postcard collector. You have a very special collection here, along with the good memories of your Dad. That’s priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words! The ham radio operators may call them something else besides “postcards”, but that is how I think of them. I bet your collection of postcards is very interesting. I would bet the use of postcards has plummeted, but they are still quite charming to me. Have a great Sunday!

      Like

  7. Thank you for sharing about your Dad. He sounds like a really remarkable person. What I would call “one of God’s beautiful people”. Just thinking of how he reached out and touched “J” gave me cause to pause and think again of what our real purpose in life is meant to be. Certainty not just marking time or amassing a fortune. And the postcards, how wonderful that you still have them. They’re like the stained glass light over our table. A constant reminder of our Dad’s. Where would we be without them and their wonderful influence on our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome! We were both lucky to have the dads that we did. I think many of my creative tendencies, my humor and my desire to be my own person are traits I got from my dad. I love stained glass. I remember that stained glass light over your table that you featured in a blog post. It is very beautiful, and what a meaningful addition to your home. Enjoy your Sunday!

      Like

  8. Such wonderful memories! Thank you for sharing. Honestly, that’s what I hope to do with my books – to make someone’s day a little brighter, make them laugh, and bring some joy to their world for a short time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your dad definitely had an interesting hobby. The man across the street from where I grew up had the huge antennas atop his roof. I always wondered what his “shop” looked like. Thanks for painting the picture for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a beautiful tribute to your father. The shoebox is a wonderful treasure. Going through it after all these years must of been heartening.

    We had a neighbor that was a ham radio operator. He had one of those towering antennas too. It’s funny what I remember is he transmitted so much power that it would come through our television set. It used to upset my dad because it always seemed to happen at the programs good part.

    Sorry that I’ve gotten behind on reading your post. I will get caught up soon. I do enjoy reading them. Have a good day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I recall one neighbor coming over and having the same issue with her tv being interrupted. My dad’s antennas had a motor on it which could change the direction of the antenna. I believe he tried to adjust, but I’m not 100% sure it solved the issue. She was the only neighbor that complained, and she only came by once to do so. We lived across the street from a large church and school, so there were only neighbors on the sides and behind us beyond the alley. If I was your dad, I would have been upset, too! Hope you have a good day, too!

      Like

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