Posts Tagged ‘ARRL’

CQ, CQ, CQ…Hopewell?

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got on the ham radio, calling CQ on the 40-meter band.

My second contact was “Bob.”

In a flash, my buddy Milton (sitting with me) looked up Bob’s call sign on his computer, and started laughing hysterically.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “This guy’s in Hopewell!”

My oh my.

How is it that I can transmit a 100-watt signal through a magnificent antenna strung up high in the trees; a signal with the capacity to bounce off the ionosphere and travel all the way around the world, and I end up to talking to Hopewell?

Fortunately, Bob from Hopewell was a very pleasant fellow and we had a lovely chat.

He asked me if I was familiar with the many older homes in Hopewell. I told him that I was! And I suggested he check out my website.

Oh MY!

To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To visit the website for the Norfolk Ham Club, click here.



One of my very favorite movies is "Testament," which tells the story of a small town outside San Francisco, after San Francisco takes a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. In "Testament," Henry Abhart is the hero, because he's able to talk with the outside world when all other lines of communication have been lost. I highly recommend this movie. It's a tribute to the fact that, Ham Radio will always be reliable when other communications systems have failed.



The best of both worlds: A fine-looking antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Illinois.



Sears Avondale as seen in the 1919 catalog.


To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To read about Hopewell, click here.

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When All Else Fails…

June 20th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Last Friday, we had a wind gust sweep through Hampton Roads and with that one lone gust of 65+ mph winds, we lost power here at the Ringer Ranch (as did 307,000 other households in Hampton Roads). Next, I picked up my cell phone to call my daughter Crystal. Apparently, the cell towers were overloaded. I could neither make nor receive phone calls.

Those little cell phones we all love so dearly are actually radios, operating on less than one watt (and sometimes as low as .3 watts). But this technologically advanced system of communication has a big downside: It’s very fragile.

During a storm, cell towers can be damaged. When too many people use their phones, the system can get overloaded. During a crisis, the government has a legal authority (and ability) to commandeer cell phone towers or even cut them off (as happened with the Boston bombing).

Communications - especially in times of emergency - are so vital. How can we reach people when power is down, phone lines have fallen and cell phones aren’t working?

Ham (Amateur) Radio.

Field Day provides live demonstrations of Ham Radio in countless cities throughout the country and specifically, here in Norfolk (at Tarrollton Park on Tarrollton Drive).  This is a nationwide event, and thousands of experienced Ham Radio operators will be involved, and all will be eager, ready and able to answer any questions you might have.

The raison d’être for “Field Day” is to help amateur radio operators hone their emergency communications skills.  In other words, we’re training and practicing to help you when things get rough.

In 2003, my elderly father lost phone service and power during Hurricane Isabel. We had no way to contact him. Had I known about the availability of Ham Radio, I would have eagerly sought out an experienced ham radio operator and asked him/her to relay a message to Portsmouth, and check on this 83-year-old man who’d already had three severe heart attacks.

The American Radio Relay League (also known as the ARRL) is the largest organization of radio amateurs in the world (with 160,000 members). And the title above (”When All Else Fails”) comes from ARRL.

Want to see how this all works?  Drop by Tarrollton Park (in Norfolk) on Saturday or Sunday and learn a little bit about what Ham Radio is all about.

If nothing else, we’re good people to know. Just in case.

Just in case.

To learn more about Field Day, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

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Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator. Since then, Ive obtained my Extra license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communication in times of emergencies is vital.

Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator, thanks in part to this movie, "Testament." Since then, I've obtained my "Extra" license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communicate in times of emergencies is vital.


My friend Milton has an awesome set-up.

One example of an awesome vintage ham radio set-up (from the 1980s).



My set-up is so simple that even a Sheltie can operate it! Okay, maybe not, but if she had opposable thumbs, that'd help. .


Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.

Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.


The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

Ham radio antenna mounted on Sears kit home ("The Avondale) in Litchfield, Illinois. When times get rough, the people who have these antennas in their yard will be your new best friends. But not all antennas are visible from the front yard.


To learn more about the movie Testament, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now A Ham!

February 26th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In the mid-1980s, I saw the movie Testament, starring Jane Alexander and William Devane. The story is set in a fictitious town of Hamlin (near San Francisco), and tells the story of an average American family in a Norman Rockwell town. One moment, the kids are watching an afternoon show, waiting for Dad to get home so they can eat dinner. In the next moment, Mom and the kids see an emergency message pop up on the TV, warning of incoming ICBMs and a nuclear attack. There’s a flash of blinding light, and then the electricity and phone go dead.

“Testament” is a remarkable movie because there are no fireballs and no mushroom clouds in Hamlin. Neither people nor houses are damaged by the blast. Terrified neighbors pour out of their stately homes and into the street, trying to figure out what has just happened.  The people of Hamlin are cut off from the world, knowing nothing, except that a nuclear device has exploded - somewhere far away.

Before the sun sets on that first awful, post-nuclear day, the real hero of the story emerges. It’s the old man down the street, Henry Abhart, who has both a Ham radio and a small generator. In the gloaming, neighbors in the upper-middle class burg gather at his house. As they walk up the steps to his magnificent bungalow, we hear Henry in the background.

“CQ, CQ, CQ,” he says with in a voice that’s steady but urgent. “This is Whiskey Six Delta November calling. No, there’s no damage here, except all our transformers are knocked out.”

After a little more time at his Ham radio, Henry reports back to his anxious neighbors now cloistered in his living room.

Looking pensive, he reports, “Well, folks, so far I can’t raise Seattle, Portland, Sacramento or Southern California. San Francisco is silent. The entire Bay Area. North of us, now, they’re okay.”

“What about Chicago?” someone asks.

With great solemnity in his voice he replies, “So far, I can’t raise anything east of Keokuk, lowa.”

After a few more comments he adds, “We may be crippled, but we’re not cut off and we’re not dead.”

I’ve always remembered that scene. Thanks to an old man ensconced in a homemade Ham Shack in the corner of a California bungalow, people are not cut off from the rest of the world. It’s a powerful image.

The take-away message I gleaned from this powerful scene is this: Ham Radio Operators are the helpers. They’re the ones that have both the skills and the tools to keep us going when all the more modern and more complex (and more delicate) systems have failed. I believe that - in my lifetime - our country won’t suffer a nuclear event, but we may face natural disasters and severe storms and other communications-interrupting events. And when we do, the ability to communicate (which has the same root as the word “community”) will be an urgent need.

Saturday, February 26th, I sat for my “Technician’s” Ham Radio license, and to my delight (and incredulity), I passed the test, getting 33 out of 35 answers right.

It feels good to accomplish a long-cherished dream. It feels wonderful to learn a new skill. I look forward to learning how to “play” with a new-fangled, 21st Century Ham Radio. But it also feels mighty good to know that if there ever were an urgent need in my neck of the woods, I’m equipped and empowered to be “one of the helpers.”

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

Updated!  To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series.


In the movie, Testament, the old Ham Radio operator Henry Abhart is the real hero of the show. I highly recommend this movie. Its now available on Amazon.

In the movie, "Testament," the old Ham Radio operator Henry Abhart is the real hero of the show. I highly recommend this movie. It's now available on Amazon.

The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

The best of both worlds: Ham radio antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois. Nice house, too.

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

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