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James Hodge (W5AEQ)
James E. Hodge, W5AEQ (SK), gave me my Novice
Test (that's how it was then done) in August
1969, when I was a teenager living in the
(then) fairly small town of San Marcos,
Texas (between Austin & San Antonio).
Mr. Hodge had himself grown up in San Marcos
about 50 years earlier, with his first
ham transmitter having been built using
a spark coil from a Ford Model T. He spent
much of his adult life working in Houston,
with he and Mrs. Hodge moving back to San
Marcos after he retired in about 1967.
I'd gotten interested in shortwave listening
in 1964 (while in Junior High) but didn't
have anyone in my family, or know anybody,
who was involved with the technical side of
radio communications. So when I'd become
interested in Amateur Radio, as a result of
listening to hams on my shortwave receiver
(a Lafayette HE-30), I didn't have anyone
to turn to for support and tutoring (or
'elmering' as it would later be called).
I can remember the first time I heard W5AEQ
on the air, telling someone he'd recently
moved back to San Marcos after retiring.
There was a ham in town !
It was about two years after first hearing
Mr. Hodge on the air that he gave me the
Novice Exam, with me passing the 5 wpm CW
portion after having Mr. Hodge send from
something other than the current Heathkit
Catalog. That was a time in my life when
I didn't have much money and so I read and
re-read anything having to do with Amateur
Radio, including the Heathkit Catalogs !
When Mr. Hodge first began sending me the
Morse Test I quickly realized that I 'knew'
the text and (wanting to have no doubt in
my own mind that I'd really passed the test)
asked him to use another source.
By December (1969) my Code speed was improved
enough such that I passed the Advanced Class
Exams given by the FCC in Houston, and that
was the last time I'd taken a Morse Code
Exam until quite recently.
I later went off to college and got a Degree
in Electrical Engineering (with a 'vacation'
in the middle courtesy of Uncle Sam) and
have spent my career in communications.
There is no doubt that Amateur Radio played
an important role in determining the
The reason this now 'ancient history' has
been on my mind lately (April 2000) is that
I passed my Extra Class 20 wpm Code Test on
the 2nd day of April, only two weeks before
the rules changed and the 20 wpm requirement
was done away with. For years-and-years I'd
been telling myself that I'd 'someday' get-
around to upgrading to Extra but it was only
the news this past January, about the FCC
doing away with all but a 5 wpm Code require-
ment, that I realized this was a case of
'do-or-die'; either pass 20 wpm before
April 15th or have to live with the fact
that I let it 'get-away'.
When told that I'd passed the Code (I'd
passed the written Exam a couple of weeks
earlier) I was elated and more than a bit
in 'shock'. I'd been practicing 'furiously'
for several weeks beforehand but had been
worried I'd 'freeze-up' during the test.
Driving home from the Exam site, with all
manner of confused thoughts churning though
my head (trying to realize that I'd finally
passed my Extra), I suddenly thought of
Mr. Hodge and that August afternoon he
started sending me 5 wpm Code from the
TNKS OM ES VY 73
W5AEQ DE WB5AGF SK
Contributed by: Paul N. Nix (WB5AGF)
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