Do you remember your first Elmer?
Many of you can, but some of you may not have an Elmer.
Some may ask:
"What is an Elmer?"
"Why have an Elmer if you can do it yourself?"
Others may ask:
"Why can't I have an Elmer?"
"Who would like to be my Elmer?"
Others may comment:
"My Elmer is a Silent Key, I miss him dearly"
"My Elmer is in a Home of some kind, no longer capable of Ham Radio"
"I lost track of my Elmer, because I. . . (insert reason. . .grew up, moved away, got out of radio at one point and lost track, and the list goes on).
"My Elmer and I still enjoy talking to each other"
"I have several Elmers" (The Best Kind in my books, am I allowed to be just a little selfish? [Very big GRIN!])
Whatever your reason or comment is, a Elmer is that blessed person that stops all forward movement, shakes hands with you, brushes aside a spot on the table, whips out the soldering iron or paper, pulls all those neat gadgets out of this drawer that has mysterious capabilities of being endless supplies, and somehow helps us put our ideas and thoughts into working order. WOW!!! -- If that isn't a mouthful.
Well guess what, I was blessed with more than one Elmer. When you are 13 years old, you are a little on the naive side, but your mind wants to play with electronics and make things work.
Let me tell you a little about my Elmers...
I was young, loved playing with electricity. I figured out how to make "Worm Finders", because I enjoyed fishing. I hated digging for worms, and somehow (can't remember how I learned), I discovered that sending electricity into the ground would cause worms to come to the surface. Presto! Instant bait! No hassle of digging! Best of all.... it used ELECTRICITY!
I shamefully admit that I purchased a Cuss Band, "lessor" known as a CB. It was fascinating to me. I attached it to my 10 speed bike and off I went. I soon became friends with my neighbor up the road by accident. He was an older Gent (to me), but he was interested in Ham Radio Himself. Together we studied. Morse Code was easy for me. . . I was at 20 wpm in nothing flat.
We both took the Novice test, and sadly I flunked. But, I knew why I flunked when I took the test. I learned about "key" words and the tricks used in the questions, and about 6 months later I took it again...passed with flying colors.
Unfortunately, this Gent passed away within a year. Was this guy an Elmer? In my books yes! He started me on the road to success, took me under his wing, walked with me through my studying, helped me learn Morse code, helped me take my first test, and did this under his own free will...the will to help. He may not have been a ham at the time, but he became a ham, the kind of ham I am so very proud to know!
Through this ordeal, I received a novice license, a S-38, and a Eico 720. Within a year, I was riding my Bike and saw this massive antenna. It looked like NASA's dream come true antenna. It towered above the house and high into the sky. It was so big, that Turkeys could roost on it, mistaking it for a huge Elm Tree.
And what did this youngster do? I marched right up to the door, knocked on it, and blurted out: "Are you a Ham?"
My real lessons in Ham started that day.
This crazy guy invited me into his house, brought me into a "Man-Cave", sat me down in front of this radio, and started introducing me to these people on the air. After about an hour, he asked me what I wanted to build. I just said the first thing that came to my mind: "An Amplifier".
What kind of an Amplifier? My Elmer said!
Well heck!!! I didn't know! I just wanted to Amplify SOMETHING, I don't care what it was, I wanted to see something amplified! Not only that, it seems that everything I studied dealt with SOME kind of Amplifier, thus that MUST be an important step!
My Elmer pulled this thing called a breadboard out of a drawer (You know, that drawer that magically has everything...), and together we made a simple Amplifier. Then I got the bright idea of making a transmitter.
THAT is only an amplifier with feedback. My Elmer smiled, gave me about 10 components, sent me home, and off I went.
I started using my knowledge, and finally got together this one transistor transmitter/Oscillator.
The coils? Hell, I didn't know how many turns! I just "guessed".
The Capacitor? Hell, I didn't know how big, I guessed.
I sure as heck knew what a tuned circuit was! So I put two and two together, soldered it all up and brought it to my Elmer.
(And here comes some more magic out of that Drawer of his), It is called a Grid Dip meter. HE Magically put this thingy-ma-jig on top of it, held it next to my ugly wired mess, and said "It is about 14 megahertz." (Darn, I missed the novice band...by quite a bit) But, when we powered it up, I was able to make MORSE CODE!!! Not only that, the tone of that Morse code was so fantastic, that every bird within hearing distance thought I was calling them in to reproduce!
About a year later, and a REAL Homemade Crystal controlled transmitter later, this Elmer passed away.
In comes my third Elmer. This guy pulls me aside, teaches me about antennas, coils, and things that are beyond my imagination. We had the most wonderful relationship for many decades. I grew up helping him with Computers, towers, antenna's, and fixing his radio's. I grew up enjoying a wonderful day each week with him and his family.
I also grew up weeping his loss as I went to his wife's funeral...later weeping the loss of him.
But the most important thing of all, is that each of these special Elmer's brought me one step closer to what Ham radio is all about. They brought me one step closer with a helping hand. They brought me one step closer with a smile on their faces. They backed me up, watched me make errors, corrected my mistakes, and supported me in my wonderful journey throughout the years.
And now, I can happily repay back my Elmer's by being an Elmer to other newcomers. As I repay my debt, I realize the emotional joy that my Elmer's had when they saw me growing up and making mistakes as I learned. I can laugh inside, as I see the same mistakes I have made in the past, being made again by my student. I can lend the helping hand and knowledge to make my student understand why that Knight t-150 has a 3 prong plug on it, instead of a 2 prong plug that can accidentally be flipped around, making that chassis a hot 120 volts to touch. (I had to add this for us old timers who, probably more than once, been zinged with 120 volts for not replacing that cord like we should have done, with a three prong ground cord).
For those who "do not have" an Elmer, Try asking for one... You only have to walk up to a Ham and ask for help, the handshake is only seconds away.
For those who "have" one, you are blessed. You are blessed with help, a patient person, a wonderful friend, and a lifelong experience.
For those who "had" one, the memories will always be cherished in our minds. We can enjoy the memories, pass them down to our students or friends in Ham radio, and be thankful that there are people out there that step up to the plate without question, and stand beside us as we learn what ham radio is all about.
For those who do not have an specific Elmer, or want one? You are probably like me. My main Elmer's have passed away, but I have met some may wonderful hams that I can call Elmer's. I personally do not want to single out just one. Singling out just one would insult all the others, because each and every one of them are a true blessing to me. One will help with transmitters, the other receivers, the other antenna's, the other computer, the the left over Elmer's fill in all the other Gaps that I can't think of while writing this article.
This is what being an Elmer is all about in my books, how about yours?