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Bridging Generations

Eric W. Stover (KC0IOX) on October 23, 2002
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Bridging Generations

I am a relatively new ham, having only been licensed just over 2 years. During my time on the air, I have tried most all of the frequencies and modes, and enjoyed them. Last November, I had an encounter that will always be a fond memory. It was late one evening. Wanting to try out my paddles, and still pretty nervous about running CW, I looked around the bands. Finding a little activity on 20 meters, I decided I'd call CQ. I listened, and nothing appeared to be going on. I transmitted QRL? Out of the blue, a signal came back "NO DE W4BW K"; Nervously, I called the other station. We struck up a nice chat. Turns out it was a nice old man named Prose. We chatted for a good half an hour, and I found the QSO to be rather enjoyable. I sent the nice man a card, and went to bed feeling good about my efforts.

A week later, a QSL card came back to me in the mail. It turns out the man on the other end was Prose Walker. I looked at his card, and it had many achievements on it. Having been in ham radio since the 20s, Prose had worked for the FCC, Collins Radio, and the National Association of Broadcasters. Prose made the original proposal for the WARC bands, and was the American Representative to more than 20 ITU conferences. Clearly, I had conversed with an important member of the amateur community.

Upon reading the ARRL web site tonight, I learned that Prose is now a Silent Key. I feel a bit sad, but at the time grateful that I was able to have a nice QSO with this man. I'm a new ham, a 5 WPM Extra; if you will, but it didn't matter to Prose. We made a wonderful connection spanning generations. I felt grateful that I was engaged in an activity like ham radio where a radio legend such as Prose could make a meaningful contact with a virtual rookie. It helped boost my confidence in CW, and I still run CW more than any other mode, and it was because of warm, friendly, veteran hams like Prose. This is not in any way a post to flame up a Code-No Code debate, but a post to memorialize Prose and other hams like him. To all the veteran hams that slowed down for me, and welcomed me into this hobby/service with open arms in the past 2 years, I say thank you. To all the hams I haven't yet met, I'll say I hope to hear you soon. I often read on this web-site about new hams that are treated badly by veteran hams. This is an example of a veteran ham welcoming a newcomer to the activities of ham radio and making me want to do much more. Fortunately, contacts like this have been the rule in my short ham career, and not the exception. I feel lucky to have had that contact, and will always value Prose's QSL card in my collection. It was an opportunity for a 21st century ham to meet and converse with one who was active for almost 80 years, bridging generations. Rest in peace, Prose, and thank you for helping me along the way.

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Bridging Generations  
by KB1FLR on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. I recently decided to try CW, 14 months after passing Element 1. I practiced up a bit and listened for a while and finally worked up the courage to make a call. I had the usual shaking hand problem, but made a short contact before the band quit.

Since then, I have had nothing but nice, friendly QSO's on CW. The other hams have often been substantially more accomplished than I, but have been very encouraging about my skills and always QRS for me.

I also do not want to start a code/no code debate. If a ham wants to try CW, I don't think he/she will regret it. If not, that is OK as well.

73 de KB1FLR
RE: Bridging Generations  
by AD7DB on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Do not berate yourself by calling yourself a "5 WPM Extra." You are the holder of an Amateur Extra Class license. It is just as valid as anyone elses.

Some people out there still feel they have to grade you by how hard they think you worked to get it. Don't let them label you.

Same goes for anyone who's been called a "No Code Tech." It's a Technician Class license and you should be proud of the accomplishment.

Meanwhile, good story there about your QSO.

RE: Bridging Generations  
by W8DPC on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! It highlights what the essence of ham radio is all about.
RE: Bridging Generations  
by WB2WIK on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, and Prose was a great man who positively influenced an awful lot of hams.

I worked him many times, and met Prose twice at the Visalia DX Conventions.

As a new Novice back in the mid-60's, I worked a lot of guys on CW who I later found out were famous (although I didn't know it at the time). Responding to my "CQs" in the novice bands were people like W8GZ (responsible for the Windom antenna design), KH6IJ (Katashi Nose, famous DXer and CW op extraordinaire), Dave Sumner K1ZND (now K1ZZ, CEO of ARRL), even Wayne Green W2NSD/1, who answered my "CQ" on two meter AM when I was running a Heathkit Twoer at 1 W output...lots of fond memories.

The "Novice Enhancement" that occurred in 1988, and events occurring since then to change amateur radio, at least in the U.S., have unfortunately made the "novice bands" a ghosttown with no future, and many of the great memories us "old timers" have will not be enjoyed in a similar vein by newcomers to the hobby.

But, I'm glad the author at least got to work W4PW and get a taste for the flavor of what amateur radio can be about.

Bridging Generations  
by K0RGR on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I had the privelege of working Prose on 30 meters many years ago. I remember it as a most excellent QSO. He was proud of his accomplishments on behalf of Amateur Radio when he was the Chief of the Personal Radio Bureau at FCC. He was instrumental in acquiring the WARC bands for us, so it was doubly great to work him on 30 meters.
RE: Bridging Generations  
by K5MSW on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I will never forget my first license --- issued in 1958 --- WV2ILF and signed by Prose Walker!
Bridging Generations  
by N5XM on October 23, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I had the pleasure of working Prose probably 20 times on CW in the last three and a half years, and every last one of those QSO's was unhurried, and leaving me with the feeling that the man actually cared about how I felt and what I had to say. I could tell he was a special human being by how he treated me, always as an equal, even though in the beginning I was a terrible CW operator. As I improved, he always had compliments for my improved fist, and he always encouraged me to stay with CW. I never realized he was someone famous until I read his obit in QST. He was always polite, and you could recognize his lack of Ego even on CW. Boy, will Prose be sorely missed. We desperately need people of gentle character on the bands, people who don't have some kind of inborn need to prove to everyone how great they are. This isn't to say we shouldn't aspire to do great things, but that we should strive to be excellent for excellence sake, and that is something Prose Walker did every single time I ran into him on the airwaves. We have CW ops who will blow you off the air showing how fast they can send, and it doesn't matter to them one bit that every character is run together so badly there are no spaces. We have people who refuse to answer your calls at the speed you send, and this is one of the very first rules of CW etiquitte every one of us learned. We have ops that refuse to answer CQ calls properly, who refuse to ask if the frequency is in use, who could care less what you have to say, or are even willing to take the time to listen to your report. They want to send THEIR report and issue a quick 73, CUL. Prose was NEVER this way. He always had time for me, and I enjoyed every single QSO I had with him. Now that I've found out who he was, I feel even better about his kindnesses, and the fact that he was willing to take the time to have quality QSO's with little old me. He will be sorely missed.
RE: Bridging Generations  
by KB1FLR on October 24, 2002 Mail this to a friend!

There is actually still a lot of activity in the Novice portion of the bands. Those, like myself, who are just getting into CW gravitate there to find others who are in the same boat.

I was working from home last Sunday and had the rig tuned to 21.121 most of the day. There was a lot of activity on that frequency alone during the course of the day.

Maybe CW is having some sort of minor resurgence. There sure seem to be a lot of hams giving it a go.

Best Regards,
Rick, KB1FLR

RE: Bridging Generations  
by WB2WIK on October 24, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Rick,

Well, I hope you're right! I probably don't listen there enough, but I do make occasional contacts in the Novice subbands, even through the DX and BC QRM on the 40m subband, which has been a problem since I've been a kid!

But, far as I can tell, it's very much a wasteland compared to its heyday, which was in the 1950's and 1960's. When I was first a Novice in the mid-60's, you could not find a clear frequency anywhere in any of the Novice bands (80-40-15m) when there was any propagation at all -- it was completely jammed with signals every 100 Hz or so, just thousands of happy Novices working each other and many higher class licensees who enjoyed working us. And quite a lot of DX hung out there! My first DX QSO was on 15m CW, with 4U1ITU in Geneva, when an operator there answered my CQ, called with a meager 15W homebrew crystal oscillator (6V6).

There's been a lot of chat about the FCC simply doing away with the Novice subband allocations altogether, or at least making them much narrower than they are.

Bridging Generations  
by KC8LTL on October 24, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I am also relatively new to the hobby, and AP's obit was the first SK that I remembered working. For me it was my first contact with my then recently finished K2. I called CQ on 30M, and he answered and we had a nice chat. It was only my 2nd QSO on the band and first with a new radio, so I sent off a QSL.

I got it back and found out that I had worked a ham VIP. He was a true gentleman on the air and I am sure that Ham Radio will miss him.

When I read about him becomeing a SK, I realized that that was my LAST contact on 30M... I had gone on to other things and just had not gotten on 30M since. This last month I have tried to rectify this - my little memorial to what he has done for us.

Bridging Generations  
by W3DCG on October 26, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Oh thank you for this story!

Yes! And I too, am relatively new, almost a year old now- although I was active as a child but mostly as a Novice, that was over 22 years ago.

I encountered Prose on 15m late in 2001. I recall his characteristic CQ- CQ pause, CQ pause, CQ pause, DE W4BW...

I remember my embarassment at having to ask for a repeat on his name, as his signal was 589 off his ground mounted Butternut. I remember being impressed and thinking, that has got to be the coolest name I've ever heard! Surely, any type of person predisposed to writing would have to agree. Top that when I saw he was a Prose Walker- and dare I say:

Now a Prose Sky Walker.

Accidentally worked him on his last birthday. I was and will always be amazed at this gentleman's very excellent fist and operating practices. I hope I'm able to do CW in my 70s, I doubt I'll even be alive in my 90s, I'm 36 now.

I discovered later just how accomplished a person he was, via his QSL cards, and basic Internet research.

I did not know Prose, except from two CW Rag Chews, and I monitored a couple of his qso's.

However, I heard enough, and interacted enough to know that Prose was a class act,

A-1 all the way.

Truly an example of Excellence in Being.

Prose demonstrated excellence in operating, was and is, an inspiration, and I'm glad to see, that I'm not the only one to be so touched by him.


"Jedi Forever."

Bridging Generations  
by K3UOC on October 26, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Very good, Eric. Last November I had a 30M QSO with W4BW. It wasn't until later in the week when his QSL arrived that I figured out who Prose really was. The same as you, I was honored to have made the contact and to have had a fine ragchew with this gentleman. It serves us well to remember those who came before us and paved the way for our enjoyment of this fine hobby.
Bridging Generations  
by M5LRO on October 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Rick,

I, like you am a 5wpm boy and although I have now progressed to more acurate and much faster sending speeds I have, again like you only 2 years on air time.
I remember distinctly the first terrifying CW qso and indeed made planty of silly errors but by listening to the more experienced guys you will learn. They make silly errors too but take it all in their stride and pass it off.
I am a very good speller in the written form but my biggest prpblem has been spelling in my mind before transmitting on the key. Again experience allows you to gain this skill (if you are unlucky like me and dont already have it).
I can honestly say that CW remains a wonderful 'idiot filter' and you will always meet a gentleman on the key. Another nioce fact is that there are a great deal of older more experienced hams on the key too with whom to share your conversation and not to just have a '599 tnx OM 73'style QSO.
When you converse it when you learn - anyone can learn to send their home QTH and equipment details over the air - but time will allow you to gain the ability to work the faster boys for a more enjoyable chat.

Remember the one most important skill - LISTENING - this was so vital in my early CW days and remember that once you have learnt the code you have to learn the code within the code - all the BK's and AR's etc etc - great fun indeed.
I remember having asking a British Ham how does one ask that the frequency is clear???? QRL was his answer but again I was never taught this when I did the exam and indeed have only recently found this written in any of my collections of books about Ham Radio.

Sadly our hobby is full of fine old gentlemen who will most probably pass away before us and I know the feeling of that. I have made a great many good friends with my morse key and will never forget those with whom you build a relationship over the air.
I am afraid we have to get used to this fact if we are that little bit younger but one day it will be our turn and if I can give some pleasure to someone on the other side of the world (or town) then FB thats what I say.
Ham Radio allows the age gaps to be totally filled in and as I am sure you have or will experience you will build relationships with folk much older and younger that yourself.

So Rick, keep pumping at the key and enjoy - you will aquire the ability to go faster which is a slow learning process but push yourself and you will be amazed at what can be achieved.
As regards the style of key, it is personal choice I started on the straight key due to the fact that you must pass your test (certainly here in the UK) on a straight. However, as soon as I had passed I then used the paddle and onboard keyer - oh deep joy!!!!

Good luck with the CW, I will say I have not looked back and now use the mode more than any other.

very 73,
Bridging Generations  
by N5JOB on October 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
That is a very moving story. When all the "old timers" are gone, there will be a history of radio in "those days" but something will be missing that only knowing such old timers can provide.

I've noticed that CW attracts a certain kind of person. As for myself, I taught myself CW at age 10. I had been a CB operator, but was intimidated by the adults on the CB and embarrassed by my voice. (Those adults made fun of my young voice on the CB band. You think an adult would know better. They got what they wanted though... I left!)

I was always a very shy kid and CW/radio was a way to keep contact with other people. I know that sounds strange, but I think that shyness had something to do with my interest in radio.

I never had a problem with CW, because I listened a long time before I got licensed. When I finally got a license at about 14 years of age, I had listened so much that my code speed was way up there and my procedure was excellent. BUT - I never "bragged" about it or tried to be one of these "hotshots."

CW will live, but it will be a small time thing from now on. I do remember back in the 1970's when the Novice bands were so jammed it was like a madhouse sometimes. We will never see that again.

So rest in peace all you old timers and remember... Heaven is a place where everything is vacuum tubes, CW and AM. Not a computer to be seen, or so it's told!
Bridging Generations  
by KE8MJ on October 29, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Wonderful article about Prose!

I remember a similar very exciting QSO. When I was growing up in Ohio, I had a good childhood friend whose father was a Ham. I never saw his rig only knew about it (Drake TR-4). I liked his father as the man was very friendly and kind.

Well as life goes, I grew up and left the area. Spent a career in the military and in education. I also became a Ham in 1979. Well, a few years ago in the mid 90s I was working CW and I called CQ and a fella from my home town answered my call. He said his name was Bill and when I told him my name and that I was from the same town, he became excited. He asked me if I knew his son, Dick. I realized who it was, then I went nuts. We had a great QSO! (He still was using the TR-4)

It felt so good to connect with home again and my childhood. Amateur radio is a great hobby because you are never alone. Friends can be found by just turning on your rig. Being a Ham makes life, more enjoyable, better somehow.

I know you all have similar stories. Ain't it grand!

Ron - KE8MJ
RE: Bridging Generations  
by AA5TB on November 2, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Prose effected a great many hams.

In October of 2001 I was out camping with my three young sons. I had set up my homemade 30m QRP rig in our tent with an end-fed halfwave wire up in the short cedar trees. I put out a CQ and Prose answered me with a nice and steady fist. We ragchewed for about 45 minutes. I was impressed with his age and lifetime of ham radio and he seemed impressed with my 3 1/2 watts and wire in the short cedar trees. I gave him every detail of my camping trip and portable operation.

At the time of the QSO I had no idea of who he was but one can never forget a name like Prose. Of course I remember him for the unforgetable QSO that we had. Neither one of us missed a single dit even though I was out in the sticks. It wasn't until I was reading about his achievements in a book about Collins Amateur Radio that I realized who I had worked. I have been active on 30m ever since it was first authorized for amateur use but I never knew Prose himself was responsible for hams getting the band. It is no wonder why so many hams had worked him on 30m.

I too was saddened when I read of his silent key.

Steve - AA5TB
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