This was the beginning of my love affair with all things radio. It was the late 60s. Martin Luther King had been assassinated, Detroit was burning with race riots, and I had seen “Hair” on stage at the Royal Alex in Toronto. We could see the smoke billowing from the great Motor City during the riots. Every Sunday Detroit tested the air raid sirens and they could be heard well across the river – a long wailing lament, as if they could save us from nuclear vaporization.
My father got me an 8 band shortwave radio at the local K-Mart. Early mornings I would listen to Radio Australia with their sign on tune of “Waltzing Matilda”. I listened to Red China and even wrote to Radio Peking for a QSL. They sent a huge package, Mao’s Little Red Book and a poster of Mao Tse-tung – it was plastered inside my high school locker for a spell. Don’t know what happened to the Red Book. Dad always said that the RCMP had me on a watch list after receiving that package. I had neat QSL cards from WWV, Radio Cairo, Radio Japan, a station from Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles.
I learned much about geography and a little about electronics. I built a outboard BFO so I could zero beat cw stations and learn the morse code, but I never did. The BFO worked just fine – it was from an article in Popular Electronics and I etched my circuit board and found all of the parts over in Detroit at the old Lafayette electronics store. In those days we took a bus over through the Windsor-Detroit tunnel under the St. Clair River. One only had to show a birth certificate in those days. It was a good walk to the Lafayette store and then back home with my treasures.
The main antenna was an old single bed spring suspended at ceiling level – it worked great but I suspect it was the height of the sunspot cycle.
It wasn’t until 1980 that I got my ham license; now I’m 30 years in.