Tribute to Charles Mellen W1FH
June 8, 1914 - January 21, 2006


QSL Courtesy of W8SU


A photo sent to W8NBK by Charlie - W1FH. They were close pals. Photo late 40s or early 50s.
Photo courtesy of K8MFO

DXing icon Charles Mellen, W1FH, of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, died January 21. He was 91. In 1947, the ARRL awarded Mellen with the first mixed-mode and phone DXCC certificates ever issued. Mellen's friend (and ARRL Rhode Island Section Manager) Bob Beaudet, W1YRC, says that if Mellen's declining health hadn't intervened in the early 1990s, he would have become the only DXer left to have worked and confirmed all 393 post-World War II DXCC entities.

"The great world of DX is a bit smaller today," said Beaudet, adding that Mellen was "one of the finest role models our DX fraternity has ever produced."

"Charlie personified the perfect model of what we hoped we could some day become as DXers," Beaudet continued. "A truly gentle person, always courteous and decent, he was a modest man who never sought the slightest personal recognition or acclaim. His joy in life beyond working a new entity seemed to be in helping others learn the skills he long before had mastered."

Licensed in 1930, Mellen was inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame in 1994. In addition to being an ARRL member, he also belonged to the First Class CW Operators Club (FOC).

Beaudet notes that Mellen was able to achieve his status as a world-class DXer despite having a "relatively modest setup" compared to others in the same league, such as Don Wallace, W6AM (sk), whose West Coast station boasted an unparalleled antenna farm and a shack full of equipment. Bruce Marshall, K1AJ, says that during the 1940's, 50's and 60's, Mellen was one of the best-known DXers in the US. "He and W6AM were constantly battling for the top of the Honor Roll list," he said.

Beaudet says Mellen was always able to snag the DX with his 75-foot self-supporting tower and 3-element Yagi, but according to those who knew him, Mellen's secret was something he never bragged about but taught by example: Operator skill, and especially knowing how to listen carefully.

"Charlie has been referred to as Elmer's role model," Beaudet said. "He certainly was my mentor and the person to whom I credit any DXing skill I possess." Used with permission of ARRL

The following used with permission from The Daily DX: Volume 10, #014 Jan. 26, 2006:

The legendary W1FH, Charles Mellen, of West Roxbury, Massachusetts became a Silent Key on early morning Saturday January 21, 2006. He was 92 years old. "He was well known DXer starting in the pre-World War II days and continuing for his 76 years as W1FH", reports K1AJ, Bruce Marshall. Charlie was a polite and courteous operator and he spent 99% of his time listening for DX with somewhat with few stateside contacts. He seldom called CQ and almost always the first to find those weak signals, often carrying on a "cordial chat with the rarest of DX stations" before the pileup would begin.

Charlie was first licensed on February 9, 1930. He became interested in "shortwave" like many other Amateur Radio operators of his time after reading "Popular Mechanix". Charlie started out building a receiver and first listening to KDKA and WLW. It wasn't long before he was SWLing 80 meter AM ops and then eventually learning the code by listening to shipboard operators. After obtaining his ticket he was DXing on 20 and 80 meters.

After WWII and the beginning of post war DXCC, W1FH was the first to obtain DXCC on both Mixed and Phone. It was April 2, 1947 when he was issued his Mixed certificate and just over a month later for Phone. In the July 1947 issue of QST the first DXCC listing had nine DXers and at the top of the mixed list was W1FH with an amazing 137 countries. His closest competitor (W1CH) had 114 entities.

During the 40's, 50's and 60's Charlie was one of the most well known DXers in the US. He and W6AM, Don Wallace, were constantly battling for the top of the Honor Roll list. Don had his Press Wireless site, which had 36 Rhombics and Charlie with a modest 600 watts and yagi at 60 feet. Charlie stopped submitting cards to the DXCC Desk in the mid 60's with an incredible 339/293 (deletes/current) countries mixed. He was at the top of the Honor Roll for both CW and SSB.

Among Charlie's QSL collection was one from W6ODD/CR8 Damao, Diu Island, the rarest DXCC Entity every. Charlie was CQing on the morning of August 3, 1948 when the station from Damao answered. This was a Portuguese enclave on Diu Island some 75 miles west of Bombay, India. Less that 100 QSOs were made by W6ODD, who is believed to be the only one to put on an operation from this rare one!

Most people didn't know that Charlie maintained schedules with AC4YN, Reginald Fox, a British agent who was in Tibet in the late 40's. This was at a time when communist China invaded and annexed Tibet. Nightly reports were given to Lowell Thomas a CBS radio commentator over WRUL in Boston, where W1UQ, Mort Bardfield, was the studio engineer. These live news reports included the reporting of the safe escape of the young deposed Dalai Llama.

In his 50+ years of operating Charlie was "a polite and courteous operator" spending much of his time listening for rare and exotic DX, making very few US QSOs. Charlie was a "role model" and typically was the first to work those "weak signals" and after a short friendly QSO, then the pileup would begin. In April 1994 Charlie was finally inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame. Rest in peace "Mr. DX".


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