The Smell of Solder--a Tribute
to My Dad, W9IPT/W9NU
By Jerry Page, W7KPL
July 31, 2000
Father and son, John Page W9NU (sk),
and Jerry Page W7KPL - taken in 1980.
The W9IPT station in East Peoria, Illinois,
as it looked in 1963 with Dad at the helm.
My Dad, John W. Page, became a silent key last October. He was 82 and a lifelong ham. Fathers and sons don't necessarily connect for as long as we did. Our connection was ham radio.
The last time I spoke with him we talked of antennas, rigs, contests, projects he had made, the ARRL and digital modes. In his later years he became totally deaf, so we had our one-to-one QSO by writing notes to one another. He drew splendid diagrams of antennas he'd built in 1932, when he was first licensed as W9IPT in Wheaton, Illinois. Back in the 1930s he began to build all of his equipment.
I can look back to his first QSOs in his April 1932 logbook, which I still treasure. He was quite a competitor in the annual ARRL November Sweepstakes, coming in second one year in Illinois. That was the year he rigged up a tape recorder to log all his contacts and then reproduced the log on paper.
During the contest, Mom would bring his sandwiches to keep him going for the full 24-hour period. I would stand and watch his brilliant radio operating skills. One QSO after another, hour after hour, he would pound the key. I still have his 1946 Sweepstakes log as a testament to his competitive nature.
Dad and I often would do Field Day together. Our home had four acres, so there was plenty of room for antennas and makeshift operations. This was great fun. I would log, and Dad would operate. We had a swimming pool, and one year we joked about operating as W9IPT/mm.
When I was 14, it was time to get my ticket. This was a major life experience! I was a bit nervous about the theory, but the code was a snap. Dad built his own electronic keyer, and I practiced almost daily. I remember I was up to 13 WPM when only 5 WPM was required for the Novice. I passed the exam and waited six weeks for my ticket to arrive. What a wait! Finally KN9WRX was on the air.
Man, I was really nervous attempting my first contact, but Dad was right there helping. My first contact was a W4. Dad was beaming with pride when I successfully completed the QSO. My ham career was off to a great start, thanks to W9IPT.
In the mid-1960's Dad built a complete 1000 W CW station for 80, 40, 20, and 15. What a station! We had built a quad with red bamboo spreaders up 100 feet for 10, 15, and 20 meters. People passing by the house would stop and gaze up at it and ask what it was. What a beautiful, glorious piece of antenna work!
I, of course, considered Dad a true genius in all he pursued, whether it was photography, ham radio, breeding Iris, or gardening he could do it all! Although he had obtained a degree in the humanities, he worked as a research engineer at Caterpillar Tractor Company.
The sheer span of his intellectual pursuits humbled the family, his colleagues and me. During the years 1955-1959, Caterpillar called Dad to be the chief engineer of Caterpillar of Australia. Radio was still very much a part of our lives. Although he did not get a VK call we had a Hallicrafters SX-101 on which we would listen to the Voice of America and baseball games from the States. My Mom was a Cardinals fan at the time, and she enjoyed the games via shortwave. I built a small shortwave rig and listened for hours to stations around the world.
Dad was tolerant too! He was a dyed-in-the-wool CW man, but he supported me in my move to operate on the phone bands. Back home, I built a Knight-T-60 transmitter and soon was talking all over the place on AM 'phone. That giant quad, I think, burned a hole in the atmosphere!
Dad was a life member of the ARRL. To my mother's consternation he kept every issue of QST from 1932 to 1999! Those QSTs were his radio bible. He couldn't wait for the next edition to arrive. He continued my gift of ham radio with a life membership in the ARRL. Today, I look forward to getting each QST as much as he did.
I was fortunate to have Dad as my ham radio mentor. He taught me all I know about radio, contesting, building, being a responsible operator, putting out a clean signal and in general being a good ham. I have tried to live up to those expectations.
My tribute to Dad arose at this time because of the smell of solder, however. As a boy, he and I would spend hours building rigs and soldering. He made it a point to teach me the correct way to solder. We would talk and solder and build--establishing a bond between father and son that will last forever.
At his funeral I created two special QSL cards to send with him, so we could continue our talks, our thoughts, our fun and ham radio.