When I was in high school I remember going with a group to play a concert in an Elks lodge. The room was dusky and the building was a little broken down. There was a giant sign in the room where we played that read, “Keep America Strong. Ask A Young Man To Become An Elk.” The people there were boisterous and kindly.
Well, I think I’ve found the home of the telecommunications-Elks. It’s amateur radio. The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual is full of folksy, boisterous, exclamation-point-studded advice. You get the feeling that every ham is sincere and fun-loving:
Why don’t people just buy radios and transmit anyway [without a license]? . . . Because it’s quite apparent to hams who has and who hasn’t passed a license exam. You’ll find yourself attracting the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, but more importantly, you won’t fit in and you won’t have fun.
A long, friendly conversation is known in ham-dom as a “ragchew.” And this was my favorite part, about Morse code:
Many operators enjoy the rhythm and musicality of “the code,” as well. Aside from its utility as a communications protocol, it’s a skill like whistling or painting that you can enjoy for its own sake. Listening to a skilled Morse operator chatting away or relaying messages is quite a treat!
I have a very soft place in my heart for the Elks, and for the hams, and I very much enjoyed my day with the amateur radio manual. It all works out so smoothly – voltage, current, resistance, and power all relate, and you get to sit there imagining contacting other hams in state after state. “CQ CQ CQ, this is W1AW calling CQ!” the manual instructs, and I can’t wait until I get my own call sign.
A woman sitting a row behind me in the plane told me she was jealous of my studying the manual – she wants to get her amateur license too. She told me that she saw the latest Bruce Willis movie last night and that ham radio saved the day. “It was so exciting!” she said.
Keep America Strong. Ask A Young Person To Become A Ham.