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Upon arriving in early 1958 to take up residence in Detroit, I moved into my mother’s duplex near 7 mile and Greenfield. I established my new hamshack in the basement and put BigRig on the air. Within weeks, I had met several local hams, had joined the Oak Park ARC, and became even more active. Peer pressures, real or imagined, caused me to think about finally getting a U.S. call (I had by then become a citizen), so I took the General exam in 1961, and was assigned K8RJC.

BigRig returned to the air, now operating under its third call sign.

College called, my mother was leaving Detroit, and I was moving into an upstairs flat, where there was neither room nor time for ham radio. I stored the transmitter in a ham friend’s basement, and my very large 20-meter beam on the roof of the same friend’s building in downtown Detroit. A year later, the friend was retiring, selling both his building and his house, so he asked me to move my gear. Having no alternatives, I called an old ham pal from Chicago. Orlando was then W9EXE and now W9RX. I offered to give the transmitter and the antenna to him, if he were to come to Detroit and pick it all up. He did. He came in his station wagon (remember those?) and we loaded all the gear into and onto that wagon. The antenna on his car rooftop was a sight to behold. The boom of the antenna was a tower-like aluminum lattice fully 38 feet long and about 2 feet square. It hung over his car both front and rear, heavily festooned with red flags, and stuck up so high that Orlo had to do some fancy driving indeed, to avoid hitting low-hung traffic lights and low overpasses.

Several years later, Orlo told me that he had raised the beam to the top of his 100' tower and had been using it, but a hostile hurricane had wandered by one day and had destroyed both tower and the beam. A sad ending to a magnificent antenna!

Over forty years went by. Orlo and I talked every year or two, and we talked a couple of times about the beam, but for some inexplicable reason, the subject of the transmitter just never came up. One day I asked him what had ever happened to the transmitter. I had just assumed that he’d cannibalized it for parts, had sold it, junked it, or otherwise disposed of it. “Oh,” said Orlo, “It’s in my basement.” “It’s what?” I asked, astonished at this unexpected development. He assured me that it was indeed in his basement and that he had never used it or otherwise touched it. He went on to say that many years before, his wife had asked him to finish the basement to make a recreation room. The transmitter was way too heavy to move, so Orlo had just left it lying in place on the concrete floor where it was, and had just built a wall in front of it. It was lying between two walls.

It took me a nanosecond or two to ask whether he could get it out, and Orlo assured me that given three weeks, he’d tear down a wall and have it out. Three weeks later, I drove to Chicago. BigRig was all apart. It was old, tired, and covered with 40 years of grime, corrosion, rust, spider eggs, and cobwebs, but after all of those 40 years, BigRig was mine once again and it made its second trip from Chicago to Detroit.


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