---   Halifax #2   ---




The operating regulations in Canada in those days, allowed a non-ham to use a transmitter, provided that a licensed ham performed the physical act of putting the transmitter on the air and taking it off the air. Push-to-talk microphones were not yet in vogue, VOX pretty much unknown, and a remote bench-mounted switch did the job. I did a lot of pre-license ďhammingĒ on 20 meters, with Dad patiently sitting alongside me and flipping the transmit-receive switch on and off as needed. He insisted on that. Dad would never even think of breaking a regulation, and certainly never let me see him breaking one! He would surely turn over in his grave if he were to hear the goings-on on todayís ham bands.

A strong memory of operating BigRig was a 1946 evening when I was 11 years old, on 20 meters, and working W2LOO. We had had a nice long chat. Some weeks later, I received a thick envelope in the mail from an English operator, a G3 whose suffix I don't recall. He had been listening to the QSO. In the envelope were a QSL card, several photographs of him and his family, and a hand-written letter of several pages. The warm and friendly letter told me about the writer, his family, and recalled that he too had been 11 when he started into ham radio. He went on at length to encourage me to remain in the hobby as I grew up. That was over 60 years ago, so at least temporarily, Iíve followed his suggestions.

Iíve another never-before-revealed memory of BigRig. I had built several one and two-tube wooden-cigar-box-based receivers using type-30 triodes with 2-volt filaments, that I powered with 1.5-volt telephone cells (no, nothing to do with cell phones). And, a 45-volt ďBĒ battery! Anybody out there remember B batteries? Eventually, I was going through the rite of passage of building my very first one-tube receiver that worked directly off the household 110 volts. The tube was a 117L7/M7GT, and it had a built-in diode section to supply B+, so no batteries would be needed! A very advanced project indeed!

Bad luck though. My working with the 110 volt "mains" was strictly forbidden unless Dad was right there, looking over my shoulder. One Friday night, the folks were out and I was in the care of the sitter, who either didnít know or didnít care, or both, about volts, be they few or many. While she was otherwise occupied, I clandestinely soldered the last wires into my new receiver, put on my Baldwin 'phones, and turned it on. Not a sound to be heard! That I could have made a wiring error was beyond my comprehension (it still is), so obviously, the tube itself must have been bad. No problem. BigRig had tubes that looked exactly like mine, I understood the concept of part substitution, so I pilfered a tube from the transmitter and plugged it into my new receiver. An immediate flash of bright light followed by a terrible darkness told me, I being no dummy, that I had made a serious blunder. Today, I know that the tube I had liberated from BigRig was a 6SJ7 with a 6.3-volt filament, which accounts for the momentary bright light and the subsequent scary darkness. I surreptitiously plugged the filament-less 6SJ7 back into its socket, smiled innocently at the sitter, and went to bed.

The next morning was Saturday, and upon awakening, I said nothing. Nothing. About mid-morning, Dad had a visitor. A lady had been invited to the VE1MZ hamshack to be put on the air to speak to her serviceman husband who was on duty somewhere in Yukon or Northwest Territories, or somewhere. At this important moment, BigRig strangely refused to operate. No audio. I donít remember whether an embarrassed Dad resolved the problem in time to make the contact, but I do remember that for the remainder of his life, I never told him the story. I was always afraid he might not observe the statute of limitations on kid punishment.


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