Completely out of the blue my wife asked me if I ever knew a ham whose call letters were W9BZI. I did and told her as much and asked why she wanted to know. Turns out she was chatting with an old high school friend of hers and somehow that conversation included the fact that I was into ham radio. Her old high school friend then said that W9BZI had been her grandfather and that was why she asked.
That call sign was from somewhere back in my long ago and got me thinking about the fellow. He was easily one of the most prominent radio amateurs in my home town back in the 1970’s when I joined the hobby. I knew he had died several years ago but his mention caused me to take a look to see exactly when he passed. He died in 2012 at the age of 91 but his obituary revealed something I knew but had long forgotten:
He had been “hired by the Nickle Plate Railroad, (now the Norfolk and Southern Railroad), as a telegraph operator. He continued working in Ohio, Portland, IN, and Indianapolis, IN. He became a freight agent and telegraph operator in Hartford City, IN, finishing thirty-five years on the railroad retiring in December of 1977”.
I have no doubt his sixty-seven years as a radio amateur were interesting. But I’d really like to have another few hours with him to hear all about his adventures as a railroad telegrapher.
There are all kinds of fancy jobs and titles to be had, but being a telegraph operator for the railroad is one that holds a lot of prestige and historical romance for me. Maybe because of my ham radio link with Morse code or maybe because I know no one will ever again hold that job title.
Just more proof that the 20th century was the most amazing time in human history to have been alive.