My entry into amateur radio came in the same way as it did for so many others of my era. I was a shortwave radio listener. Enchanted with the glow of the dial in the dark and the exotic signals that were snagged out of the aether by my wire antenna. At some point, my tuning around uncovered other interesting signals that I learned were from radio hams.
Being fourteen, I turned first to my high-school library to see what more I could learn about these mysterious radio operators. Info on this topic was scarce and there was no Internet to assist in my research, but the school library had one book, CALLING CQ that was written by Clinton B. DeSoto and published in 1941.
I checked that book out once, then twice, then a dozen more times.
The adventures of shortwave radio operators captured my imagination and from that day I wanted to become one of them.
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I fell in love with that book and couldn’t bear the thought of losing it so I checked it out one more time just before I graduated, reported it lost, and paid $2.50 to the library.
That book sits within arms-reach to this very day.
In fact, now I have three more of them for a total of four. All first edition, hardback books. I’ve collected these others online from old library sales and other collectors. Just this week I learned of an antique book dealer who had one in-stock only this one had been autographed by the author. I had to have it even if it did cost a hundred times more than what I paid my high-school library more than forty years ago.
(The book was signed ‘73 to Adolph Gross’ one of the two owners of Terminal Radio Corporation in New York City in those days)
In case you didn’t know, DeSoto was the fellow who imagined the DXCC program into existence. He worked for ARRL as a QST editor and had earlier authored the seminal work on the history of amateur radio in, 200 METERS AND DOWN: The Story of Amateur Radio.
I’ve collected a lot of other Clint DeSoto memorabilia over the years too including personal letters, photos, and interviews with family members. I even have a video of him from the 1940’s.
I’ve been working on a book about DeSoto for years and hope to publish it not long after I retire. His is a fascinating story with a real twist and not so happy ending. Nevertheless, he introduced me to the hobby and probably countless others thru the magic of his words and while his place in history is secure, his life story deserves to be told too.
And it will…