I haven’t collected many QSL cards in my lifetime; shockingly few, as a matter of fact. The reasons are several, but I won’t delve into them here. I’m not even sure where the cards that I received under my UK callsign of G4IFA are – probably back in England somewhere. Perhaps my brothers saved them when they cleared out my parent’s house, or perhaps they got lost somehow during my years of moving not only to another country, but during my many moves within my new adopted country, the USA. To make matters even worse, I cannot find my logbooks before 1992. This has all been quite distressing to me, but if they don’t turn up during my next visit to the UK, I will have to give them up for lost.
Anyway, the thing that I am slowly coming round to mentioning is that of all the QSO’s I have had, there are a few memorable ones that I would have liked to have had QSL’s for, but those aside, the amateur stations from which I most wish I had QSL’s are the amateurs I knew on a personal basis that elmered and halped me when I was starting out. They are the hams that I talked to on the air on a quite regular basis – mostly on 80M and on 2M, and because they were local and because I knew them, just didn’t bother to give them a QSL and seek one in return from them. Several of them are now silent keys.
Probably the most significant elmer to me was Norman Maries G4FHP (SK). When I started attending The Redditch Radio Club in Worcestershire in the UK as an eager 15 year-old, I met Norman, an ex-Navy man who was diabetic and blind (he hadn’t been blind from birth and I’m assuming that his blindness was linked to his diabetes.) I didn’t know many of the details as a kid, but Norman wasn’t in service by the time I met him. We were a good match; I was a youngster, eager to spend time with an experienced ham and keen to sit in his shack and talk radio, and he had the time, and the generosity to give me some of that time. He occasionally needed help constructing circuits due to his blindness; I was good at assembling from schematics and was happy to wire up as many parts as he could throw my way. It was just the biggest treat to sit in his shack and watch him take part in his regular net on 80M with his ex-navy pals. I remember looking at his FT-101E and wondering if one day it would be possible for me to have a radio that cool. We went on 2M FM with his IC-215 and I was as happy as a bug in a rug.
Then after a few more years I went away to University and for the most part shelved my ham radio hobby. On graduating from University, I moved to the US, and it would be a few more years before I decided to get a US license. Occasional periods of activity interspersed with longer periods of inactivity followed for almost the next 20 years. At some point I found out that Norman, my elmer, had passed away. I felt really bad for not keeping in touch with him. I sent a letter of condolence to his widow Inge, and wished that I had told Norman how important he had been to me. That old saying about telling people how you feel while you still have a chance, is very true. I don’t even have a photo of him, or one of his QSL’s.
Gordon G3EES was a clergyman who lived in the Malvern area of the UK. I remember him giving me a guided tour of Worcester Cathedral (a beautiful medieval cathderal built about 900 years ago, with a crypt that is 1000 – 1100 years old). He was a source of much local history and had a great enthusiasm for telling it to others. He lived in a cottage in the countryside, and his landlady must have been very understanding, as he had telephone poles installed in the back garden that supported his HF antenna. Very impressive! I went to University, moved away from home, eventually moved to the US and only thought some years later to try and track him down. His callsign wasn’t listed anymore, and as he was an older gentleman when I knew him in around 1980, I’m thinking that he is most likely a silent key by now.
There were others too. Because I knew these people personally, I never tried to get a QSL card from them. I mean, how much of an achievement was a QSO on 80M with someone 10 miles down the road? However, as an adult living in another time and place, to have a physical reminder of my elmers would be really great.
So here’s what I’m getting at with this post. This first part applies universally – make sure to let people who influenced you in a positive manner know what an effect they had on your life. Make sure that you do it while you still can.
The second part is this – keep all your old logbooks. They contain precious memories – and don’t limit your QSL collection to DX stations and stations that can help you qualify for the fancy awards. Make sure to get and keep some QSL’s from the hams you know personally – especially your elmers. One day they may not be around, and you’ll have something to remember them by.