Amateur radio fan achieves lifetime goal

I don’t think I have an official bucket list, but if I did, I’ve scratched one off it — a 50-year-old item at that!

Some of you seasoned readers will probably remember the TV show, “Mr. Wizard,” hosted by Don Herbert. I think it aired Saturday mornings and was most likely one of the first purely educational programs on the air.

Mr. Wizard always had a boy or girl guest sidekick to help him perform the featured experiments.

One time, in the early ’60s, the feature was a kid who built a ham radio using some of his mother’s bakeware as a chassis.

With this radio, he was able to talk with an Air Force pilot in flight high above America somewhere. I was overwhelmed! Never had I ever seen anything cooler, more neat-o or keener.

Just as impressive, the kid lived in Knightstown. I grew up in Ogden, just three or four miles away.

His folks owned the flower shop in K-town. I was as green with envy as any flora they might sell there and just as impressed.

That impression has lasted nearly a lifetime. You see, not long ago, I finally acted on the influence that young kid, Robert Gary Schatzlein, made on me. I studied for and got my “ham” license (“amateur radio,” for the purists out there).

I was just shooting for the first-level license, technician. One of the test coordinators told me I’d passed, and he encouraged me to take the next element, which if I were successful would grant me a higher-grade license. I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a shot.

I missed passing the exam by one question.

Well, the fire was not extinguished by my failure; it was stoked.

I spent the next week studying for the general license exam. That Saturday, my grandson and I trekked down to Franklin, and there, I passed that test with only three missed questions.

In between exams, I decided to contact Robert and let him know how he had influenced me by his appearance on “Mr. Wizard.” Unfortunately, the very first reference to him I found on the Internet was his obituary. He had passed away back in 2001.

I did learn that he had pursued his interest in electronics with his brother. They had a successful audio production business. In my years at WSMJ, I’m certain I’ve even played commercials that their company produced.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few others who encouraged me over the years to get my amateur radio license. Thanks to Dr. Gary Stouder, Hank Wolfla, Greg Chaney and a former student of mine, Charlie Dickson.

Most importantly, my wife, Cathy. She really backed me on this endeavor!

There is a funny story I want to wrap this up with.

Many years ago, I started attending the Dayton Hamvention, a convention of amateur radio enthusiasts who gather once a year in Dayton to attend seminars, test for licenses and, most importantly, buy and sell electronic equipment.

They offer the world’s largest electronic flea market. You don’t have to be a “ham” to take part, and there are always bargains galore. Many of those bargains are stacked up in my basement.

One year, a while back, a co-worker at Greenfield-Central High School had been hearing me talking about the event. He said, “Just what is this ‘bacon and ham convention’ you keep talking about?”

It took me a few moment to realize “Dayton Hamvention” does sound a lot like “bacon and ham convention.”

I laughed so hard I couldn’t contain the tears. Thanks, Chris!

This year, I took my son and grandson to Dayton. When we pulled into the parking lot, my grandson asked, “Papi, why do all these cars and trucks have so many antennas?” Apparently, I had left some important information out of my explanation of what we were going to attend. He may have been expecting bacon as well.

Hmmm, I had nothing to “grump” about this time. So I’ll just say, “73s! KD9ECG until the next time!”

Tim Renshaw formerly taught broadcasting at Greenfield-Central High School. He lives in New Palestine and can be reached at