Monday, May 25, 2009

"CQ,CQ,CQ, this is W6WFV....William 6, William, Frank, Victor...CQ, CQ, CQ" ...Memorial Day 2009...and "dits" and "dahs"

Today is Memorial Day and I want to pay homage to all those that have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Memorial Day had its beginnings during the Civil War and was later expanded to honor those who have died in all of our wars. We need to remember and remind ourselves of its purpose and intent. I have posted it before, but the poem to the left, written by Sgt. Cal Steunenberg, U.S. Army Signal Corp., always seems like a fitting tribute on Memorial and Veterans Days. This wonderful original version comes courtesy of Cal's sister, my mother, Brenda Steunenberg Richards.

You can read more about the history of this day at:

Memorial Day History

History Channel

Every day, over 1000 of our WWII vets are dying as their numbers continue to dwindle. This past week our family lost 96 year old Army Sergeant Cal A. Steunenberg—my Uncle Cal. See previous blog post. The scrapbook pages shown here come courtesy of Sheri Steunenberg Beersman, Cal's granddaughter.

Growing up as a kid, I have many fond memories of visits with my Uncle Cal. Some of those took place at family gatherings during the holidays, others at visits to the home of my grandparents Julian and Francis Steunenberg or when Uncle Cal was out and about and made a trip to our various homes over the years. He sure liked to jaw with by dad (that sometimes got a bit boring for a kid!), always loved his little sister (my mother Brenda) and her home cooking, and enjoyed hanging out to watch Sunday afternoon football games. However, nothing could match my fascination with his passion for ham radio. I have faint memories of those very early ham radio stations he had at his home—the cool radio room with all kinds of interesting equipment and a giant antenna in the back yard. Listening in to the world on his receiver was a pretty amazing thing for a kid as was hearing him chattering in ham lingo with fellow operators around the state, country and world. It is where I first heard Uncle Cal uttering "CQ,CQ,CQ, this is W6WFV."

I remember an old receiver that Uncle Cal's gave me when I was probably 10-12 years old. I think it was a Hallicrafters. It was from one of his original station setups and had been setting around for awhile. It was pretty old then and would be a real antique today. Wish I still had it. Of course I never had much of an antenna but strung up some wire and could still pull in broadcasts from around the world. The constant “dit” and “dah” of Morse code still rings in my ears and is forever etched in a deep fissure of my brain. I use to keep a log book of all the different countries that I tuned in—of course I wasn't a real Ham but Uncle Cal kept a log book so I did too. Over time I added a copy of the Ham’s bible, The Radio Amateur's Handbook, and other books on radio. Uncle Cal gave me some guide books on licensing and Morse code along with an old straight key for code practice—and always words of encouragement.

Thanks to that interest Uncle Cal had sparked, I took several electronics courses in high school, learned the basics, built a few projects and always had a fascination with old radios—still do. My copy of The Radio Amateur's Handbook remained a handy reference and I still kept that old receiver out in the garage but never got a ham license. Many years later, by own two boys would take up an interest in amateur radio to go along with their expertise and careers in the computer technology field. Both of them got their technician licenses not long ago. Joe’s call sign is KI6MVD and Josh’s KG6CYK—but old dad continues to lag in that regard. I was always scared off by that code requirement—all those dits and dahs again. They tell me code is not required these days but Uncle Cal was always fast on the key. He had to be as a radio operator during WWII. He served his country honorably in the Pacific as a Sergeant is the U.S. Army Signal Corp. I am sure he probably thought ending the code requirement a few years back was making it too easy for the ham radio newbie’s. I can hear him now—scoffing loudly at such a thing. He was an original, a real purist when it came to ham radio.

In later years, Uncle Cal went with a mobile station as he spent more time traveling in his pickup truck with a camper on the back. He always raved about that Swan 350 rig. During visits to Los Osos, CA, my oldest son Josh would sit with him in the truck and learn about amateur radio just as I did as kid. The old truck got a lot of miles put on it and the Swan a lot of airtime. Just thinking about Uncle Cal has sparked my electronic interests again. Maybe I need to start looking at those license requirements and shopping for radio equipment with my boys. They have small hand held units and haven’t gotten into the bigger rigs yet.

L to R: Brenda, Jule, Cal, Frank ("Bud"), Doris, Grandma Francis
and Grandpa Julian Steunenberg in Caldwell, ID
. The little
pip squeak on the far left, my mom, is now almost 91.

I know Uncle Cal would razz me a bit but I would probably be forgiven if I skipped trying to learn Morse code. However, he sparked an interest that remains today and I know he was happy to hear my sons had taken up the reins of ham radio. I will always love and remember who it was that first taught me about “dits” and “dahs.”

We love you Uncle Cal.

"73 W6WFV Clear"

Update 11/18/2009: A few decades late but I finally got my Generalist ticket Uncle Cal. 73, KJ6DOV

Springfield Missouri Veteran's Cemetery

Carroll "Cal" A. Steunenberg page (just starting)

The Passing of my Uncle Cal Steunenberg (previous blog post)


Joe said...

Nice writeup. (Josh's call sign is KG6CYK) :P

John T. Richards said...

Thank Joe. I corrected Josh's call sign.