75 Meter Extra Class WAS Net

Featured GERATOL Member – Tom W4WLF


If we ever had a story of “Perseverance and Persistence” on the GERATOL Net, this may be one of the best. While I am sure there are many of us who took years to complete the requirements for the BASIC award, myself included, this is a story about one of our own who stuck with it for 13 years, before earning his Basic Award. Congratulations to Tom, W4WLF on completing, and receiving his Unbelievable Operating Achievement Award, and obtaining GERATOL # 2667 !!!

Tom was first licensed in 1952 at the impressive age of 13 !! Back then it was no walk in the park getting a ticket either. I believe even Novice licensees had to pass a 5WPM code requirement back then, I know I did when I got mine.

Tom writes:

“We had a cartoon similar to this on our refrigerator when Katrina hit. The refrigerator floated up and turned over when the house flooded. In digging the place out, I found it and put it in the yard to dry. It sort of summed up our attitude.”

When Tom got his Novice, you had to go before an FCC Engineer to take the test. They gave it 4 times a year in Birmingham, Alabama which was the nearest testing site. He had been sick (a bug of some kind) and missed being able to go two times in a row. By then he had turned 13.

His family took a vacation to visit relatives in Texas in 1952. Since the only testing site that was anywhere near their route was Dallas, and they had no plans to go there.  At every stop he would pick up brochures for any attractions he thought might entice them to go to Dallas. After the third or fourth time he did this, his Mom looked back at him and said something to the effect that … what is it about Dallas?  He told her that the FCC gave the amateur radio test every weekday in Dallas. Her reply was …why didn’t you not say so? We’ll go to Dallas.

They got there early and filled out the necessary paperwork. The next step was to receive code at 5 WPM for five full minutes. You had to get at least one solid minute of copy, out of the five minutes of receiving. This was accomplished without much difficulty other than a bad case of nerves. That allowed him to move on to the next step which was to send CW to the examiner for five minutes, at or above 5 WPM.

Of course, you had to wait your turn for the others to send. (Not good for the nerves) Tom says, he finally got in there. After sending a couple of words, the examiner said “Stop!!”  Tom inquired as to what he had done wrong? The examiner said, “Nothing, you passed.” Tom said that he thought he had to send for 5 minutes. The examiner pushed back in his chair, crossed his arms and sternly said … “well if you insist on sending for 5 minutes, I’ll listen, but as of now … you have passed —- I’m not sure what my answer will be after 5 minutes.”     He told him very quickly that he would be pleased not to not make him to have to listen to me send 5 full minutes of code. If he was happy, Tom was happy !!!

After that, he took the written test. (Tom says he was pretty sure of the sequence of events, but that 1952 was a long time ago.)    He received his ticket in the mail several weeks later, after checking the mail box every day until it arrived !!

W4ELX, Phil Mentz had resurrected an old, old Super-regenerative receiver (National SW3) and had built Tom a crystal controlled transmitter in a surplus WWII aircraft antenna tuning unit. He used the roller inductor as part of a Pi network antenna tuner. It ran about 40 watts. (Crystal control was a requirement for the Novice of course, back in those days) Tom recalls, that transmitter was the first rig for many new hams in Tuscaloosa.

When the FCC gave the novice a little part of the 40 meter band, we found that the roller inductor would allow the rig to tune to 40.

Tom mentioned that you can still see some RF burns on his fingers from tuning up and from throwing the transmit/receive knife switch and holding a Neon bulb to check the tuning.

Tom’s primary interest in Amateur Radio back then, and to this day is in the area of Emergency Communications, MARS and Disaster Response. Tom actually did some serious search and rescue work at the Woodstock, Alabama train wreck in 1951, where he met some Hams, who were using a portable station and sending messages for needed equipment, along with health and welfare messages from survivors. There was only ONE telephone in the entire area. Seeing the Hams sending and receiving those messages over the portable radio triggered his desire to become a Ham.

In later years, as an Air Explorer Boy Scout, he did cross country and river search and rescue. As an adult, he’s been involved in Fire/Rescue and even taught EMT Paramedics at the University of Alabama (aka: The Crimson Tide), in Birmingham and then started the degree program at Eastern Kentucky University.

As mentioned, Tom launched his GERATOL efforts in 2005, along with finally going after his WAS and DXCC. He might have started a bit sooner than 2005, but some of his records were lost or misplaced after Hurricane Katrina took its toll on his home town, his house and even destroyed his son’s house.

Some of his hard copy QSL cards were saved, but many were not readable due to water damage. In true GERATOL fashion, some of his damaged cards were kindly replaced by our fellow GERATOL’ers. Another fact that proves, the GERATOL Net is comprised of a great bunch of ops.

They spent three years in what Tom calls their “Tin-Can-Do” instead of “condo” for three years while he and a countless Church volunteers from around the country and the world helped them rehab their house. They even had an Astronaut show up on one of the days, to help with the repair work.

Between the disruptions caused by Katrina, and having to care for his ailing wife, Tom had to keep putting his quest for a GERATOL number on the back burner. He says he would of course, gladly trade his GERATOL number in, if it meant he was still caring for his wife.

Tom was wondering if anyone out there has taken longer than the 13 years it took him to achieve getting his number. If it did, feel free to reply to this post, or send him a note.  If anyone reading this, took longer than Tom’s 13 years to attain a “G” number,  make a COMMENT on this post and let him know.

With the completion of his quest for a GERATOL number in March of this year, he also finished up his Worked All States. Congrats on that one as well Tom. He achieved DXCC on August 17, 2016 and WPX on August 18, 2016. Both big milestone for many of us Hams.

Tom’s wife was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000, and the disease finally took her away from him three years ago. He says he had only been married to her for a short while, 50 years and 6 months. He says, with her, that period of time was a short while. She was a big supporter of his radio and his disaster work. She told him she truly understood it when he left the house in the Birmingham, Alabama area with food, water, radio gear and generators to aid her family and Civil Defense in Gulfport, Mississippi after Hurricane Camille in 1969. When Tom arrived to provide support, he relieved another dedicated op, W5BW, with a heart condition who had been on the air for 72 hours straight !!

A few years ago, Tom finally got a chance to attend Dayton for only the second time, and by chance was staying in the same hotel where a group of GERATOLers were also staying. He made contact with them in the restaurant, and a couple of them took Tom and his co-driver to the restaurant where all the GERATOLers were gathering. Turns out the folks who gave Tom and his driver a ride, were none other than Dave (KJ8V) and his wife Sandy (KJ8W).

Again, CONGRATS to Tom on his new GERATOL Number, and let’s hope his story will help to provide inspiration to those tenacious folks working toward their own numbers this season !!
Feel free to comment on this POST, and add your congrats for Tom, and to thank Tom for his Search and Rescue work over the years.

Also, Tom thanks for taking the time to provide me the data and graphics to complete this posting.

Kevin N1KL

posted by Kevin in From the Administrator,GERATOL NET NEWS and have Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Featured GERATOL Member – Tom W4WLF”

  1. Kevin Lynch says:

    Tom, thanks for providing all the information for this POST and again, congrats on achieving your Unbelievable Operating Achievement Award, and your GERATOL # !! The Wireless Operators of Wheelwright !!

  2. says:

    Congratulations Tom. The “Unbelievable Operating Achievement Award” is indeed a challenge. Well done.!!

  3. Kevin Lynch says:

    Tom, thanks for the work you have done in Search and Rescue, and congratulations on your new GERATOL # !! Next stop, new “Director’s #” ha ha Wireless Operators of Wheelwright K3RI

  4. n7ut says:

    Congratulations Tom. I’m glad I was able to help you with Utah. Thank you for the new number.
    73 Doug N7UT