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Written in the Stars
September 1953 QST Article

September 1953 QST

September 1953 QST Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from ARRL's QST, published December 1915 - present. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Rod Newkirk* (the name always reminds me of Corporal Peter Newkirk in Hogan's Heroes) was a frequent contributor to the ARRL's QST magazine. In addition to writing the "How's DX?" column from 1947 to 1978, he occasionally had humorous short stories related to Hamdom. "Written in the Stars" and "How Christmas Came to S. McSquegg" are two examples. Here, Ms. Susie Sopenwater (a sort of 'soap and water' portmanteau; i.e., pure and clean) gets interested in amateur radio after winning the Miss America pageant and finds plenty of volunteers to help her earn her license and set up a 'shack.' Susie's call sign was, WN5P!P. My guess is that the WN5 part is an allusion to wideband phone (5 kHz) and P!P is for her being a 'pip.' Let me know if you have a better (or different) interpretation. You might need to know that a 'lid' in amateur radio is a poor or inconsiderate operator.

* Rod Newkirk, now a Silent Key, is credited with coining the term 'Elmer' for a seasoned Ham who enthusiastically helps newcomers in the amateur radio hobby.

Written in the Stars

By Rod Newkirk,* WIVMW

Written in the Stars, September 1953 QST - RF CafeShe was a knockout, all right. In fact, nobody was very much surprised when petite and demure Susie Sopenwater walked off with the Miss America title at Atlantic City one summer. She might have left well enough alone after that, but would she? Not Susie. Not by a long shot.

It was as she was handed a sheaf of radiograms culminating from the Governors-to-Miss America Relay that the well-known Bug caught her. She cooed, "Say, what is this ham radio?" and that was her undoing. An alert newshawk caught the query, scribbled it down and the next day's papers carried the banner, "New Miss America Interested in Amateur Radio," from coast to coast.

That was all, brother. That was it.

* * *

After a hectic and triumphant itinerary throughout the land - appearances on TV shows, doing the lead in "Maid in Japan" for NGN, endorsements for Bloatie Toasties and chlorophyll pizza dough, et al - Susie had no inkling of things in store for her when she wearily arrived back home in Knobaloosa, Arkansas.

She failed to notice three hams cruising her immediate neighborhood in 10-meter mobiles who spotted her approach and passed the word along to the boys on the frequency. Local nets were alerted in jig time and the rush was on.

Susie Sopenwater - RF CafeWhat happened afterward is rather difficult to believe, but before Sue realized it she had learned the code and was up to 7 w.p.m. - in three hours flat. Autos labeled with call signs were parked bumper to bumper for blocks around her modest domicile, the front yard was a shambles, and the Sopenwater front door was hanging on one hinge.

Perhaps the only thing that kept Susie from mastering the Novice theory exam immediately was the sudden appearance of a bunch of XYLs with rolling pins. Mom and Dad Sopenwater took cover in the cyclone cellar until the storm blew itself out, after which they came back upstairs to find their daughter thumbing through one of the 178 License Manuals her benefactors had left behind.

Susie did get hep to radio theory in a very short time, thanks to the bachelor contingent that arrived next day. The boys - all 76 of them - afterward escorted her over to Little Rock where she passed the Novice exam with flying colors. Indeed, attentive FCC inspectors kept correcting each other's gradings until Miss Sopenwater had marks of 109 per cent on the code test and 117 per cent in theory - highest grades in the records of the office.

Washington haggled for a day or two over the call to be assigned. WN5WOWwas unavailable so they stretched things a bit and secured for Sue a call sign equally appropriate - WN5P!P.

WN5P!P's shack was set up with considerable fanfare and contained the snappiest-engineered station in the county. Gear was volunteered by radio clubs for miles around (with little or no enthusiasm on the part of women's auxiliaries) and you never saw so many helpful hams checking one rig for TVI and parasitics that weren't there in the first place.

Susie surreptitiously attempted to have her first QSO in the peace and quiet of the wee hours of a Monday morning. However, an ambitious local with a converted Geiger counter detected the first signs of her radioactivity and the pile-up on WN5P!P's frequency after her first nervous short CQ was dozens deep on an otherwise dead band.

Helpful Hams - RF CafeLike the plucky kid she was, Sue stuck with it. And when the rising sun heralded the dawn a few hours later, WN5P!P was on record with the fastest Novice WAS on the books. This on one CQ!

We could continue ad infinitum to tell you of Susie's subsequent amateur radio accomplishments - WAC/WAS roundtables, DXCC in a matter of days, etc. - but you've no doubt already caught the pattern. One most unusual aspect of these triumphs was that she actually used no antenna. A dummy load had accidentally been left connected to WN5P!P's final all this time - proof beyond question that" getting out" is at at least 90 per cent operator.

Yessirree, for months and months Sue set a killing pace for the best operators in the land, and with so little apparent effort. Also, in addition to being awarded the title of Miss Hamerica at that year's ARRL National Convention, Susie received an engraved plaque from DX Clubs Amalgamated as "The Operator We Would Most Like To Be in a Pile-Up With."

But in the due course of human events, tempus inexorably fidgets. And Susie Sopenwater was no exception. After a year or so of such concentrated amateur activities the doll grew a little restless.

There just weren't any more certificate awards around to hold her interest and the parents Sopenwater were rapidly becoming allergic to r.f. burns. Sue had built everything in the Handbook, too, and had a few patents of her own to boot. Small wonder, then, that she began to get interested in men.

 - RF CafeNot the ham variety, that is, but men in general. After a huddle with herself one day when conditions were poor, she made her decision. Rather than risk dire consequences by hitching up with some eccentric radio bug, Susie elected to marry some more normal mortal, this with the purpose in mind of enjoying the benefits of truly tranquil family life. And, having made up her mind, she did just that.

Yes, she put away her resistor-condenser box and soldering iron and married up with an extremely respectable banker feller who didn't know a strain insulator from a hardboiled egg.

Here the story should end, we suppose, with the guy and gal living happily and mushily forever after. Ah, would that it were so. So simple, we mean. For Susie, as so many women occasionally manage to do, really outsmarted herself with a capital" Oh!"

You see, it came to pass, before the honeymoon was even half over, that Sue's delightfully ideal new hubby ran across an old QST up in the attic and caught the Bug himself. But good. And now Susie sits alone in the kitchen with the kids every night while the OM does a very sad job of battling the QRM on 40.

Poor kid - she's married to a first-class lid.

* DX Editor, QST.

 

 

Posted May 24, 2017

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