September 1953 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Newkirk* (the name always reminds me of
Corporal Peter Newkirk
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
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,
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.
What 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.
Like 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.
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