Everyone comes into ham radio a slightly different way, but for the most part, YL’s seem to get into the hobby through their significant other.
I didn’t, though. So it always intrigues me when I run across other YLs who didn’t, either.
When we were first looking for a home for the YL NTX net, my Elmer, KB0DBJ, texted me one day, gave me the frequency and said, “YL Owned repeater, might be a good fit for a YL net.”
I followed up with an email that very day, introducing myself and asking if we could use her repeater for the net. (BTW, two great resources at play there… Repeater Book and QRZ!)
And that’s how I came to meet Melissa, KM5R. Naturally, she and I struck up a few conversations along the way and I learned a little more about her each time we emailed. The more she shared, the more interesting I thought she was. Ironically, she doesn’t think her story is unusual. I thought it was fascinating, so I talked her into coming onto the net and sharing her journey with us.
Once upon a time there lived a home-schooled fairy princess named, Melissa, or as she later became known, KM5R. KM5R grew up in a magical little town in Johnson County called Keene. Keene was a small isolated territory, known far and yon the countryside for its traditional values.
To wit, Melissa devoted her days to studying and running around with her brother, Kevin, and their mutual friend, Robin. It was the height of the CB age and Melissa’s parents had a CB radio in the car to listen for “smoky” reports. It was tucked waaaaay up under the front seat. With the volume turned down reeeeally low.
Naturally, as children are inclined to do when things are whispered around them, their hearing improved dramatically. And Melissa, Kevin and Robin became quite curious, indeed.
“Just what is a CB Radio?”
“Why won’t they let us listen to it?”
And of course, the inevitable, “We want one!”
Mom, had listened to the CB bands enough to know it was no place for a kid. Conversations on the radio were definitely not rated for prime time TV. In fact, they weren’t even rated for late-night cable TV. So Mom did what moms do. She forbid it.
Which only made it all the more intriguing!
Robin, not to be deterred, started researching and found another enchanting little pursuit called ham radio. In ham radio, participants must be licensed by the FCC in order to participate. There were no bad words allowed and all conversations were Rated G. In addition, there was no minimum age requirement for a ham license. Melissa was 14, but the boys were younger.
No bad words and FCC monitoring? Mom was sold.
Dad soon found himself driving Melissa, (the artist formerly known as KC5PMU) over to Hardin Electronics off East Rosedale, to test for her tech license. A radio purchase followed shortly afterward and soon she was sporting about town with her brand new Kenwood TH79 dual-band HT. Robin, KC5PKB, received his tech license about two weeks prior to Melissa and Kevin, KC5ULX, followed with his license about a year later.
Radio soon became an addiction and QSO’s were plentiful. Since the pre-fix of “home-schooled” is “home”, ham was an ever-accessible, acceptable way to reach out and make new friends. Not being home on occasion was never a deterrent, though. Live is live, but when it’s not, there’s Memorex. (If you’re not old enough to remember, just let it go.)
Ham is one of those hobbies that inspires creativity. And living in Keene provided an extra challenge when accessing DFW metroplex repeaters. It didn’t stop Melissa. She just sent little brother up into a tree to hold the antenna while she talked.
Then there was the summer KM5R went to spend a week with her grandparents in Michigan. After a day or two of being incommunicado with her friends, a forlorn yet inventive KM5R installed a 10-meter antenna in Grandpa’s back yard. Just like that, she was back on the air talking to friends back home in Texas.
No ham is an island and no ham journey happens without the patient and trusted assistance of Elmers. With their help and her natural curiosity, no facet of ham radio was left unexplored – UHF, VHF, HF, CW. Eventually, the repeater bug hit and Melissa joined an email list for hams interested in learning to build repeaters and antennas. Naturally, this is where the Super Nerds hung out, also known as Broadcast Engineers. It was a good place to also hang if you were willing and eager to learn.
Before long, our little fairy princess was all grown up and it was time for college. Naturally, she was immediately drawn to a Mass Communications degree and she spent her free time working as a freelance Broadcast Engineer for several stations around the Metroplex. At the very young age of 18, she also became the university radio station’s Chief Engineer, after their 91-year-old engineer retired. KJRN, as it’s now known, still operates in Keene on 88.3FM.
No stranger to challenge, Melissa landed a job straight out of school as the News Editor at KRLD Radio, 1080 AM. She followed up with a Broadcast Engineer position at Clear Channel Radio, which later became known as iHeartRadio. After a ten-year-stint at WFAA TV, KM5R returned to work at iHeartRadio as an IT Engineer. She loves the new job because it means no more 3am phone calls and road trips to Cedar Hill to repair off-line transmitters every time a thunderstorm rolls through.
But while she loves the predictable hours of the new job, she misses the RF aspect of radio. She has somewhat satisfied that longing by owning and maintaining two UHF repeaters, one of which is used for the YL NTX Weekly Net on 442.325 (127.3) in Cedar Hill. The other is in NW Ft Worth on 442.225 (110.9). Sometimes they are linked together via 442.325’s remote base.
Life is interesting, is it not? Our fairy tale started with three kids who were curious about the hushed blue conversations coming from a CB radio tucked waaaaay up under dad’s front seat. That one little smoky report monitoring device spawned a life-long love of the ham hobby for all three friends. For Melissa in particular, it also created a career. Two years after the kids got their license, so did Mom Marsha, K5MKR, and Dad Art, KC5ZKS. As of last week, Robin passed his Extra Class Exam. As a surprise, Volunteer Examiner Melissa was on hand to sign his CSCE. A complete full-circle.
How's that for serendipity?