I decided to swing by the Hamfest Saturday morning out at the Fire Training Academy, where all the ham radio operators get together once a year to check out the latest in the shortwave radio world and swap stories. And to be clear, Hamfest has nothing to do with ham … you know, the kind that goes with red-eye gravy. Nor has it anything to do with actors who “ham it up,” although the term was coined to ridicule the operators of amateur radio in the early part of the last century. This got a chuckle out of the growing cadre of operators and the label stuck.
My one foray into amateur radio was in the mid-1970s when CB radios were the big thing, and probably got started during the oil crisis when the federal government lowered speed-limits to 55 on all highways. That meant if you had the hankering to go faster you needed to know when to slow down before you got a ticket from “smokey.” Who among us remembers Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit? Anyway, CB radio was the most popular way to communicate with each other before the 2000s, and I’d guess a lot of truckers are still saying, “breaker-breaker-one-nine, you got your ears on?”
I've always thought radio was a magical thing ever since I was little and learned how to make a crystal set. It was the kind you clipped onto a chain-link fence and heard the nearest AM station playing the latest doo-wop song through an earpiece. Also, I don't know if those little Heathkits are still sold, or if even if kids would want to tinker with them, what with all the electronic toys and gizmos out today; the things kids take for granted.
Still, those of us older than millennial-types like to make sure the younger generation is reminded of the way things were before they came along. When I was a kid, we were reminded of how good we had it as opposed to our parents. Even so, I can't remember ever being told by my father that he had to walk five miles to school in the snow. On the other hand, my mother would often recount stories of when the mules pulling the wagon would decide not to budge, making them late for school.
About all I had to complain about to my kids was the grumpy old guy on the corner who yelled at me to stay off his lawn when I tried to cut across his yard. Not much has changed there.
But even in this day of fiber optics and satellites and cell towers ad infinitum, amateur radio pretty much remains the most reliable fallback for emergencies, search-and-rescue or simply just shooting the bull with someone literally on the other side of the world. And the thing is, it's for all intents and purposes the basic technology when Guglielmo Marconi was showing off his wireless apparatus well over a hundred years ago. Just swap out tubes for transisters.
After the wireless took off and AM radio stations began popping up all over the country (including KOB in 1922), Marconi said, "Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?"
Switching gears here, my wife’s front porch decorations are shaping up nicely and I'm pretty sure we're stocked up enough for the trick-or-treaters this Thursday night. I’ve been quietly… patiently staring at the 15 pounds of trick-or-treat candy we’ve stocked up on and secretly hoping enough will be left over for a proper chocolate binge. On the other hand, after last Halloween, I overdid it and vowed – with apologies to the great Chief Joseph of the Nez-Perce - that I will binge no more forever.
Fingers crossed on that.
But rest assured that everything we give out is safely factory-wrapped for your protection.
Gone are the days when people gave out homemade candied apples and caramel popcorn balls, and it's all because of the fear of needles and razor blades hidden inside. But whatever the case, the "better safe than sorry" advice is not a bad thing to follow in our crazy mixed-up world.
While we still have trick-or-treating and parties and the Finley Gym Haunted House, traditions like the kids starting a bonfire in the middle of the street in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis are generally frowned upon today. On top of that, during World War II children were not even allowed to trick-or-treat because of a sugar shortage.
Considering that Halloween is a throwback to Celtic pagan ceremonies, I find it interesting how it's now somehow linked in some people's minds with the Day of the Dead. And I don't mean the ghoulish creatures in zombie movies or the show The Walking Dead, which I've binge-watched on Netflix, but don't hold that against me.
I’m in binging re-hab.