The ‘Ham Shack'

Riderwood revives ham radio club

Created date

December 19th, 2018
Resident Pal Littleton (right) is reviving Riderwood’s ham radio station. He is pictured here in the community’s “Ham Shack” along with fellow resident hams Lee Rose (left) and Don Schmidt (center).

Resident Pal Littleton (right) is reviving Riderwood’s ham radio station. He is pictured here in the community’s “Ham Shack” along with fellow resident hams Lee Rose (left) and Don Schmidt (center).

Like many people of his generation, Pal Littleton was licensed as an amateur, or “ham,” radio operator when he was a teenager. But as is common, Pal says “life got in the way,” and he fell away from ham radio for several decades. 

Now retired and living at Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md., Pal has more free time and decided to return to his boyhood hobby. He has taken it upon himself to revive the community’s previously active ham radio club.

Hamming it up

Riderwood gave the ham radio club a dedicated room, known as the “Ham Shack,” for their equipment and gatherings. Resident Muriel Badler donated her late husband’s equipment to the group.

“It’s very good stuff, nearly state of art,” Pal says of the donated equipment.

With a dedicated space and modern equipment, all Pal needed to do to get the ham radio club back up and running was to connect with other interested residents. Since ham radio operators are required to list their street addresses with the FCC, Pal started by combing records to identify people who also live at Riderwood and reached out to let them know he was reviving the club.

He also connected with other people through happenstance. For instance, he noticed a car in the Riderwood parking lot with a vanity license plate that appeared to be ham radio station call letters, so he approached the driver and discovered he was indeed a radio operator.

“Since that time, I have found other hams,” Pal says. “I was actually holding the door for the son of an incoming resident. I struck up conversation with him, and I found out his dad was a ham radio operator.”

History of ham

Ham radios were originally analog, operated using Morse code. As technology evolved, they became voice operated, and now digital technology is used.

Pal outfitted Riderwood’s Ham Shack with a new computer and monitor to enable it for digital communication, and now the group is working to master the new technology.

“All the old guys know old ways of doing things, so we are learning this new form of communication,” Pal says. “I am trying to write up a little book so they know how to run this equipment.”

Pal has taken steps to make sure Riderwood’s ham station meets all FCC legal requirements, such as maintaining bylaws and a minimum number of members. He also sat for an exam to upgrade his own ham license to the top class. He hopes ham radio enthusiasts living at Riderwood will continue to get involved with the group.

“It’s not a big-time station, but we’re making contacts in Europe, South America and Central America,” Pal says. “We have a working station, and I am hopeful it will grow.”

Comments