I’ve gotten to do a lot of, what I consider, very interesting stories lately. The latest one was one about Dick Zehr hooking his Ham radio up in his room at the Good Samaritan Home in Flanagan.
I got the call Monday morning from an employee at the nursing home, asking if we would consider running the story. Of course we would!
I saw my dad later that night. I haven’t ever talked to anyone about a story I was working on, especially before it was printed, but this time, I asked my dad if he remembered Mr. Zehr. My dad did remember he and his wife both, as the couple had worked at Flanagan schools while my dad was in school there (for the record, his wife still worked at the school my first couple of years in attendance, too). My dad recounted how he was part of a group of guys that learned Morse code from Dick. When my dad got older and had kids, he took my brother’s Scout troop to visit Dick and they all learned how to use the Ham radio. I remember that trip. My brother thought that was the coolest thing in the entire world!
I was very young when this trip took place – probably in the early grade school years. The way my brother described the Ham radio was like a magic carpet ride. It could take you anywhere you wanted to go. He talked about how Mr. Zehr had spoken to people all over the world and if you called out on the radio, anyone who heard you could pick up and you never knew who would or where they would be from.
After all these years, I can’t remember who my brother said they got to talk to that day, but I just remember the awe and amazement Nathan had as he was telling his mom and sisters about it when he and my dad got home that day.
Something that Dick talked about during our interview was how all the new technology had overshadowed the Ham radio use. I really thought about that last night after I wrote the story. Back when I was really young, I had never heard of the Internet or cell phones or anything like that, so the Ham radio was a really big deal and sort of an enigma, since I hadn’t been on that trip with the Boy Scouts. All I can compare it to would be high school computer classes where we learned how to use the Internet and search engines. With the advent of Facebook and Myspace and social media like that, the whole “magic carpet ride” feeling comes into play again. With Facebook, I can keep in contact with old college friends. I can play games with friends of friends of friends from China or the Scandinavian countries. With programs like Skype, I can watch my gorgeous little nephew, Roman, grow up before my eyes, all the way in Arizona (I can’t wait to finally meet the little bugger in person this summer!). I can let my daughter video chat with her cousins, Brandon and Sadie, all the way in South Dakota. I can use my debit card and order Bella’s birthday or Christmas presents and have them sent to my mom’s house so she never has a chance of seeing them before she’s supposed to.
Dick was right. Technology has definitely changed and evolved since he was a young man. Either way, though, having a Ham radio 50 years ago had to evoke the same emotions for people then as having a laptop with a webcam in front of them for Skype today.
I love doing stories about things like this. Without great storytellers like Dick Zehr, the art and interest in using Ham radios, or things of that nature, may just fade into being obsolete. Yes, technology evolves, but, I think, we need to remember what got our world to where it is today.
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