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home : columns : columns
August 15, 2020

7/1/2020 3:32:00 PM
Ham radio touches a life
You may remember that a few months ago (four to be exact) I shared with you Windom native and Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider's quest to track down one of her dad, Carl's, QSL ham radio cards.
Well, long story-short, as I shared in March, she found one, not necessarily the one she remembered, but a great one and one that probably was more "prophetic" of her father than anyone would have imagined.
Maria sharing her story here was an indirect link to her finding a card to use in the art and documentation for her new double album "Data Lords" coming out later this month. More on that later.
In an email exchange with Maria, another former Windomite got involved in the search, again from my jottings in this space. While he didn't come up with the QSL card, he does have a great story to share about his connection to ham radio and Carl Schneider. I wanted to share it four months ago when I learned about it, but COVID-19 hit the fan and that sent me and our staff scrambling and the story got put on the very back burner.
Things have finally settled down a little bit and we've gotten into a routine, so this is a great time to share the story of 77-year-old Gary Hanson, who grew up in Windom.
Actually, he's got more to tell than this space allows, so I'll try to share snippets from his email.
Some of you may remember Gary, who grew up on a farm south of Wilder and graduated from Windom High School in 1961. He's now living in Austin, Texas, and still very much involved in ham radio today. In fact, when he sent the email back in March he said he had just gotten off the ham radio after a Morse Code exchange with a "ham" (what fellow ham radio operators like to call themselves) in Japan.
OK, to most of the young-on's out there, doing Morse Code is really old-school. Most can pick up their cell phone and enjoy a face-to-face talk with someone in Japan (Facetime). But Morse Code is a language all its own and one that, if you're not in the military, you'll probably never learn.
Anyway, Gary tells the story, first, of the late former Windom Mayor John Galle and Byron Malchow, who ran a gas and diesel fuel delivery service out of Wilder. Before Galle was mayor, he was owner of Ben Franklin in Windom. That's when Gary knew him. As a teen in the late 1950s, Gary would stop by the store and he and John would talk ham radio.
"One weekend before getting my license," Gary shares, "Byron and John invited me to drive to Sioux Falls to attend a ham radio convention. I had never left the state and the chance to go to South Dakota sealed the deal. Byron had a receiver and transmitter in his car and while driving down the road at 50 miles an hour, we talked to a ham in Germany. I was hooked!
"Talking to someone in Germany (in the late 1950s) while driving down the road was pretty heady stuff for a young farm kid from rural Minnesota. All of a sudden the world seemed a whole lot smaller."
Not only was Gary hooked, but at age 16 in 1959 he wound up getting his ham radio license courtesy of Carl Schneider and using, of all things, the Schneider's living room organ - yes, the instrument more dynamic than a piano. Gary didn't live near an amateur radio testing center, so Carl invited him into his living room and they did the test - five words per minute - on an organ.
"Music was obviously an important part of his life," Gary wrote.
Yes, the Schneiders could even make Morse Code music back in the late '50s.
Which ties nicely into a track on Maria's new double album.
'Data Lords' release set
If you remember four months ago, I shared that Maria Schneider's new, and first, double album "Data Lords" would be coming out in May. Well, the whole COVID-19 pandemic no doubt played a part in delaying that release, which, according to her website, is now set for July 24.
A project that has been in the works for a year, Maria says the "Data Lords" album will be a stunning package featuring artwork by another Windom native, Aaron Horkey.
Watch for it and the track "CQ CQ, Is Anybody There?"

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