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1/5/2005 – News

Wednesday, January 5, 2005                     Volume 121, Number 49


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Norman Haugen at his ham radio station in 2004 at his home in Maddock. Haugen had a 35-year lapse in ham radio and his interest in the hobby was revived only recently.

When I first met Norman Haugen, the last time he had been in a QSO (contact with another radio station operator) with another ham was when Harry Truman was in the Oval Office. Norm had not been on the air since Armistice Day 1951. It’s all in his log. That day W9PMN (Haugen’s call letters for ham radio) had put out a CQ (call to any station — inviting whoever hears to join in a conversation) and W6QIW (another ham) came back to his call. At the time I bet Norm never dreamed that 25-minute ragchew would be his last contact for 35 years!
When we met in the mid-1980s his ham license had long since lapsed. He had moved back home to North Dakota 10 years after his retirement from 35 years in the prescription lens business. His path and mine crossed while standing in line for hot dish at the potluck dinner at the church where I was pastor. I learned that he had once been a licensed ham, long before I was born. Never at a loss to preach the gospel of ham radio, as well as my usual occupational brand of gospel, I immediately suggested it was time for him to return to the fold. Though he initially seemed to think too many years had passed. Norm did not dismiss the idea out of hand, and so the possibility of another entry into his radio log was born.

Norm Becomes W9PMN

Living on the family farm near very rural Crary in the dusty 30s, Norm had been infected by the radio bug through his older brother, Alvin, W9PKY. With his brother as his mentor, and since the nearest place to take the test was in the Twin Cities, 450 miles away, Norm took the test for his conditional license from a local ham. Just who that obliging amateur was has since receded into the mists of time, but that was the way many hams got licensed in the days when there were no interstate highways and few close Federal Communications Commission offices.
The year was 1934 and Norm was age 19 when he got that envelope from the government with his new call letters, W9PMN. North Dakota was in the ninth call area in those days. It was a cold January 3 when the log entry in his official American Radio Relay League logbook (price 40 cents or three for a $1) was first filled in with black ink at 9 p.m. local time. His high school classmate Ed Kalinoski (W9PPG), called him on 160 meters, but Norm was as yet unable to answer. Whether a matter of technical difficulty or whether Norm was still waiting for a ticket to arrive, the log does not say. But finally, a little over three weeks later, Norm and his friend made a successful two-way connection. Input power for his rig was 3.2 watts, plenty for five miles across the flat prairie.
There was some frustration in ensuing days, as the log reads can’t seem to get out any farther" and PPG and I are exclusive!" Then, a couple weeks later, Norm broke out of his local radio envelope and began to make contacts with other North Dakota and Minnesota stations, then Chicago and even his first foreign contact, VE3AT, from Rainy River, Ontario.

The QSLs Start Arriving

Unlike many of us who even today are still relegated to attic loft or basement dungeon, Norm was fortunate to be able to set up his rig on the main floor. All hams should have such obliging mothers! His mom let him set up his station in the dining room, right next to the cabinet where she kept her fancy dishes. A 1935 picture shows his shack clearly, all spread out: some commercial gear, some clearly homemade equipment, a speaker, a microphone, a headset, a copy of Short Wave Craft magazine, dry cell batteries, even those potentially carpet-damaging acid-filled A batteries. His mother even let him tack his QSL cards (acknowledgement of receipt of radio messages from other hams) to her dining room walls! The QSL cards on the picture are the ones you can find in W9PMNs log, beginning on the first page. Right in the upper left corner is QSL #1 from his buddy Ed; down toward the bottom is that first DX card from Ontario.
But equally impressive are the schematics Norm meticulously copied on the blank facing page of the first 10 pages of his log book. These diagrams are like schematic histories of his station equipment, the first being an oscillator-amplifier with grid modulation. Others followed: a two tube receiver, antenna couplings, a modulator from the October 1933 issue of QST Amateur Radio, an oscillator from March 1934 QST, a power supply, a frequency meter, a code practice set, a tuned radio frequency receiver, a 25 watt phone-CW transmitter, and several more.
The log shows W9PMN mostly was on 160 meters in his early years with a few 80 meter QSOs thrown in. In 1939 he got on 40 meters and a year later he moved up to 10 meters. Equipment upgrades now allowed him an input power of 50 watts. But just when things were beginning to get interesting, the log ends. It was 1940. Other things were impinging on his amateur radio activities. It was in that year that Norm, who had been working grinding lenses for a Devils Lake optometrist, moved to Duluth, Minn. to start a nearly four decade stint with Benson Optical. (He says he still cannot believe he moved all that way because it only raised his pay from $18 to $22 per week.) It was also the year he married his sweetheart, Caroline. He had insisted that she finish high school before they got married. She had not attended high school until the age most students attend college because she lived too far from town. Fortunately, her grandmother moved into town and Caroline had a place to stay so she could attend high school and then marry her sweetheart.
World events were soon to further impact their young lives. War came to America in December 1941 and Norm’s Amateur Radio background determined his role in that conflict. Even though Norm was only a high school graduate, because he was a licensed amateur, he found himself working for the government teaching mathematics and electronics to servicemen at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. He says he was usually about one lesson ahead of his students! Despite the fact that Norm often found himself teaching men who had considerably more education than he did, he never had any trouble with them. They knew, Norm says, that as the instructor, he had the power to drop them from the course and send them to the fleet to chip paint! In 1943 Norm was called up for duty with the Navy. He attended boot camp in Little Rock, Ark. Because he was a ham operator he was assigned an electronics-type rating. Norm ended up in Minneapolis working on aviation radios, ending the war as a radioman second class.
After the war, W9PMN returned to Duluth and his old optical company. They moved him and Caroline several times over the course of his career. Eventually, Norm moved back to Minneapolis, then to Colorado, and finally back to Minnesota to manage his optical company’s store design and installation operations. Amid the RFI (radio frequency interference) problems of the new TV era, the addition of three young children and a busy job schedule, amateur radio station W9PMN fell silent and his license  lapsed. As I said, 1951 brought the last QSO for W9PMN, forever, as it turned out — but not for Norman.

Hot Water Tank is Again QRV

Thirty-five years later we locals in the Benson County Amateur Radio Club begged, wheedled and eventually got an initially skeptical and 35-year AWOL Norman to attend our ham radio class. I taught that course, and except for the modern regulations, the 1980s technical advancements in gear and the new models, I always realized Norman knew more than I did about the principles of radio. Norm easily passed his technician test. Like riding the proverbial bike, his Morse Code skills returned easily. He passed the general, and not long after earned his advanced class ticket.
Norm bought a used Kenwood TS-530S and returned to the air in April 1987 as NOHWT (Hot Water Tank). Norm continued where he had left off in the log book, filled it up and even went on to buy himself a new one. A builder by necessity in his younger days, Norm again began to build accessories from scratch: an antenna tuner, an SWR bridge, a 10 meter vertical and more. He made QSOs around the country and around the world, and he was a most welcome and active addition to our club activities.
Although Norm doesn’t get on much any more, he always promises us that he will. He still has his rig, his tower and antennas. He still has that sparkle in his eyes when he talks about ham radio. We hope that he may yet get on the air for a few more contacts. He has been an inspiration and an Elmer (someone who helps aspiring or newly-licensed hams understand the intricacies and traditions of the ham radio hobby) to many of us, and after all, he still has plenty of empty spaces in his log!
Licensed since 1980, Rich Budd, WOTF, is a Lutheran pastor and a retired Naval Reserve chaplain. He took his novice test aboard his ship, USS Harold J. Ellison (DD-864), from the ship’s supply officer WB20SB, who for the code test literally beat out several paragraphs from the Philadelphia Inquirer with a pencil on the stateroom desk! He has a PhD in history from Ohio State University and lives in Leeds with his wife Ruth, NOIKJ. You can reach the author at PO Box 390, Leeds, ND 58346 or by e-mail at

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Norman Haugen at his ham radio station in 2004 at his home in Maddock. Haugen had a 35-year lapse in ham radio and his interest in the hobby was revived only recently.

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Norman Haugen’s wife, Caroline, alongside his equipment in Duluth, Minn. about 1947. A Hallicrafters S-20 Sky Champion is on the left and Norm’s homemade transmitter is on the right.

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The cover of Norm’s logbook — The Log of Amateur Radio Station W9PMN.

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Norm’s station in 1935 in Crary.

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Norm’s ham station in 1949 in Bemidji, Minn. Note the Howard 460 receiver on the left, the Hallicrafters S-20 Sky Champion receiver in the center and the homemade transmitter on the right.

Access to new US 281 will be paved
The ND Department of Transportation has committed to pave the access road from new US 281 about a quarter mile west of Minnewaukan to Minnewaukan’s Main Street. In a letter to Mayor Mike Every, ND Department of Transportation Director David Sprynczynatyk reiterated his commitment to include paved access for Minnewaukan as part of the project. Sprynczynatyk made the commitment in a letter to Every dated Aug. 8, 2003.
Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson (KLJ), the engineering firm hired by the ND Department of Transportation to design the new highway, apparently was not informed of the commitment and Mark Anderson of KLJ told the city council at its Dec. 14 meeting that the road would not be paved.
Neither Mayor Every nor council members remembered the original letter of commitment to pave the access road to Main Street.
It was reported in the Farmers Press that city council members would lobby the Department of Transportation to get the access road paved. When Sprynczynatyk read that item in the Farmers Press he was surprised because he knew the commitment had already been made to pave the access road. Sprynczynatyk then saw to it that everyone got the word, even down to calling Mayor Every personally.
The highway is expected to be bid in five sections and completed in 2005. Some paving might be held over to 2006, however.

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