W1ICP, Amateur Exam at the DOT Office, Montreal

Michael Crestohl mc at SOVER.NET
Thu Aug 3 06:50:58 EDT 2000

This has been a most interesting thread even though the Collins content is
minimal.  It's a real shame that the hams of today whose only contact with
the official aspect of the hobby is with the VE teams and most likely will
not have anything remotely approaching these same experiences.

Learning of the passing of Lew McCoy, W1ICP is very saddening to me
personally as I remember reading his articles in the HANDBOOK and QST from
back when I was studying for my first licence.  So I think these
reminiscences on our licensing experiences in the 50s and 60s are most
appropriate as a tribute to Lew.  I met Lew many times at Dayton after his
retirement from the League at the QCWA booth at Dayton.  He wrote a monthly
column in Electric Radio which was always the first thing I read in that
wonderful publication.  I cannot think of any other amateur that will be as
universally missed by the vintage radio crowd as W1ICP.  Of course the
mainstream new-age hams will probably have never heard of him unless they
happen to pick up a copy of his antenna book.

My own first experience was in Canada with the Department of Transport
examiner in Montreal.  I remember it very well.  The test consisted of
several parts, including an oral grilling.  The first element was CW
receiving.  In those days the examiners were real Radio Inspectors and know
their stuff.  They were very intimidating.  They had all been radio
operators before getting office jobs.  The RIs in the Montreal office used
CW as a form of intercom.  Each had a key and oscillator on their desks.  I
was ushered to the RI's desk and he handed be several sheets of paper and a
pencil.  "Wait here" he told me and walked away.  I remember seeing what
looked like a couple of 51J-(3 or 4 receivers in a rack (obligatory Collins
content!).  A few minutes later I heard some code coming from his intercom
speaker.  It was a message for him about some regulation change so I copied
it down for him as a last minute practice session.  When he returned I
handed him the message and he told me I had just passed my Morse Code
receiving test.

Then I was given the key and told to send.  He made me do it for five
minutes at 10 WPM.  Then the written, three elements, regs, theory and
eight schematic (not block!) diagrams.  Finally the RI collected my sheets
and told em to wait.  It wasn't over - there was the final element - the
oral!  It seemed like an hour but in reality was about ten minutes of
questions based on my schematic diagrams with a few regulatory questions
thrown in for good measure.

I only found out I passed five days later when my Certificate of
Proficiency in Radio arrived by Registered Mail.  I was then "invited" to
go down to the DoT office to apply for a station licence which I did

There was no two meter CB as we know it today.  Repeaters were just
starting to be built and all equipment was ex-commercial gear.  Most of us
had little or no interest in VHF.  Most of the action was on HF with some
six meters thrown in for good measure.  My first licence authorized A1 only
up to 30 Megacycles.  After six months we were allowed to take our log down
to the DoT to prove that we were operating out stations on a regular basis
to apply for an endorsement to operate A3 on 10 Meters.  After a full year
had elapsed we were allowed to sit for the Amateur Advanced certificate
which allowed full phone privileges.  The test was nothing compared to the
first one.

Today's amateurs don't know what they missed!  Wouldn't trade the
experience for a fist full of "slow code extra" tickets!

Thanks for the memories, guys!

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