---Ham Radio Club Member recollections growing out of the 50's, 60's, and 70's
St. Joe's High School
Radio Club

Mike Stimac's "Call Sign History"

-- KP4AA -- W8KTZ -- WB8EXZ -- 5Z4LP -- N8EXI -- W8KTZ!

A proud possession of every amateur radio person is his operator’s license and the resulting “call sign.” This made a person absolutely unique in the entire world as no on else would have that identifier. Awarded in the U.S. and its territories by the FCC, it is proof of being a knowledgeable scientist working with radio waves, generated by equipment often assembled by one’s own hands, and always made to work by one’s own skill. The reward of this expertise is the making of a friend and acquaintance thousands of miles away on another continent or of a buddy down the street --- it is the thrill of having power at distance.

The SJHRC came to be known as station W8KTZ. This was the license issued to Mike Stimac when he returned from Puerto Rico, and it was preceded by the colorful KP4AA of the United States territory. On the island, that call sign had been coveted by the radio amateurs who were Puerto Ricans and who had capitalized on ham radio to have their own radio telephone links with the States, as well as with their friends in the fellow Spanish countries of South and Central America, as well as the islands of Santa Domingo and Cuba. It certainly was a different world back then.

The KP4AA designation put the owner at the beginning of the list of amateurs in the region. The way in which Mike received it was simply that during the Second World War licensing had been suspended and then revised. The new call sign list would be used for new licensees. The first person to pass the tests and qualify was Mike, for which he received instant notoriety among the displeased “old timers”. However, the amateur radio fraternity has always been a band of brothers so the grumbling was good natured.

The ham call signs in those days identified one’s home territory, and so upon arrival in Ohio, the KP4AA license was lost as the FCC in those days required it to be “traded in” for an Ohio license, which began with W8. As dozens and dozens of names begin to be heard over the air from W8KTZ its identity soon became not just Mike Stimac, but the SJHRC. When Mike left the states to go to Africa, the call sign was left to stay with the club, and lasted through the 1960's but at some point, sad to admit, it lapsed due to renewal procedures having been forgotten.

However, the succession of overlapping students kept the spirit of the club and the licensing going, and prevailed on the administration, --and even though there lacked a specific licensed faculty member to take over, nonetheless the Call WB8EXZ was obtained.  (We would like to hear from members to reconstruct the duration and details of this call, but we understand that the Electronics Instructor Lou Pelton, although not licensed, was instrumental in providing a place where the guys could hang out and have a club station, for a number of years starting somewhere around the late 60's into the 70's.)

But Radio went on. In Kenya East Africa, the British Colonial Office controlled all communications, and in the ‘60’s they had suspended amateur radio operation due to the terrorism of the Mau Mau who were conducting a guerilla war for their independence. However, amateurs were allowed to operate on an Emergency Radio net on the premise that this allowed scattered farm and bush locations to call for help if attacked by the Mau Mau. Licensed amateurs were granted local call signs under reciprocity. When history was written with the granting of independence and self rule, the British communications setup became the East African Postal Union, and the same civil servants carried on, but now the Africans declared ham radio open to the citizens and resident aliens. Mike had already set up the Mango High School radio labs and had been issued the call sign 5Z4LP.   In time, Mike had been so sucessful that the programs he established became self-sufficient, so he left Kenya to manage flight training for the Saudi Arabian Airline in Jeddah, and there amateur radio was banned.

But after ten years, when Mike returned to the States, he went up to the FCC testing facility in Detroit, Michigan and took the tests again, and received his general class call letters, N8EXI. By the late 80’s, Mike found himself back teaching in the Cleveland area, re-uniting with some of his old students, and active with those call letters on the area VHF repeaters.

--And that’s how it went at Mike's end --- KP4AA, W8KTZ, 5Z4LP, N8EXI--- with the ongoing changes in amateur licensing by the FCC and the drifting around in the states, operation was interrupted and the call signs lost, and then regained. In the new millennium, Mike relocated to Reynoldsburg, near Columbus, Ohio. The station equipment sits on the desk, often switched on 40 or 20 meters, where the radio is tuned to the low end of the band and sweet CW brings back happy memories.

And then in the Fall of 2008, inspired by efforts to build the web page, and locate the members, and then the 2007 Sputnik reunion, --and on the heels of two more in 2008, Mike found out the W8KTZ call was again available, he quietly applied to get it back!

In December of 2008, he made the announcment by e-mail: --"Dear group, . . . N8EXI is cancelled and W8KTZ is in place.  I hold the call; but if there is ever a club station again, a small routine of paperwork will suffice to make a transfer merely dependent on willingness of parties involved.  So another piece of our history is safe!"

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