Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Did you Say Queen Mary Old Man?

WA7CS operating CW at W6RO - radio room of the Queen Mary


Dana (my XYL) and I had a conversation a couple of months ago – it went sorta like this:

“I’m booking a cruise to Hawaii.”

“I don’t wanna go.”

“C’mon – It’ll be fun.

“Nope. Don’t wanna go.”

“We’ll stay in LA for a few days first and visit my family, then go on a Hollywood bus tour”.

“Now I really don’t wanna go.”

“We’ll see all the sights and maybe even visit the Queen Mary on our way to the cruise ship terminal.”

“Nope. Wait; did you say the Queen Mary? The one in Long Beach?”


“OK. I’ll make a copy of my Ham License and pack my Vibroplex.”

Why, you may ask, was my abrupt change of attitude accompanied by a desire to Xerox a ham ticket and take a Morse Key to Hawaii?

Somewhere, somehow, I recalled that even though the Queen Mary has been out of service for 45 years, her radio room is alive and well and on the air. Somewhere in a shoebox is a QSL card I received from W6RO after working this very famous station.

A couple of weeks before our departure I sent a memo to John Rogers (KF6TTR) of the Associated Radio Amateurs of Long Beach (ARALB) to see if I might be able to work some CW as a guest operator in the W6RO radio room.

Arriving in Los Angeles, I endured visits with relatives and throngs of camera toting tourists as we hopped from hotel to hotel. The first night was at the Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard. The second was at the Los Angeles Biltmore on Grand Avenue. Don’t get me wrong – these places are not flea bags. Not only are they historical landmarks rich in history and jaw-dropping architecture, they are also five-star hotels with fabulous food and the best in white-glove service. If you must stay a night or two away from home I give these two joints my highest recommendations.

Finally – the morning of November 8th brought us to the Queen Mary. Dana went off to look for the spa to see about a manicure, and I made a bee-line for the Sports Deck: QTH of W6RO - Radio Room of the Queen Mary.

John Rogers had made all the necessary arrangements and told me that the ARALB club officers would roll out the red carpet for me. And that they did. When I located the Radio Room, it was a beehive of activity. I was given the warmest of welcomes and was invited to take a seat at the CW position.

Happier than a pig in “mud” I fired up the CW transceiver and started making contacts. Several of our fellow FISTS were ecstatic to swap numbers with W6RO.

I cannot recall meeting a friendlier or more accommodating group of Hams than those standing watch at W6RO. During a break, Bob Grubic (NC6Q) and Art Borges (WA6UNC) escorted me to the Grand Ballroom where, over coffee and cake, we chewed the rag about all things ham radio.

The absolute and penultimate highlight of our three week Hawaiian vacation (for me at least) was as a guest operator at W6RO and an overnight stay aboard the Queen Mary. The opportunity to operate the radio station of the most famous ocean liner in the world will, without a doubt, remain as one of the most memorable moments of more than 40 years as a Radio Amateur.

FISTS 4561