Murray passed unexpectedly on November 19, 2017
This was a shock when I heard this a Murray was still young and very active in his business and hobby pursuits. My condolences go out to Joy his lovely wife. The ham radio and SWL community will miss him.
My favourite story about Murray shows how big his heart was and how was always helping the ham community grow and prosper.
When I got first licensed I operated a set up similar to the novices back in the day with a separate receiver and transmitter. I used the Yaesu FRG-7 SW receiver (had the Barlow Wadley loop design) and built my own 5 watt crystal controlled transmitter. I used an A/B switch to switch back and forth. I made tons of contacts on 40m cw with this set up with a dipole in the backyard. I knew that after 6 months on the air I could apply for the 10m endorsement and that would get me on SSB. I was working on getting my Advanced ticket with the Metro Ham club. Many hams were using the Yaesu FT-101 as it also had the ability to be used on 11 meters and I was going to go with that radio as well but when I got the new issue of CQ Magazine from Hamtraders one Saturday, I was blown away by the Kenwood TS-820S when I saw its advertisement. I told murray I wanted that radio. Murray told me that I would b get the first radio from his shipment from Kenwood. I was so excited and sad as I need to come up with another $500 to buy it. If I recall it was $1200 plus another $300 for the VFO and maybe $50 for the speaker and another $80 for the desk mic. So I hustled anything and everything from milk bottle returns, another newspaper route, cut grass, wash cars and even sell balloons at the christmas parade. Note you probably could have bought a Ford Pinto for $3000 in those days.
Every saturday I would bus it up to Murray’s to hang out in the shop and use his demo equipment to make contacts and chat with the local hams. Murray always welcomed hams to hang out in his shop and have a coffee and talk radio. It was a real community.
Then one day Murray told me the shipment would be in during the week and I could come and pick it up.
So right after school, I took the bus to Hamtraders to pick it up with cash in hand.
Murray opened it up and we put it on the bench to test it out and Murray showed me how to tune the 6146 finals for maximum output on the Bird wattmeter and we boxed it back up. I was shaking with excitement through out the whole time. I finally was a real ham with a real radio. I owned the TS-820s and that was a ton better than a FT101E. That radio was really my start with the progression of other Kenwoods until I went Icom when the Icom 735 came out.
Here’s the thing – Murray knew I would not able to carry all the stuff home on the bus because the radio itself was like 40 pounds so he offered if my Mom said it was Ok to drive me home with the stuff. He closed the shop and brought me home and offered to ge me set up but I declined as I knew he should go back to the store, besides I wanted to set it up on my own.
Murray also gave me for free 100 feet of RG-58 coax, a 10 meter Hy-Gain beam, and a Swan SWR bridge. I was blown away by his generosity and had never asked for any discounts or freebies. I was all set up for 10m SSB no doubt. My first SSB contact was with Murray as he operated from the store shack and we had agreed on 28.6Mhz. I had put up a simple dipole in the attic for 10m.
That was not just excellent customer service but it was how Murray was. Always helping others.
The 10M band in those days was like 20m – jammed packed with signals from around the world. I used to work Japanese hams like crazy once I got my beam up and many VK and ZL stations too. I probably spent an hour a week doing QSL cards. I worked DXCC in a weekend during the CQWW SSB and won several 10M band contests. 10M is still my favourite band and I owe it to Murray. That gift of the beam was really a turning point in my hobby because I was really going to be saving money to get a mobile 2m FM radio as my next purchase. Murray taught me the importance of antennas and helped distill a DIY and build your own mentality. He made a very good point “if you can’t hear them you can’t work them” and on HF the antenna is key.
I eventually worked at his shop part-time and also did many cellular telephone installs and mobile 2 way installs.
There were days when the other employee Angelo Meffe (Radioworld) and I would spend the whole Saturday doing back to back installs together. Murray would show up with Pizza or Mr Subs for lunch to keep us happy while we drilled holes in Mercedes and BMWs installing the Alpine cellphones. Those days they usually ran 5 watts and we would use Larsen antennas. To this day the Larsen brand is still my favourite antenna and best performing one. My 2/70 has to be over 30 years old.
Murray ran his shop for the long term gaining loyalty from his customers and was always focussed on real world customer service.
Eventually Murray started Century 21 and became a big Bell Cellular dealer and got out of the ham business. This opened an opportunity for Angelo to start Norham Radio.
Murray as usual was always ahead of the curve and had this very interesting comment to say that is still just as current today as it was 16 years ago.
The last time I talked to Murray was too many years ago as he was interested in doing a charity golf tournament and he knew I had done several with proceeds going to Sick Kids. Murray always always gave back to the community.
My biggest regret was not reaching out to Murray for coffee last spring when he sent me an email in response to a listing for a radio he was selling. We promised to catch up and share family pics and get caught up on the time that passed.
Where have all the hams gone?
My XYL and I recently returned to the air after an absence of some 8 or so years, during which we were otherwise occupied raising children and growing a business. We purchased and installed an ICOM IC-706MkIIg into our Windstar along with the most amazing mobile antenna of all-time the High Sierra HS-1500 “screwdriver”. That was in March… and we worked all continents in the first few hours after the installation. We worked 50 plus countries during our month on vacation while mobiling up and down the eastern seaboard. We arrived home at the end of March.
My question or statement of opinion is simply this…. we have noted:
1. Where have all the hams gone? Propagation has simply died. We don’t hear the DX we did in March. Nowhere near what we heard and worked in March. The HF bands appear to be sparsely populated.
2. Where have all the hams gone? I am mobiling almost every morning in Toronto, a city of several MILLION people. Eight years ago it was tough to find a repeater to talk on…. today it is tough to find someone to TALK TO! There is rarely a conversation going on anywhere it would seem.
3. Where have all the hams gone? I remember eight years ago having trouble finding a spot to call CQ or to carry on a QSO. Today, it seems that our bands are thinning out. Very much so.
So… my statement of opinion and my question….. “where have all the hams gone?”.
It is downright scary, to say the least.