It’s “Who you know” that got me a Great Job in High School Electronics
Good Luck or What?
My youngest son says “that’s old school” when I tell him of some of the things I did long ago. Well something that’s old and never fails is the potential results from “who you know”. Sometimes the results from “who you know” are far reaching and long lasting.
“Back in the day” as a teenager I was heavily involved in electronics. My uncle Kenneth, who lived upstairs from us fixed radios, TVs, and other electronic equipment and I just sucked it all in. Electronics was running out of my brains.
I was going to a regular high school, but learned of a brand new technical high school they were building in Chicago where I lived. But I was out of the district. There was no way I could go there. I was way out of the district although it was a straight shot from my house, on the same street, some 60 blocks away.
One day on my “ham” radio I heard a powerful signal that over-rode all the other signals on my shortwave radio. As it turned out, it was another amateur radio operator a few blocks away. I had to meet him. I didn’t know there were any other “hams” near me. Well a few days later I did.
He was a much older, sophisticated gentleman, and when I saw his radio equipment I did a double-take. His setup was the most expensive and complete of any amateur radio operator I had ever met, and I knew a lot of them.
Sometime later I was at his house and had a talk with him. I explained my deep interest in electronics, knowledge of electronic repair, and my desire to go to Dunbar, the new tech high school. By this time he knew I was sharp in electronics. He asked me if I knew anyone that lived close to Dunbar. I said yes. He said something to the effect “leave it to me”, just do as I say.
I did, and within a week or so I was enrolled there. Wow! What luck! That was only the start. Shortly afterward, myself and another ham operator, we were the only two students in the school with radio licenses, started operating an electronic repair shop from the school lab. We repaired all sorts of electronic equipment such as radios, TVs, appliances (i.e. toasters, irons, and other kitchen appliances) and virtually anything electrical.
This was really a part-time job within the school. The good part of it was we charged to repair the electronics and got paid to do it. Not a lot, but who could complain at 16 yrs old getting paid to fix TVs, radios, and all sorts of electric appliances (nowadays people just buy a new one instead of fixing broken electronics or small appliances).
It was great experience. In addition to that, the school had a powerful ham radio station which we both used in our free time. It was like a dream. In fact it was so good; I was able to complete a year’s worth of electronics lab in a couple of months. Then I assembled most of the test equipment the lab used, Heathkits, and became an expert at assembling electronics devices.
That fortunate meeting of that older gentleman surely changed my life. Later after high school we moved to Pasadena, California where I went to Junior College there. I enrolled in their two year electronics course, but was very pleasantly surprised to find it was the exact same classes I had just had in high school a year previous.
So instead, I opted to take computer science classes which were brand new at the time. Because I had so much experience in electronics I also opted to take a prep class for getting an advanced license, a First Class Radiotelephone License. That was the license that allowed you to operate any radio or TV station transmitter in the USA. I got it and still have that license, a rare lifetime license they no longer issue.
I went on to become senior electronics technician diagnosing and repairing aircraft navigation electronics. I had jobs at several companies, including Xerox, Bendix Electrodynamics, Electro-optical systems, Hoffman Electronics, and others over many years. Oh yes I still have my “ham” license too – for over 50 years. As they say I’m “an old-timer.” Not only that, but I still have an expensive (“in its day”) ham transmitter and receiver, which are now bonafide antiques.
Just who was that gentleman who changed my life? I didn’t know it when I first met him, but later found out that he was the assistant principle of the high school I ended up going to. He was the one who pulled the strings for me. It’s who you know that makes all the difference in the world. Knowing him certainly changed my life. Was that Good Luck, or what?
Copyright © 2013 Charles L Harmon