To passers-by, George Hirst’s antenna farm at 790 West Center in Lewiston might appear as though the retired electrical engineer is trying to communicate with other planets; or some neighbors might think he is listening to conversations in their homes. Not hardly.
Hirst is an avid HAM radio operator and talks to people all over the world.
He has as many as 10 antennae on his four acre lot, but he takes some down during the summer. He has recorded all of his 319 contacts dotting the planet. He can contact up to 340 worldwide.
Hirst has lived in Lewiston for 20 years, he moved there after he retired from a Virginia base as a military communications contractor. He also served in the U.S. Air Force.
“I would come out and visit family and liked to hike in the mountains,” he said. ”When I retired I wanted to live in a rural area with space to put up my antennas. Lewiston seemed to be a good fit.”
The antennae help him communicate with locations all over the world. In 2014, Hirst made contact with a group of HAM operators on Amsterdam Island.
“If you dug a hole through the center of the earth you would hit Amsterdam Island,” he said.” It’s on the opposite side of the earth.”
Hirst belongs to an international group of HAM radio operators who use Morse Code to communicate with each other. He said everyone uses English.
Morse Code is a series of dots and dashes or tones used as letters.
“It’s like using another language,” he said. “It’s a lot like texting; we use a lot of short cuts, like TU means Thank You.”
“When I got my license I needed to know Morse Code,” he said. “Several decades ago they stopped making people know Morse Code.” Today he uses a very abbreviated version of English.
Hirst was in grade school when he built a crystal radio set that spurred his interest in Ham Radios. When he was 16 years old, in 1962, he passed the FCC test and got his license.
He said he’s built radios in the past, but today’s radios have parts that are tiny and kits with premise circuit boards. So he just buys his radios already assembled.
Before winter comes, he will put up two more antennas. It takes a whole afternoon to do one.
“I stay pretty busy all the time.”
Hirst has made some good friends using his radios. He said he’s made friends in Wyoming and Idaho as well as others here in Utah.
“I have a good friend from Iceland that came to Logan to visit Campbell Scientific,” Hirst said. “He comes out to see my farm and we visit.”
“I enjoy my four acre antenna farm,” he said. “It works and I like the technical part of it.”
It has become a local point of reference. People trying to find a place in Lewiston ask how close they are to the antenna farm.
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I was also first licensed (Novice) in 1962 at age 16 and fell in love with CW achieving 35 wpm before passing the General. I made my first transmitter from a Zenith B&W TV found in curb trash on way home from school. I was hooked! I sold my first car, a mint 1954 Ford, to buy a Drake 2B with Q-multiplier. Dad said I was insane and “this ham radio thing was just a passing fad”. I am now KW4IQ and dad became WA5RDQ and USAF Mars director until he passed. My mother, 3 brothers, and sister also became licensed. So, every year at the family reunion, I would always walk in the door, point to dads mountain of ham equipment and say “Dad, you know this is only a passing fad – right?” For two years he would talk to me on 14.250 while I was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier (FDR) using the full FIFTY THOUSAND WATTS from the Titan 2 missile silo where he was crew commander. After we signed off, you should have heard all the pinned needle comments from stations around the world that were ‘listening in’.