Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eternal Love and a Ham Radio

EL1F at his radio in Liberia.
EL is the letter code for all Liberian radio and communication stations. A well known example for those familiar with Liberia is the Christian broadcasting station ELWA, who used their letters as an acronym for the following: "Eternal Love Winning Africa". In pre-Internet Liberia we were dependent upon this kind of 'Eternal Love" or EL communications. Amateur Radio operators (Hammers or 'Hams') used these radios to patch through and actually call family back home. My dad was one of these operators and had his own call letters: EL1F (or 'Echo Lima One Foxtrot' as I think I heard him say on numerous occasions).

My dad's QSL card he would send to other 'hammers' trying to get a new country on their contact list. 

Dad's Amateur Radio License from the 70's
One of the things I remember about these patched calls back home was the fact that it was more like a CB than a phone call. You had to say 'over' after each statement and let off the button to wait for a response. The flow of communication was very jilted and didn't flow very well, but we were very happy to hear from our loved ones back in the States. We will be forever grateful to those Ham Radio Operators that willingly called our family on their dime and then patched our transmission through to them. Today I complain about the lag in cell phone calls or the distortion on a Skype call, but all in all it is loads better than 'back in the day'.

Old school Skype, cellphone, and internet
all rolled into one...

Our radio antenna back in the 70's.
There was one very bad thing about having a ham radio though, which we found out in November 1985.  On November 12th Thomas Quiwonkpa attempted a coup-de-etat against his former co-conspirator Samuel K. Doe. This came one month after the rigged elections between Jackson Doe and Samuel Doe and there was a lot of tension in the air. What this meant for us is that Liberian soldiers stormed our property in a truck load (app. 15 - 20 soldiers in one truck!) of fully armed, camo-wearing, uzi toting, unpaid, AFL. They walked into our house (our parents were out at clinic that day) and proceeded to confiscate our ham radio and all the peripheral equipment from my parent's office. Nothing like that to leave a kid feeling unsettled. (As a side note: To our happy surprise all the equipment was returned once Doe felt he was back in control of the Republic.) 

A rig similar to the one Doe's AFL confiscated from our home.

Today's post is dedicated to all you "hams" out there, especially those involved with or who helped us with Liberian Amateur Radio. Many of you provided a great deal of services and help in times of need. It was and is more than just a hobby. Thanks for all your help! Feel free to QSL below and my best 73's (maybe there is a 'DX' in there also or something like that?) Peace out. Over.

My dad's commemorative QSL card with special prefix for Liberia Amateur Radio Week.

Some of my dad's QSL cards sent to him from other ham radio operators that had made contact with us while we were living in Liberia.

A fundraiser put on by the LRAA to help raise funds for the Leprosy Clinic in Ganta. (Putting some 'Love' in the EL)

A LRAA meeting invitation

QSL card for EL2AY - Kamal Hamzi, president of LRAA

Cover of an Echo Lima Newletter 1987
PS - For more information on Liberian communications (and some fairly graphic Liberian history to boot) you can read more in Samuel Watkin's book "Liberian Communication". (I have not read the whole thing and I'm not getting any affiliate monies from this link, just thought what I read of it was pretty interesting and passing it on).

'Bye y'all! Over.'

1 comment:

  1. I am so thrilled by the information. This is so interesting.

    Thank you very much Heath.