I just read an online story about a Cleveland man who has been a ham since World War II and is still going strong. Jack Goldfarb, W8WGO, lives in University Heights, Ohio and has been a licensed amateur radio operator since 1941. He still uses a Morse Code key he has had for 70 years! His story is well worth the read and may be found here.
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Jack Goldfarb is what’s known as an amateur radio operator.
It’s a shame he’s stuck with that descriptive handle for ham radio enthusiasts because, after one has done what he has for so long, the word “pro” should be found somewhere in the title.
Unfortunately, the term “professional” is reserved for the radio you hear while driving in a car, or the television signals seen broadcast from a TV station.
Goldfarb, of University Heights, has been talking on his ham radio since he was 16. It was at that age he studied to pass the test given for one to obtain an amateur radio license.
And, when did he get that license?
“I got my license in April, 1941,” Goldfarb replied. “I went downtown (Cleveland) to the FCC office that was in the old post office building. I still remember Mr. Russ was the FCC radio inspector there.
“I was the only one there that day. I was the only kid there taking the test.”
Now, most certainly one of the worldwide deans of ham radio operators, the 91 year old — he turns 92 later this month — remains dedicated to his hobby.
He’s also not letting time pass him by as Goldfarb is not afraid to take on the latest radio trends.
“It keeps my mind active,” Goldfarb said.
On the second floor of Goldfarb’s home are several pieces of modern radio equipment and two computers. A couple of months ago he took down and sold the 40-foot tower and antenna that had been standing in his back yard the past four decades. The tower allowed Goldfarb to speak with fellow radio operators, or contacts, from Slovenia to Japan.
He got rid of the neighborhood landmark because he now uses his radio, in conjunction with the internet, to speak with people abroad.
“Some people say (critically) that that’s not radio,” he said, “but it is. It is.”
On a desk are three radios, two high frequency and one VHF, or very high frequency. Goldfarb can speak to people in Ohio and Pennsylvania with the three radios, minus the computers.
In order to reach people in the two states, he has rigged his radio room with what’s known as a vertical J-pole antenna. Goldfarb made the antenna, which resembles a wire and was constructed from TV cable.
Goldfarb said one of the biggest differences in ham radio is that participants used to build their own equipment, now they buy most of it.
“They used to razz you back then if you didn’t make it yourself,” he said.
Near his radios is a scanner, from which Goldfarb listens in on police calls from University Heights and South Euclid police.
“They use the same frequency,” he said of the two departments.
Goldfarb, who for decades, until 1984 owned his own industrial electronic parts company in Cleveland and Solon, has long been enamored of things electrical.
“I was always interested in electronics,” he said. “When I was in elementary school I would fool around with telephones, automobile horns and light bulbs. I used to build little kits.They were called Heathkits.”
Those kits led to Goldfarb building his first transmitter.
“I started a radio club in high school, but it only last that one year. When I was gone, it disappeared.”
Goldfarb graduated from Glenville High School and when the Army and World War II came calling, his radio skills put him in demand.
“They put us on a train at the Terminal Tower and took us to Columbus,” he said of himself and his fellow Army recruits in January, 1943. “When we got to Columbus, (Army officers) asked me, ‘What hobbies do you have?’
“When I told them I was a licensed radio operator, they said, ‘We need you, we need you.'”
Goldfarb never saw combat during the war, instead, he taught others to become proficient in operating radios. He and other troops were sent to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. Of that memory, he said, “It took six days to get there and, I’ll admit, I was seasick every day.”
Overseas, he worked teaching Russians radio communications and, two weeks after D-Day in June, 1944, as Allied troops closed in on Berlin, Goldfarb was ordered to set up a phony radio stations to fool the Germans into thinking no advances were being made.
The radios also came in handy after the war.
“My brother, Marvin (now a Beachwood resident) is five years younger than me,” Goldfarb said. “After the war, he was drafted and was in Europe. My parents and I were able to talk with him there.”
A “confirmed bachelor,” Goldfarb has been a presence on ham radio for more than seven decades. He enjoys talking with people from all walks of life.
“There was a dip in the number of amateur radio operators for a while,” he said. “But when they removed the Morse Code part of the testing, more started to get into it again.”
The FCC once required that a license applicant be able to copy 13 words in a minute using Morse Code.
“When I was in the Army, I could do 25,” he said. Deciphering Morse Code was as easy to Goldfarb as listening to English is to most Americans.
He rarely uses it these days, but a wood-based Morse Code tapper, the one he used 70 years ago, still rests by his radios.
On a recent day, Goldfarb demonstrated how he goes about checking the airwaves for contacts. One man, from Medina, talked to Goldfarb, fretting about the new piece of radio equipment he bought, equipment that was not working out as hoped in that he wasn’t finding many people with it with whom to converse.
Goldfarb assured the man that, in time, the equipment would pay off.
“Thanks,” the man said, “I feel a little better about what I bought.”
With his experience, Goldfarb does a lot of such coaching with his contacts. It makes him feel all the better about his hobby. And keeping in touch with others is good for his well being.
“When I’m on the radio, when people ask me how old I am, they don’t believe it,” he said. “My doctor will ask me how I look so young at my age. I tell him, ‘If I knew, I would tell everyone.'”
Whatever the magic potion may be, one ingredient that has always kept Goldfarb in touch with his boyhood self, has been his radio.
Folks like this are inspiring to say the least! Thank you, Jack, for making the hobby a great place to be! 73, Robert