On the ground floor below us a bachelor moved in and only stayed a short time--a year at most and probably not even that long. He was Australian, tall, slim, slightly balding with round tortoise shell glasses. He was in his forties I can see in hindsight but I would have thought him older when I was 12. He looked right out of casting for a WW II movie and what added to his mystery was the fact that he almost never closed his curtains so we could see him whenever he was home sat in front of his HAM radio.
Mom called him "The Spy" so we all did. He was our international man of mystery and led to more than one dinner conversation of what he could possibly be up to. He and mom began to speak and laugh in the hallways and for a while, I think she even went in and had coffee with him once in a while. I wondered if there would be romance but mom had quite given up on that in her life. Still, she didn't hesitate to take over the ironing of his shirts for him. I think she really enjoyed it. Now let me explain. Diana and I put a notice up in our apartment building's mail room claiming we would do odd jobs. Unfortunately, I wound up cleaning a few old ladies' bathrooms for a fiver but The Spy actually called us and asked if we ironed shirts. We said yes but clearly didn't know the first thing about starch and steam so mom said something to the effect "Girls you can't call those shirts done here let me teach you how". We never got a chance to touch the shirts with an iron again-- we were only the pickup and delivery service. It was sad when The Spy moved away.
I had quite forgotten about HAM radios' existence. I even thought with technology at today's level it may be outmoded. Was I wrong. Turns out there is a HAM alive and well and transmitting out of my backyard. When we bought the house we're in we thought we'd take out the tree in our backyard. Then we saw it, rising up above the row of yew against our back fence, a miniature Eiffel Tower of communication. Is that legal we asked? It is. And it turns our lights and ceiling fans on randomly in the middle of the night. But it makes him happy and our tree blocks it so we get on with it. Someday that house will sell and a new owner will take it down because what are the chances it would be a selling point?
My Dad, The Spy, my aging neighbor are or someday will be Silent Keys which is known in the HAM community as a deceased operator. But think of the joy it brought them through the years to hear and be heard all over the world. I will eventually post all of Dad's communications for posterity because they are pretty cool but today I'll start with these:
Mexico, 1951; Pakistan no date given; The Vatican, 1950