"Elizabeth King started a new career this week as she arrived here from Vancouver, B.C. to check over new radio equipment being installed aboard the Norwegian cargo ship MS VITO", so reported the San Pedro Daily News on February 18th, 1947.
For me, this was the first step in an adventure that I had planned and hoped for since I graduated from Sprott Shaw Radio School in Vancouver with a Certificate of Proficiency in Radio - Second Class. My life to this point had been a travelling one. By the time I finished my Senior Matric, I had attended thirteen schools, lived in four countries and had sailed through the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean and crossed the Pacific seven times.
Where the idea of becoming a radio operator came from during that last year of school she didn't know, but it was war time and Elizabeth had one sister in the RCAF WD and her other sister was married to a seaman in the Canadian Navy who was on corvettes in the North Atlantic.
During World War II at least nine Canadian YLs sailed as radio operators aboard Norwegian ships on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and in the Mediterranean.
Elizabeth was determined to join their ranks. An opportunity became available soon after she earned her licence but unfortunately her parents didn't think much of the idea. Understandably, they were not enthusiastic about seeing their daughter sail away on an oil tanker headed for the South Pacific war zone. However, Alice House and Ola McLean jumped at the chance and signed on the tanker Kaptein Worsoe as second and third operators.
Elizabeth put her plans on hold and took a job with the Canadian government for three years. Working as both a coast station operator at VAI and an interceptor operator. For the latter work she had to learn Kata Kana, Japanese radio code.
After VE day all the female operators were released and along with a few others Elizabeth took a job with the Department of National Defence at their special Wireless Station just outside Victoria. Some time later word reached them in Victoria that a position was open for a radio operator on a Norwegian ship sailing from San Francisco. The big question became 'who would apply'? So Elizabeth cut the cards with her apartment mate, Norma Gozez and won!
She immediately resigned her job at the station, headed over to Vancouver to acquire the necessary papers, and then off she flew to San Francisco to join the MS Vito, her first home at sea. When Vite left San Francisco they sailed south to San Pedro, California for dry-docking and, joy of joys, a radio shack full of new equipment. The ship loaded cargo up and down the West Coast and last, but not least, took aboard a deck cargo of pigs destined for Manila.
Elizabeth stayed two years on Vito before signing off in Vancouver and then, after a short visit to England, joined the MS Skauvann in Seattle.
Those four exciting years at sea were filled with new friends, and fascinating ports of call - China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and the West Coast of Canada and the United States.
All of the trips were wonderful ones but she feels that the first trip was the most memorable simply because it was the first.
Soon after boarding Vite Elizabeth was informed by the Captain that her duties would include signing the crew on and off, as well as being his secretary. She also was to accompany the crew to the Immigration Office, the Norwegian Consulate and to the doctor or hospital - if needs be. In addition,
Elizabeth also had to polish brass on the bridge and take a turn at steering the ship. The latter job she did not enjoy nor was she very good at it - possibly on purpose! Whenever crew was missing and the ship was about to depart, one of her duties was to go looking for them along the waterfront and get them back on board as soon as possible.
Radio duties were not taxing. An occasional message to the ship's agent in the next port of call, transmitting and receiving messages for officers and crew with their families in Norway, especially at Christmas time, copying the news and weather and getting time checks. The most time consuming job was making out the wage sheets and trying to write letters in Norwegian.
There were sad moments and happy moments.
Sad when two crewmembers were lost to wood alcohol which they started drinking after leaving Cebu in the Philippines. Both were dead when the ship arrived in Shanghai. Happy when the Captain's wife joined us for a few trips and the Chief Engineer's fiancee flew out from Norway and we had a wedding to celebrate. Both Vito and Skauvann had accommodation for a limited number of passengers so it was always fun on leaving the last port before heading across the pacific, either east or west, to meet, and get to know these guest passengers. Many of them became good friends and frequently Elizabeth was invited to their homes when the ship returned to their part of the world.
Exciting new chapter in Elizabeth's life!
When Elizabeth signed off Skauvann in early 1951, it marked the beginning of another exciting chapter in her life. While working at VAI, she met Reg Anderson at the University Outdoor Club cabin on Grouse Mountain. He had rescued her from a snow bank when she was trying to ski and for the first time in his life, and the last, he carried someone else's skis down the mountain! Reg was at that time attending UBC, studying to become a Chemical Engineer. In 1951 he was employed by Shell Oil in Sumatra and in August of that year Elizabeth flew to Singapore to meet him and get married. Their Shell lives took them from Sumatra to Venezuela (where their two children Arleen and Ernie, were born), Holland, Curacao and then back to Canada in 1967. They spent one year in Toronto then moved on to Calgary.
It was not until 1971 that Elizabeth became involved with radio again - this time Amateur Radio. Reg had a friend in Calgary who was an amateur and she went to his shack to listen and try her CW again. She was a bit rusty but delighted to discover that she hadn't forgotten Morse Code. How lovely it sounded - and Elizabeth was hooked! Reg presented her with a FT-101 and a 14AVQ for Christmas 1971 and she applied for and got the call VE6ALE.
Early in 1972, Shell moved Reg yet again; this time to Iran. Elizabeth remained in Calgary to see the children through their school year then sold the house, in a down market, packed up the family, including the dog, shut down VE6ALE on June 17th, and flew off on an indefinite tour abroad. The children were enrolled in private schools in Vancouver but spent that first summer in Iran with them.
Shortly after they settled in Abadan, she and Reg applied for and received their EP2 calls. Being licensed as EP2EA and EP2RS did not imply that they had permission to bring the radio equipment into the country. That permission was not granted until January 1974, and on February 21st that year EP2EA and EP2RS were on the air. Elizabeth said EP2EA and EP2RS but Reg was never active as a ham. He claimed she never left the shack long enough for him to operate! He was a whiz with antennas! With the help of their cook Shahan, Reg installed the 14AVQ atop the mud roof of their house. Fortunately it was winter, and the temperatures were reasonably cool. Later, when the Mosley beam was erected, it was 125 degrees in the shade. Though EP stations were not that rare it was great fun being a 'wanted' call and she still can remember working VE8OO and VE8NN Frank and Diana (VE7XYL) on May 16th 1975 - her first Canadian YL contact. EP2EA went QRT on August 21st 1976
They subsequently moved to the Netherlands where Elizabeth became PA9ELA and VE7BIP/PA. A year later, it was pack up and move again - this time to Jakarta, Indonesia.
YB0ADT came on air on October 3rd 1978. She was still working CW only when she got her Indonesian callsign, and it was one of the local Jakarta amateurs who finally persuaded Elizabeth to try another mode SSB. What fun!
Elizabeth was persuaded to try SSB, found more YLs and the "Natter Net" was born.
This new mode enabled Elizabeth to meet often with other YLs. Having a chat with VK2HD/Heather, VK6YL/Gill, VK6YF/Poppy, Diana/G4EZI, Hisako/JJ1LQI, VE7CBK/Bobby, DU6OCC/Olivia, VE7CIX/Rae and many others became a part of her daily routine.
In early 1980, Reg and Elizabeth visited Japan and she was able to meet Hisako and her daughter. A couple of months later, enroute to Vancouver, they stopped at Curacao and stayed at a motel run by PJ9EE, Chet Brandon, and she was able to operate his club station - PJ2CC for two weeks. It was wonderful being on that lovely island again!
As Reg's retirement date grew nearer, Elizabeth was frantically trying to earn her CLARA DXCC YL Certificate. With only a few more countries to log, it seemed to be getting more and more difficult. However, with the help of the YLs on the Natter Net, who scouted the bands for YL voices and reported back to her as quickly as possible when a new and wanted YL was heard, she managed to work 101 YL countries and got her certificate. That certificate was the work of many YLs.
The on-air friendships grew and in October 1980, when Reg retired, they took a trip to Australia and New Zealand to meet amateurs, especially the YLs from the Natter Net. While living in Jakarta, Reg and Elizabeth attended two South East Asia (SEA) Net conventions - Penang/9M2SEA in 1978 and Manila/4D1SEA in 1980.
Since returning home to Vancouver, ham radio has been a very important part of Elizabeth's life. Reg became a SK in 1990 and since that time she has been to Sweden to a YL conference, met G4EZI, a member of the Natter Net, gone on two YL DXpeditions with the late Mary Lou Brown/NM8N - to the British Virgin Islands and Grenada and then to St. Pierre and Miquelon. Elizabeth became QSL manager for both those DXpeditions as well as one Mary Lou made to Wallis and Fiji. She became involved with the Canadian Islands program and with the help of members of the Richmond Amateur Radio Club activated 33 islands around Vancouver and in the Fraser River.
Elizabeth still chases YL countries adding number 237 when she exchanged signal reports with Nellie/XE1CI operating from Palestine in April of this year 2000. Elizabeth has her ARRL DXCC Honor Roll with 330 current countries worked and, fingers crossed, trust that the recent Yemen DXpedition was a good one and that SHE IS in the log for a 20M CW contact!
Then there is the elusive North Korea yet to be worked!
The Natter Net has been replaced by a group (all OMs), mostly on the West Coast, but some in VE3-land, who chase IOTA (Islands On The Air).
Her next trip is to New Zealand in late September for the International YL2000 Conference in Hamilton, followed by a one week YL DXpedition on Norfolk Island where two stations will be on the air with the call AX9YL, and then it's Queensland for a couple of weeks. Her VK call will be VK4AYL. One of Elizabeth's two children has her ham licence - Arleen is VA7YL - not too active but she will be when the children don't need quite so much of her time.
Elizabeth ended with,
"What can I say about ham radio that you don't already know? It is a wonderful hobby no matter which part of it you pursue. Enjoy it YLs - make yourself heard!"
Written by: Elizabeth Anderson VE7YL, Richmond, B.C., Canada