The Amateur Amateur: Halloween in Ham Town

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
October 2018

Pumpkin with AAA batteries
Batteries instead of candy

"Treat or Treat!"

The man standing at the door gives me a puzzled smile and drops something into my bag. I thank him and move on to the next house. Halfway there, I take a quick peek to see what he gave me.

Candy! Yes!

Bleep. "What did you get, son?"

"Just some candy, Dad," I say into my shoulder microphone.

Bleep. "Come on back to the car. This neighborhood is a waste of time."

"Let me try one more house," I say. Then add in my little-boy voice, "Please?"

Bleep. "Okay. But make it quick."

"Thanks, Dad," I say, running to the next house.

"Trick or Treat!"

"Um, that's... an interesting costume. What are you supposed to be?" the lady who answers the door asks.

"I'm an 807 electronic vacuum tube," I say.

"Oh! I see. Well, here you go!" she says, putting a candy cane into my bag.


"AA batteries," I say, before my dad can quiz me. That's a safe reply, as there are dozens of batteries already in my bag. And I didn't exactly lie to him, as I said it before he actually asked a question.

The people at the next house also give me candy, and I figure I'd better not press my luck any more.

"Just candy, Dad, I'm coming back to the car," I report.

The car is just a few yards away, as Dad has been pacing me with it house by house. Communicating with me by radio is overkill, in my opinion, but I'd never say that aloud. I climb into Dad's SUV, which is no easy task in this costume. Vacuum tubes don't flex very much, and my parents made it as authentic as possible.

Pumpkin with hand held radio
Staying in touch while the kid goes Trick or Treating

Dad is on another radio telling Mom that we are going over to Marconi Court. She rogers his transmission and we head out, leaving candy-laden Hamiltonian Drive behind. I sigh. I like having an Amateur Radio license, don't get me wrong. But, a ten-year-old boy has other interests as well. And tonight, scoring as much candy as possible is way high on my list. Why can't Mom and Dad understand that?

"Don't worry, Hiram, we'll do a lot better on Marconi. You'll see," Dad says, completely misinterpreting my frown.

We reach our destination and I suppress a groan. There are antennas on every house and every visible car. "Go get 'em, Tiger!" my dad says gleefully, as he pulls over and stops.

I struggle out of the SUV, straighten my costume, and do the mandatory radio check. Surely normal kids don't have to go through this, I ponder as I walk toward the first house on Marconi Drive. Reaching it, I ring the doorbell.

"Trick or Treat!"

"A Beer Bottle!" the man in the doorway chortles.

"No, sir, I'm an 807..."

"Yes, yes, but they were affectionately known as beer bottles!" the man interrupts. "Happy Halloween!"

He drops something into my bag, laughs again, and closes the door.

Great. Now I'm a beer bottle, I think.

Bleep. "How'd you do?"

I look into my bag.

"I got USB Type A to USB micro adapter," I reply.

Bleep. "USB 2.0 or USB 3.0?"

What does it matter? I can't eat it! I want to shout. Instead, I study the cable and say, "Umm, looks like a 3.0."

Bleep. "Great! I think we hit the jackpot here!"

Maybe you hit the jackpot, but I'd still prefer to have something loaded with sugar.

I shake off the naughty thought and move on to the next house.

"Trick or Treat!"

Bear with hand held radio
Starving for some candy

I hit every house on Marconi Court and don't get a single piece of candy. Dad's parts bin, however, has done spectacularly. He should have gone door-to-door instead of me, I think, and flush because that's the sort of thing an ungrateful child would say.

Still, I'm getting really tired of being identified as a beer bottle.

"Come on," Dad says impatiently, as I get into the car. "We'll try Hightower Trail!"

A few minutes later we arrive, and my heart sinks even lower. Once again, every house sports at least one antenna on the roof. I can't imagine what Santa does when he encounters all of those metal protrusions. As I get out of the car I see another SUV with numerous antennas on it.

"Hey, it looks like the Maxims," Dad says. He shuts off the engine and gets out of the car with me. Together we walk toward the Maxims' vehicle.


"Todd! How are you, old man!"

"Hey, Percy," I say.

My friend Percy, dressed as a dual band hand held, looks as miserable as I feel.

"How's it goin', Hiram?" Percy asks.

"Great," I say, "just great."

Percy glances over his shoulder. Our dad's are chatting amiably with each other.

"Hey, Pop, Hiram and I are going to start at the other end of the street and work our way back," Percy hollers.

Paul, Percy's dad, waves an acknowledgment without looking at us.

Percy and I start walking down Hightower Trail.

"No candy, huh?" Percy correctly guesses.

"A little, but Dad immediately yanks me from those streets and drags me to one like this."

"Same here," says Percy. "At least you don't have to detach your costume antenna every time you get into the car."

"That's nothing. Earlier this evening I saw Philo. He was dressed as a Morse key."

"That doesn't sound too bad," Percy replies.

"The people at every house tried patting out a message on his head."


"One guy did it at 30 words per minute. Philo started crying and went home."

Percy stops and takes a furtive look back at our parents.

They are deep in conversation and don't notice us.

"Want to skip this street?" Percy whispers.

"What!? How?"

"Let's just cut through one of these yards and go over to Sweetgum Lane."

My heart starts pounding. I glance toward Dad and Paul, who still aren't paying any attention to us.

"Yeah," I whisper back, and we quickly head toward the nearest gap between houses.

* * *

At last! Some real goodies!

Thirty minutes later, our bags comfortably padded with real goodies, Percy and I sneak back onto Hightower Trail. We casually walk toward our dads, who apparently never noticed our absence.

"Oh, hi kids. How'd you do, Hiram?" Dad asks.

"Terrible," I say. "All of the residents were working Halloween special event stations and wouldn't answer the door."

Percy nods somberly as I say this.

"Oh, that's awful! Don't these people understand the true meaning of Halloween!?" Dad exclaims.

Percy snorts, and I give him a surreptitious nudge.

"Don't get upset, Percy," his dad says. "Tell you what, why don't I take you to the ice cream parlor as compensation?"

"Well...., okay," Percy mumbles, trying not to tremble with excitement.

"You guys want to come with us?" Paul asks my dad.

"That okay with you?" Dad says to me.

"Sure, why not?"

It's turning out to be a great Halloween after all.

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