Ham Radio Elmers and Why I Never Wanted to Be One.
According to the internet a Ham Radio “Elmer” is: someone who personally guides and tutors a new ham, both before and after earning a license. It doesn’t refer to anyone in particular, just the more experienced hams who help newcomers. Using the word “Elmer” to mean “mentor” is unique to ham radio. Rick Lindquist, WW1ME traces the origin of the term to the March 1971 issue of QST magazine; the term appeared in a “How’s DX” column by Rod Newkirk, W9BRD. Rod’s mentor was a ham named Elmer and Rod thought every new ham should have an Elmer of their own. The name stuck and since then, “Elmering” has meant “helping. 

Source: Ham Radio License Manual, 4th edition

I’ve had “Elmers” since coming into the hobby in 2011. W4NTO (sk), WA4GIB (sk), K8HID, N9LPT and K4XP are just a few of the local men who’ve helped me along the way. I could generate a list from the online ‘Elmers’ I’ve had as well. There’s been so many of you, thank you!

Being recognized as an ‘Elmer’ is a badge of honor for most hams, but it’s a title I’ve never aspired to obtain. Though I’ve spent over a decade in the hobby, I’ve not really given it much thought and deep down inside I had no desire to be labeled as such. It wasn’t until earlier today, when I received the package shown above that I decided to get honest with myself and come to terms with the “why”.

My Maternal Great-Grandfather was named Elmer, but I only really knew him by his last name. I don’t have many memories of him minus a few that fade in and out when I think really hard. He wasn’t around much that I recall, in large part because of some terrible choices he’d made in the years before my birth. Those choices have rippled through our family history and it wasn’t until I was a young man that I was told most of the story. Honestly, until then he was virtually an apparition, almost legend. I’ll spare you the details but it was as horrific as one could imagine, maybe worse.

As teenagers we were told that some in my family were alcoholics and drug addicts because they had inherited his bad behavior and tendencies. That it was “just how it was going to be”. Like an arrow those words stuck in my heart and I decided to do everything in my power not to become another Elmer, until this morning when I received the package from my friend & new ham radio operator Deric (KO6EJV)

As I read the address label all of this came into focus. I had, unknowingly, been running from his name all these years. It was a deep rooted fear of becoming something that I never wanted to be and a soul freeing realization that I hadn’t. Elmer was the name of my Great-Grandfather. A broken man in need of a savior who has long since passed into eternity. A man that I regard, with compassion when I see the photograph of him holding a new-born me; smiling at a little guy who would someday become the best of him (his name), even though I’d tried for so long not to. A man who had played a major part in making sure I was here to build a legacy myself; a new legacy, without the chains that bound him.

Looking back; writing that has to be one of the most ironic things I’ve ever typed. You see, the only item I have that belonged to Elmer is an old Craftsman toolbox, a flip-top metal one made in USA. From the day I brought that tool box to the farm I’ve only ever used it to store my tractor chains. Heavy-duty chains we use to bind and tow things are too heavy to move without serious mechanical assistance. Chains, just like those that bound Elmer, far too heavy to move on his on and those that kept him till he passed.

So this afternoon, I opened the toolbox and dumped them all out, just for me, as a reminder that I’m not bound by anything other that what I choose. Instead of hurt and unforgiveness I choose love and salvation. Instead of misunderstanding and death, I choose son-ship and life. And at the very end of it all; I choose to be your Elmer, Deric. You unknowingly helped me realize it was just a preconceived notion that haunted me all these years. In actuality it's more than just a name, it’s a title and absolute honor. Thank you for helping set me free!

Elmer's tool box

You can find Deric's amazing hand-made whip antennas in the Exclusive Prep Comms Beige in our store here.
For more colors and accessories visit his store here: ZBM2 Industries.

To learn more about the power of forgiveness visit our friends Bruce and Toni @ Forgiving Forward

Cale(b) is an author, speaker, longtime stay at home dad and small business owner. He and his wife of over 25 years, Carla, have 5 beautiful children and 2 Goldendoodles. Caleb is a FM Radio veteran and licensed Amateur Radio Operator (K4CDN). In the days before kids and radio, he spent nearly a decade in the Professional Fire Service as an Engineer and EMT. Caleb’s heart to serve and to teach shines in his work, whether on the page or over the air.