Funny you should ask ... Tim Gamble

What was your Dad like when you were a child?

I knew him both as an adult and a child. This story will be told by me, as a child, through my inexperienced eyes. I only knew him by what he did, not by what he may or may not have been thinking or feeling. He had five kids with my mother. There was always chaos in the house. I remember he wasn’t around for most of it. He worked for Pratt & Whitney at the airport down the street. He was up and gone by the time we all got up. Mom was left with all the chores and the kids. When I was 7 years old, we moved to Scottsdale. I didn’t see much of him then either.

As the years went by, I began to see more of him and more of what he was about. He was in the Navy during World War II as a radio operator on a submarine. He learned how to use a telegraph key and send and receive Morse code. After the war, he became an amateur radio operator, a HAM, with the call sign W7HXQ. When the atmosphere was just right, 5X5 as he would say, he would talk endlessly to other HAM radio operators around the world. When the signals were too weak, he would switch to the telegraph bug and continue the conversation in Morse code.

I was fascinated by the idea that he could understand the little beeps coming out of the speakers on his desk. He wrote down the Morse alphabet for me and said if I listened hard enough, I could hear the words the beeps were forming. I can honestly say as hard as I tried, it never sunk in.

When I was about 12 years old, we went on a vacation to Yosemite National Park. We camped on the rim above the canyon at Glacier Point. Each evening, some of the park employees would light a giant bonfire and tell stories to the campers gathered at the fire. Eventually, from the canyon floor, some 3,000 feet down, you would hear, “Let the fire fall.” The fire tenders would dump the huge pile of embers over the side of the cliff to the delight of the campers gathered at the bottom. The fire fall would extend the entire 3,000-foot drop. It was a magnificent sight.

After the fire fall, my dad and I leaned on the railing that overlooked the canyon. You could see all the campsites with their campfires and lights. My dad asked me if I had my flashlight with me. I always carried my standard issue Boy Scout crookneck flashlight when we went camping. I said, “Sure, here it is.” He then proceeded to use the side button to flash Morse code into the valley. Pretty soon there was a series of flashes coming back. My dad and whoever it was talked for what seemed to be hours until my flashlight ran out of batteries.

I never knew what my dad was thinking or feeling. It seems he was always talking in code.

The field across from our house where we burned the trees
Nearing sundown in Yosemite Valley

Dave, Terry, Dad, Steve, Me, and Fred - 1956
Dave, Terry, Dad, Steve, Me, and Fred - 1956

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