Ian Foster VK3ST Amateur radio and Genealogy

Ian Foster

Caulfield South, Victoria,  Australia

Pages last modified 26 May 2023

WIA member (# 943 in 1967) #501343 - 2017

I became interested and indoctrinated into a life of amateur radio during the middle 1950's by an absolute gem of a man called Ken Gillespie. Ken held the call of VK3GK and lived not far from our family home in Centre Road, Clayton (South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne) which made my regular visits to his shack very easy as I would pass his home twice every day on the way to my primary school and once again on the way home. He taught me to use his home brew gear, his converted AWA am and cw Split TX / RX, the Flying Doctor Treadle radio and even how to walk around his shack without standing on a part of one of his many latest uncompleted projects! I even learnt how to not stumble over or into his well ordered library of books spread across the floor. He knew where everything was and could tell when anything had been moved at any time!

Ken has long since passed away however I quite often remember being the wide eyed little boy who was allowed to witness some of the magic that could be done if only a persons mind was set on it. Ken made sure my first steps into amateur radio were positive ones and I have endeavored to follow his example of encouragement and teaching on through the more years than I care to remember in amateur radio. This part of the page is my way of saying thank you to Ken, VK3GK for a lifetime of enjoyable and fulfilling involvement in the varying aspects of a rewarding and a sometimes all consuming jealous hobby.

For those other "Baby Boomers" who had a similar bent around the same era, you will remember the greatest source of ex military stuff that ever existed. "Waltham Dan the Trading Man" in Melbourne was alway the first port of call on any Melbourne city visit. Down the stairs to the basement where a veritable "Alladins Cave" of AR8's, AT5's, 122's #9, field sets phones AR7, KCR11, HRO and so many other goodies that I can still remember drooling over laid there waiting for new and loving owners, some of which eventually with aid from parents and Ken found their way to my workshop which was a converted shipping box for Jaguar motor cars and had been initially turned into a garden shed by my father and later commandeered by me for my fruitful and sometimes dubious enterprises.

I seem to recollect that in those days also that many Police vehicles had AM two way radio control and their main operations frequency was just above the broadcast band allocation where most domestic receivers could tune with a little tweak.
I know ours tuned it in well  and much to my fathers chagrin, the calibration for the ABC (3LO) was now nowhere near where it should have been any more on the screen printed glass dial of his prized piece of furniture!.

Another amateur, Ken ("Snowy") Milbourne, opened a similar store to Walthams in Richmond which then meant that there were at least two places on a must visit list when going to Melbourne. These places are now gone and so has some of the magic that used to be there.
Even when in the early years of secondary school, I used to hanker for the weekend to come or occasionally wag school so I could hop on my pushbike and ride all the way from Clayton into the city so I could haunt Waltham's, Milbourne's, Willis or several of the other companies who had found a ready market for all this booty that is now called junk. 

Now the world of communications is set by black boxes and $$$. Newcomers are seldom encouraged to get in there and get their hands dirty (burnt) and build their own or convert something to a new band or purpose. As amateurs, we have lost something of great value and it has slipped through our collective fingers through laziness, greed and a lack of understanding of where real amateur radio came from and the roots that spawned the original activities and concept of Amateur Radio so many years ago.
No point crying over spilt milk as the ground that is lost is not recoverable and many would say that it should not be even if it could be recovered.

I know I have had the privilege of experiencing amateur radio from the "make it all your self" era through my friend and mentor, Ken Gillespie, VK3GK (SK) through to the "I gotta buy this beaut magic black box" and "where in hell do I go to get it fixed?" era and I am sure that in hindsight, I had more fun with less exotic equipment, more satisfaction and even had time to enjoy spirited discussions  (including non technical subjects) eye to eye or via our now sub standard radio equipment that almost no one wants to own anymore!

Thank you Ken, R.I.P

A memory of interesting note:

During the 1970's following encouragement from Merv Busch VK3LL (SK) and othersI was elected as a Divisional Councillor to the then WIA. Some will remember the time when the WIA almost went "Belly Up" and also when debentures were issued to raise capital from supportive WIA members. The WIA had a well worked surplus supplies store and library in building in Fitzroy and all run by dedicated volunteers.

I lived at Tambo Upper which was about 10 Kms East of Bairnsdale and we (my wife and young child) drove down to the Council meetings in Melbourne once a month and returned in the small hours of the morning to go and milk our cows!. The reason for mentioning this is because of the fun I used to have whilst mobile then.

The car was a "Big Block" (400 cubic inches +) Ford Galaxy that today would  make current petrol station operators jump for glee if they saw it coming. Under the dash was a variety of radios one of which was a SWAN 500CX all valve and 400watts PEP output. The mobile power supply and extra battery to make sure that it would run was all under the bonnet. Transmission was still only possible when the engine was running as even a very short "over" would ensure a long term in a stationary mode through lack of starting power for the big motor! The main bands in use were 40 metres and 80 metres with the antenna being either helix top loaded whips or a Webster Bandspanner. (hey guys, screwdriver antennae are NOT new - the wheel has just been re invented).
When travelling down to Melbourne I used to delight in having a long transmission whilst traveling through built up areas and using the 80 metre whip. It had no corona ball (slight technical oversight! <grin!> ) and when driven to distraction by the Swan 500CX, lightning and and audible cracks were heard and seen coming from the tip of this antenna for quite long distances. Many a time I was pulled over by Police in the city of Sale for questioning on my seemingly "on fire" antenna and asked why that long stick thing hanging off the boot of the car sounded like it was talking!!!!.

The shack now:

Now running primarily Icom equipment consisting of IC7850 into a Highgain vertical and alternatively an EFLW fed by an auto tuner when required. MFJ auto tuner on the HighGain vertical just to ensure a good match in less than ideal circumstances and area considerations. The main transceiver for VHF and above is currently an Icom 9700.

For 2m and above I use Beko HLV 1400, HLV1470 & HLV523 amps via the IC9700 to side by side yagis on an az-el system for 2m, 70cm & 23cm. For local use several tri band verticals including a Diamond tri band 7000 vertical are the main stay.

Curently a pair of M2 yagis (2m & 70cm)  is mounted on an AZ-EL Yaesu system and supported on a pneumatic mast. This pair was going to be switchable for vertical, horizontal, RHC and LHC and while this is the aim, the efficient operation of switching and real need verses actual operational interest are still yet to be evaluated against the effort required to put into full operation. Just one of the many projects that seem to be never ending! Having run out of time on this project, the yagi pair have been left as horizontal polarization only and installed together with 23cm yagi and Diamond duo band vertical.

My recent additions include a long sought after IC-R9500 fitted with the P25 module and my prize, the Icom 7850 Anniversary #082 / 150.

For general receiving, I also use an Icom R2500 with P25 and fitted together with several SDR receiving systems.

The man cave sees an IC9100 with Dstar and a Discone along with sundry test equipment including my IFR1900 system

In the melting pot is a Pactor system using an SCS P4 Dragon & an SCS PTC-IIpro to a pair of Icom IC 7000 radios to provide data transfer on HF and VHF as a linking repeater system totally dependant of the internet.

Now in the car I have the IC5100 once again with Dstar and a Diamond multi vertical on the rear boot lip.

First picture below is the radio room where we now live in Caulfield South and after  almost a lifetime of moving around, our home is just a stones throw from where I was born.




Above and on the left hand side is a picture of the general workshop and on the right, one of five towers used at a previous property in the foothills N/E of Bairnsdale overlooking the Gippsland lakes.

Picture taken shortly after all cables, coax and antennae were stripped with significant help from Michael, VK3ZQV prior to dropping & dismantling and our move further West into Traralgon, Gippsland during October 2003.

A move from an area of RF Antennae and noise Heaven into semi suburban limitations & restrictions long ago forgotten that apply to most and now applied to me also! <bugger!>

Previous call signs held & used in Australia



Plus several operations "Portable" in U.S.A, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Europe

Previously, W.I.A Exam Invigilator # A 879  Accredited Examiner & W.I.C.E.N  Trainer - now not current although WIA membership has been renewed after many years of absence.

Working from memory is somewhat dangerous these days, I have tried to put together  list of some of the HF transceivers that I have had and used. The list does not include the numerous homebrew transmitters and receivers that I have built nor does it include equipment above 30MHz or conversions of commercial equipment that at one stage were done in great quantity from days when I used to work at Pye Pty Ltd. and had access to all used and traded in equipment!.
That latter period when I lived at Oakleigh South and then Centre Road, Clayton using a Meat truck body as a shack and workshop is where the semi commercial activity by the nefarious pirate, Black Pete lead to many adventures of cat and mouse games, dubious fox hunts, chases and loads of fun as copious quantities of ex commercial gear found its way into new and caring hands.

In those days (mid 1960's) 11metres was still in the amateur band and despite the pirating activities, many friends (as well as enemies) were made on both sides of the divide. Many a Pye Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Premier, Cambridge, Bantams, Vintens, AWA and STC units were all converted and put into another useful life for loving and adventurous owner operators.

My last locations prior to moving to Gippsland was Tremont in the Dandenongs and then to Wantirna South and all the while maintaining enthusiastic radio operations.

AR8 / AT5, HRO + HB transmitter with Geloso VFO, HRO, KCR11 (Kingsley), AWA (Half Moon dial) pair, National NCX3, National NCX5, Hammerlund ???, Star ???, Heathkit SB220?, Panasky 10 - 11m, Collins "S" twins, Trio (now Kenwood) twins ???, ACI Acitron 400, Swan 300, Swan 500CX, Yaesu FT200, FT400 / FRDX400, FT401B, FT7B, FT301, FT101D, R.L.Drake 4 series TX / RX twins, Drake TR7 full line up , Yaesu FT100D and Icom 756 then 756 ProIII. this is just a think list and I am sure that I have missed several along the way. I have not included much of the ex military equipment as the list would then occupy many pages although I must mention that I still sport an RF burn scar on my lower left leg where I came too close to a B53 radar feed at one time!

At one stage while working for Radio Corporation in Grant Street, South Melbourne as Chief Design Engineer and Manager of the Specialty Projects Division, I had the luck to be asked by Sir Arthur Warner to resurrect the ancient Marconi transceiver that was to be re installed on the large sailing vessel that the Warner family owned. The sailing ship was later used as an active real life training vessel and sadly later was lost in Bass Straight during one of the storms in a yachting race.

Hit the link below to the "A good BBQ" and see if there are any faces you recognise.








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