It was quarter-to-one Sunday morning when I got up to go to the De Kalb Radio Club’s hamfest in Sandwich, Illinois. I barely had time to shave, dress, and make enough coffee to fill both a big reused Kwik-Trip cup and one of the larger vacuum bottles before it was time to toss my packs in the car and leave.

Getting to the Interstate via tertiary and secondary roads in country darkness was the slowest part of the journey; once on the Big Highway the speed picked up. The Dells. Madison. Rest stop near Stoughton. State line, then take I-39 at the fork. Finally the exit for Paw Paw, and the final leg. Arrived at the fairgrounds about 6:30, bought my ticket, and parked. My old friend JK preceded me by a few minutes, and had brought more coffee, and donuts!

This year a total lack of preparation meant I had nothing to sell, so it was pretty much a day of shopping for me. Pickings were slim on the first pass; not many people had arrived and set up yet, but a shoebox of huge old-style high voltage mica transmitting capacitors and a couple of spool-ends of wire from a “Free!” pile were the first items to go into the car. Keys and paddles were everywhere, going for premium prices; notable were an Autronic paddle (made for what I think was the first electronic keyer, or one of the first anyway), and a couple of Brown Brothers items, a set of paddles and one of those very cool paddle-and-straight-key combos that they pioneered. Lots of those old generic cast brass based straight keys, at a minimum of $25, with some older, better ones (Signal, E. F. Johnson) mixed in without differentiation. The standard J-38 was usually $40. None of them were able to attract money out of my pocket.

Probably my coolest buy of the day was a Millen 90651 grid dip meter with a full set of the standard plug-in coils in the original Millen logo storage box; it also had the original manual ! More about this later.

In the 9:00 drawing I won a free ticket to the hamfest in Mendota, early next month!

What else? Bags of giant zip-ties; a small microscope; a nice pair of Lindstrom flush-cutters; an (HP) addition to my fleet of elderly laptops for $10; surely there was more but really, I can’t remember ever spending less money at a hamfest in my life!

Some people were already packing up at 11, but we stayed talking until the final drawing at noon and then wrapped up and left on our separate ways; by that time the fairgrounds were almost empty.

The return trip home was uneventful, and unloading was easy for once! No boat anchors were purchased!

Thanks for visiting driftlessqrp!






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