Friday, January 14, 2022

Visiting Barry Goldwater

Remember Barry Goldwater, K7UGA? Yes, that Barry Goldwater, the senator who ran for president against Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Barry was a ham operator.

When I was a kid in 1964, when Goldwater ran for president, my high school friend Jeff and I took the afternoon off from school and went to the local W.T.Grants store parking lot and watched him speak during a campaign sweep through Warminster, PA. I was thrilled. Of course, all my other ham buddies were there to cheer him on. There wasn't a teenaged ham who wasn't for Barry.

In 1987 I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where I spent a couple of years before moving on to smaller digs. Now, many know that Goldwater was from Arizona, and specifically from Phoenix. I remembered one time when I was a kid seeing a picture of his house in QST magazine. It was the perfect DX location, high on a mountain overlooking the city, with a huge antenna array on a tall tower. Barry was quite active in the amateur MARS operation too and ran many phone patches for GIs overseas, especially during the Vietnam era. I decided it shouldn't be too hard to find that house, if he was still in the same one.

So, one day I was running around in my car and found myself in north Phoenix. Now in north Phoenix, there are several little conical shaped mountains. Understand too that there was housing all around them, even on the tops of these things. So, I started looking around. Sure enough, on the highest one right off of Lincoln Ave. stood a huge antenna tower and array. Something came over me and I thought - what the hell - I'll drive up there and see what happens. So I did.

I snaked up this road, past lesser housing, and found myself at the top of this small mountain at the entrance to a large, gated property and 1950s style house. There in front of me was the huge antenna array. I just knew this had to be Goldwater's house. The gate was open, so....

I drove in and parked by the garage, which was separate from the house, but connected through a covered walkway. Well, I had come this far and not gotten arrested, so I walked up to the front door and knocked. An elderly woman came to the door. In my most innocent voice, I identified myself, told her I was a ham, and asked if Mr. Goldwater was in. She replied she was the housekeeper and that no, Mr. Goldwater was in Washington on business. She then asked me if I would like to see the station!!! I about wet my pants, and of course I said YES!!! She took me into the garage, which Barry had remodeled into a first-class ham station, all in cherry wood paneling. The entire thing was expensive Collins equipment. All of it!!!! All set into a custom-made desk/wall in the middle of the room. On the outer walls were dozens of 8x10 pictures of Barry with every leader of the world you can think of, from Nikita Khrushchev of the USSR, King Hussein of Jordan, to Kennedy, to Nixon, and Eisenhower on down. In front of the huge radio desk/wall was a giant coffee table with a glass cover. In that coffee table were keys to the cities of the world. There had to have been two dozen of them in there. What an experience!

The housekeeper let me wander around and look at everything. When I was done, I said thank you and goodbye and drove back down the mountain, flying about 100 feet off the road. I had been to Barry Goldwater's house and had been given the tour!!

Thought you might like this story. People have told me that it took balls to do that. But to me it seemed like one ham visiting another. I'm sure if Barry had been home, he would have given me the tour, just the same. Hams are like that.


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