Memorial Page for
Ted Ryan, WB6JXY
Beloved Amateur Radio Teacher
John Burroughs Junior High School, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Born - March 17, 1920. Silent Key (passed away) - Dec. 27, 2005
By Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C
Alumnus, Former Teaching Assistant
Past President, John Burroughs Junior High School Amateur Radio Club, W6TDM
President, Ted Ryan Memorial Amateur Radio Club, WB6JXY
Ted Ryan, WB6JXY, was the Electric Shop Teacher at John Burroughs Junior High School ("JB") in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (now called John Burroughs Middle School) from 1969 to 1982 (see photo page). He pioneered the teaching of amateur radio in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). He licensed thousands of people for three-and-a-half decades of teaching ham radio. He was one of the most prolific ham radio teachers in the history of the hobby.
Mr. Ryan was a very kind man. He liked to be called "grampa." He often told his students he loved them - "I love you sweet heart." "Grampa loves you." …and when we were naughty he called us “fathead.”
Mr. Ryan was tirelessly devoted to his students. He came early to school, driving his cream colored Ford Mustang II with his ham license plates "WB6JXY," and stayed late. He insisted that we also come early to school and stay afterwards for code practice and tutoring so we could pass our Federal Communications Commission (FCC) examinations. Over the years Ted no-doubt sent 100,000s, perhaps more, of hours of code practice to his students using his own fist – using a WWII surplus J-38 straight key.
He also had us over to his house in
When he was not with us he was often fixing old junk radios people gave him or ones he picked up at electronic surplus stores. He restored these radios and gave them to his less fortunate students who could not afford rigs. He often took these radios of school and let us work on them; giving us a chance to learn a great deal about electronics in the process. He was committed to not only getting us a license but also to get us on-the-air.
Mr. Ryan was born as Theodore Winston Ryan, on March 17, 1920 (St. Patrick’s Day) in
Ted served in World War II in
He studied at the
Starting Off in Ham Radio.
Ted and his son Roger Ryan saw a newspaper ad for a free amateur radio licensing class. The class was sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Amateur Club, (SFVARC) W6SD and took place at Robert Fulton Jr. High School in
Together Ted and Roger they got on-the-air first time in April 1964. In November 1964, Ted and Roger took the General class licenses at a class sponsored by the Lockheed Employee Radio Club, W6LS. Their General class teacher was Bill Welsh, WA6VTM (formerly W1SAD, later-W6DDB), then one of the biggest ham teachers in the country. Ted’s passed his General theory (“old” element 3) but not the 13 word per minute Morse code requirement. In this period, the General and Technician licenses had the same theory test. Ted earned the Technician license and the call sign was WB6JXY.
Ted and Roger went to their first field day with SFVARC, W6SD. Mr. Ryan's hard work for the club helped the club grow to one of the largest clubs in the country. Ted helped broaden the club from the club dominated by hams only interested in 2 meters AM to a general purpose club in which all where welcomed. He was later honored by the club and elected to life membership (a sort of hall of fame).
Bob Thomas, K6UGC retired and moved to
The brilliance of Ted’s enthusiasm enabled him to quickly rival Bill Welsh, W6DBB in popularity. Both Bill and Ted were very successful! They both taught in LA which has the highest concentration of hams in the world. Bill’s club charged a nominal fee for ham classes. Ted never charged a fee. If there were expenses, Ted paid them himself. At JB the classes were part of free public education. He drew a salary for teaching electric shop, ham radio and computer science. Before, during and after JB, Ted taught free classes at the San Fernando Valley Amateur Club. After his medical retirement, he taught for free at the Red Cross. No matter where he was in his teaching career, Ted always had students come over to his modest track home in Panorama City for free tutoring on Saturday mornings. If someone wanted to learn he as willing to make time to teach them for free. Ted’s popularity helped SFVARC grow. Having a ham licensing class is essential in helping a club grow.
It was suggested to Ted that he become a full-time teacher. He spent his paid teaching career at JB from 1969 to 1982. He taught not only ham radio but electric shop. He introduced computer science into the course offerings at JB in the mid-1970s. Even with this day job, Mr. Ryan continued to teach for free at night at the San Fernando Valley Amateur Club, W6SD, from 1965 to 2000. He offered both Novice and General classes.
Starting-up at JB
Mr. Ryan arrived at JB in the fall of 1969 to teach electric shop. Previously there had not been an electric shop. Ted had the opportunity to start an electric shop program from the ground up. With the support of the science teacher, Chester William “Bill” Harris, WA6KUR, they incorporated a ham radio program into electric shop. Bill was married to another teacher, Mary Harris, who taught English and held the call WA6KSU. Mr. Ryan could teach classes but was not authorized to give the Novice licensing examination since he only had a Technician license. One had to be a General or higher class, and 18 years or older to give an examination. Mr. Ryan taught code and Mr. Harris taught the theory and gave the exams. Not long after this, Bill’s key went silent.
Ted inspired his kids and they inspired him too! Passing the 13 words per minute Morse code requirement of the General class license eluded Ted. When his Novices got on the air they all wanted to talk to Ted over ham radio. Talking to his kids on the air (QSO) using Morse code helped Ted improve his code speed. Soon afterwards, Ted passed 13 words per minute as he was teaching his first Novice class at JB. Not long after that, Ted upgraded to Advanced. Ted did not see an advantage in upgrading to Extra since in the 1960s to 1990s, Extras did not have significantly more privileges than Advanced.
Ted set up a well equipped electric shop. We had the ability to make our own chassis. We could cut and bend metal without going to the metal shop. We even had our own spot welder. We had two lathes that we used to make dowels and wind coils.
Ted made a contribution to literacy using amateur radio teletype (RTTY) to help kids learn to read, type, write and spell. There were two methods he developed. In the off-the-air method, one learner would be in one room and another in another room. Ted rigged up a teletype for each of them. They would communicate via teletype. The second method was to get the students on the air on amateur radio. This gave an added factor of making contact with a stranger in a far away place; sometimes in other countries.
First Class and Starting the Club at JB.
Initially there was no station or club. The first Novice class which was held in the Summer of 1970. Summer school consisted to 2 periods. Bill Harris taught one class and then the kids went to Ted’s class. The first group got a very good education. They helped Ted build equipment, set up the station and raise antennas.
The Principal was very supportive of ham radio. He addressed the first licensing class and told them he wanted all of them to get their license. About half of the 60 of so kids did.
It was not until the second year, 1970-1971, Mr. Ryan was there that the amateur radio club was formed. He had to get approval from the Principal, get students to join and get a club license from the FCC.
Mr. Ryan was the Faculty Advisor to the John Burroughs Junior High School Amateur Radio Club, W6TDM. As the Club President from about late-1974 to June 1976, I worked very closely with Mr. Ryan. We had weekly club meetings, on Thursdays after school. Our meetings always started with code practice. Then we got on-the-air. We also had various projects like fix radios and teletypes, and make antennas for our less fortunate classmates. At times, electric shop was sort of like Santa’s workshop – only instead of toys were fixing radios and teletypes and making antennas for our less fortunate classmates.
Club Call Sign: W6TDM and Tap.
Mr. Ryan was also Trustee of the club's call sign, W6TDM. In other words, the FCC which is the federal agency which regulates amateur radio issued the license to him and held him responsible for the lawful operation of the station.
W6TDM was a memorial club call sign. It was first held by Edward “Tap” Tapscott, a friend of Mr. Ryan's.
I never knew much about their friendship and the details are a mystery to this day. Ted did not say much more than Tap was a “lovely man.” Ted said this about most people. He also said Tap was an African-American man who was blind.
Tap’s photo hung over our operating position, above our station license. Mr. Ryan always taught us to help disabled people. In fact, when Ted taught us to solder, he would say even a blind man can learn to solder. He held Tap as an example. Tap soldered by feel.
Ted went out of his way to help disabled people who wanted to be licensed. He used Teletype to reach out of deaf kids. He gave Novice stations away to disabled kids. I accompanied him on a few occasions to set up stations for disabled kids.
Sometime in the early to mid-1980s Ted apparently gave up the club callsign. The Tandem Computer employees amateur radio club got W6TDM as their callsign. Then Cupertino Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) got the call which they still have.
Please visit the special website for Tap
Our station was in a locked room in the electric shop. The room had a large window so we could be supervised. The top of the door had a window too. The shops were in bungalows on the east side of campus. Wood shop was across from electric shop.
We had as a high frequency (HF, long range) transceiver, a Swan 260 Cygnet, which was a hybrid tube radio. In those days totally solid state radios were just coming out. They were very expensive at the time! Our 260 was the first version of the 260 which was first introduced in 1969. It used a green tuning eye to adjust the plate amplifier and microphone gain; instead of having an S meter. It also had only a RF gain control which was used to control both RF and AF. The microphone was hardwired to the rig. The 260 was a tough little radio which put out 260 watts PEP. Our 260 took a lot of abuse from dozens and dozens of Novices who were either scared of the radio because they were young and unsure of themselves or they were simply careless. Of course we stayed within our 75 watt limit. Mr. Ryan was stressed legal and safe operations. However since the 260 put out 260 watts, it was also a favorite of CB’ers who illegally converted them to CB.
We also had an old Hammarlund receiver. I am not sure which model it was but it may have been the HQ-180a. Hammarlund made earlier HQ-160 and 170 models. Our Hammarlund drifted a lot. It was not real sensitive. However for the brand new Novices it was exciting just to hear anything. Later, as we got some experience we realized its draw backs as we had to chase the signal across the band. The drawback did teach us.
We had a Tempo CL-146 2 meter FM transceiver. It was a commercial radio which was sold to hams as rugged and inexpensive 2M FM rig. Although it was very average, its toughness was good for there were always kids playing in the shack that should not have been. We also had an old Gonset Communicator 2 meter AM transceiver. The Gonset “lunch box” had a VFO receiver and crystal controlled transmitter. We never used the Lunch Box for almost no one was still on AM on 2 meters. Mr. Ryan usually had as his personal radio on him, a Tempo FMH, one of the first mass production solid state 2 meter hand-held transceiver.
Our HF antennas were on the roof of the one story electric shop bungalow. Ted and the first class of Novices set it up in 1970. We had
Helping Disadvantaged Kids.
JB is in an elite neighborhood of multi-million dollar houses called
Many kids at JB were economically disadvantaged. Ted knew this. Ted paid $7 for most kids to take the novice exam. He must have spent a good chunk of his modest teacher’s salary on exam fees, equipment and supplies. Ted did not want any barriers to license kids and get them on-the-air. Ted solved the novice rig problem by either hams giving him old junky radios or he went to the surplus radio store to buy these WWII era boat anchors. He would stay up late at night to fix them. He would often bring these radios to school to teach us how to fix them. He would show us how these radios worked by tracing the process in which a signal is made. This was a great education. And when we were finished learning and fixing the radio it was given to one of our deserving classmates. Ted also gave away dozens and dozens of teletypes; Model 2B, strip printer which used gummed back paper or the Model 15 which was a page printer.
Helping Other Schools Start Ham Radio Programs.
Ted helped a ham radio get started at Le Conte Junior High School which was the junior high school adjacent to JB; on the east side of JB’s district.
In 1971, Chris Williams, WB6HGW had recently upgraded to Tech. from Novice (WN6HGW) when he met Ted on the air. Chris was a student at
Ted invited Chris over to JB with his Electric Shop teacher, Mr. Phil Anderson. Mr. Anderson was not a ham. While Mr. Anderson was not interested in ham radio he did let Chris clean up the old ham radio station that had been active some 10 year prior.
Mr. Anderson declined to pursue a Ham ticket, but he gave me permission to clean up the old ham shack and see if I might be able to interest any of the kids in joining and going for there novice licenses. A number of my fellow electric shop,
audio visual crew and student radio station cohorts showed some
interest, but no one actually got licensed. I operated often from
school using my own portable VHF gear, showing it off to anyone
that showed an interest.
After high school a few of the people Chris demonstrated ham radio to got licensed.
I tried to start a ham radio program at
Years later I was shocked to learn from my SFVARC clubmate Len Suidor, W6AUG, who graduated
Being Taught the Cultural Values of Ham Radio by W6SD Club Members.
The members of the San Fernando Valley Amateur Club, W6SD, the club Mr. Ryan belonged to in the Valley, were generous with their time and in donated equipment. A big part of Ted’s success is because he had the support of a large experienced club supporting him. The original antennas our club at JB, which was still standing when we visited in 2006, were donations by W6SD members. The members of the W6SD club stopped by often as guest speakers, to help us with code practice, to encourage us, to help us fix the antennas…. The term “adopt-a-school” was not in common use in the early-1970s. The club sort of informally adopted us.
We had a problem with theft and vandalism. The members W6SD were generous after the burglaries and vandalism with help and donated equipment. Mr. Ryan often used his personal equipment at school.
Our Swan 260 was stolen, Lenore Jensen, W6NAZ (sk) arranged with a W6SD club member, whose name I can not remember because I never met him, he might have been disabled or in poor health, to loan us his Tempo 1 HF transceiver. This was a radio which was still in production! It was a treat to have a radio which was still being advertised in QST. The Tempo 1 was a lower power successor to the Swan 260. It had more features but it was not as rugged.
Ted and Lenore organized a car wash fund raiser to buy our own Tempo 1. Members of W6SD not only took up a collection for our Tempo 1 fund, that they drove all the way over from the Valley to buy our cookies and cakes or have their cars washed, even if they did not need them. Some of the bake goods made in home economics class were not very appetizing. As we sold baked goods or washed cars, Mr. Ryan would send code to us. He would name a car part or a bake good and they send it to us in Morse code. He made sure we learned the code, raised money, and had fun all at the same time!
The generosity of the club members of W6SD taught us the true value of ham radio. They taught us to be selfless; to always help people. They taught use we were the Amateur Radio SERVICE. Our operator privileges meant we were obligated serve the public. It is no wonder that club members taught us this for they created Ted Ryan’s ham career from the time he and Roger responded to the club’s ad for a free ham radio class, to giving him his start in teaching but more importantly showing him what ham radio is about by their good deeds.
While Mr. Ryan told us what the cultural values of ham radio were, his fellow club members showed us what they were. Their driving across LA to come visit, help and teach – during the workday, taught us a lot. Coming and helping us and giving us their personal equipment after burglaries and vandalism showed us what service and community was about.
Lenore, W6NAZ and Bob, W6VGQ, Jensen, who were W6SD members were very helpful in supporting us. In 2007, W6SD bestowed the Jensen award on me for service to the ham radio community. I pay homage to Lenore and Bob on my personal webpage, www.KI6CM.bappy.com. I also nominated Lenore for the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame. She was inducted in 2008.
Community Service, Emergency Communications and Field Day with W6SD.
One of the important values Mr. Ryan taught us was public service. We hams help people, particularly in time of disaster. We provide a communications network to local governments and humanitarian organizations in the event of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and so on.
Mr. Ryan taught us to be always ready to go onto emergency power in case of a disaster. We had several car batteries laying around the shack and shop for that purpose. At JB, we novices did drills to get the station on the air under emergency power while other kids learned to duck and cover. In those days it was expected that hams would take part every June in Field Day, when we go on emergency power for a weekend.
Ted had his students take part in Field Day each year at San Fernando Valley Amateur Club, W6SD. In those days we operated from the
Once the set-up was done, we went from disaster preparedness mode to contest mode. We operated to make as many contacts as possible during the contest period. As large club, we simultaneously operated on several bands with multiple teams of operators. My buddy Sam Sjogren, Ph.D.,WB6RJH, and I were for a few years often the most prolific team. Ed Rosenblatt, Ph.D.,WB6ANK joined us a few times.
After he retired from teaching in 1982 Mr. Ryan continued to teach ham radio licensing classes taught at the Red Cross and for the San Fernando Valley Amateur Club, W6SD. Mr. Ryan was active in the club from 1963 to 2000. Mr. Ryan also volunteered at a local
In the 1989, Ted made left an important artifact of his ham radio legacy. His greatest legacy was no doubt the 1,000s he trained. In retirement he had a chance to focus on Morse code pedagogy. He researched the history of Morse code and how Morse code could be taught. He offered his findings to be wider ham radio community, for free as always. With Ted’s health, he was not able to drive long distances well at night due to poor night vision. He was sad when he could not accept the teaching requests he had from clubs that were far away and needed him to train their teachers. Bill Holliday, WB6EDE made a video on behalf of the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio Club, W6SD of Ted teaching other teachers how to teach Morse code. Ted donated the content to the club. The VHS tape was marketed to other clubs so they could improve their Morse code teaching.
On the tape, amongst other things, Ted emphasized the importance of Morse code, especially for its ability to get a signal through under emergency conditions when all other modes fail. Ted said “we will always have Morse code.” Ted stressed how Morse code is central to ham radio. In 1991 the code-free Technician license was introduced. Ted taught code-free Technicians. He welcomed them for that is who he was. He probably kept his disappointment about the diminishment of Morse code away from his students but shared it with friends.
On the tape, when the audience was shown, one could see it as about half of them were women. The balanced sex ratio no doubt pleased Ted. He shared with me once at JB how he would like to teach more girls. He wanted girls to enjoy ham radio too. In the 1970s however, boys took shop classes while girls took home economics.
In his last years, Ted was active on a rag chewers net on 2 meters. Ted was unable to drive his Mustang. He was wheel chair bound.
Mr. Ryan passed away on December 28, 2005 at 4:39am at home after complications from cancer and heart problems. He was 85. He is survived by his ex-wife, 3 children and 3 grandchildren. Florine, WB6UDJ, passed away a few months later.
A Few of Ted’s Students
Ted is also survived by thousands of students. Apparently no records exist of his students and their call signs. As the cancer and heart disease progressed he stopped teaching and cut himself off from his family and friends. After his passing away, his caregiver, who apparently somehow “inherited” Ted’s modest estate and reportedly sold off what equipment of his that was sellable and threw everything else away. No grade books, photos, log books, QSL cards, or other records have been lost.
Here is a partial list of people he taught and their first call sign, year of licensure, first call sign (if known) and where Ted taught them.
Bernie Cutler, KB6NR (1965). (SFVARC @ Robert Fulton Jr. HS).(Originally licensed as WN6TQT, later WB6TQT).
Lou Caldwell, W7HX (1967). (home tutoring).(Originally licensed as WN7GYR).
Michael Frisch, WB6DMI (1970).(JB).
Ken Asarch, Pharm.D., Ph.D., WN6DRC (1970).(JB).(Later WA6DRC).
Alan Schneider, WA6DQA (1970).(JB).
Tony Hecht, WN6DQB (1970).(JB).
Lee Hilborne, MD, N6LH (1970).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6DQH).
Larry Goldstein, Ph.D.WN6DQI (1970).(JB).(Later WB6DQI).
Ken J. Guzik, WA6DQJ (1970).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6DQJ).
Carole Danielson, WN6DQK (1970).(JB).
Jane “Bambi M” Mason, WN6DQL, CDR, USN (Ret.) (1970).(JB).
Dan Waxer, MD, WB6HBC (1970).(JB).
Murray Maidan, WN6LNZ (1970).(JB).(Also held KF6DMY).
Mark Boxer (1970).(JB).
Ira Goldstein, WN6MFT (1971).(JB).
Bill Hyatt, WN6MFU (1971).(JB).
Dean Hilborne, WN6NGB (1971).(JB).
Michael Waxer, AIA, WB6IXP (1971).(JB).
Frank Fox, WA6BHL (1974).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6BHL).
Robert Jacobson, WA6BHN (1974).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6BHN).
Steve Jaffee (1974).(JB).
Gabe Lakatosh, W6CLV (1974).(JB). (Originally licensed as WN6CLV).
Howard Miller (1974).(JB).
Evan Stone (1974).(JB).
Ed Rosenblatt, Ph.D., WB6ANK (1975).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6ANK).
Mark Handler, ex-WN6HZA (1975).(JB).
Leor Dawidowicz, WA6HZD (1975).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6HZD).
Jim Collins, ex-WN6HZ? (1975).(JB).
Robert Birl, WN6KIZ.
Marty Joel, ex-WN6JFO (1975).(JB).(later WB6JFO).
Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C (1975).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6JPA)(later WA6JPA; KI6CM, WW6CC).
Greg Chappell, Ph.D., WA6YLR (1975).(JB).(Originally licensed as WN6JFV)(later WA6JFV).
Darryl Harris, ex-WB6FWM (1975).(JB).
Colman Fockens, WN6GUG (1976).(JB).(Later KA6AFO).
David Alexander (1976).(JB).
Madeline Fockens, KB6IS (1977).(Home tutoring).(Originally licensed as KA6AFC).(Formerly N6AJE).
Mari Seil, WA6DIL (1977).(home tutoring).
Jaime Markowitz, AA6TH (1988).(SFVARC @ Red Cross).
Tom Dessert, K6JCW (late-1980s).(SFVARC @ Red Cross).
Frank Wada, KE6KOJ, (1994).(SFVARC @ Red Cross).
If you can help us fill out this list please let us know.
Many young hams Mr. Ryan taught went on to become electrical engineers and electronic technicians. Many had careers in high tech and broadcast engineering. Many also served their country in
It is very likely that Ted Ryan was the most prolific ham radio (free) teacher in our hobby. Ted taught in a time in which amateur radio was expanding. There was no competition from computers, internet or cell phones. He taught in LA, which has the highest concentration of hams in the world. He also taught for free. He never took a dime for his teaching – except his salary from the
Proclamations, Field Day 2006
Field Day is the weekend of the year at the end of every June in which radio amateurs go into the field, set up their radios and antennas, and run on emergency power. It is our yearly emergency readiness drill. Ted taught us that we must always be prepared to help provide emergency communications and that we must take part in Field Day. On
Assemblyperson Cindy Montanez praised Ted’s teaching. U.S. Congress Howard Berman entered a tribute to Ted into the Congressional record.
This ceremony was also a reunion. None of us had seen each other in decades. I reunited with Roger the week before Field Day at the club meeting. I had not seen Roger since JB. Roger and I operated field day. Bernie Cutler, KN6NR was one of Ted’s earliest students. He is the only one who could be located from Ted’s class at
At the time of the reunion, Bernie had been a ham for 41 years, making him eligible for the Old Old Timers Club (OOTC) which requires 40 years as a ham to join. All except for Ted’s last JB class, 1982 were eligible to join the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA) which requires 25 years as a ham to join.
Memorial Ham Club
Ted Ryan honored his silent key (deceased) friend Edward Tapscott, W6TDM by naming the JB ham club after him. In this vein, Ted’s son Roger Ryan. AA6EO and I have formed the Ted Ryan Memorial Amateur Radio Club. In Dec. 2007, the soonest date the FCC allows, Roger, with me as co-signer, will apply for Ted's call, WB6JXY, as a (memorial) club call sign. Roger will be trustee. I have reprised my role as club “President” (read historian and webmaster). Our “club” in the internet age primarily consist of this webpage.
Ted Ryan loved his students. He loved ham radio. He was a saint of ham radio.
Please send us your stories, remembrances, photos and artifacts about Ted to Cliff Cheng, AC6C, AC6C -at- arrl – dot- net
Acknowledgements: Roger Ryan, AA6EO, Jaime Markowitz, AA6TH, Bernie Cutler, KB6NR, Bernard Falkin, KG6FBM, Madeline Fockens, KB6IS, Lee Hilborne, MD, N6LH, Bill Holladay, WB6EDE, Bill Hyatt, WN6MFU, Murray Maidan, WN6LNZ, James Parlevliet, KG6QDY, Ginger Wonderling, AB6YL, Alvin Burgland, W6WJ.