Worthy of recognition

Hap Holly – KC9RP

In the March 1996 issue of 73 Magazine, Wayne Green asked readers to consider generating some articles on fellow hams who they felt deserved recognition before becoming a “Silent Key” and were recorded only as a memory. It’s easy to recount an individual’s achievements after he or she is gone, but if someone is doing something worthwhile, doesn’t it deserve exposure while they’re still around? I think so too.

When Uncle Wayne wrote about it in his editorial, I immediately thought of a friend of mine, someone who’s overcome a great obstacle to become recognized as doing something worthwhile each and every week for the Amateur Radio community…Hap Holly, KC9RP, founder, guiding light and moderator of the weekly amateur radio audio feature magazine known as the RAIN(Radio Amateur Information Network) Report. From his home studio/ham shack in suburban Chicago, Hap produces his 10 to 15- minute weekly amateur radio program service, featuring timely interviews, occasional thought-provoking commentaries from other hams, excerpts from Hamvention Forums and other items of general interest to the ham radio community at large. Ham radio is traditionally an aural – as opposed to a visual – medium; we meet and recognize fellow hams primarily by voice, seldom seeing them in person. RAIN programming is also an aural medium, listened to by thousands of Internet users and hundreds of repeaters across the country at http://www.therainreport.com and via Twitter. Vern Jackson, WA0RCR, has carried the RAIN Report since its inception in the late 1980s on his Gateway 160 meter Radio Newsletter AM bulletin service from Wentzville, Missouri, on 1.860 Mhz, Saturday afternoon/evenings. Those aforementioned repeater groups and others replay the weekly RAIN program over their local repeater systems on their regular “net night” gatherings, permitting thousands of hams to hear Hap’s offerings for that particular week. It’s all done with volunteer help and – in the best of amateur traditions – without profit to anyone involved.

Hap Holly makes it happen; he’s an uncommonly intelligent and outgoing individual. Hap is also very aurally oriented and insists on quality in every way in his RAIN programming. He conducts most of the interviews, edits and engineers all of the program material on his talking computer, writes the scripts for others to record for him as MP3 files, and archives/ catalogs the RAIN library. It’s all accomplished by touch and by ear…Hap is one of a number of non-sighted radio amateurs within our ranks, but you’d never know it.

For Hap blindness happened literally overnight…when he was only 7. Problems with his vision began when he was 4, but then he awoke one morning totally blind. The condition is untreatable, at least within current medical terms, but to Hap, it hasn’t been a handicap. In fact, in talking to him over the years, most of his friends tend to forget his unusual challenges, because he does so much of what we all do, without mention of his visual impairment. Both of Hap’s parents were blind, his father’s resulting from a football accident in high school and his mother’s when she was around the age of 12. His father, nonetheless, was a successful building contractor and architect, formulating the plans he devised within his “mind’s eye”, then describing the details precisely to his secretary, who constructed balsa wood models. Then only by touch, Hap’s dad would go over the “3-dimensional plans”, incorporating additions or changes as needed.

Hap’s father was also a long time columnist for the Christian Science Monitor and was known world-wide for his “Ask a Builder” column, which he wrote from 1965 until his passing in 1984. He was a touch typist – as is Hap – and was able to generate his column by that method alone (before the days of computers, word processors and voice synthesizers).

In 1988 a 420-page book was written about Hap’s mother, depicting her struggle for independence from her New England industrialist father, her marriage to Hap’s dad and the eventual challenges that two blind parents encountered raising four sighted children–then Hap too became blind. That book, entitled “What Love Sees” was made into a made-for-TV movie and was first aired on the CBS television network, September 22, 1996. It starred Richard Thomas of the original “Walton’s” series and Anna Beth Gish, who played Pat Nixon in the widely acclaimed motion picture “Nixon”, which also starred Anthony Hopkins. The TV movie, which is also entitled “What Love Sees”, primarily took place in the small southern California ranching town of Ramona (where much of it was filmed) and followed the Holly household up until shortly after the time that Hap’s sight was lost, and the family was forced to move to a larger city -Escondido – to seek specialized educational opportunities for their youngest son. Licensed to the Lifetime for Women cable network after CBS aired the movie a second time in June of 1999, “What Love Sees” was shown on Lifetime as many as three times a year beginning September, 1999 through June, 2002.

Hap’s ham career began when he earned his Novice ticket in 1965 at the age of 14, receiving the call sign WN6UJH, while living in Escondido. He became a General – dropping the “N” in his call for a “B” – a year later in 1966 and served as a phone-patch station and net control for the Westcars traffic net until 1970. Hap then headed off to Principia College in Elsah, Illinois and from 1970 to graduation in 1974, ran phone patches and kept radio schedules for his fellow students. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, and soon found himself in the Chicago area, where he sought out world-class jazz accordionist Leon Sash to pursue his other love, music. A year later another love, Stephanie, became the center of Hap’s attention and the two were married in August of 1976 after meeting the previous summer at Roundup Ranch in Buena Vista, Colorado, where Hap was a bunkhouse counselor. Hap taught a class in non-visual perception to the high school campers at the ranch, all of whom were sighted, but who learned to “see” in yet another way …with Hap’s patient guidance. Hap’s wife, Stephanie – who is sighted – received her ham ticket in 1986 and the call KA9WKD, after realizing how much ham radio, and the good it was able to accomplish, meant to Hap. In 1977, Hap picked up the “9-land” call of WD9GJQ. A year later he and Stephanie moved into their small but comfortable home in Des Plaines, Illinois, where he resumed his phone-patching and DXing activities with his now permanent antenna and station set-up.

In 1981 Hap passed his Advanced class license exam and changed calls once more, this time to his current KC9RP call sign. I met Hap when he served as ham radio informational programming guru for the BEAR, the Broadcast Employees Amateur Repeater, in suburban Chicago from 1984 to 1989. Hap’s weekly “net nights” became something of a legend in the Chicago area, sometimes attracting in excess of 100 check-ins, via simulcasts on five area repeaters. This stint led to Hap’s forming RAIN – the Radio Amateur Information Network – and the weekly RAIN Report dial-up line, and the bimonthly RAIN Journal tape, which was produced during the 1990s especially for the blind amateur radio operator.

According to Hap, “My inspiration for producing weekly ham radio programming resulted from my ‘need to know’ . I faithfully listened to the weekly ham radio newscasts from the Amateur Radio Newsline (formerly WestLink Radio) in the early 1980’s on a local repeater. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Newsline’s founder and producer, Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, for his encouragement and direction. RAIN is truly an offspring of Newsline. In recent years Hap has written for Spec-Com Journal, Radio Scan Magazine and occasionally has reported for Newsline but with a human interest focus, as opposed to a news-only approach.

Hap is a common sight at the yearly Dayton Hamvention, taping a number of the forums with the help and cooperation of the Hamvention organizers. These forums are then incorporated throughout the year in Hap’s RAIN Reports, making the Hamvention come alive for those of us who may not be able to attend personally.

According to Hap, being named 2002 Hamvention amateur of the Year was a VERY special honor. I had hoped I would earn this prestigious award sometime down the road a bit. When I was notified via telephone by the Awards committee chair, I was flabbergasted and almost speechless – something that rarely happens to me.- Hamvention is the largest international ham radio convention; it is held in suburban Dayton, Ohio in May.

Hap is active on HF, VHF, and The Internet, using a Pc equipped with the JAWS speech screen reader program. Today he masters all RAIN audio digitally; encodes the weekly programs into downloadable MP3 files using Sound Forge; then uploads those files to an audio server for Internet distribution and now podcasting. Both the web site and audio bandwidth are subsidized by supporters of RAIN via PayPal and the U.S. Mail.

So what does Hap do when he’s not producing the RAIN Report? As a professional keyboardist his diverse repertoire of American music from the past 60 years has made him a popular choice in the Chicago area. Since 1975 Hap has been an active and honored member of the Des Plaines Lions Club, receiving the distinguished international Melvin Jones Fellowship plaque for his “Service to Humanity” in 1994. He served as club President two terms, 2004 and 2005. As a member of the Des Plaines Toastmasters club since 1976, Hap has served as its president a number of times. Three times since 1994 Hap has served as Northwest 3 Area Governor. Hap and Stephanie were radio operators with Des Plaines EMA, Emergency Management Agency, in the early 2000’s, passing federal exams IS100, IS200 and IS700 in early 2006.

Since May, 2000, Hap has been employed as an audio engineer and monitor full time for Horizons for the Blind, a 45-minute rail commute to the far-flung northwestern suburb of Crystal Lake. His experience in producing audio programming helped him in being hired. More importantly, however, like so many other folks with disabilities, Hap would not be employed today without the skills he developed from an intensive computer class he took in the fall of 1999 that taught him how to use Windows combined with speech screen reader technology. this technology has helped Hap immensely in his everyday activities, including serving as Chair for his 30th Principia college reunion in 2003.

Hap’s charming wife, Stephanie, has been employed since 1994 as a billing clerk for Nelson Westerberg, an agent of Atlas World Group, also known as Atlas Van Lines. She completed her recovery from a serious, summer, 2003, bicycle mishap that laid her up in a rehab center for almost four months. They opted to not have children.

For Hap Holly, blindness has never been a disability, only a challenge that has served to “fine-tune” his other senses. If you have a friend or relative with a serious handicap or disability, and you’ve felt that Amateur Radio would be a worthwhile hobby for them to pursue, perhaps Hap’s extra-ordinary story might be just the inspiration they would need to take the plunge. Hap would disagree with my choice of terms (extra-ordinary) since he considers his accomplishments no more than the expected effort required to achieve anything worthwhile…but then that’s the sign of extra-ordinary people isn’t it?

published in “73” magazine, August, 1996; Dave Miller, NZ9E penned his ’73’ Ham to Ham column in the ’90’s; he periodically voiced said column for the RAIN Report. Dave resided in Niles, Illinois, when he wrote this article. He and his long-time wife, Sue, retired to Sheboygan,WI in 2002; he became a silent key in 2008.

Hap updated the above article in 2014. His email address is: hap@therainreport.com; phone: 847-334-6352.

HAP’S EARLY RECORDINGS

It was decades ago in a house far, far away in California; the town was Escondido, where my family moved in February, 1959 from the small chicken ranching town of Ramona. Both are located in north San Diego county some 60 miles north of the Mexican border.

My mother used to correspond with my grandmother using an old recording machine called a Soundscriber in the early 1960’s. It used flexible discs about the size of floppy disks but a lot floppier. I would borrow that recorder and place the microphone in the open bedroom window to pick up whatever was going on outside. I loved the sounds of nature and with no airplane noise overhead or traffic roar nearby in those days, it was easy to capture the songs of feathered songsters like the meadowlarks and mockingbirds perched atop the telephone wire that ran along Avocado Avenue. � What a pity that none of those flexible disc recordings of Escondido, California survived the decades since.

Severely bitten by the “tape worm”, In 7th grade I was given a portable, battery-operated Norelco tape recorder for Christmas in 1963 by my parents. It used three-inch reels. I was in heaven. Alas, my carelessness and the fragile design of the machine doomed it to an early demise, but the damage had been done and the archiving seeds permanently planted.

During my junior high school years I recorded what I called “rain music”. Grabbing empty tin cans of all sizes, I would position each upside down under a stream of rain water dripping off the eaves just outside my bedroom window. Like a Caribbean steel drum band, the large fruit cocktail cans played the low notes and the smaller juice cans chimed the highest. The cans under constant streams gave me the basic rhythm line while simultaneously some short distance away the accent beats resounded from the intermittent drips. I learned some years later the racket drove my Mom and Dad crazy because the “music” was a bit too close to their bedroom window! What I would give to have saved any of those recordings.

In 1965 I began to record special family events, like Christmas. Many of those recordings were saved, thus started my archiving pastime. In 1967, as a sophomore at Escondido high school, I started keeping an audio journal. The open reel tape recorder became my confidante. I would talk to it often … about everything. My blind parents and I got along well overall but there were just some things I as a blind teen did not feel I wanted to discuss with them; pretty normal actually.

After attending Palomar Junior College in nearby San Marcos for a year, I spent the summer of 1970 at the Adventure Unlimited ranches in Buena Vista, Colorado, where I was a bunkhouse counselor and resident musician. My trusty portable cassette recorder was seemingly attached to my hip or hand during that summer. Sometimes I connected my cassette and open reel equipment to the sound system in Valerie Lodge at Roundup ranch; that began the archiving of my summers there from 1970 to 1976 at that camp. My summer camp sweetheart, Stephanie Eckman, whom I met in July, 1975, has been my forever-young wife since August 28, 1976. I still archive important events in my life, many of which I am preserving digitally, like the MP3 files on Volume 1 of the RAIN Collection .

HAM RADIO PRODUCTIONS

In 1984 I began producing local ham radio programming as part of the newly organized BEAR Information Service, a weekly Chicago-based Amateur Radio program, sponsored by the Broadcast Employees Amateur Repeater. From 1987 till 1989 I produced ham radio programming under the name of the RP Report. Those archives will eventually be released as part of the RAIN Collection. In the early 1990’s all my audio and ham radio production work became associated with the acronym RAIN, the Radio Amateur Information Network. I’ve been conducting interviews, scripting, editing, packaging and encoding RAIN Reports on the Internet since 1996. For ten years Mark Bohnhoff, WB9UOM. donated the web site (rainreport.com) and the necessary audio bandwidth for the RAIN Report at no charge to me.

I was honored to be named 2002 Radio Amateur of the Year by the Dayton Hamvention for my “years of service” to the U.S. Amateur Radio Service.

Today all RAIN audio is produced in the digital domain using Sound Forge 8.0, a suite of programs that enables the blind and visually impaired to do what I do. While the current RAIN files are produced digitally, all 100-plus RAIN highlights in the 1990 and 1991 folders on Volume 1 of the RAIN Collection CD were converted from audio cassette–an arduous task indeed. This first CD of RAIN programming allows folks, who are likewise fascinated with recording, archiving and listening to history, to own a piece of ham radio history for their personal use. Except for a reasonable fulfillment fee being collected by M. Bohnhoff Inc. the proceeds from the sales of this first RAIN CD will be used for the Dayton Hamvention presentation of RAIN.

The RAIN Report operates on an annual budget of $1,250, which includes more than $500.00 of expenses resulting from transportation, lodging and food related to the Dayton Hamvention. Well over 50% of RAIN programming is excerpted from Hamvention forums that Hap records in all four rooms with the approval of the Dayton Amateur Radio Assoc. The remaining $700.00 results from charges incurred by Internet and web-hosting services, computer maintenance and updates. No one connected with the Radio Amateur Information Network or the RAIN Report receives compensation from or for his/her efforts, and that includes Hap Holly/KC9RP, who spends on the average of 5 hours a week in the production of the RAIN Report and the distribution of it. Now in the spirit of full disclosure: Only DARA, (the Dayton Amateur Radio Assoc.) And NSRC (the North Shore Radio Club of IL.) make annual donations to RAIN. Having said that, RAIN is not a tax deductible or tax exempt organization. All donors will be acknowledged both here and on the RAIN Report if requested. Hope you can help.

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