It all started suddenly and unexpectedly around 8 years ago. A 14-year old schoolboy, Esko Mattila, sent me an email asking where he could learn Morse code. Later it appeared that he had got the spark from his father who had been serving in the legendary Signal Regiment in Riihimäki about 70 km north from Helsinki and learnt the code there. Naturally, he had told his son about the army time and how fascinating Morse code was.
At that time, I had been already working in Finnish Amateur Radio League SRAL for two years as General Manager. It was a good moment for me to hear from a young boy in the same age as I was when I got interested in Amateur Radio and Morse code in 1959. Naturally, I invited Esko to come to meet me in the office. I told that on Saturday noon I would be on the roof of the office building with my colleague taking some old coax down and he could join us if he liked. I was quite astonished when while we were working on the roof, I suddenly saw Esko´s head pop up from the ladder coming to the roof. He had climbed all five stories using the ladder rather than taking the elevator. Esko explained that he had been active in the youth fire brigade so climbing and winding hoses was no new thing to him. And yes, he started to coil those old coax cables like a pro.
When we returned to the office, we thanked Esko and gave him some ham literature including the study guide. In no time Esko had passed his Basic license and earned the call sign OH2GTS.
Esko and I started SRAL youth activities by visiting his old elementary school making a presentation to the whole school. That means that we had some 400 pupils sitting on the gym floor and watching the RSGB video “What is Amateur Radio?” which I had received from my colleagues in RSGB. We let the kids try their hand on the two-meter radios. They had lots of fun talking to each other.
The teachers were standing around the gym watching the show. They were extremely delighted to see that their pupils were so interested to learn about a new hobby or, should I say, a passion. At least Esko and I had a passion towards Amateur Radio and that must have been visible to all present.
Esko had asked his grandfather to join us with his video camera and he did. As a result, we had a video of our very first youth activity. This was the first of some 50 schools I would later make presentations, to the whole school or one class at a time.
It was a great day in SRAL youth activities – the very first presentation at school to enthusiastic schoolboys and girls. That day will stay in my memory as a turning point in my ham career. From that day on I was working more often with youth trying to find new ways to reach them with the good news that there exists a wonderful hobby without boundaries – Amateur Radio.