Early on I'd already gotten used to the idea that no place was permanent in the USN. I'd seen friends at Ramey ship home or ship out to other duty assignments. So when I got my orders to the USS Saratoga, I turned in the paperwork to have my ham radio license modified to show where I'd be next. And since where I would be would be mostly at sea, I used my parents' address as the official place for FCC records. By the time I left Puerto Rico and was sitting at home on leave, my license had already been updated to reflect the geography: my WP4 callsign got exchanged for a W8.
The call I ended up with was WN8IJN, a standard state-side Novice ticket call.
There was only problem with that: I wouldn't be able to use the novice bands shipboard. I'd have to wait until I was back on continental US soil before I could even play ham radio again. So it made sense for me to upgrade. But there was a problem with that too.
See, this was back when the FCC gave the tests for the next higher license class only at specific sites. Once a month I could take the General license test at an FCC office. I'd done that a couple times in Puerto Rico, taking the bus to San Juan and then finding the edificio federal
and blowing the whole trip by failing the Morse test or the theory test. I did the first once and the second twice.
And back state-side, the FCC offices were in Detroit, and the tests were scheduled for dates when I would be gone, back to duty on the ship. So I was stuck. Well, almost.
There was another way out of the license dilemma. I could take the Conditional test under the supervision of a person holding the General class license or higher. Like the Novice test but with thirty more questions and a 13-word-per-minute CW test. The CW test was the easy part.
But I was lucky again. There were plenty of hams on the Saratoga, which leads to the next page.