In 1967 when Nate read that the City of Long Beach planned to buy and bring the luxury liner, the Queen Mary, to its beautiful harbor as a tourist attraction, he thought, “How could we of ARALB make Amateur Radio part of the long voyage from England?” Nate initiated phone calls, paper work and official permission pleas galore to both countries. Finally, it happened: permission was granted and the ARALB club members supported a project to send club member Al Lee (W6KQI), to operate amateur radio aboard the ship for ARALB. Not only was he the first American amateur to operate a maritime mobile station licensed by the British General Post Office, using the call GB5QM, but also the first time an amateur was given permission to operate on a British vessel.
On June 20, 1974, Nate submitted a “Proposal for Amateur Radio Operation Aboard the Queen Mary” to Marvin M. Wolff, then the Operations Director of the ship. The proposal outlined how the Radio Room could be refurbished and how amateur radio equipment could be used alongside the ship’s maritime radio equipment. The purpose was to restore the room to its original use, appearance and atmosphere as much as possible.
Nate Brightman (K6OSC “SK”), has been in love with this Queen for more than three decades, and has seen his dream for her fulfilled. The dream of Nate and his fellow club members of the Associated Radio Amateurs of Long Beach came to fruition in 1979 when the Queen Mary again began to operate a Radio Room aboard the ship. The go-ahead was given and Nate and his fellow club members, along with the Queen Mary staff, proceeded full steam ahead with amateur radio station W6RO. On April 22, 1979, the ARALB celebrated the Grand Opening of the Wireless Room from which W6RO would operate. “We particularly wanted the operators to be able to answer questions from the public, hoping to attract newcomers to our hobby.” said Nate. Since then, volunteer amateur radio operators operate the station daily. Operators are not required to be members of the ARALB; operation is open to any licensed amateur.
Nate insists that special recognition be given to the manufacturers who have provided all the radios and antennas and particularly to Mr. Joseph F. Prevratil, CEO of the RMS Foundation/Queen Mary Seaport, (operators of the Queen Mary) who has always been very supportive of the amateur radio operation.
Answering the question of what brought Nate to his devotion to amateur radio, Nate replied, “In 1957, when his son Howard (now K6OSD) was in the sixth grade, he told me that he wanted to be an amateur radio operator. We studied together and received our calls in 1957. Nate’s community work hasn’t been solely with W6RO. He’s diplomatically tried to keep Long Beach officials aware of amateur needs and interests, public service work and emergency abilities.
He persuaded the city to raise a 30 foot antenna limit to 60 feet. Nate offered amateur radio to the 1982 Long Beach Annual Marathon and the ARALB has supported it since. For three years Nate inspired Operation Library with demo ham stations in all the city libraries, hoping to attract people to our hobby. He has taught amateur radio to blind teens making schematic circuit boards using rope symbols glued to panels. In 1966, 1976 and 1977, Nate served a President of ARALB. From 1999 to 2001, he was President of the Long Beach IBM Users Group. He brought ARALB members into the Red Cross where Nate has been a member of the Disaster Service team for more than 26 years. He held many positions over the years including Director of Operations. For his work with W6RO in the Wireless Room, Nate received the Dayton Hamvention Special Achievement Award in 1991. For ten years, Nate, on behalf of the ARALB, has been collecting food for the City of Signal Hill’s canned food drive and has collected thousands of cans of food for the needy of the City of Signal Hill.
He made headlines on March 24, 1968 when he, together with a ham on a tuna boat, arranged for a shipment of Hemophil, a blood clotting medicine to be flown to Peru for Hemophiliacs about to undergo surgery. This required holding up a TWA flight for an hour as the medication was just coming off the production line to be flown from the manufacturer, Hyland Labs, by sheriff’s Helicopter to the airport. Another time he made the newspaper was in February 1969 when he was the first one to locate a tuna boat that was commandeered and taken to a Peruvian port. His information was the first time the U.S. State Department learned where the tuna boat was. He was able to do this because he regularly kept a regular early morning schedule with Martin Jacobs (WB6RKR) [SK] who was a fisherman on the boat. He gave Nate information as he heard the footsteps of the Peruvian soldier’s walk to the other end of the tuna boat. This information was relayed to the U.S. State Department by the Press Telegram and was the first word they had of where the tuna boat was taken by its captors.
When the Battleship, New Jersey, was on its way to Vietnam, Nate got a call at work from the Long Beach Press Telegram asking him if could go home and run phone patches for the sailors who wanted to contact their families waiting in Long Beach. Nate spent the whole day running patches until the ship arrived. After the ship arrived in Long Beach, Nate and his wife, Evelyn (WA6ZTW), were given a personal escorted tour of the entire ship.
Nate received a ARRL Public Service Award for his work relaying messages during the Managua Earthquake, December 23, 1972. In January 1982 the ARALB presented Nate with the “Radio Amateur of the Year” Award. Nate served as President of the ARALB in 1966, 1976 and 1977 as well as many years on the Board of Directors. In 2001, Nate celebrated his 44th year as a member of the ARALB. For his dedicated service, in 2001 the ARALB awarded him a Lifetime Membership.
Much of the above information is from the column in World Radio Magazine by Lenore Jensen, W6NAZ (SK, ). “Who’s Who in Amateur Radio”.
Nate’s 90th Birthday Party
At Nate’s 90th Birthday Party aboard the Queen Mary, sponsored by Mr., Joseph Prevratil, CEO of the Queen Mary Foundation, Mr. Prevratil announced that henceforth the radio room would be known as “The Nate Brightman Radio Room for 40 Years of Distinguished Service, 1967-2007.” In the October 2009 American Radio Relay League monthly publication “QST”, the following announcement appeared:
“Nate Brightman (K6OSC “SK”), of Long Beach, California, was honored with the Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award. Brightman,92, has demonstrated outstanding volunteer public relations success on behalf of Amateur Radio at the local and regional levels, and in his stewardship of station W6RO on the Queen Mary.”
Brightman, an ARRL member, wrote the television script for The Story of the Queen Mary and W6RO, a DVD video, also enhancing the promotion of Amateur Radio; he has been involved in the project since before the ship even arrived in California, was instrumental in establishing the permanent Amateur Radio station aboard and has been faithful in this project since 1979.”
Nate recently celebrated his 98th Birthday and has relinquished his stewardship as wireless room manager to David Akins (N6HHR). Nate has served the ARALB in many capacities, most notably as President in 1966, 1976 and 1977. Nate still participates in ARALB volunteer events, shows up at Field Day, and is present at almost every club meeting.