Bob Masson’s morning routine starts off fairly normal.
He wakes up early, makes some breakfast and heads downstairs to his basement office. Once he gets to the office, however, the 82-year-old’s day become less than ordinary.
Masson fires up of ham radio and begins talking with people around the world.
“I get up in the morning and I do what most people do, I make coffee,” Masson said. “Then I come down here, I turn on my amateur radio.”
The Pacific resident said he has different groups, called nets, he meets with every morning as the sun comes up. The groups exchange information about the weather and their surroundings.
Masson said the daily morning routine of the groups have created relationships. While ham operators go by call signs — Masson’s is KB0JDY — Masson said the frequent contact means he’s gotten to know some of the other operators.
“I’ve talked to the net controller so much, he knows who I am and where I am,” Masson said. “... We have a little conversation.”
Masson got into ham radio in the early 1990s. He retired from Ralston Purina in 1987 and a friend of his moved to Arizona.
With the vast open space, Masson said Arizona is a perfect place for ham radio operators. His friend got involved and encouraged Masson to join.
“I retired and decided it would be a good thing to do, too,” Masson said. “
Masson was hooked. When he married his wife, The Missourian’s Pauline Masson, in 1993, it didn’t take long to get her hooked, too.
The two were together one day while Bob was on his radio. He connected with someone in Russia.
“I had my radio shack there and one morning I was talking to people all around the world,” Bob said. “I got someone from Russia — (Pauline’s) major in college was Russian. … Right away she got excited.”
Soon the two were heavily involved. The basement of their Pacific home has a number of radios and Bob’s truck is a mobile station.
Recently the duo helped form a club to get a federal call sign. Bob Masson serves as the president of the newly formed Pacific Meramec Valley Amateur Radio Club.
They have the call sign KD0ZEA.
Masson’s interest in ham radios has given him a second career of sorts. Because of the radios ability to send messages by using a tiny amount of power, hams are very valuable during emergency situations.
During a 2001 flood in Union, Masson and the Zero Beaters Amateur Radio Club used radios to organize supply drop-offs.
“The flood was pretty bad,” Masson said. “We had ham radio on the ground. We had set up an EOC — emergency management headquarters. … Because of the flood, and all the things ham operators could do, we can set up stations and have communications up in a matter of minutes.”
Masson said the flood got ham radio users positive exposure.
Masson has continued to help during flood situations when high waters hit Franklin County. In 2008 when flooding hit Pacific, Masson sat in the emergency management headquarters and helped organize supplies.
His involvement in helping flood victims actually led him to a spot on a committee to review Pacific’s emergency management protocols. He and others went through step by step and made sure Pacific’s plan was up to national standards.
“I headed up a committee to look at everything the city did during that flood,” he said. “Everything they did was right, but the mayor asked, ‘What could we do better?’”
Once the committee was done, new FEMA-approved guidelines were put in place.
“We reviewed everything and then we rewrote the emergency management manual,” he said. “With FEMA, you have to keep it updated. … We followed that protocol and came up with standard procedures.”
In the years since he first got interested in ham radios, Masson has noticed the technology change. To get licensed originally, you needed to know some Morse code, which isn’t a requirement now.
Also the tools are changing. Everything used to be analog and now the switch is being made to digital.
Masson said he enjoys moving on to what’s new.
“I’m always learning,” Masson said.
His newest radio has a built-in GPS, it remembers everyone he talks to and can record conversations. It runs on just five watts of power.
Figuring out the digital aspect of things is Masson’s newest hobby, but, at the end of the day, it’s still amateur radio.
“You can do so many things with a ham radio,” Masson said. “... There’s so many aspects of ham radio. It’s a great learning tool.”