To The Mountains of the Moon

Part 06. Bamboo Flats, Arusha

After the climbers returned from the Kilimanjaro, the pressure in the camp reached the steaming point. Bill was fired, and Edwards resigned himself. It quieted down a bit, but life was not the same anymore.

The Firing of Bill Snyder

The climbing of the Kilimanjaro was very succesful, four out of five made it to the top. This was far more than average, which was only 20 percent. But Gatti was not happy at all. During the week the climbing was going on, Gatti had only Doug Edwards and Bill Snyder around to take orders. Gatti had his own SX-42 receiver in his private trailer, and normally he followed every conversation made by the two hams. Real soon Bob and Bill got guidelines from Gatti, what to DO, and what to DO NOT on the air. Bob and Bill had made skeds, trying to get in touch while Bob was on the mountainslopes. And at the end of the first day, they made it. Bill should warn Gatti if there was contact with the climbing-party, but he was too busy with getting out some of the bad transmission and the high noise level. Of course Gatti had his own VHF set also, but apparently he did miss that first QSO. Gatti was real mad, and was upset. Talking to people while climbing a mountain, was not done before, and therefore big business for the Commander. Bill was glad he recorded all on one of the first recorders available in those days. The recording was going to be used later in some QSOs on 10 meters. Bill was of course active from camp #2, and did work some new countries in the log of VQ3HGE. After the climbing was going on for some days, Bill got a visitor, Glenn, an American who was making a world trip on his bike. Glenn heard about the expedition at the Kibo hotel, and wanted to see the camp. Bill offered Glenn a dinner, and showed him the Shack on Wheels in action. Bill managed, by help of the pilot- station at hallicrafters, to get Glenn's wife on the line. That night he made two young loving people very happy. It was hamradio at the best. Then it happened: Gatti popped in the door of the shack. In one second, Bill saw in the eyes of the Commander that he had blown up all his credits. The Commander was very friendly to the happy visitor, but stayed only a short time in the shack. Few minutes later, Bill got a phone call from Gatti. Glenn had to be removed from the camp at once. The last Bill saw from Glenn was the disappearing light of the bike in the black of the jungle. After the climbers returned in the camp, Bill and Bob wrote a letter to Gatti. Both where tired of the extensively demands from Gatti, to use the station for commercial talks. This letter was written and signed by both hams; March 7, 1948 Mr. Attilio Gatti Dear Sir, With reference to your notes of yesterday regarding the operation of your radio station, we wish to say the following: In the future we will both operate your station EXACTLY as you wish, as long as it does not violate the spirit of "amateur radio," and the laws of the country in which we operate. This, therefore, eliminates all third party messages and all business contacts and we will not operate the station for those purposes. For your information, a third party message is any information from or to any person other than the licensed operator at both ends. Ownership of the station does not invest any right to operate same, unless an operator's license is held by the owner If this is not agreeable with you, that is: to operate the expedition's station strictly as an amateur station, you have the prerogative to discharge the both of us as stated in our agreements, and to return to us both to New York. Useless to say, we have during the past months done everything we could to make the expedition a success, and to be considered "permanent headaches" is adding insult to injury. Sincerely, William D. Snyder Robert E. Leo This letter was the end of the ride for Bill Snyder, W0LHS. The next day he was fired, after getting a very nasty resignation letter from Gatti. For Doug Edwards this was also the end of serving the Maistro. He left the same day as Bill. Of course Bob got also a letter from Gatti. Gatti had a contract with Halligan, and to hold this, the expedition station had to be 6 hours a day on the air.(With exeptions of course). So the Commander was in problems if he fired both hams. Therefore Bob got this letter: Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition to the "Mountains of the Moon" stationary March 8,1948 to: R. Leo Gatti- Hallicrafters Expedition Kyowu T.T. To R. Leo I had hoped that you had straightened out, and had finally buckled down to do your job conscientiously and strictly according with my instructions, as by your contractual obligations. I still believe that, once on your own and out from under the influence that Snyder has visibly exercised upon you, you will do a very creditable job, in your own interest as a well as in those of this expedition. What you need is for you not to be pushed around any more by Snyder and to clear once and for all your ideas about the obligations and the limitations connected with your job which I believe can easily be achieved with one final talk between us. What I need is for the expedition's team to get at long last closely knit together and ready for real action without my having to waste most of my time in looking after one or other of you and in trying to make you understand the most elementary points. This, I believe, will be achieved as soon as this expedition gets rid of Snyder a decision which I should have taken long ago but which now will be realized immediately. On the other hand if my opinion of you is too optimistic and if, after mature consideration, you do not like my way of running my expedition and the expedition's station, you always have the alternative of resigning, as contemplated by Paragraph 8 of your contract and of returning to the USA at your own expense. Otherwise, if your common sense, your decency and your personal pride prevail, I am prepared to forget your past offenses and to have another good, clarifying talk with you so that from now on you go ahead and complete the job you have undertaken to do with full knowledge of your obligations it involves, including that of abiding by my instructions. Sincerely, Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition (Vermont), Inc. By A Gatti (signed) Bob decided to stay for a while, but this was no easy decision. Bob said about this: "I can remember feeling bad when Bill was fired. There is a difference between being fired and quitting. Neither one of us wanted to quit. I was worried about how Bill would feel towards me if I didn't quit. Gatti thought I might be the lesser of two evils as Bill is more agressive than I was even though neither of us liked Gatti or his methods or how he wanted to run the station - also he had the contract with Hallicrafters (?) to keep the station on the air."

Kilima dysentery

Maincamp number 3 was setup near Arusha, in an area called Bamboo Flats. A funny name, that location was far from flat, and there was no bamboo in the wide area. It turned out that the campsite was chosen wrongly, as there was a dump of the local planters, who burned every day tons of coffee husks. The whole camp could "Enjoy" the malodorous smoke. Environment was an unknown word in those days. On March 14, Bob got sick and help was called in from Doctor Noe from Arusha. It began with a shiver, cramps, dizzy etc.. The cooking heat inside the Shack on Wheels, did not help at all. The Dutch doctor, who was a prisoner of the Japs in Java, during WW II, concluded dysentary. This resulted in stay of 4 days in the hospital at Arusha. This was a way to diet - Bob weighed 148 pounds after this episode, from a normal weight of 160. Bob got a very nice Gatti gramm when he returned to camp # 4, Arusha. Camp life was very organised, often the next day was the same as the day before. The meals were served at regular times, by Asmani, at 8 am, 1 pm and 8- 9 pm. Often the camp was visited by locals, white and black, interested to know what was going on in the camp. Bob also did take part in a contest, the average speed was 24 QSOs a hour. On April 3, there where 77 countries and 30 zones worked from VQ3HGE, the results of being QRV from 2 places. Not bad at all, Bob's results from San Mateo were 71 countries in 11 years of operating! Bob was very busy, as he was the only operator now, and the station was 8 hours a day in the air. Compared to this daily-schedule of at least 8 hours, Bob said that taking part in a contest was be like childs play. Gatti looked always angry after very QSO with California. Normally Bob got mad, but he had learned during the previous month's, NOT reacting on Gatti's gramms was the best he could do. And ignoring the man seemd to work fairly well. Often King and Prince were on a mini safari, together with Gatti, shooting pictures and movies from Rhino's, Giraffe, Zebra's etc. When Gatti was away, Bob could breath normal, because the Commander did not watch every move he made. Wakeford went ahead to Loliondo with two trucks to see if the caravan could get through with the big trailers. The trailers put such a weight on the back of the pulling truck, that the whole frame was bending. A daily sked was set up with the native radiostation at Loliondo, ZHS4 on 7131 Kc, and Bob worked the station every day at 9 am. ©W7LR and PA0ABM
One of the local visitors
To DO or NOT to DO, thats the question, GATTI 1948