By Jerry Richards (KA9DLJ)
I was first introduced to Amateur Radio in 1978. Jim Allman (WD9EOI) asked a co-worker, Jim Watson, if he might be interested in learning Morse code. Now, Jim was an experienced Boy Scout Master, but had never learned the code. Jim then asked me to if I would be interested in taking the classes with him and I thought, why not? Morse code had always intrigued me anyway.
So in the fall of 1978 he and I began taking Novice classes at the UAW union hall on Bradner Ave. Our instructor was Brooks Clark (WB9EAP). At that time the classes lasted about 8 to 10 weeks with the last week devoted to testing. We were first required to pass the theory written test and then the 5 WPM code test, to acquire a Novice license. Unfortunately, after about 4 to 5 weeks my friend, Jim, had a kidney stone attack and had to be hospitalized for surgery. After recovery he didn’t continue with the classes. I did continue and on 01/30/79 was granted a novice class license. Having my first license I traveled to Ft. Wayne to Kryder Electronics and purchased my first Ham radio, a Kenwood
TS-820-S, which I still possess, and operate occasionally. As I only had code privileges on HF, I ran code till it ran out my ears.
Approximately 6 months later, after more study, I was granted a Technician class license on 06/01/79. This class did not require an increased speed at the code only the theory. As I remember, Bart Bartholomew (WA9SPT) taught the theory at the UAW hall. Bart and I were acquainted through the Marion Civic Theater, where we were both amateur actors. As soon as I became a Tech, it was back to Kryders and I purchased a Kenwood TS-7625 2M Base. I still own it but don’t run it any more. These rigs had an outboard microprocessor that had to be plugged into the base unit in order to have scanning. Also, Bart and I purchased Kenwood TR-2400 HT’s about the same time.
After I was first licensed, I also became well acquainted with Mark Ballard (W9BSZ). Mark was a business customer of mine but I didn’t realize he was a ham until I was licensed. Mark related much of what follows to me. Now as I remember, the first radio club in Grant County was named the Skywire Radio Club, but that was before my time. When the radio club was first organized 2 meter FM repeaters were non existent. So there was no 2M repeater in Grant County. Later, when 2M became common, it was decided to have a repeater in Marion. There were several Hams in town who didn’t think 2M was true Ham radio and objected to a repeater. As there was no tower for this first repeater Mark put the repeater in his basement on 6th street and used his own tower for it. The repeater users group then formed their own club, the Grant County Repeater Society. In order to belong there was a $25 per share fee. Members were limited to 4 shares.
Having the repeater at one’s house sounds cool, however, if Mark heard someone using the repeater who was not a member of the society he would turn the repeater off. Several hams took objection to this mode and became independent hams not belonging to either group.
As time passed by cable TV came to Marion and we were fortunate that a ham Tom Wendt (W9MRE) was also the manager of the Cable TV station. Cable TV erected a tower on Charles Road and we were permitted to place our antennas on that tower at about 300 ft. At this time we also purchased a factory made repeater for our use. A committee was formed of Don Hoke (AG9I), Clyde Brookshire (WB9FDC) and Mark Ballard (W9BSZ). They researched and recommended an adequate machine.
Due to the fact that at this time, the same people belonged to both clubs, it was decided that the two clubs would be combined into the present day Grant County Amateur Radio Club. Meetings were held at the old Jones Jr. High School and the combined club constitution was written. As I remember Clyde Brookshire, Jay Beall, Mark Ballard, Jerry Richards and, I am sure others, composed the first Constitution of the GCARC. It was approved July 28, 1992.
[Editors note: Jerry (KA9DLJ) is the 2009 recepient of the Grant County Amateur Radio Club Distinguished Service Award.]