LARC History part 2


History of the Lakehead Amateur Radio Club Inc

Compiled by Jim O’Brien – VE3UA, January, 1998

and verified by Bill Klemacki – VE3AJ.

Part 2 of 3

Club bulletins or newsletters have been a regular benefit for members. The oldest surviving notice is a letter to all members sent as a reminder of the November 1934 meeting. Later, simple, folded, single sheets provided members with important announcements and gossip. One such bulletin, was regularly published shortly after the war by Bert Tamblin – VE3ANP1. Volume 1, Number 1 QRM, “Published in the interest of Lakehead Hams by the Canadian Lakehead Wireless Experimenters”, was dated February 1948. The earliest High-Q on hand today, is ten pages printed on one side; it’s dated January 1961. Sent by mail without folding, it was bound by three staples and sealed on the other long side by a 2¢ stamp. It bore a large maple leaf on the cover and a hand drawn cartoon. Two technical articles (including schematics) were featured by Dave Kimpton – VE3AVS (ex VE3CKF and VE8PH) and Al Lacell – VE3EDM1 (later VE3GOM1). There are also two items reporting on Hec Wilson – VE3DMZ1 and the tragic fire, which destroyed his home and all its contents. The Club subsequently collected over $800.00 from amateurs all over Canada to assist Hec in getting back on the air. Early notices and bulletins of course were simple type written pages but in 1996 HI-Q Editor, Robert C. Mazur – VA3ROM, introduced our members to the instant bulletin. Bob purchased software that enabled him to send monthly newsletters as attachments to an E-mail message, at a considerable saving considering the cost of postage in 1996.

Life Membership in the Club was awarded to Pat O’Shea – VE3FW1 in November, 1951. Pat was of course the Club’s first President and “Elmer” to most amateurs then in the twin cities. His dedication to the Club and amateur radio in general was commemorated by a Club Membership lapel pin suitably engraved “VE3FW” which was presented to Pat to mark the occasion.

The first Club station VE3ZCD, in the basement of the EMO Building, went on the air on 20 January, 1959, when George Lord – VE3BYG, operating on 3760 kc CW VFO, worked a W… from Kansas followed by Ken MacDonald – VE3ECK who worked a K4… from Tennessee. While these contacts did not break any DX records, it was a beginning.

In the fall of 1959, plans were made to acquire a proper Clubhouse. A small building was purchased and moved to a site between the two cities. Seven 60 foot poles were planted, six of which were located on a 400 hundred foot radius about the seventh located near the shack in the centre of the circle. The record calls the project a success, however, as was pointed out, ownership of property also means the owner now has certain liabilities with respect to that property. Since these could result in financial difficulties the Club could not afford, the Club decided to forgo the luxury of a private Clubhouse. The Shack was sold to Hec Wilson – VE3DMZ1.

At the Annual Meeting in January ’63 the Club awarded Honorary Memberships to Pat O’Shea – VE3FW1, Charlie McDonald – VE3GS1 and Frank Start – VE3AJ1. (Earlier, Pat had been honoured with a Life Membership.) A later record (May 1966) listed Pat and Frank as well as Bert Tamblin – VE3ANP1 as Life Members. (Bert had been so honoured at the January 1965 meeting.) The list also indicated there were 24 Full Members and 18 Associate Members. In February, 1965, there were only 18 Full Club members and 13 Associate members and about 90 licenced amateur stations in the Canadian Lakehead. The report also stated that not many of the 90 were active amateurs. The Club sponsored an amateur radio display at the Northwestern Ontario Regional Science Fair. Operating on 10 Metres at the station were: Peter Litwintschik – VE3EFG (later VE6AVF), Barrie Walker – VE3EES, Chris Bailey – VE3EDV and Leo Immonen – VE3EDE1 (later, VE3XT1).

A notable public service event, with the potential for recruiting young operators into the hobby, occurred in January 1969. Bev Biggs – VE3ECA1/Mobile (later VE3HMU1) kept watch on a group of Boy Scouts during a 17 mile snowshoe trek from Kaministiqua to Port Arthur. He reported the boy’s progress toward the city via Les Harris – VE3AYZ1 and Bill Roberts – VE3ARN. The February Hi-Q carried an item by Greg Shaley relating the activities. Greg predicted that it was this kind of volunteer service which would result in increased numbers of amateur radio operators.

The Twin Cities of Fort William and Port Arthur amalgamated on 1 January, 1970. The LARC initiated The Thunder Bay Award to honour the union. Canadian amateurs qualified for an award by contacting or hearing ten Thunder Bay stations while other amateurs needed only five. Thunder Bay Award number 1 was awarded to Bill Hardie – VE3EFX6.

Ontario amateurs were anxious to display their amateur calls on their vehicle licence plates. The Radio Society of Ontario and others had made requests of the Ontario government on numerous occasions for amateur calls on Ontario vehicle licence plates. The cover of The Ontario Amateur Vol 10 No 3, (1975) clearly shows plates issued by nine provinces and two territories. In the centre of the photograph, surrounded by twelve plates from other jurisdictions appear the words, “VE3 NOT ISSUED BY ONTARIO GOV’T.” As a concession to Ontario amateurs small plates suitably marked with amateur radio calls were made available. They did not replace the normal plates but were intended to be fastened to the vehicles in addition to the regular licence plates. Orders placed in February, 1970 started arriving in September of that year. Proper amateur radio licence plates were not available to Ontario amateurs until 18 March, 1976. The April, 1976 High-Q quoted Ontario Minister of Transportation and Communications, Mr. James Snow as having announced that the requests for ham plates had been approved by a change in the Legislature. By the end of the year 1,026 plates had been issued and in May, 1980 a total of 1,574 were in use.

Our first President, Pat O’Shea – VE3FW1, died in an automobile accident in 1972. As a mark of respect to his altruism, the Club requested and obtained his call in February 1973. We now proudly use VE3FW for all Club Station activities.

Over the years, the Club has assisted local organizations such as; Civil Defence, Emergency Measures, Search and Rescue and numerous sports events by providing radio communications. An annual benefit since the late ’60s and until the early ’90s, was provided by the Club by transmitting Christmas and New Year’s greetings for residents in local Senior Citizens Homes. Les Harris – VE3AYZ1 was the prime mover in this endeavour.

In the ’70s the use of 2 Metre FM was becoming more popular. The Thunder Bay FM Association was formed with the goal of establishing a repeater in Thunder Bay. Membership fees were $10.00 per month. Components and equipment essential for construction of the repeater came from revenue generated by membership fees and various donations and loans from members. Thus began a long but fruitful task—the design, construction, testing and installation of our first repeater. VE3YQT was assembled and operated from the home of Laurie Bridgett – VE3BCD, he was also designated as trustee. Others that contributed to this modern day miracle include Villy Madsen – VE3GHO, Don McKay – VE3GST, Bill Klemacki – VE3EEW and Ray Forslund – VE3EDZ. Phil Moorey – VE3AXL worked hard to obtain permission for the repeater’s permanent operating site and managed to coerce a well known tower contractor into donating a length of heliax for the repeater. It was moved to its permanent home on Mount Baldy (CHFD-TV site) in September, 1975. The next few years involved further tests, improvements and upgrades. In April, 1982, having achieved its objectives, the Thunder Bay FM Association transferred all assets to the Lakehead Amateur Radio Club and disbanded. A review of surviving financial records, clearly indicates we are deeply indebted to a mere 68 very generous amateurs for funding and establishing the first Thunder Bay repeater. Further improvements to the repeater included a full replacement paid for from the Club treasury in the early 1990’s.

Ham classes at Confederation College in February ’74 had 23 students registered. Code and theory classes were offered for 15 weeks. Meanwhile, Bruce Binnie – VE3GHB (ex VE4CB) was conducting classes in the Club rooms at the EMO Building on Thursday evenings.

The 11 April 1975, 40th Anniversary Dinner held at the Airlane Motor Hotel was attended by 21 regular members and five associate members. The succulent prime rib roast cost $5.00 per person. Brien O’Brien – VE3UA was awarded a life membership and Frank Start – VE3AJ presented Brien with a “whatchamajigger” (the official emblem of the P. B. O. (Poor Bloody Operator)).

The May 1975 High-Q carried a report of antenna work at VE3FW. Apparently, Pat Doherty – VE3HFS (later VA3GD and VE3PD) and Laurie Bridgett – VE3BCD built a full-wave dipole for 3750 kHz. The monster was strung between the poles by our Field Day Monkeys-in-training, Greg Zobatar – VE3HPT and Tom Haavisto – VE3HHS (later VE3EEW and VE3CX). The antenna showed an abominable SWR at the design frequency. Bill Unger – VE3EFC (later VE3XT) came up with the reason. A full-size dipole at the resonant frequency shows an impedance in the order of 2,000 Ohms. After a little more thought, the engineers decided to try feeding the beast a quarter wave from one end. Greg and Tom must have made a dozen trips up and down those supports adding wire and trimming wire until the reflected power at 3750 kHz was about 4%. Did the antenna season of ’74-’75 include the month of May?

Also in May, the Club received an announcement that Thunder Bay hams were authorized to use the prefix XL in lieu of VE. Permission was granted in response to the efforts of Pat Doherty – XL3HFS and Bill Unger – XL3EFC who prepared the request. The privilege was granted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the turning of the first sod in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, in Fort William on June 1, 1875. The use of the special prefix was optional for Thunder Bay amateurs until June 30, 1975.

In ’75 Field Day was a bit unusual. The site at Dog Lake Park was chosen because of a request that the Club provide radio communications for the Rendezvous of Voyageurs, a 150 mile canoe trip, sponsored by the Boy Scouts. Field Day Chairman, Pat Doherty – XL3HFS reported approximately 300 QSOs on three bands. Antennas for Field Day included Pat’s 40 Metre beam and dipoles. Participants enjoyed the use of Armed Forces communications vehicles. They were comfortable during the hours of darkness but when the sun was high in the sky they became beer boilers!

Base station for the Rendezvous of Voyageurs was at Bert Somerton’s – VE3BSS camp near the mouth of Dog River. 2 Metres via marine mobile was used to relay information to base, where Bert’s FT-101E on 75 Metres passed the traffic to main base at Dog Lake Park and to town. The trip down the lake proved to be a real test of our capabilities. In the original plan, the Scouts were to traverse the length of the lake during daylight. Circumstances (not reported in High-Q) delayed arrival at Dog Lake Park until 1:30 am Monday, when the first canoes hit the beach. 2 Metres saved the day as the military gear just did not work as well as Phil’s IC-22 in the boat. On watch at Dog Lake Park were: Pat Doherty – VE3HFS, Laurie Bridgett – VE3BCD, Phil Moorey – VE3AXL and Bill Unger – VE3EFC. The stations in town were manned by: Bert Tamblin – VE3ANP1, Les Harris – VE3AYZ1 and Vic Bel – VE3ECV (later VA3BEL). In the power boat, herding 90 canoes through the stormy darkness was: Ray Forslund – VE3EDZ, Bill Klemacki – VE3EEW (later VE3XJ and VE3AJ), Bert Somerton – VE3BSS and pilot Jimmy Warren. Vic Loewen – VE3JAR also assisted from another boat. Apparently the neither the OPP nor the military who were on the lake as well could manage from any great distance due to severe range limitations which prevented them from communicating with their shore units until they were very close.

Early in 1975, in order to entice more members to attend monthly meetings, the Executive announced a building project. Members were invited to build an all solid state keyer. By use of innovative scrounging, for common components, the total cost of a keyer should be $10.00 (or less if you are good at obtaining the essential bits).

Some excellent technical articles were published in High-Q in 1975. These included items on the care and nurturing of Nicad batteries and appropriate chargers complete with drawings and part lists by Phil Moorey – VE3AXL. High-Q mail costs increased again in ’76 from 6¢ to 8¢ for five sheets, printed on one side. By late 1977 High-Q postage had increased again to 12¢ per copy.

In May 1976, an amateur radio display was operational in a three day exhibit in Keskus Mall. Considering very little time was spent planning the event, it went very smoothly. Pat Doherty – VE3HFS, using his Collins S-Line and a TA33 Jr. three element tri-band Yagi worked the three top bands. On 40 and 80 Metres, dipoles were used with an HW-101. Keskus Mall generates a lot of electrical interference but even so, quite a few contacts were made. The bands were in bad shape and only started to improve as the station was being dismantled. Frank Start – VE3AJ1 provided an additional interesting aspect at the display by demonstrating his wind-up receiver and a Marconi Magnetic Detector circa 1906. Jack Read – VE3ECG and Ray Forslund – VE3EDZ loaned some of their home-brew gear for the event. An RTTY demonstration was made possible using equipment loaned to us for the occasion by Confederation College. Murphy showed up when the rotator borrowed from Greg Zobatar – VE3HPT decided to quit and had to be replaced. Selkirk Electronics Club – VE3SEC provided an oscilloscope and microphone so the public could see a trace of their voice on the CRT, there were also various keys and oscillators as well as a QSL card collection on display. One of the objectives of the event was to increase public awareness in amateur radio in a time when CB activity was at its peak.

Club members could get a free supply of QSL cards as a result of the efforts of Les Harris – VE3AYZ1 in Sep. ’76. The cards show a beautiful colour photo of Old Fort William in autumn on the face and have the usual fill-in-the-blanks QSO information and mailing address on the reverse. Courtesy of the National Heritage Company, the cards were free for the asking at the September meeting. Later, in February ’77 Les announced that Old Fort William Historical Park had consented to mail the cards to their individual destinations at no charge to us.

In September, membership fees for 1976–’77 were reported in High-Q as $5.00 for full membership, $2.00 for associate membership and $7.00 for the family plan. However, in October they were increased to $10.00, $3.00 and $12.00 respectively. Again, in November, associate membership was increased further to $5.00. After all the changes, the new fees were included (as Article 2) in the November 1/76 Constitution, which was also published in the November ’76 High-Q.

Field Day ’76 was held at the Start Ranch, thanks to Frank Start – VE3AJ1. With over 1,000 contacts, this event was counted as one of the best yet. Antennas had been set up in advance by Mike Assad – VE3HMV (ex VE3HMJ and later VE3HMS), Pat Doherty – VE3HFS, Bill Boland – VE3BQR (later VA3BA) and Tom Haavisto – VE3HHS. Higher band antennas were two TA-33 Jrs. While dipoles were used for 40 and 80 Metres. Twenty-four people showed up including XYLs, YLs, harmonics and the odd dog. The youngest operator was Cathy, daughter of Bill Boland, she was less than a year old. Frank decided that the event should be recorded on film for posterity, he climbed a tree for a birds eye view. It would have been a great picture if he had had some film. There was a wide variety of shacks, Pat and Laurie had their vans and Ken Rusnak – VE3EFZ and Greg Kasstan – VE3HXK (later VE3HXS) used their tents.

Rendezvous ’76, that annual test of endurance for Boy Scouts and their advisors was held between June 30, when Scouts met at old Camp 226 on the Dog River, and July 4, when these same hardy individuals met their American counterparts at Old Fort William. As in last year’s Rendezvous, the Lakehead Amateur Radio Club was asked to provide safety communications during the early portions of the trip, which entailed 150 miles of paddling.

The Club’s first night’s work involved convey control over the narrow trail leading to the launch area and was handled capably by Pat Doherty – VE3HFS and Laurie Bridgett – VE3BCD with some assistance Tim Ramon – VE3HVF and Randy Zeleny. A watch was also maintained in town on 75 Metres by Bert Tamblin – VE3ANP1, Les Harris – VE3AYZ1 and Vic Bel – VE3ECV.

The next morning saw not only 90-odd boys take to the water, but also saw the launching of Tim Ramon – VE3HVF/Maritime Mobile with a battery-operated IC-22A. Tim’s effort gave us communications over a very rough stretch of water on the Dog River.

Also on the water the following morning were Ray Forslund – VE3EDZ and Bert Somerton – VE3BSS (also operating /MM) headed upstream along the Dog River to meet the group coming down. Back in a base camp, set up at the cottage of Bert Somerton – VE3BSS, was Bill Klemacki – VE3EEW, keeping in touch with the water borne bunch on 2 Metres and relaying the results on 75 to town and the other base camp at Dog Lake Park. Two days of radio work to and from boats was very successful and fortunately there was no emergency traffic to handle, but there was lots of informal stuff sifting back and forth.

The arrival at Old Fort William of the Canadian and American Scouts (who, incidentally, paddled up the south-west shore of Lake Superior from just north of Duluth as a Bi-centennial project) was timed by the use of 2 Metres. Phil Moorey – VE3AXL, Pat Doherty – VE3HFS, Tim Ramon – VE3HVF and Bill Klemacki – VE3EEW coordinated this phase.

A final footnote to the above story was recorded at the September meeting when two representatives from Boy Scouts of Canada presented a scroll and a Thunder Bay scarf to each participant in appreciation of their time and effort.

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