How it all started

The QRA Story as told by Larry Mitchell,  W1HIL at the 15th Anniversary Celebration December 20, 1963

Fellow Club Members, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Your President, Pat Volpe, W1LEL, has asked me to give a brief history of the founding of QRA and some of the highlights of its achievements.

It is fitting and proper that we dwell into the history of the club on this occasion since the time Everett Whitney, W1EKT was one of the founders and charter members, served as Secretary and a member of the Board of Directors and as long as he lived, was vitally interested in its success.

I must ask you to bear with me if in presenting this brief history I fail to mention any of you who have done so much for this club. Also forgive me if I seem to talk too much about myself or others who started this club.  You can charge it to the ramblings of an old man who is living in the past and forget it as soon as I am finished.

The QRA came into being in a rather different and unusual manner.  During World War II, we had in Wakefield a very active War Emergency Radio Service.  The local unit was headed by Everett Whitney, W1EKT.  The section director was Kay Peacor, W1GAY.  The local group, consisting of Roland Burditt W1MJ, Paul Gauthier W1LVV, Don Greene W1MDH, Everett Whitney W1EKT, Bill Fiscus W1PBQ, and Larry Mitchell W1HIL, worked together with the exception  the time W1LVV and W1PBQ spent in the service.

In 1944 several of us decided to form a small radio club, which we called “Crystal 10”.  Meetings were held once a month in each other’s homes.
The original members of this club were W1MJ, W1GAG, W1LVV, W1MDH, W1EKT W1PBQ W1HIL, and Russ Ringland W1EYZ with ‘Butch” Clapp W1OKB and Jack Gibson W1CTS joining the group shortly after the end of the war.

To show you how informal the club setup was, it had no dues and very few rules.  The Constitution was very simple.

March 31, 1944

  • 1. Membership in ARRL shall be required.
  • 2. Each member shall be an active Amateur.  Activity shall consist of an average of at least one contact on the air each week in any given six-month period, or shall be actively engaged in experimental radio work.
  • 3. Failure to attend two or more house meetings in succession without due notice, 24 hours in advance, shall constitute  a resignation from the club.
  • 4. Meetings will be held on the last Friday evening every month during the Winter season, unless otherwise agreed by the members.
  • 5. Membership limited to not more than 10, from towns contiguous to Wakefield.
  • 6. New members to be elected only by unanimous vote of the members.

The first President was W1HIL, the first V.P. was W1LVV and the Secretary was W1EKT.

At first we had officers, however this practice was discontinued shortly and the group still met informally.  We had eight members, one having passed on and one having moved away.

We had our regular meeting back in October 1948, and after the meeting, Don Greene W1MDH, and I were sitting in front of his house discussing the fact that other local hams had learned of the existence of our group and wanted to join.  Many felt we were being high hat, etc.  We did not feel it possible to handle over ten members in private homes.  Don said: “You know many local hams think we are a stuck up bunch and in fact they are calling our group the ‘Stinkers’ club, I think we should do something about it.”  I said: “Well the only answer is for us to start a radio club open to all who wish to join.”  Little did I know what I was getting into with this suggestion but “fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and I never regretted our original decision.

Don Greene and I agreed we would do everything we could to get the club started but agreed we would never serve as an elected officer.  I broke the pact when I took the job of the Treasurer after W1OG retired and went to Florida to live.

We presented our ideas to the rest of the “Crystal 10” and got data from the ARRL on starting a radio club.  Don Greene arranged for a meeting place, the old hose house, or the Greenwood Fire Station, as it was properly called.  A list of all hams in towns around Wakefield was prepared and announcements of the meeting to start a radio club made up and mailed by members of “Crystal 10”.

Approximately 100 announcements were mailed.  The first meeting was held on November 19, 1948 with W1HIL as temporary chairman.  About 40 hams from local towns came to this meeting and interest was high.

To give you some idea of how this was handled, I will read you my notes of those times.

           “W1PBQ was appointed temporary Secretary.”

“The second meeting was held December 17, 1948 in Melrose at Walter Rogers’ house and a slate of officers and directors was elected.”

“our first President                  W1GAG
first Vice President          W1DFS
first Treasurer                  W1IN
first Secretary                  W1LVV”

“The list of names suggested for the club was discussed and the name QUANNAPOWITT RADIO ASSOCIATION, (QRA), proposed by Jack Gibson
W1CTS, was adopted.”

The first group of officers, Board of Directors and members did a great job.  During the first year, code classes, auction, good speakers, bean supper, etc. were all enjoyed by the gang and the club grew rapidly in membership.  The first code class, for example, run by W1GAG, W1CTS, W1LVV, W1FSK graduated 25 licensed hams.

In June of 1949 a tremendous field day was held at Mt. Hood using the call W1GAG/1.  Thanks to Kay Peacor we have some pictures of that occasion as well as pictures of “Crystal 10” and W1EKT.  He has given them to the club.

The second year saw a good increase in membership under the leadership of Ralph Hawkins, W1OEX and another big field day was held at Mt. Hood.

Later “Worked All Member” contests, TV-set raffles were added to the features.  Outstanding speakers and fine entertainment over the years helped QRA’s growth and made QRA one of the most respected and best known clubs in the area.

The club soon outgrew the Greenwood Hose House and moved to the Wakefield YMCA.  In 1963 the move was made to the Woodville School.

Many of the club members have served the club in the years from 1948 to date.  May I take the opportunity to thank all of them for so ably keeping up what so hopefully was started so long ago.

In 1954 the club sponsored and made a series of tape-recorded radio broadcasts which were aired over WHIL in April of that year.  These were done under the leadership of W1GAG and were well received and gave much publicity to our club. (Alas, we have not been able to locate the tapes).

The club has had many members who have been active in the FEMARA, the organizer of the New England Hamfests, in CD work (traffic, observers, etc.) and all other worth-while activities.

The following was prepared by Dr. Les Radnay, W1PL in 1988.

Since this report was given by W1HIL, 25 more years have passed.  Some of the charter members are still with us.  From them, and from available issues of the QRA NEWS, the club’s history in a nutshell continues.

We still have QRA’s very active 10m AM net on 29.1 MHz, which meets every Thursday at 7 p.m.  There were times with over 25 check-ins each busy Thursday.
The original QRA club station  was K1YXH.  To commemorate Everett Whitney’s leadership, contributions and memory, the club changed this to his former call, W1EKT.  The first trustee was Joe Poges, W1EED, with Bob Reiser, AA1M, taking over after Joe’s retirement.  W1EKT is still loud and clear at all ARRL field days with QRA on the air.

Early in the 1960s the QRA NEWS was established and with the all-out support of the membership it has entered now its 26th year.

At the end of the 60s, the Mt. Hood field days have been revived by Les Radnay, WA1FHU (now W1PL), with the help of K1NFW, W1EED, W1IKR, W1HBB, K1NKA, W1JBI (now W1CE), K2DIM, WA1HUD, W1HFR, K1ZQL and WA1IRG (now N6BV).  The number of operators exceeded 30, participants often over 60.  The number of stations 8 or more.  Members and their families enjoyed these outings which developed into great picnics in good weather.

Then Mike Riordan W1HFR, took the task of field days and successfully managed excellent turn-outs, high scores and wide participation at the MIT Bates Laboratory site in Middleton.  He got great support from Bob Reiser AA1M, Jim Fisk W1HL, Joe Poges W1EED, Phil Broeg W1HBB, John Howell K1NKA, Bill Arnold KA1CNU, Dex Wheeler W1TUM, Jim Chetwynd W1UZK, Norm Young W1HX, Dino Argentini W1NJN, Pete Kenney WA1ABI and many others.

The 29.1 MHz net, the continuous novice and upgrade classes, the field days, speakers, as Stew Perry W1BB, George Downs W1CT, George Hitz W1DA, Katashi Nose KH6IJ, Jim Fisk W1HR of Ham Radio Magazine, 73 Magazine’s Wayne Green W2NSD, the frequent  visits of ARRL directors Bob Chapman W1QV and John Sullivan W1HHR, ARRL staffer Lew  McCoy W1ICP, FEMARA officials Gene Hastings W1VRK and Don Poulin W1MXC as well as visitors from abroad, the publicity given by the bright orange QRA badges and first Lou Winchell’s (WA1HPS), then Fred Lingel’s (K1CCW) great QRA NEWS boosted the membership to over 400.
The advent of the burgeoning repeater clubs and the surge of availability of SSB equipment, the rising new hobby of computers in the late 70s took their toll on QRA.  Many of the 29.1 regulars got new gear with no AM mode, others preferred the new 2m FM circuits, The shrinking of the QRA NEWS caused by increased costs of publication, the waning of the old timers and with them some of their pioneer’s enthusiasm, and last but not least, the closing of the Woodville School had very negative effects on the QRA.

It took a lot of courage, determination, confidence and effort to fight against the odds.  But through the 80s, QRA activists succeeded to steady the club and make it to look forward to the 40th anniversary and beyond with great optimism.  The membership is growing again, the meeting attendance is up and QRA is ready for the challenges of Amateur Radio.  QRA is preparing for the twenty-first century.

It is part of the QRA story, that QRA’s Indian Head was designed by Mrs. Fermano, XYL of Joe, W1RRN.
QRA is a general interest radio club serving the Boston and Boston-North suburb radio amateurs, computer enthusiasts and communities for forty years.  “QRA” stands for “amateurism” at its best

The following report was compiled by Bob Reiser, AA1M and Tim McNulty, KA1MID (K1TIM) for the QRA 50th Anniversary.

This note is included in each QRA NEWS in the upper left hand corner of page two.

For the past 50 years, QRA has been an organization open to all interested in radio communications.  Its goal is to further develop and help expand amateur radio while enjoying ourselves.  The QRA was founded in Wakefield, MA on November 18, 1948 and is still based in the same geographical area, though it has members throughout the United States.  Everyone interested is invited to attend QRA meetings and other activities as well as to join the Association.  You do not have to hold a radio license to participate.

As we look back in time to the events that have happened to QRA since Dr. Radnay’s report, we see this is still true of QRA.  The club has managed to pick itself up by it’s boot straps after a noticeable down swing in membership due in part to computers and communications via the internet.  Thanks to members like Jim Chamberlain, N1AKG (SK) and Jim Fisk, W1HL, QRA held Novice classes in the town of Reading and at the Wakefield Regional Vocational High School and the club membership grew by a few enthusiastic new hams.  VE exams sponsored by QRA and Melrose A.R.E.S. are held on the third Saturday of each month at 1:00 p.m. in Melrose Massachusetts by Scott Kingsley, WB1F.  These are the only the only regularly scheduled exam sessions in the local area.  We are hopeful that continuing the classes and sponsoring the exams will help the membership grow with new members who will take over the reins and keep QRA strong as we enter the new century.

The ARRL New England Convention held in Boxboro, MA every other year had QRA members on the convention committees with Gene Hastings, W1VRK, Don Poulin,W1MXC (SK), Jim Fisk, W1HL, Joe Poges, W1EED (SK), Bud Hartman, WA1YFZ (SK) and some helping out in the background with amateur radio exams and the flea market.

For seven of the last eight winters, some of the QRA members have made mini dx-peditions to the Caribbean for a week of operating and relaxing.  The club call of W1EKT was used in 1993 by the members during a trip to the island of Aruba.  Members who have been on these trips were, Jim Fisk, W1HL, Mike Rioux, W1USN, Ray Sylvester, NR1R, Bob Reiser, AA1M and Tin McNulty, KA1MID.  Tim’s wife Ruth designed and constructed a new club flag, which was hung on the wall during the dx-pedition to the island of Antigua.

In May of 1998, club membership meetings were moved to the newly renovated Wakefield Library in Wakefield center and the meeting nights were changed to the third Thursday of each month.  This move, besides saving QRA quite a bit of money each year, has helped to give local exposure to the club.  Meeting notices will be posted at the library and thanks to an anonymous donation by one of our members, amateur radio literature in the form of magazines and books will be donated to the Wakefield Library for the use of anyone interested in amateur radio.

ARRL Field Day is still being held at the Bates Linear Accelerator in Middleton, MA and it’s still as much fun as it has ever been.  QRA provides food and power for the event and the members dust off their equipment and test it out for the weekend.  The club hasn’t won any trophies or awards during these get-togethers but everyone has a wonderful time.

The FCC implemented “NO Code Licensing” and the vanity call sign program during the past 10 years.  Amateur radio licenses are now renewed for 10 years and if you would like to have a particular call sign that is available and in your license class, you can pay a fee and request it from the FCC.  Most commercial CW communications have ceased and have been replaced by digital communications.  The land mobile services are petitioning the FCC asking to be granted permission to use pieces of the amateur radio bands in the VHF and UHF portions of the spectrum.

QRA still produces an outstanding monthly newsletter, copies of QRA NEWS are left at local Radio Shack stores and placed on the front counter.  Copies of QRA NEWS and an information sheet on the club are handed out at ham radio flea markets and other events to primate QRA to the ham community.  Carl Smith, KW1P (SK) has been doing an exceptional job as Editor of QRA NEWS for more than the past few years and has decided to retire from that position with the June 1998 issue.  This was also the final issue for contributing editors Sam Beverage, W1MGP with his “SAM SEZ” series and Les Radnay, W1PL (SK) who contributed “You Might Want to Know…” The new editor, Mike Siguenza, N1CRI started off the club fiscal year at full speed ahead.  The QRA Newsletter format has remained the same at least for the time being.  President Harvey Lipman, N1YQV was the clubs first membership meeting guest speaker for 1998 and one of the members took a digital picture of Harvey and it was included in the October QRA NEWS letter.

QRA became an ARRL Special Service Club in 1997 due to the efforts of then club President Tim McNulty, KA1MID (now K1TIM).  To quote Tim, “The QRA is truly a special club.  Our club was founded in Wakefield Massachusetts fifty years ago and remains in this community today.  As with many other amateur radio activities, we have experienced a slow decline in membership in recent years.  For the past five years, club members have placed a high priority in recruiting new club members and new amateur radio operators.  We know what works; advertise and offer free radio classes.  We will continue this service.  Every club is unique.  The Quannapowitt Radio Association takes this stewardship seriously.  This may be an older club with a mostly mature membership, but when it comes to amateur radio, there is fire in our hearts.”