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Amateur Radio Operators Celebrate 40th Anniversary

Amateur radio has been an important tool for emergency communications.

by John E. Usalis, Republican & Herald / June 23, 2015

(TNS) — Even with cellphones, email and other forms of modern communication, the hobby of amateur radio continues to be popular thanks to groups like the Schuylkill Amateur Repeater Association.

The association is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, having been organized by 25 men on March 5, 1975. Of the 25 charter members, 23 were licensed amateur radio operators.

While amateur radio has been a longstanding fun hobby, it is also important for emergency communications. One of SARA’s objectives is to contribute its assistance to the county and local communities in any way possible, and to have available a backup radio communications system, with trained operators, to assist in passing important messages during any emergency.

Each year, SARA holds its annual field day and, in recognition of the anniversary, it will move the site of the field day to its original location in Mahanoy Township near the village of Park Place.

On-air demonstrations are on tap as SARA gears up to participate in the 83rd Amateur Radio Field Day on Saturday and Sunday at the top of Tower Road.

“This weekend is our annual field day, and the theme this year is ‘Back to the Future,’ ” Jim Munley, SARA secretary and radio operator, said. “We’re going to the original tower site where it started 40 years ago when SARA started.”

The field day is a 24-hour event, rain or shine, beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday and ending the same time Sunday. The event is open to the public.

During Field Day, amateur radio operators will hold demonstrations, give talks to community groups and take part in other activities to raise awareness about amateur radio. Field Day is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio. During this annual event, thousands of fellow amateur radio operators and clubs will set up radio stations in parks, community centers and other remote locations for the purpose of gaining proficiency in operating under austere conditions should an emergency occur.

“We’re going have three stations going,” Munley said. “We’re having the GOTA station, which stands for ‘Get On The Air.’ We’ll have the Morse code station and the phone station, which is voice. That’s what they called it back then. We will have digital demonstrations and a few more surprises there.”

Munley added, “What we want people to know is that the original 90-foot tower that SARA put its first signal out on is back in service and it will be in use for hanging antennas on. And the government surplus utility trailers that were first used for equipment and transmitting stations were refurbished last month, and they will also be in use. Most of everything that SARA started out with that is still around will be used.”

Munley said the surplus utility trailers were military vehicles and a SARA member became aware of them and obtained them for use.

“There will be two transmitting stations in them,” Munley said.

One of the original members, Carl H. Zimmerman, Tamaqua, will be on hand to kick off the field day at his Morse code station.

“Radio operators will be making contacts with stations throughout the United States and North America,” Munley said.

GOTA allows anyone from the public to participate by talking on a ham radio.

A tradition at each field day is to remember the members who have died in the past year. The association will remember Allen Breiner Jr., Tamaqua, Andrew Hardee, Zion Grove, and Lewis H. Hoffman, Shenandoah Heights.

“They were all outstanding members of SARA and contributed a lot to the organization. They were held in very high regard in amateur radio circles,” Munley said.

Munley said the 24-hour event is also a competition among ham radio clubs around the country, with each trying to contact as many different stations as possible. Invitations to attend have been sent to the county commissioners and county Emergency Management Agency coordinator John Matz, among others.

“We have people showing up at all hours,” Munley said.

Park Place is located about three miles northeast of Mahanoy City along state Route 1014 (Park Place Road). At the east end of the village, turn left at the next to last street, which is Tower Road, and drive up the mountain. Munley said there will be signs placed by SARA to follow.

Meetings are held monthly at 8 p.m. on the second Friday at Schuylkill Medical Center-South Jackson Street. Go into the main entrance and go straight back to conference room.

The meetings are open to all who are interested in amateur radio. The next meeting is July 10.


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