A Brief History Of The Elgin Amateur Radio Society
By: Neil Kern - W9CNC
The Elgin Amateur Radio Society, as most of you know, has been around a long time. The roots of the organization go back to the early 1930's. Originally called the Elgin Amateur Radio Club, the organization even had a hamfest-type gathering and banquet (but no flea market) back in 1934. Although the club was apparently quite active during the 1930's, detailed information about this period is difficult after the passage of 45-50 years.
World War II was a crossroads for the club, just as it was for a great many individuals. From the start of World War II until about 1946 there was no amateur radio operation. Along with being off the air, many hams went into the military, while others went into the wartime electronics industry, often moving to other parts of the country. During the war, the military trained many radio operators and technicians. When the war ended, many of them were interested in becoming hams.
The Elgin Amateur Radio Society was formed in 1946 as a re-organization of the pre-war club with the slight name change; presumably so that the initials would spell EARS. Meetings were held in a shack behind Jim Hunt's home in Batavia, IL. About this time the club bought the war surplus 10 KVA generator driven by a four-cylinder jeep engine that many of us remember. The club paid $240 for it and the trailer it was mounted on. The club grew nicely during this period. ARRL affiliation occurred about this time. The group met in Jim's shack through about 1949.
The new decade brought a new meeting site. The club members built their own shack in a field behind the Majestic Radio plant in Elgin. The organization also used this site for field day, as they had done previously at Jim Hunt's. The Majestic site was used until the mid-1950's when meetings were moved to the old city hall in Elgin. During the late 50's and early 60's some of the field day's were held at the Meadowdale race track, where the grandstand was put to good use as a shelter and antenna support. It was during this era that many members built club savers. These were simple little 2-meter AM transceivers built as club projects by several clubs in the area. Besides being a way of stirring up club interest, the finished units helped members keep in touch with each other.
During the early 1960's we met in the basement of a large old farmhouse near Gilberts, courtesy of Clayton Jones K9QOC. In 1963 our "annual" dinner was a Halloween party. Later the dinner was a Christmas party and eventually a mid-winter affair. Field days were always well supported. W9IKN was usually in the 7, 8 or 9 transmitter class. In 1967 our field day score was the highest in the 9th call area and second in the US for the 8 transmitter class. After the untimely death of Clayton Jones, meetings were held in a real estate office, the Elgin YMCA and the back room of the South Elgin fire station. Oh yes, the old generator was still seeing us through field days, but was requiring a lot of maintenance while burning at least a gallon of gas per hour.
The 1970's brought change. We began meeting at our present location. Our RACES emergency plan was instrumental in Elgin getting Federal funds for the emergency operations rooms, in one of which we meet. The club sponsored Novice and upgrade classes. Many of our present members are a result of these efforts.
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