Susquehanna Valley Amateur Radio Club

SVARC Hamfest 1941

About

This is the history of the SVARC. It is a work in progress! I want to thank all those who have contributed to helping me put together these bits and pieces from our past. In no particular order: Dave Welker K3SI, Harry Bingaman KC3QH, Bill Beck K3ARR, John Lamb W3JJL, and Dave Swaney N3KCR.

The SVARC has been around for a long time and there were times along the way when it may not have existed. It’s been a difficult task to piece together a solid timeline. For anyone who reads this, if you have any other details or dates of events please let me know. Allan Cooke [email protected]

The Susquehanna Valley Amateur Radio Club appears to have started in 1939, as evident from the photo above. Click HERE for a full sized photo or right click to download. This photo came to us in 2014 from the daughter of Lloyd Sherman W3CDY, who we assume was a member of the club at some point. On the photo it says, The Susquehanna Valley Amateur Radio Club "Fourth Annual Hamfest," Rolling Green Park, July 13, 1941.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Congress suspended all amateur radio operations until the war ended in August 1945. It appears the club regrouped right after the war as Bill Beck K3ARR provided a copy of the SVARC’s Constitution and By-Laws from 1945. I have no further information about the club until the late 1950’s.

SVARC 1958

Bill Beck K3ARR joined the club in 1958. Club meetings were held in a small building on Mile Hill Road, just east of Cold Run Hollow Road in Upper Augusta. The property was about 75 feet wide and over 300 feet deep, perfect for ham radio antennas. Currently that building is a remodeled house where someone lives but back when the club was there it appears to have been a private get-away cabin for some people in the area. It had no running water or sewer.

Bill said the club was still having Hamfests at Rolling Green Park at least during the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Rolling Green Park was a 46 acre amusement park along Routes 11&15 in Hummels Wharf. He remembers in 1963 he was the club’s Contest Chairman and was in charge of a Fox Hunt during the Hamfest. Here is a link to a PDF file of the Program for that Hamfest dated August 4, 1963. It shows the list of Members, Officers, and Committee Chairmen and a long list of prizes and sponsors.

SVARC 1961

Sometime before 1961 the club had moved to another small building just up the road across from where the Upper Augusta fire station is currently located. The fire station did not exist back then. It was just an open field. It’s not clear if a club member owned this property or if the club purchased it. There is also some question if the building was already there or if it was built by the club. To this day there is still a small mast mounted at the east end of the building that until a few years ago, had a small 2 meter Yagi antenna that was left behind.

Dave Welker K3SI became a member in 1961 and meetings were being held in that small building. Dave joined the Navy in 1964 and lost touch with most of the other members of the club. By the time his service ended and he returned to the area in 1971, the club no longer existed. Sometime between 1964 and 1971 the property was sold and the club ended but not sure in which order.

The Westinghouse Electric Company operated a large plant in Sunbury that produced electrical and electronics equipment from the 1930’s until about 1954. Over the years, many of the SVARC members were employees or former employees at that plant. While stationed in Panama during 1970, Dave said he ran across some of the transmitters that had been built in Sunbury at that Westinghouse Plant.

Ron Klock K3SEW was a teacher at the Sunbury Middle School and had started a ham radio group at the school. Dave connected with him sometime after 1971 and they started the Central Pennsylvania Amateur Radio Club which continued until about 1980. Many of those members were from Shamokin and the surrounding area.

Don Girton (SK) WB3GDH and some others restarted the SVARC in the late 1970’s. We have a copy of the Club’s Constitution and By-Laws from October 1978 whose signatures include: Donald Girton (SK) WB3GDH , Robert Goodspeed (SK) WB3HML, Mark Reich WB3DIH, and Jeffery Girton NB3H. The club members listed are Herb Bender, Ricky Eister N3CHV, James Hill, Wilber Hain WA3DTV, and Roger Dietz N3CVQ.

I want to point out there were many others who were also members of the club over the years. It was not my intention to list all the members throughout our history. I only mention some who’s names came to my attention while figuring out a timeline. Or if they were quoted or listed in some significant club documents.

From 1978 until 1997 the club moved to multiple locations. The dates and in what order we were there has been difficult to confirm but I indicated the ones that are known. According to some old meeting minutes, in 1979 we met in the Penn Valley Airport lounge. In 1981 we were meeting at Herb Bender’s WB3GDG house in Selinsgrove. Then in 1982 we were at the Snyder County EOC, which at that time was in the borough of Middleburg. Also in 1982 we met at Susquehanna University. Bob Goodspeed WB3HML was the club president and he was a professor at the University.

In 1983 we met at the Selinsgrove Community Center. Also, the PEMA Headquarters at the State School on Route 522 which was later renamed Selinsgrove Center. The PEMA Headquarters was in a bunker three floors below ground level. There were Collins radios installed there that we were able to use.

The minutes indicate by 1984 we were meeting at the Northumberland County Courthouse Annex building, along with the county’s EMA, on the corner of 2nd and Chestnut St. in Sunbury.

Around 1987 Harry Bingaman KC3QH was the vice president of the club and believes we were still meeting at the Annex building, then later in the Commissioner’s Room in the main Courthouse Building on Market St. Later, Harry became president of the club and Joe Dozpat WA3UVP joined the club and served as vice president.

The club’s Technical Committee consisted of Bill Beck K3ARR, Don Girton WB3GDH, Bud Haines WA3DTV and Harry Bingaman KC3QH. They were responsible for maintaining the 147.180 & 146.820 repeaters, owned by Snyder County EMA.

At some point the club had meetings in the Bittner Building at 4th and Market St. in Sunbury. The Bittner Building was a department store from the early 1900’s unit the 1950’s. Then it became Bowman’s Department Store until it closed in the late 1970’s. Sometime after that, the County moved several of their offices to the upper floors and our club met in the basement.

The club minutes reflect in 1988 we were back at the Selinsgrove Center in the PEMA Headquarters. It was also in 1988 when our club became affiliated with the ARRL, as proof from a Special Event Station in 1998 marking that 10th Anniversary. By early 1991 the club filed an application to incorporate the name "Susquehanna Valley Amateur Radio Club Inc," in order to apply for non-profit status. Dave K3SI rejoined the club in 1990 and thinks we were meeting back at the Courthouse Annex building

QST 1996

Dave Swaney N3KCR was first licensed in 1993 and joined the club shortly after that. At that time we were meeting at 2nd and Chestnut St. in the Courthouse Annex. Dave was president of the club in 1994 and 95. In October 1996 there was an article in QST magazine about Dave and Wendell Smith (SK) AA3FD taking Derek Batz W3KR to a VE test session for an upgrade to a General Class license. They wore tuxedos and traveled in a limousine! Talk about style!!

John Lamb W3JJL said when he joined the club around 1997 the club was meeting at the Northumberland County 911 Center on Greenough St. in Sunbury. Derek Batz W3KR was president at the time. John later became president around 2001- 2002

Special Event 1998

I am not sure of the actual date we moved from the 911 Center to the Penn Valley Airport but it appears to be around 1997. I have what looks to be a copy of a lease for the club in 1997 from the Penn Valley Airport in Selinsgrove. Clem Rohrer NR3U was on the board of the airport and was able to secure the use of what was referred to in the lease as the CAP Building. This was a small building at the south end of the runway which had previously been abandoned by the Civil Air Patrol.

In the lease it stated we would rent the building for $50 a month. However, most people think there was an agreement with the airport that as long as we made some improvements and kept up the maintenance, we could use the building for free. Looks like the lease was never signed by any club members.

Clubhouse

Dave Swaney N3KCR was president in 1998 when we held a Special Event Station W3F at the Penn Valley Airport. The Special Event was to mark the 10th Anniversary of the club’s affiliation with the ARRL. Certificates were printed for the event by one of our members and his son who owned a printshop.

Tom Shambach N3LEP created the club’s logo which was used for the special event station certificate. The logo was based on the triangle shaped outline of the Civil Air Patrol logo sign that was still attached to the building at the airport. Later in 2014, Tim Gelvin K3TEG made an updated computer version of it as a PDF file.

In 2001, Gordon Lamb AB3AX (no relation to John Lamb) joined the club after moving here from Scotland. According to his QRZ page, he became the Webmaster for the club’s website www.svarc.net, which no longer exists.

SVARC Logo

We believe the club first became involved with the Lewisburg Arts Festival around 2002 with a suggestion from Bob Stahl WY3M. At first it was just to provide communications, then later the Arts Council kept asking us to do more, like traffic control. However, they offered us a nice donation so we continued to help. Marv Paul N3JIW was the club president.

Several of our members were also involved with ARES and were still helping to maintain the 18 and 82 repeaters for Snyder County. Around 2004 or 2005 there was a falling out with Snyder County EMA and we were no longer welcome to have access to the repeaters.

I joined the club in September of 2012 when John Thompson K3MD was the president and the vice president was Justin Blocker KB3WGF who later became president in 2013. Justin used his own money to start another website for the club. In the summer of 2013 Justin announced he would be stepping down as president as he was moving out of the area. John K3MD who was vice president took over until the end of the year. When Justin left he gave me control of the website and the domain name svarc1.com

Then in 2014 I became president. One of my first questions was who has a copy of the By-Laws? Over the years there were several versions of our club’s Constitution and By-Laws. Different members of the club had paper copies of these and it wasn’t clear which version we were following.

I decided it was time to combine the different versions. In 2014 we voted on the combined version as our official Constitution and By-Laws. I converted them to a PDF file so any of our members could have a copy. I posted them on our Yahoo Group which later became nonsupported. So in May of 2018 we moved all our online files and photos to our Groups.io site.

I also saw the need to reach out to some of our former members to rejoin the club and keep current members who were not attending the meetings informed about what the club was doing. So in July 2013 I started a very informal newsletter in the form of a simple email. By 2015 I changed it to an actual newsletter format which continues today.

In the spring of 2014 Tim Gelvin K3TEG became the ARES Emergency Coordinator for Northumberland County and started ARES in this area again. About a year later Ken Balliet WB3BNY took over as Coordinator and also became EC for Snyder County. Several of our members are currently ARES members and have resumed responsibility for maintaining the 18 and 82 repeaters for Snyder County EMA and are associated with Northumberland County EMA.

Around 2015 the 82 repeater was sending a serial number as an ID and the 18 repeater had stopped sending an ID altogether. The decision was made by Emergency Coordinator Ken Balliet WB3BNY to remove both repeaters from service until the proper ID’s could be restored. About 3 months later both repeaters were back online.

During our time at the airport we installed several radios in the "clubhouse" along with a few towers and wire antennas to provide a nice operating station for our members to use when ever they wanted. We participated in Field Day events and the PA QSO Party. We continued to support the Lewisburg Arts Festival every April. We did our best to maintain the appearance and upkeep of the building so we were able to stay there rent free. When we first moved to the airport the roof leaked so we installed a new metal roof. We added a gas heater for meetings in those cold winter months and an air conditioner for when it got hot.

In the summer of 2018 the airport authority informed us they will be making big changes to upgrade the runway and some of the buildings. It meant we would have to remove the two towers near the clubhouse and install an FAA approved alerting light attached to the top of the building. The light alone would cost about $2,100 plus installation. The airport authority wanted us to pay for that. Since that would completely wipe out all our funds, and the fact that ultimately the plans called for removal of the building altogether, we made the painful decision to find a new location for the club.

After trying a couple of available facilities to host our meetings, we agreed to move to Brookside Ministries just off of Routes 15&11 in Shamokin Dam. This is the church of our member Gretchen Persing KC3GZV. They offered the best facility and gave us the option of several different rooms we could choose from for our meetings.

Disassemble Antenna Removing Towers

We auctioned off a lot of accessories and some minor ham radio equipment from the airport to our members. The main radio, power supply and other accessories are now being stored at member’s locations until we can once again build a station for the club. We removed all the towers and antenna wires and cleaned out the clubhouse of old paperwork and files. By January of 2019 we were officially disconnected from the airport.

After the 2019 Arts Festival we had to make another painful decision of whether we should continue participating in the Lewisburg Arts Festival. We are an aging group and it was getting difficult to find volunteers to fill all the barrier locations for 13 hours during the festival. There had also been a recent article in QST magazine reminding all ham radio clubs that the FCC does not allow clubs to accept any money for doing public service events. Even if it was a donation. We had been receiving a nice donation from the Arts Council for many years. We told ourselves the donation was for the labor involved with moving the traffic barriers and not for communication support. But it seemed to be a fuzzy line so that also contributed to the decision. After a lot of discussion it was agreed we would end our connection with the Arts Festival.

It’s now almost the summer of 2020. The Coronavirus Pandemic has changed, possibly forever, the way we interact with each other. We are using a program called Zoom, an online virtual meeting platform, to continue our monthly meetings. But we are hopeful things will get back to what we remembered as "normal." I have proposed to create a new website for the club that was more in line with other ham radio sites. As part of the content for the new site, I thought it would be a good idea to collect and add the history of our club before too much of it was forgotten.