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A Contest Somewhere In Time

By George Kelly K9WWT

Tower by K9WWT It all began about a year ago when Stan Vandiver, W4SV, took on a massive effort to revive Northwest Indiana's Chapter 36 of the QCWA. Chapter 36 had been dormant for a great many years when Stan began e-mailing and calling hams in the Northwest Indiana region to see if they were interested in joining and reviving Chapter 36. It only took a few monthly meetings and Chapter 36 was running at full speed again with a current membership of 26 full members, 49 chapter guests and still growing. I had been a ham for 49 years when Stan called and would you believe it, never joined QCWA with almost half a century as a ham? So thanks to Stan's effort I have discovered another enjoyable aspect of ham radio.

K9WWT by W4SV Our chapter covers hams in six adjoining counties so as I attended meetings I was introduced to several neighboring hams I had never met before. One of those hams was Danny Scheetz, W9DWS. A number of years ago, Danny purchased an old AT&T 200 foot cement microwave tower. They were being sold off as obsolete structures due to technology changing the entire approach to terrestrial microwave & telephony communication transport systems. You will remember those towers I am sure, they speckled our countryside as pillars of esteemed point-to-point relay structures for AT&T. Back when we were growing up, it was every hams dream to use one of those towers for ham radio purposes instead of passing signals that contained video images of Johnny Carson, radio broadcast, or other high-end communication packages. When I finally paid a visit to Dan's tower and looked upward, those old desires to engage in a ham radio activity at one of them came back instantly.

W9DWS by W4SV Dan, as a collector of vintage ham radio equipment had already established a nice looking ham shack on the first floor of the tower. So it was now just a matter of asking Dan if he would be interested in hosting the first use of one Chapter 36's newly issued call signs, K9QCW, in the upcoming November 2009 CW Sweepstakes. Dan graciously agreed and gave us the use of his radio room as well as his existing antenna system to launch K9QCW for our first CW contest. Operators for this contest included myself, K9WWT, Tom Ruggles, W8FIB and John Nason, NA9U, with members of Chapter 36 stopping by over the weekend to view the operation.

NA9U and K9WWT by W8FIB What made this contest experience unique and set apart from the many I have operated was the environment in which we operated as well as rested. Our station, which consisted of a Ten Tec Orion 2 and a Kenwood TL-922 amplifier, was set up inside the 200 foot AT&T tower in the middle of the radio room against a backdrop of Collins and other vintage ham radio equipment dating back to the golden era of radio. An operator could move back and forth in time by merely taking his eyes off the logging software, and scanning the room for glimpses of what radio communication was once like 50 years ago. To further highlight this experience, Danny has placed around the room several books, neon signs, fans, microphones, and manuals from that era. For a moment there I felt as if I were in the movie Blade Runner dispatching important security messages for the Tyrell Corporation instead of operating a ham radio contest! When not operating, one could pick up a book containing the history of Hallicrafters receivers and transmitters, or a manual for the Collins 'S' Line and slip back to a time when radio communication was not only bigger than life and exotic, but CHEAPER! One only had to spend a few hours in the radio room to gather an appreciation for how far ham radio communication as come.

W8FIB by W4SV Danny's tower and adjacent building are sort of a gathering point for what could best be described as a little family of enthusiasts of vintage radio, railroad, and other collectibles that cover a wide range of history and interests. Different people will stop by over the course of a weekend just to have a cup of coffee and exchange stories of their latest endeavors in collecting. While there, we were treated to stories of the bar we sat at upon which once sat Marilyn Monroe & John Wayne and was owed by the owner of the Indianapolis 500 at one time. In the railroad arena Matt Lasayko, KC9KUD, shared with us an absolutely fascinating story of the retrieval of a 1930's triple GRS type SA railroad searchlight signal owned by the Michigan Central Railroad. After monitoring its status daily for 2 years, they were alerted they only had a matter of hours to remove it from the railroad property or loose it to the scrap pile. Later, installing it on Danny's property was another massive project. Not only were our minds well fed that weekend but also so were our stomachs. Matt and his friend Anthony Stanley fired up the grill cooking some mighty tasty hamburgers for our evening meal. As guests of Danny, we lacked for nothing.

ON-THE-AIR Sign by W4SV By 9PM Sunday evening K9QCW's first on the air activity had achieved 826 QSOs and 76 sections within the fully allotted 24 hours of operating time. A special thanks goes to Danny, W9DWS, for the use of his tower, amplifier, and marvelous facilities. It was an experience for our ham radio scrap book and one we will remember for a long time to come. Look for Chapter 36 in the next QCWA QSO party in the spring of 2010, when we will be using our second issued call, W9EGQ in memory of Herb Brier a local hero and long time member of Chapter 36.

Read or save George's full text in Microsoft Word format.

Did you work us? See the full K9QCW log from this contest here.

All pictures above and below are clickable for larger view. Email if you want a higher resolution copy of George's or Stan's pics. Tom's pics, when clicked, are the highest resolution available.

These pics from George K9WWT:

These pics from Tom W8FIB:

These pics from Stan W4SV:

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