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Mankato Area Radio Club (MARC) - History 1954 to 1989

Welcome to the official web site of the Mankato Area Radio Club. Originally founded in Mankato, Minnesota on 1954, we have been working to encourage the growth of Amateur Radio for 57 years.

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Compiled by:
George Johannsen, WB0ZQN

It was early in 1954 when Robert Beck, W0PBY; Bill Cary, W0TOF; John Gratner, W0QKA; Lloyd Reed, W0BBY and Milo Washa, W0VYB took it upon themselves to try and get a radio club started. They contacted as many interested people as possible and informed them of a get together on the night of March 4th. The proposal of forming a club was presented to everyone present. At that time, Bob Beck was appointed temporary President and Chairman. John Gratner was appointed temporary Secretary/Treasurer. A Constitution and Bylaws committee consisting of Les Severson, W0DJH; Bob Curtis, W0CXU and Gene Engdahl was formed. It would be up to them to form the basis of the Constitution. The group then broke up for the evening after deciding to meet again on March 18th.

On the 18th, the radio group again got together. During the meeting, the proposed Constitution and Bylaws were read to the attending people. It was voted on and approved to make this Constitution the official law of the Mankato Area Radio Club. The Constitution stated that the second Thursday of each month would be the official meeting night. The March meeting would be considered the annual meeting and elections would be held in this month. The first election was held and Bob Beck was elected the first President and Bill Cary the first Vice President.

At the September 1954 meeting, a motion was made to secure a club station license. This motion was pursued and at the October meeting, it was announced that the club was issued the call W0WCL. It was sometime during 1955 or 1956 that the club license was let lapse. In April 1957, it was agreed upon to reclaim the call W0WCL. This call has been held by the club since that license renewal.

During the years since the inception of the club, the meetings have been held in many locations. The home of Bob Beck was the first meeting place. The Vocational School was also used in 1954. In June 1955, they met for the first time at the municipal airport. Then at the March 1959 meeting, it was decided to meet at the NSP building in the winter and at the airport in summer. In January 1960, the club decided to make NSP the permanent meeting place. They stayed there until 1969 when the meeting place was moved to the Vo-Tech School. There it stayed until 1973 when the meeting room in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center was secured. Meetings have been held there ever since.

September 1955 was the first time that there was a discussion on incorporating the club. At that time, it was felt that it was not essential. As time went along, it was decided that the club should have liability insurance to cover itself in case of law suits. The time finally came when the cost of insurance got too high for the club to purchase. It was then decided that incorporation would be the way to protect the members if the club was sued. Steve Heaton, WB0MHK, was able to find a law firm who would do the paper work free. Our only cost would be for filing fees, etc. At the July 1986 meeting, the membership was informed that the incorporation papers were finalized. Inc. was officially added to the club name.

In 1954 there was discussion as to whether MARC should seek to become affiliated with the American Radio Relay League. The affiliation in itself would not benefit the club except to make MARC known to the league. The club finally received its affiliation in January 1955. In order to keep this status, at least 51% of the club members had to be league members. Then in 1986, the league started a new club affiliation called Special Service Clubs. To be an SSC, a club had to maintain 51% of the club members as league members and show that the club was involved with other special projects. MARC applied and was accepted in July 1986. Special projects included Novice classes yearly and Emergency services.

Over the years, the club has maintained many different standing committees. The first to be set up was the QRM committee set up in April of 1954. Then in May of 1955, a public relations committee was formed. This included the Secretary/Treasurer and three other members. In July 1960 the FCC stated it would be interested in the club handling some local interference complaints. These would be mostly Citizens Band complaints. An emergency corp. committee was set up in October 1966. The emergency group was up and down over the intervening years. In 1978 a new emergency group was formed and has been active since. The committees active at present are Education, Emergency Service, Newsletter, Librarian, RFI/TVI and antenna party.

It seems that contests have been an integral part, of the club since the beginning. In April 1954, a DX contest was proposed and held. Then in January 1955 there was set up a "Most Contacts Contest". This would run for 2 months on all bands. QSL card confirmations were required. In February 1956 it was first proposed to work Field Day. Then in March 1956 there was a proposal to have a "Worked All MARC" certificate. This did not materialize at this time. A "Worked All MARC" contest was held at a later date, but had a very poor showing. The same happened to a MARC 10 Meter contest that was held.

May 1955 saw the start of the reading of ARRL bulletins at the monthly meetings. This helped the membership keep up on the changes within the league and the FCC. This practice continued for a number of years, but was discontinued when meetings became too long.

The first mention that there was Civil Defense equipment available to club members was in May of 1955. It was mentioned in the minutes that equipment was being moved to the municipal airport. Then in July 1960 the Civil Defense station at the airport was again discussed. The equipment then available was a KW transmitter. Also a trailer with 3 stations. These could be used by the club members, but a RACES member had to be present. Then in March 1974 it was mentioned in the newsletter that the club station was in operation with a Drake TR-4C transceiver and an all band vertical. This station was also a Civil Defense station, but it could be used by any amateur using the club call. In February 1983 the club received notification from the office of Civil Defense to prepare a list of equipment to replace the existing station. A committee was formed to prepare the list. After due consideration, the equipment was decided on and the list went in. This was approved in due time and at the August 1984 meeting, it was announced that the new equipment consisting of a Kenwood TS-430S transceiver, external speaker and an automatic antenna tuner for HF and a Kenwood TR-7930 2 meter rig were installed and operating. 1000 feet of coax was also purchased and three new runs were run up to the roof of the LEC. These would feed a 5 band vertical, a two meter vertical and a scanner antenna. The station also had an all band scanner installed.

In January 1956, it was announced that all amateur stations would be required to have equipment capable of monitoring CONELRAD transmissions. The law would go into effect on January 1, 1957. The purpose of this was to get the amateurs to shut down their transmissions in the case of a National emergency.

Over the years, MARC has had a number of nets. The first one was organized in February 1956. They would meet on a frequency of 3805 Kc at 1:00 PM. Then in July of 1959 a Novice net seas established on 7190 Kc at 7:00 PM on Tuesdays and Saturdays. These and other subsequent nets had there ups and down over the years. It seems that HF nets never went over very well. Then in the late 70's, a net was established on two meters. This net met on Sunday evenings. The tines have varied over the years, but 2130 had turned out to be the best.

Special club events have gone over very well over the years. In November 1954 it was suggested that prizes be purchased for home brew. To this day, the home brew contest at the February meeting is a special event for all. Then in July 1956 it was suggested that the club hold a club picnic. This picnic was expanded the next year to include any amateurs anywhere who wanted to attend, could come. This was kept up over the years until the attendance started to drop of. Finally in 1989, the club picnic was canceled all together. At that time, attendance had dropped off to only 5 or 6 hams and their family. The picnic was turned over to the Field Day committee and is now held on the Saturday evening of Field Day. This has a good turn out.

Club auctions was another event that has gone over very well with the membership. The first auction was held in March 1957. They have continued up to the present. They are held after the election of officers in March. 10% of all sales goes to the club.

Field Day has also had its ups and downs over the years. The first indication that the club would participate was in 1955. Since then there have been good and bad attendances at this event. The locations have changed over the years also. The first mention of a site was in 1972 when it was located at Ski Haven. Since then, it has been held at Seppmann Mill at Minneopa State Park, BENCO Electric on Highway 169 South, Vo-Tech School, Good Counsel and Sibley Park. The one year that everyone will remember well was the year that we were at the Oscar Burr farm south of Mankato. That year we decided that it would be a better test of our capabilities if we let the Blue Earth County Sheriff and the Civil Defense Director find a site for us and then let us know on the morning of Field Day. All other preparations were made, as usual. On FD morning we found the site. In the middle of idle acres. No antenna supports, no nothing. We did prove it could be done.

Holding classes in order to get new people licenses has been a special pet project of MARC. The first classes were code classes set up in November of 1956. As tine went along, instruction in the technical aspect and operating procedures was added to the classes. Then in 1984 the FCC implemented the Volunteer Examiner program. This was in cooperation with the ARRL. The league would qualify persons to give the FCC tests to anyone for any class of license. Archie Kimpe, KZ0U, was the first in MARC to get this accreditation. Since that time MARC has held a testing session in conjunction with its novice classes. Upon completion of the classes, the new novices were given free membership for the rest of the calendar year.

In August 1978 it was announced that the North Hennepin Community College would be holding a SKYWARN class. The basic class would last 4 1/2 hours at a cost of $6. Everyone completing this class would receive .4 college credits. There would also be an advance SKYWARN class held. This class would also last 4 1/2 hours and cost $6. College credit of .4 was also issued. These SKYWARN classes have continued up until the present time. Now they are now conducted by the Office of Emergency Management (CD). There is no charge for the classes and no college credits available except to law enforcement personnel.

August 14, 1958 was set as the first transmitter hunt in Mankato. The frequency being used was 3805 Kc. About 1978 the fox hunting was again tried. Now the frequency being used was 146.52 MHz simplex. That is quite a jump from the first. Fox hunts were held over several years, but it finally died out.

According to the MARC NEWS heading, the newsletter has been published since June 1959. Over these 30 years, there have been many different Editors and just as many ideas as to how the newsletter should be done. This is what has always made the newsletter unique and fun to get and read. It started out as a hand written sheet of paper. Then the typewriter came into the picture. This was used to make the master for a spirit duplicator. From there it was decided to take it to a print shop to have it printed. This went on for a number of years until in 1981, MARC received a copy machine for its use. It was then that the club started to do the copying itself.

It was in July 1959 that it was discussed to get paid ads for the newsletter. Nothing was decided at that time. Then in October 1974 it was decided that paid advertisers would be actively solicited. This continued until 1989 when the Board of Directors decided to eliminate the paid advertisers.

In July of 1977, MARC applied for second class postage status. We were able to mail second class starting in September of that year. In November our second class status was approved and we have been able to send out the newsletter at a fraction of the normal cost ever since.

On September 1969 it was suggested that a "Ham of the Year" certificate be started. A committee was set up to work out the details. It was decided that it should be awarded to the person who contributed the most to amateur radio and the club during a calendar year. The certificate would be decided by ballot from the membership. These ballots would be given to the club President, who is not eligible while in office, and he would make up the certificate. The first certificate was issued to Ken Finch K0KCJ, at the December 1969 meeting. The only change in the certificate that has been made is that it is now awarded at the annual Christmas party. A person is eligible for this award only once. It was because of this reason that the Board of Directors decided that another award would be made available. It was in 1987 that the board conceived the qualifications for the "Golden Mike Award". It is basically the same as the "Ham of the Year" award except that it can be given to the same person more than once. It is up to the Board of Directors who should win this award. This award is also be presented at the annual Christmas party. Steve Heaton, WB0MHK, was the first recipient.

In November 1959 it was suggested to give out an attendance prize. Finally in June of 1960, this was acted on. It would be 1 months dues. It continued in this fashion for a couple of years. In 1971 it was again decided to have a door prize. This was to be $1.00 per meeting with the drawing at the end of the meeting. Members must be present to win. If not present, money would be carried over to next meeting. This would accumulate each month until won, at which time it would start over. The idea of attendance, door and raffle prizes has come and gone over the years, depending on the Board of Directors.

Callbooks for MARC have been around since they were first mentioned in 1960. At that time, it was decided to buy both the foreign and domestic books. The old books were to be given as door prizes. Then in 1967 it was decided to temporally suspend the purchase of the books due to the cost. In 1970 it was again decided to purchase the callbooks. They were to be kept by the Secretary. The old books were to be auctioned off. The books have been purchased every year since. At present, the North American book is bought every year and the Foreign every other year. The Secretary is no longer in charge of them. It is a volunteer who has made himself available.

September 1967 saw the passage of a motion that would almost destroy the club. It was at this meeting that it was decided to purchase a panel truck from Dave Dunlap, W0HUU, for $85. This truck would be used as an emergency communications vehicle. A down payment of $50 was made with the balance paid on the transfer. Then came insurance and licensing costs. A committee was set up to take care of painting, emblems, etc. Antennas for 2 meters and 6 meters were installed. Costs were mounting. Then in June 1968, it was decided that the emergency group would buy the truck. It was sold to Herman Kopischke, W0TCK, for $100. It was hoped that this sale would help to soothe some of the hurt feelings that had been created. To this day, just the mention of this emergency truck, brings shivers to some old timers.

Christmas parties have been with the club from the beginning. At first they were part of the regular club meeting in December. 1970 was the first year, in the minutes, that mentioned the party being held at a local restaurant. This was at the Viking Motel. Since then it has been held at the Happy Chef North, The Colony Club, Inn Town Motel, The Char House, Harry's Haufbrau House, Holiday Inn North and finally at the Garden Inn. These parties were held in December until 1983 when it was decided to have them in January when things slacked up from the party season. Programs for these parties have been varied, but the best one never happened. Senator Barry Goldwater K7UGA, declined to talk at the 1972 party.

In 1962, the club purchased a Johnson Adventurer transmitter for $23. This would be made available to anyone needing it. The first month it would be loaned free of charge. It would then cost $1.00 a month thereafter. The last mention of this rig was in 1970 when it was shown in the minutes that it was at the home of Deuel Potter. Anyone know where it is now?

In 1967, Interstate Power of Winnebago, informed the club that it had a number of FM radios available for $1.00 each. They stipulated that they would remain the property of MARC and could not be resold. MARC agreed to the terms and decided to purchase them. No mention has been made of them since. Where are they?

In 1964 it was decided that the club should go to 6 meters FM if reasonably priced units could be found. If not, then 2 meters would be the choice. Then in January 1965, ten 6-meter FM units were ordered at $35 each. No mention was ever made as to what happened along these lines. Then in 1971, the subject of a 2-meter repeater for Mankato was brought up. A committee was formed to look into it. It wasn't until 1974 that a report was given that repeater WR0ABT was on the air on 146.25/85 MHz. This repeater was owned by Dr. Charles Zwisler, K0KLY. Then in September of 1977, there was an organizational meeting of a number of interested hams to form a repeater club. This group formed itself into the Minnesota Valley Repeater Association. They now own and operate the repeaters in the Mankato area.

The meeting for April 1965 was canceled because of the flood emergency in Mankato. Some of the club members were involved with the emergency communications. The May meeting consisted of an evaluation. The only emergencies that the club has been involved with since were tornado and severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.

1974 saw a great event in Mankato. Along with the Mankato State University Radio Club and the Viking Amateur Radio Society of Waseca, MARC hosted the 1974 Dakota Division Convention. This was held at the MSU gym on May 4th. This event drew about 500 amateurs to the area.

September 13th through the 19th, 1976, MARC sponsored a booth at Farmfest '76 located at Lake Crystal. The club was able to use the call AC0WCL for this special event. Any station contacting the club station during this event, was issued a special commemorative certificate. These were mailed in a special envelope with a special postmark. The highlight of the event was a radiogram obtained from President Jimmy Carter to his wife in Plains, GA. He was here campaigning.

March 1985 was a turning point for MARC. It was at this meeting that the first woman was elected to the position of President. Peg Johannsen, MD0ECN, held this position for 2 years running. She also has the distinction of being the first woman to hold a club office when she was elected Vice President in 1978.

During the 35 years of MARC, there have been a lot of little things that do not deserve a paragraph for themselves, but are of interest. They are here in the closing paragraphs.

In 1955, MARC coordinated their communications with the Civil Air Patrol. It was also in that year that military personnel were exempted from paying club dues until their return. The club has over the years had a number of QSL cards designed. They were also available to club members. In 1958 there was a discussion about the police using handhelds on 75-meters. MARC protested this to the FCC. Can't you imagine the size of a 75-meter handheld? How about the antenna?

During the years, there have been technical discussions, question and answer sessions and show and tells before, during and after the meetings. In 1976, the club purchased a set of ARRL publications for $17.50 to be placed in the Blue Earth County Library. The set now costs about $100.

1976 saw the club make membership badges available to members for $17.50. Quite a few members purchased them and the company gave the club a large sign free. In 1981 the subject of club jackets was brought up. Prices were researched, but there were not enough people interested. In 1984 a contest was held to design a club logo/patch. The patch was adopted and made available to members.

In 1987, MARC became involved in getting a law changed in the State of Minnesota, to allow amateurs to have equipment in their vehicles that could receive law enforcement frequencies.

These 35 years have seen many changes in Amateur Radio. With the direction that technology is taking, the next 35 should see an even bigger change. Happy 35th.