Brief History Of How ICARS Was Conceived, Born and What Happened Afterward
In spring of 1975 four radio amateurs, Ray Smith – WA4LMW, Vincent Smith – WB4TBP, Donald Summers – W4DON, and Fred Stiening – K4EYQ (Silent key) were Operating on 2-meter FM simplex in Statesville. Solid communications by mobile to mobile was possible only within 2 to 3 miles and mobile to fixed station with 5/8 wavelength antenna was 8 – 10 miles. 2-meter FM mobile equipment was simple to install and provided superior communications. The only problem was it didn’t have enough range unless a repeater was used. They decided that Iredell County needed a 2-meter FM repeater.
A research was made to find out what it would cost to get a simple 2-meter single-site repeater on the air. The cost came to about $900.00. This included the VHF Eng. RPT-144B at $495.00, Northshore 62-3 Duplexer at $330, Hustler Antenna model G6-144B at $55, and Coax Cable.
They all agreed to join the CVRA (SERA now) and coordinate a frequency pair for the repeater. There were only two 30 KHz channels left at that time, 147.36/96 and 147.39/99. Ray Smith – WA4LMW wrote Frequency Coordinator for an assignment. Letter came back saying Statesville could use 147.36/147.96 MHz. Donald – W4DON, sent a letter back asking for 146.01/146.61 MHz. He wanted that pair for two reasons: 1 – Crystals already available in the existing transceivers, and 2 – Myrtle Beach was on 146.01/146.61 MHz and rigs would work down there when we were on vacation. (The technology for synthesized rigs was not fully developed then.) CVRA wrote back saying “yes” Statesville can use 01/61 pair. It was agreed to accept the pair. Boone, NC was assigned 36/96 pair soon after that and Charlotte, NC the 39/99 pair.
1976 arrived and the group was still trying to get more of the other local amateurs on 2-meters and help purchase a repeater. Donald – W4DON, decided to do a first and conduct a Novice Class. Hopefully enough support from such a class could be realized to form an amateur radio club and sponsor a 2-meter repeater. A Novice Class was started at Old Court House (MCC Annex) in June of 1976; but later moved to the Biology Class Room at main building of MCC. The acoustics were so bad at old Court House that something had to be done. This was arranged by Steve Sallee – WB4YWZ (N4QG now SK) a student in Novice Class. Steve was already licensed but wanted to brush up on Morse code. About 23 students were enrolled. Fred assisted Donald for a couple classes and then became attracted to the Republican Convention on TV.
Donald contacted WB4YJP and WB4VJQ, two local radio amateurs that had been demonstrating SSTV at the Mall earlier. He discussed what the long-term plans were, “form an Amateur Radio Club and support and 2-meter repeater installation”. He also asks them to write a Newsletter to circulate to other local radio amateurs and to the Class. They were also invited to and assisted with Novice Class relating to the dipole antenna.
By the time Class was taking their Novice Exams all agreed to draw up a Charter, organize, and sponsor a 2-meter repeater in Statesville. Steve Sallee – WB4YWZ (N4QG), Paul Kleane – student, formerly WA4WRY, Hugh Henline – W4JOP (moving from VA.) now a silent key, and Donald worked on and developed the original Constitution & By-Laws. Steve was responsible for final draft. Support group (Charter Members) agreed to meet at MCC Student Building on September 9th, 1976. First order of business was to accept the Constitution & By-Laws. Second, agree on a name. Iredell County Amateur Radio Society (ICARS) was agreed on. Third, nominate and select the Officers. Fourth, agree to support a 2-meter repeater for Statesville and surrounding communities.
Donald gave presentation on proposed repeater using an overhead projector and transparencies. The Society voted to proceed with the project. The Society appointed a committee to decide how to finance the project. Donald suggested that each Member contribute $30 toward project to help raise money because it appeared that thirty Members could be mustered. If a second Member from same household wanted to contribute to project, $15 was suggested. This was agreed on and accepted. Pledge cards were designed, issued and signed. This was called “Repeater Membership” but in 1982 By-Laws were amended to read “Fee”. The thirty-dollar Fee is paid by all Regular Members 18 years of age or older holding a valid Technician license or higher. You might say the thirty-dollars became a Membership Fee. The term “Repeater Membership” was never used again. All ICARS Members, Technician or higher are termed Repeater Support Group.
In order to expedite project the Committee decided to obtain a loan for $600 to match the $300 already raised from the membership. The loan was paid off within 30 days or so. This must have been a first – a 2-Meter repeater eighty-percent supported and owned by Novices that couldn’t even use it! (More incentive to upgrade). The new Novices were issued WA4 and WB4 calls.
Repeater Kit was ordered and wired by Larry – WB4WSA and Donald – W4DON. It was taken to second meeting of ICARS so Members could see it. This was where (Wayside School) Charter members signed Constitution. At the second meeting a new Novice Class was started and instructed by WB4WSA – Larry, a Novice from first class. This was held at Wayside School. WA4LMW – Ray Smith was Principal there and had arranged for use of that facility.
Repeater was put on air (146.01/146.61 MHZ.) in the afternoon of October 24th, 1976 at 1600 EDST using two antennas at home of W4DON. Donald was appointed to be trustee of Repeater. Later the Duplexer Kit was ordered, assembled and placed into operation. Experimental operation was conducted using Donald’s former call as “K4PAJ Repeater” aka K4PAJ/R. Trustee finally secured a repeater license on January 3, 1977. WR4AZS was call sign assigned to him.
John Fleming – WD4FFX secured permission from County Manager to locate Society Repeater antenna on the old Sheriffs’ Tower located at Old Court House in Statesville. On August 18, 1977 John and his crew mounted the Hustler G6-144B antenna and control link antenna on side of tower. Repeater was relocated August 27, 1977 to the new site by Dan – WA4WRV (SK now), Billy – WA4PVI, and Donald.
Unfortunately a repeater interference war had began in winter of 1976. Another amateur in Abington, Virginia had placed an “his” uncoordinated repeater on White Top Mountain using the 01/61 pair. He even sent his “spy” into Statesville to see how strong his signal was. This was same person that put “his” repeater on Asheville’s 16/76 pair earlier and FCC finally become involved. Donald, seeing the problem would continue indefinitely proceeded to coordinate a new pair with CVRA. On September 9th, 1977 Herman Cone, III of CVRA agreed to change Statesville repeater frequency to 146.085/146.685 MHz. At Society meeting on September 15th, 1977 group voted 20 to 1 to move off 01/61. Crystals were ordered for new pair and Statesville Repeater was later moved to .085/. 685. Maps were sent to CVRA Frequency Coordinator stating a 75-mile radius 0f coverage area and requested a 150-mile radius protection zone.
K4SNI in Greensboro, NC began using 146.01/146.61 after Statesville moved off. He did not coordinate with CVRA.
In last quarter of 1977 the FCC decided to stop issuing repeater call signs and cancel the ones already in use. All repeaters would use a Club or Trustee call sign. The Repeater call sign was changed to back to K4PAJ/R.
On June 29, 1978 Billy Webb – WA4ONM, Larry Stroud – WB4WSA, WD4FFX, and W4DON relocated the G6-144B Hustler antenna to top of tower. On July 1 1978 the Society purchased and installed an Autopatch on Repeater. Electrical storms took its toll on its CMOS chips.
The Society purchased and installed a new Phelps-Dodge PD 220 Super Station Master Antenna on June 9, 1979. The Hustler was relocated to side of tower for spare and the PD-220 was installed on top of tower. Unfortunately the PD-220 SWR was out of spec. (2.6 to 1). Phelps-Dodge was notified and new PD-220 was installed on May 3, 1980. ICARS was reimbursed for bad one.
(The best location for the Repeater antenna to-date has been on top of old Sheriffs Tower. We could hilltop the Repeater from Charlotte, NC.)
ICARS helped the Jaycee’s with boat racing, for the Heart Fund, from 1978 till 1984. All ICARS members participating could have been killed helping with that project. (Remember the drunk boat racer on starting line going in wrong direction?) On March 24, 1984 ICARS assisted EMS in relocating patients from old Davis Hospital to new Davis Community Hospital. If you forgot Net time was 0700 till 1014 hrs.
In 1985 and 1986 Donald – W4DON, began searching for information on a new and better Repeater at the President’s request. After talking with other repeater operators, contacting the manufacturers and getting a lot of information he recommended the integrated Controller, Repeater, and Autopatch System. This information was past along to others in Society. In the spring of 1987 three quotations were requested from the different sources and were properly forwarded John Fleming, the President – WD4FFX, suggested that it was time to conduct another Novice Class. This was scheduled in fall of 1987 and was conducted by W4DON, NG4X, and WB4WRY at MCC Annex on W. Front St. In March of 1988 the Society voted to raise necessary co-payment funds to purchase the new Repeater recommended by Donald. A request for donations was mailed out to all members and the order was placed for the new Mark 4CR Repeater. On August 28, 1988 new repeater was received and put into use. The old RPT-144B Repeater and Autopatch was put in standby status.
In November of 1988 the County Manager (as expected) asked Society to move its Repeater from the Old Court House site sometime during first quarter of 1989. Immediately Sherrill – W4SDT, Walt – W4YBO, and Donald began working with Iredell County Officials about a new site. After some meetings and exchanging of letters a new site was obtained February 1, 1989 in a letter to Trustee from Officials. The new antenna would be on side mounted on the new Sheriffs Tower beside the new Court House.
“THE SOCIETY IS ALLOWED TO OPERATE ITS REPEATER FROM NEW SITE AS LONG AS IT ABIDES WITH WRITTEN AGREEMENT AND ALSO AGREES TO HELP PROVIDE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS (ARES) SHOULD IT BE NEEDED.”
On February 5 and 6, 1989 the Repeater was removed from old site by WD4LXC, W4SDT, KC4DBZ WB4WRY, and W4DON. The Repeater was again operated from the home QTH of W4DON beginning in March of 1989 on a temporary basis.
Having been caught without proper antenna mounting hardware the Society agreed to pay the cost of relocating the Repeater and its associated antennas. This came to around $500. A request for donations was mentioned. Donald refinished the fiber glass radome on PD-220 and cleaned up the Hustler antenna.
Finally, on April 29 and 30, 1989 Jeff Watts – KC4DBZ, Jimmy – N4SZF, Sherrill – W4SDT, Walt – W4YBO (SK now), John – WB4WRY and W4DON relocated Repeater to its new site. Then again on August the 8th, 1989 Ben Watts, W4SDT, WB4WRY, and Alex – KB4OP, mounted the EOC’s G7-144 Hustler Collinear antenna at new site. The old G6-144-B Hustler was swapped with County for the G7-144 Hustler. The G6-144B Hustler was relocated to the EOC Tower for ARES use. This was accomplished by Larry – WD4LXC, Dennis – N4WHK, W4YBO, WB4WRY, and W4DON.
In 1992 the Repeater and its new Comet antenna and new coax cable was relocated to the WSIC radio station and tower site because the new Sheriffs 300 foot Tower was to be torn down. The Northshore duplexer was replaced with a six cavity WACOM BPBR duplexer.
The PD-220 was later destroyed by lightning on April 10, 2003 at a second repeater that has since been shut down and sold as well as the original Northshore duplexer.
The WSIC site plagues the Repeater due to interference, failures and maintenance from a 1000 watt AM transmitter and its antenna, 800 watt visual/aural LP UHF TV transmitters and antenna, various pager transmitters and their antennas and a cellular telephone system.
Since April 30, 2002 the 2-meter repeater uses Society’s club call sign W4SNC/R for its ID. The club’s license Trustee is Tim, KC4MJC.
On July 28, 2000 the Society launched it first web site the address was www.icarsonline.org. In September 2007 the Society voted to change the web site address to www.w4snc.org.
On May 26, 2008 the Comet Repeater antenna was removed, destroyed and replaced with a new Hustler G6-144B.
In summary… a lot of thought, time, and work has been done over the past 32 years as you can see. Many Novice Classes had to be conducted by Larry – WB4WSA, Donald – K4PAJ/W4DON, Perry – KM4CV and Jim – W4ONS to bring new members in and keep Society active and alive. Since year 2000 ICARS has not seen the need to conduct formal classes because the Morse code requirement is no longer required and practice examinations are available on the Internet. All the student has to do is memorize the answers to several hundred multichoice questions.
At present ICARS consist of 40 plus members. Since organized ICARS has been instrumental in assisting approximately 100 – 200 persons obtain an amateur license from 1976 to present. During that time ICARS has fulfilled its purpose by providing local and state government, citizens, and different organizations reliable emergency communications second to none. ICARS is involved in all facets of amateur radio operation not just 2 meter FM. A lot of RF can be detected in and around Iredell County these days. Now you know the rest of the story… and let’s hope it continues.
Donald Summers, K4PAJ/W4DON