Our Story

This is Our Story:

Through the years, the Mt. Shasta Amateur Radio Club has done some pretty amazing things (such as saving the City of Mt. Shasta from burning to the ground), but we aren’t done yet!

An Incomplete History

Compiled by Jane English, KD6PCE, in 1997 from a variety of sources

The Mount Shasta Amateur Radio Club was started in 1947 by a group of hams who for one reason or another lived in Mt Shasta City after WWII. Some worked for the forest service, the CAA (now FAA) or had other government-related jobs.

Irv Astmann W6OMR was one of the founding members of MSARC in 1947, and was president of MSARC at the time of the 1950 fire. He got his ham license in 1936 while in the Coast Guard. He communicated with his wife from the cutter on an AM radio he built from plans in QST. He was electronics technician for the CAA (predecessor to the present FAA) and was assigned to the Mt Shasta area in 1945. Later he was sales and service rep of Motorola and GE in Shasta and Siskiyou counties with both business and government accounts.

Irv was instrumental in building and maintaining WR6AKQ, one of the first ham radio repeaters in Siskiyou county, up on Soda Ridge above Dunsmuir, in 1975. He obtained permission from Howard Buffington, the cable TV operator at that time, to locate it in the cable TV building. About 1977 a group of MSARC and other hams, including Irv, Ted Graves W6FKI, Charlie Moss WB6IDM, Hoot Franklin W6NCV and Gordon Loomis WA6MSC built an addition to the cable company building for both groups’ equipment. Work on the building was done on weekends. Irv, being on the Mt. Shasta city council at the time, “stole” a city truck to haul the sand and gravel necessary for the cinder-block building. The group also had to haul up all the water they needed for the concrete. In exchange for the work, MSARC was given a 20 year right to have a repeater in the building. This agreement has been renewed with the current cable company.

At first the repeater antennas were on the old CAA/FAA tower, but were later moved because of interference due to loose joints and bolts in the tower. The repeater itself has been replaced several times with newer, better equipment.

With the formation in 1984 of the county-wide ham radio group, the Siskiyou Repeater Association, now the Siskiyou County Amateur Radio Association (SCARA), responsibility for the repeaters moved from MSARC to the new group, though Irv’s callsign W6OMR remained on the Soda Ridge repeater until SCARA got its club callsign KE6YJH (now K6SIS).

While actual records seem to have been lost, it appears that MSARC was active through the 1950’s. Then there was a period in the 1960’s and early 1970’s that the club was inactive. The ham shack was used during that time first by the Boy Scouts and later by transients. Ed Stockton W6NQA recalls meeting with Irv and Ted at the ham shack around 1978. They were appalled at the mess it was — walls torn up and paint splashed around — A group of them got wallboard and paint and fixed it up. With the shack now usable the club experienced a revitalization in the early 1980’s. Irv also conducted several ham license classes which added to the number of new MSARC members. (Jane English, KD6PCE, was in one of Irv’s last classes in 1992.)

Cooperation between the City of Mt. Shasta and the Mount Shasta Amateur Radio Club (MSARC) began in 1950 when the club happened to be holding a ham radio operators gathering in the city park at a time when a wildfire burned to the edge of the city. Radio communications within the US Forest Service were not very good in those days, so the ham radio operators attending the gathering were asked to aid in the fire-fighting efforts by providing emergency communications.

At the request of MSARC president Irv Astmann W6OMR, and as a show of gratitude for the club’s services services, the city dedicated one of its buildings to the use of the club. At that time, the building was located in the city park, and was later moved by the Mt Shasta Lumber Company to its present location on city property at 329 North Washington Drive. MSARC in turn promised to provide emergency communications for the city whenever needed. The club currently has about 20 members, including one of the original members and two others who joined in the club’s first few years! The club has provided communications for forest fires, freeway closures and community events.

1950 Wildfire (find the original article here – reprinted courtesy November 1950 QST)

On Sept. 2, 1950, the fledgling Mt. Shasta Amateur Radio Club was hosting a hamfest in the city park when a vegetation fire broke out that quickly grew out of control and threatened the City of Mt. Shasta (the point of origin was within the city limits on Spring Hill).  The hams at the hamfest organized into an emergency net that provided radio communications between command posts and field units (still rare in this area at that time), as well as interoperability between agencies.  Ultimately, the ability to coordinate efforts saved the city.

As a show of gratitude for the club’s services services during the 1950 fire, the city dedicated one of its buildings to the use of the club. At that time, the building was located in the city park, and was later moved by the Mt Shasta Lumber Company to its present location on city property at 329 North Washington Drive.

Currently the ham shack is equipped with HF and 2-meter stations,  a 2-meter repeater (with autopatch) at 146.88-, and a 70cm repeater (System Fusion, with Wires-X) at 441.275+ .

There is also a generator for emergency power and a fairly extensive collection of both QST and CQ magazines.

Stories Told at the MSARC Meeting, March 19, 1997

Ted Graves W6FKI: In this building when it was in the City Park about 1947 after the war — the group was organized before I got there — Arthur Dragoo was the trustee of the club call sign. Irv was there, with the same call W6OMR. He told some neat stories about how he was running a kilowatt and when he turned it on all the lights on the street dimmed. You could read his CW! Another guy Keith Fury — he and some of the others were FAA employees. They had more business then than they do now locally, to guide the planes in and out. He ran a kw also. He lived up on the hill. Rich do you remember the tubes they had that ran well over a kw and took about 25 amps — 304TL. He was pretty well known because everybody heard him. I found out just a little while ago that he is still alive and lives in Prescott AZ. He was one of the early guys.

I remember a war surplus code practice thing they used to teach the Navy. There were about a dozen keys straight keys. It gave out a tone that you could adjust volume and pitch. Everyone would sit around a table and send messages to each other. It was kind of fun to learn CW that way. We were all going after class C conditional — if you lived far away from the FCC then you could get this conditional license. 13wpm.

Rich Zanni KJ6RA: That was my first license, the conditional. I was in eighth grade in 1969. Hey, I can be an old fart and join Quarter-century wireless!

Ted: There was a class A and a class B and a class C. the B was the same as the C except that it was official. You had to go in and take a test at the FCC. There was some old gal down there that everybody was afraid of.

Rich: Everybody that ever walked into Battery Street had stories about her!

Ted: Tom Blankenship and I and a couple of others went down together. We had a big time in the city of course, and passed our test the first time. So we were class B.

Rich: There was nobody on 2 meters to talk to — that was all down in the big city.

Ted: Do you remember the guy that worked out at the fish hatchery and had a Swedish accent W6ARR– “W6 able rrroger rrroger”. He went down and got his with us. He has passed on now.

Rich: The three guys besides old Hoot and Bill over there were — Bill Klausnitzers, Bill Pettys (Ted: w6 two dogs and a cat — he was really a character too. His basement was so full of stuff. He was an experimenter) and Harold Dufero (Ted: W6JDN). That’s where I got my interest in teletype. He had that wonderful model 19 teletype that I thought was the neatest thing. And he had the tape reader and then he had the Drake twins. That was just one step under Irv with his Collins stuff. The twins were a transmitter and a receiver that looked identical. That would have been about 1970. For years I always wanted a model 19, and I finally got one. I’d spend hours out in the garage. I had a little oil heater and I’d sit there and copy —- They had a teletype net once a week and they’d send pictures. That thing would be sitting there clanging and banging away for a half hour. Finally it would get done and you’d tear off the paper — “OK, I know its got something on here …” One of the neatest ones was a train coming out of a tunnel. Those things (teletype) are long gone now. Its all computerized.

Ted: We had three or four hamfests and we invited people from all over out to the city park. The last one was the fire. The pictures on the wall there show the people all lined up. That was 1950, if I remember right. We had 200 people out there. There were all sorts of fun things for the YL’s to do too. They had a contest. There was a key with the handle on it about a foot across and you sat on it. You had to send that way! Now this was the women that were doing it! Too bad we didn’t have a movie of it. One gal from Bend, OR was very good at it, and she was pretty broad too.

Jane English KD6PCE: I’ve heard in general about the fire, that the ham club helped save the town. But what is the true story?

Ted: We had two days, Saturday and Sunday. Some people started arriving Friday. The fire started on old 99 up toward Black Butte (the freeway wasn’t there then). Somebody had had a picnic and left a fire at the edge of the road. A Carmel, CA milk bottle was found. That was the closest they ever came to finding who did it. The forest service got right on it. This was Labor day weekend. The wind was blowing from the south and it started burning up towards Black Butte. It went up the side of Black Butte. There wasn’t much timber up there, but there was quite a bit of timber where the brush field is now.

Some time during Saturday night the wind turned around and started blowing from the North pretty hard. They thought they had the fire under control, but it started burning the other direction. It came on up over Spring Hill and there were burning embers falling all over town, pine cones and all that sort of stuff. Everybody was out all around town with their hoses. I lived on A Street then and my mother was visiting us. We put her to work on the roof with a hose. We were at the City Park feeding the firemen.

Most of the hams had 10 meter mobile gear — that picture with all the vehicles. They put a ham with each of the pieces of fire equipment that was wandering around. The local fire department didn’t have any radios in those days.

Jane: Who called on the hams,? Who had the idea to put the hams and the fire department together?

Ted: I don’t know. It just happened. We were just all there hot to trot. We had the headquarters station, a 32V1, on a little table on the lawn at City Hall. They were on 10 meters. the fire just happened at the right time, in a way. And the city was impressed. That’s why we have this ham shack up here. The City and Mount Shasta Pine, the mill that used to be across from the Piemont. The mill owner thought it was wonderful that we did all that, so he offered to move the building up here. He had their carpenter come up and put a foundation under it.

Dennis Freeman WB6MBF: The club met at the park for 3 years, up until this building was moved here. Was this the same building they had used down there?

Ted: As far as I know it was. Originally it belonged to Chico State College for their summer school.

Jane: After the fire and the move up here was there a lot of interest?

Ted: All these guys were here after the war either because they lived here or they had a job here, maybe government related. It was the forest service headquarters. The one I really remember was Tom Blankenship, W6FNU. He was the forest service radio tech.

We had some other events that were kind of interesting before Rich and his gang (state, county) got their good radio setups. We aren’t really as necessary as we used to be in the old days.

Once we had a big ice storm that pulled down a lot of phone lines. Southern Pacific RR used to rely on telegraph. Their lines went along the track. The storm pulled a whole bunch of them down. We had that old generator, that is still out back, down at the forest service building next to the tracks. We had a station set up there. There were hams in the cabs of some of the trains, including the snowplow. Ed Cripps was one of the ones riding in the cab. Some hams came down from Klamath Falls and set up a station at Grass Lake. So we were actually dispatching the trains for a day or two. It was a lot easier to find situations where we were really necessary in emergencies than it is now. This storm was in the 50’s sometime.

Jane: So later the club almost went defunct. When was that?

Rich: Probably around when I got my license. I ran into hams and knew them as acquaintances but nobody ever said anything about a radio club.

Jane: You did a lot of field days in the 50’s and early 60’s

Rich: Bill Sowle K6ZZA has some stories of that. Have a Field day and consume adult beverages!

Ted: They had some Field Days up on the mountain and just about froze their whatchamacallit two or three times.

Rich: What’s that, a big old deuce and a half you used to have?

Ted: Hoot kept it over in McCloud, an old army 6×6. It later became an ambulance, then was in Scott Valley. Then it disappeared. Bill might know. That 6×6 did pretty well on several occasions. We had Field day at Little Bear Springs, not too far from where the Ski Park is now, a nice meadow. There was a crank-up tower on the side of the 6×6, with a rotator and everything. This one time we had late snows, and there is dip that got muddy. We got in OK, but when we came to leave Irv got stuck in his new pickup. He put his winch on a tree and pulled it right out. Finally we got the 6×6 to snake everybody out through the mudhole.

Another Field Day was where Parks Creek Road goes over the summit. The road had just been built. Its about 7000′ up there. We had a bunch of guys up there. We built a fire and it started snowing. That field day was a flop, but it was kind of fun. For a while this building was used for the Boy Scouts.

Jane: Was there a period when the club hardly existed?

Rich: Around the 1970’s

Dennis: I never was involved with the club much back then. I got my license in 1961. I did go on some field days. Dennis Engdahl and I got our licenses together. I knew Rich Ahrens and Dennis Rogers. They got me interested.