History of the PRA
In the spring of 1977 three friends ( who also happened to be Hams ) found their interest in the hobby. For Bill Dewhirst – K1KKM, Gary Welsh – WA1FCK, and Keith Clark – WA1HZK, the world of FM was a new frontier. By July, this attraction had prompted them to purchase brand new Heathkit, Model No. 2036 FM transceiver kits. To understand what was truly involved in a repeater’s operation, they visited the Topsfield repeater, where the tour guide questioned their ability to put a repeater on the air. This obvious strength-of character underestimation merely served to fuel the growing fires of desire to turn talk into reality.
The Birth of the P.R.A
The first priority was hardware. Since purchasing a repeater was out of the question,they decided to convert a General Electric Master PRO two-way radio (donated by K1KKM). Bill’s VHF FM radio was about to become the birth of the P.R.A. Talk, once again, turned to the future, and the possibility of an organization to share, support, and maintain this two-meter endeavor. Realizing the importance that this type of communication could have for Civil Defense (CD), Bill, Gary, Keith, along with Mike Lambrou – WA1YNR took their repeater and paid a visit to the Haverhill, Ma. CD Headquarters. At first, the idea met with some skepticism, but soon generated the support that it needed. Mike was instrumental in recruiting new members and donations. The first meeting of the newly formed Pentucket Repeater Association, was held at the Haverhill CD Headquarters. Plans were made to purchase a duplexor, forty foot tower, and antenna. The second meeting was held at the Family Bank in Groveland, Ma. which served as the P.R.A. meeting place for over sixteen years. One of the early obstacles was in obtaining a two-meter repeater frequency free from interference. The co-ordinated frequency pair 146.025/146.625 MHz was assigned, and the P.R.A. As the F.C.C. had stopped issuing special repeater call signs ( prefixed by “WR” ), one of the Salem, N.H. Repeater members came to our rescue. Bill Longworth – WA1HWE offered to lend us an unused repeater call sign. The Salem Club with it’s President Bill Loeffler – W1PFA proved to be of great assistance in setting up the repeater and our meetings. The first P.R.A. Officers were:
President:Mike Lambrou (WA1YNR), Vice-President:Ed Regan (WA1YNT), Secretary Treasurer: Keith Clark (WA1HZK) On Dec. 9th, 1997, the P.R.A. repeater ( including autopatch ) went on the air from K1KKM’s shop in downtown Groveland, Ma. Under the call sign of WR1AEN, the repeater operated out of Bill’s business ( Groveland Radio and Communications ) for one week. The following week the repeater was moved to the top of Powder House Hill (Actually Golden Hill). Permission to use part of his land and one of it’s buildings was granted by Bill Dewhirst – K1KKM to the P.R.A. The repeater functioned with limited range as the ordered antenna had not arrived. A winter storm did not prevent Roger Rines (WB1CFQ) from driving down to New Jersey to pick up the New antenna. Nor did the January, 1978 blizzard, in the middle of raging snow, the forty foot tower was erected and the new antenna installed. In Dec. of 1977, The P.R.A. Net became a weekly institution.
The Growth of the P.R.A.
During those few months of membership had grown to a point to consider the necessity of creating a constitution for governing the activities of the P.R.A. the Constitution of the P.R.A was adopted. Due to a change in F.C.C. egulations in early 1978, the repeater’s call sign was changed in February to that of it’s trustee Bill Dewhirst, and would now identify as K1KKM/R. To keep all matters concerning the repeater and the Association in order, a legal agreement between Bill Dewhirst and the Pentucket Repeater Association was drawn up by Attorney Philip J. Lawrence -W1RFW, also a P.R.A. member. The agreement concerned the use of the land, facilities, and equipment owned by Bill. This agreement was read into the minutes of the During the summer of 1978, Bill and Mike visited former Haverhill Mayor Burton and Haverhill CD Director Francis Hogan, to explain the benefits that the repeater and the P.R.A. could have for Civil Defense. Seeing that it would indeed improve the Haverhill CD operations, Mr.Hogan offered $50.00 dollar monthly support donations to the P.R.A which has continued to this day. This “home made” repeater ran for approximately one year. During this period, Ken Tentarelli AC1H was busy developing and building a control unit for the repeater. The separate logic cards were added as they were finished. About a year later, the small microprocessor controller was completed., the P.R.A. added thirty feet to the tower, bringing its height to seventy feet. In the same summer, the club purchased an emergency power generator. With true Yankee ingenuity, Bob Feather (WB1CXB) fabricated a generator enclosure out of an old oil drum.
Early in 1980, Keith Clark – WA1HZK, built and installed a ten-meter system linked to the two-meter repeater. As the repeater system grew, so did the membership.The P.R.A. now had 87members. Recognizing that the P.R.A. members had various interests within Amateur Radio, during the Anual Meeting onJan. 15 1981, the Association voted to change its name from the Pentucket Repeater Association to the Pentucket Radio Association. The first major equipment failure occurred in the spring of 1981. The failed Station Master antenna was replaced with a Shakespeare antenna which provided increased gain. Not to be content with the success of the ten-meter link, Keith Clark WA1HZK started in July work in early 1981 on a six-meter link. Keith added this six-meter link onto our growing system. Once again, as the system grew, so did the membership of the P.R.A. Members surpassing the membership milestone. In 1983the P.R.A. incorporated; it’s official name thence became the Pentucket Radio Association, Inc. In the winter of 1984, the home-brew repeater was hit with a power surge and went up in smoke quite dramatically. Thanks to Bill’s company ( Micro Control Specialties ), the burnt-out GE Master PRO home-brew was immediately replaced with a top of the line Marc 4CR, state-of-the-art repeater. Later in the year, the P.R.A. voted to purchase a new 130 foot tower, as the old tower was listing and feared that it might fall across the high tension wires. In November of 1986 a new concrete pad for the generator enclosure was constructed by Bill Lawless – KA1UQ, George Conrad – KA1MGN, Don MacNeil – KA1PEP and a fourth ham (a young Pilot). At the beginning of 1986, membership reached 118. During 1987, two sets of red lights were added to the tower in order to comply with F.C.C./F.A.A. regulations. By November of 1987, membership was up to 134.
1992became the year that the P.R.A. started it’s re-birth, following a number of years of lackluster enthusiasm. During this year, the P.R.A. purchased tower climbing and antenna raising equipment: a brand new Gin Pole, 300 feet of rope, and 2 climbing belts. In September of this year, the P.R.A. authorized the repair of the P.R.A. DigiPeater. Ron Baker -WB4HFN purchased a new packet board and installed it with the assistance of Dave Robertson – KD1NA. Additional memory was later bought to enhance the packet board’s performance. The DidiPeater currently operates on 145.01MHz. The P.R.A. bought an 18 ft. X 20 ft. tent for use by the P.R.A. at hamfest, flea markets, field day, barbecues, etc. With attachable side walls, the tent was purchased to provide shelter from the elements. The tent was first set-up at the first Rochester, N.H. Hosstraders Hamfest and quickly passed the test during several torrential down pours. All members and their displayed equipment remained dry. The diligent efforts of Phil Lawrence – W1RFW came to fruition in the early 1993. For quite some time, the P.R.A. had been trying to remedy a paper-work problem, and finally obtain their Charitable Organization status with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through the long and persistent efforts of Phil, the issues were resolved, the paper-work completed, and the status was granted.
In 1993, the P.R.A. obtained its Charitable Organization Number from Massachusetts. During the last few months of 1993 Keith Clark – WA1HZK connected his Six-meter System to the P.R.A. two-meter repeater.
Following the membership renewal for the year 1994, the new membership materials produced by Bill Lawless – KA1UQ, were released. Many of the new materials,such as this manual are provided by the Association with one’s membership in the P.R.A. Duplicate materials as well as additional new products and supplies are available. Additional forms are available through the P.R.A. Due to a major renovation project at the Family Bank in Groveland, Ma; almost all of the 1994 meetings were moved to and held at the Groveland Fire and Police Complex.To date, all P.R.A. meetings continue to be held at this location.
1995 held a number of changes for the P.R.A. Early on in the year, the P.R.A. suffered the loss of one of it’s original founders. On February 28, 1995 , William R. Dewhirst – K1KKM passed away. Bill was a mainstay in the P.R.A. and enriched the lives of all who were fortunate to have known him. As a tribute to all that Bill Dewhirst did for the P.R.A., the first, and to date only, Life Time Membership was bestowed upon Pat Dewhirst – KA1CQY. In keeping with past practice, the trusteeship was transferred to then President of the P.R.A., Bill Lawless – KA1UQ. As of March 3, 1995, the repeater’s call sign became “KA1UQ” in CW. However the spirit of Bill Dewhirst lives on, for the repeater’s periodic voice message often greets listeners with the following message: “Welcome to the P.R.A. and the K1KKM Memorial Repeater” Of lesser importance in 1995, the P.R.A. made the Groveland Fire and Police Complex it’s permanent home. In Early fall, we can’t forget the efforts of a few to re paint the tower. Especially the hard work of those two tower climber/painters Tom Merrick – W1WUOand Mark Goldfarb-WB1ELF.
With the 1996 Annual Meeting and ensuing election, the practice of transferring repeater trusteehip continues. Effective following the meeting, trustee ship and repeater call signs were transferred from Past-President Bill Lawless – KA1UQ and became the responsibility of the newly elected President, Marden Pride – WB1GGI. During the year Marden led an effective plan to renovate the repeater site and building. A number of large diameter plastic pipes were buried in anticipation of relocating all feed lines underground. The emergency generator was re-built, a new generator pad and enclosure were fabricated. The building was re-roofed, guttered, ventilated, and the building’s structure repaired. New benches were made and relocation of the equipment began. Much was accomplished this year due to the club members who donated their time. There is still much more to be done!
1997 brought a new year and a change of President. Once again the repeater’s call sign was changed and trusteeship transferred to Dave Robertson – KD1NA. The repeater shack was sided and the P.R.A. became self contained. Thanks to the hard work done by Ben Gagne (N1QVS), Marden Pride (WB1GGI), Sandy Sandberg (WB1DRW), Dave Robertson( KD1NA), Chris Roop (N1KYM), Steve Woodward (N1VDX) and many more hard working members, the repeater shack is near to completion. The repeater now has it’s own back-up generator in working condition. There is also back-up battery power. We are now ready for emergency communications.There is a computer on site for packet. A Mark 4 was purchased from Keith Clark( WA1HZK) for the 440 repeater. It can also be used on the 2 -meter repeater in case it needs to be taken down for repairs. No matter what happens we are prepared to keep the repeaters up and running.
1998 is the start of the next generation.
The youngest President in the history of the P.R.A. was elected, William L. Perreault K1WLP (17 years old).The PRA had a very successful year. The cables at the shack was pulled under ground, the generator was up and running, and the club purchased a transfer switch panel. The PRA was now ready for emergency operations. If the power was lost the generator would start, if the generator ran out of gas the battery backup would take over. We will be able to run the repeaters for a week. Dave Robertson (KD1NA) offered to be Trustee of the repeaters so we could have a club call sign. In April the club applied for the club call sign. By May the repeaters ID as KB1CXQ, the new club call. At Field Day the club applied for a vanity call sign, K1KKM (in memory of William (Bill) Dewhirst).The club participated in Public Service by providing communications, 50-mile Road Race, Boy Scout Expo and Boxborough.The club participated in it’s first Full Field Day at Mill Pond in West Newbury. We operated under the call of AA1QW which belongs to Brian Chaloux. Brian along with Mark KF1V led the club to #10 in the nation 4A, June 27,1998. This was a huge boost for the club. Our first Field Day and we made it into the QST Magazine.The Repeaters were well maintained by Ben N1QVS, Marden WB1GGI, and Steve N1VDX (the Technical Committee)>Special thanks to Steve KA1QFX for donating parts to keep the repeaters running smoothly and Ron WB4HFNfor his part in helping to maintain the repeaters. They also shared their great wealth of knowledge and expertise with the Technical Committee. The finishing touches to the shack were completed. Thanks to Chris Roop N1KYM am Jim KA1BSH, by installing the new doors. The members mentioned, are not the only ones that made this year a success. So, to let the members know their help did not go unnoticed, an Award night was held at June meeting. They were presented with an Award, a Buffet and a PRA Patch (another first for the PRA)>. The patches can not be bought, they are only awarded to the members that have participated in club activities. So, when you see a PRA patch, you will know that this member has been a very active member and went that extra mile. With all the improvements, the membership started to grow under this administration.
1999 is under a new administration.
Kathy Gagne N1QZN was elected President. The PRA continued to grow and improve. The club meetings were less formal and more fun and events were once again taking place. For starters, Bill (KA1UQ) held CW Classes on the 146.625 repeater. Bill wanted to help those that wanted to upgrade and pass the 5 WPM code test. Bill was extremely successful! Everyone that stuck with it, passed their 5 WPM code test and upgraded to Tech +. Jeanne (KB1DFG) took the code a step further, she passed the General 13wpm. At Hosstraders she passed her General written exam. Bill was Awarded a Plaque for his tremendous part in helping others to upgrade and improve their Amateur Radio Skills . Mike (WA1CBH) and his lovely wife Mildred (N1TZQ) organized a FoxHunt. They also supplied prizes for all categories. There were 3 hunts, hard, medium and easy. Mike and Mildred showed everyone a fox hunt was for fun and not for the prizes. All the prizes were gag prizes. Everyone had a great time and are hoping Mike and Mildred will organize another Foxhunt. Bob (WB1CXB) Featherswas awarded a Honoree Membership to the club. This award was presented by Pat Dewhirst (KA1CQY). Pat is also the wife of the late Bill Dewhirst (K1KKM founder of the PRA). Phil (W1RFW) Lawrence was also awarded a plaque for his many years of dedication and participation to the club. Field Day 1999 was better than the year before. The PRA was 7th in the Nation for the class 4A. The club operated under the call K1RX (Mark Pride) and N1VDX (Steve Woodward). The PRA was very fortunate to have both Mark (K1RX) and Mark (KF1V) on our side. With their guidance and the help from the members a 40 and a 50 foot tower was set-up. The members learned a lot from both Marks about contesting. They were the PRA’S Big Guns! The weather was extremely hot and really put everyone to the test. With the temperatures in the high 90’s and no shade, the members kept going. This was going to be the best field Day of them all! If there was a real emergency, the PRA was more than ready. Mike (WA1CBH) and Mildred (N1TZQ) bought lobster and steak for Saturday night supper. This was a great reward for the members. Everyone was working under extreme conditions. With the experience of Field Day, (putting up towers) the club purchased a portable 50 foot tower at the October Hosstrader’s. Everyone was now looking forward to the next Field Day! As the club entered the Millennium, on January 25,2000 Phil ( W1RFW) Lawrence passed away at his home in Groveland,MA. This was a month and 3 days before the 5th anniversary of the passing of Bill (K1KKM) Dewhirst (February 28, 1995). Phil will be missed by all of us.