PARMA, Ohio – A few slender, temporary towers stood in a grassy field at Stearns Homestead on April 21 as members of the Parma Radio Club operated amateur radio stations from the adjacent parking lot.
Hal Rogers, a Parma resident and club president, moved the dial to a digital receiver and was able to pick up another operator in Arizona.
This was the sixth year that the Parma Radio Club has held its Earth Day event at Stearns Farm. Their equipment was powered by energy from the sun. A large solar panel was located outside the historic Stearns Farm.
The radio club celebrates its 70th anniversarye anniversary, said Rogers. The club has a long affiliation with the Amateur Radio Relay League.
“We started right after WWII when there were a lot of people with radio and electronics background,” he said, noting that many other amateur radio clubs have also started around this time. “We are proud to be here for so long.”
Rogers shared some history and background on amateur radio, explaining that operators must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, which also monitors activity on the air. The bands are allocated for a variety of purposes, some of which are allocated to amateur radio operators. Some bands are also reserved for commercial radio use.
He said that despite the popularity of cell phones, the Internet, and other high-tech communication methods, amateur radio remains popular.
“It’s easy to contact other carriers around the world,” Rogers said, noting that you don’t need to have an Internet connection. A radio signal is relayed through the air and sent back to a receiver.
He said even some of the astronauts on the International Space Station chatted with amateur or amateur radio operators when they had time.
“Amateur radio is the original Facebook,” Rogers said.
The technology has improved over the years, which means the equipment is smaller and can provide a better signal, Rogers said. Some radios are computerized.
He showed a table that displayed the different bands available to amateur radio operators.
“We are allowed to operate on any of the frequencies and we decide what portion we want to use,” Rogers said.
There is a protocol for amateur radio operators, he said, noting that they must announce their license number. Also, if someone else is using a frequency – even if you have a regular session with other carriers there – they said you wait for the frequency to open or switch to a different one.
Amateur operators help control the airwaves to make sure people don’t abuse them. Rogers stated that using foul language or operating a commercial operation on frequencies allocated to amateur operators is not acceptable.
Rogers stated that commercial radio is either AM (amplitude modulation) or FM (frequency modulation). The signal from AM stations may be strong or weak. He said some AM stations can only operate at certain times of the day. FM stations usually have a better signal.
The radio club is also having a field day on the last full weekend of June and has worked with other amateur clubs for other events to help raise awareness of amateur radio operations.
Mike Marganski, vice president of Parma Radio Club, said he was fairly new to amateur radio, but liked it.
“Every operator has to pass a test and get a license from the FCC,” he said, explaining that there are three levels of licensing. The first level is technician, that’s what Marganski has. “My call sign is KE8HBK,” said Marganski.
“Mine is K8CMD,” Rogers said, and the club’s is W8PRC.
They explained that there are eight regions across the country and a number is assigned to each. The Ohio region is 8.
The Parma club has about two dozen members. Rogers said there are around four good-sized radio clubs in the area and several smaller clubs.
“We are doing outreach with the Boy Scouts because they can qualify for a radio badge for doing a number of transmissions,” Marganski said.
“It’s fascinating to see kids operating the equipment – sitting at the microphone and talking with people across the country. Once, the grandson of an operator in another state was talking to a child about this area. They had never met, but they had a good conversation like they were old friends, “he said.
The club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month in the community hall at Busch Funeral Home, 7501 Ridge Road, Parma. Rogers said everyone is welcome.
“We share information on various topics related to amateur radio operations. It’s all about awareness,” Marganski added.
Rogers said the club is trying to collect information about its history. For more information about the club or to share historical information, visit parmaradioclub.com.