'World, world, do you copy?'
Posted August 19, 2009
Local amateur radio club set for Field Day June 26-27
HAZEL PARK — Unseen in the air is a sea of communications, swimming wirelessly every which way.
And if you go fishing in it, you never know whose eye or ear you’ll catch.
Such is the hobby of the “fishermen” at the Hazel Park Amateur Radio Club.
They and fellow enthusiasts around the world cast wide nets by radio satellite and repeater tower, hooking each other by voice, Morse code, Teletype and more.
“I’ve talked to the South Pole, Navy ships, missionaries in the jungle — anything you can think of,” said Murray Scott, 67, of Troy, the club’s president (call sign KE8UM).
With 682,000 amateur radio operators in the U.S. alone, nearly 30,000 of whom are in Michigan, you never know who will respond.
Scott once found himself speaking to the electrician who drops the ball over Times Square on New Year’s Eve. One club member even spoke to the late King Hussein of Jordan back in the 1970s.
The random returns from dialing up any corner of the Earth provide a thrilling “wild card” element unmatched by social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
And by the end of the month, airwaves will be abuzz with more voices.
For 24 hours June 26-27, from 2 p.m. one day to 2 p.m. the next at Hazelwoods in Holly, the HPARC will partake in Field Day, a weekend of on-air operations.
The event is celebrated by tens of thousands of “hams,” new and experienced alike, from all over the U.S. and Canada.
Qualified operators, licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, will be on hand to help newbies work the frequencies and see firsthand how the hobby is not just fun — it’s functional, too.
In fact, in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, amateur radio operators assisted Oakland County hospitals in receiving enough water, diesel fuel and other supplies, enabling them to run without relocating patients.
Likewise, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio was among the only communications they had.
More recently, HPARC members helped out at the Oak Apple Run in Royal Oak June 5, relaying communications between checkpoints and patrol vehicles to assist injured or fatigued participants, as well as coordinating road closures with the police.
Given its usefulness, it’s smart to practice. Field Day is one opportunity.
In a nutshell, “the whole idea is being able to set up in a different location and practice for emergencies,” Scott said. “We set our equipment up, our antennas up, our towers up; use it, tear it down, take it back home.”
People are needed to operate the entire period, even through the night. No prior experience is necessary, and all are welcome.
Marsha Fleming, 60, of Oak Park (call sign N8FE) is an HPARC member who teaches beginners’ classes.
“I never thought in my wildest imagination I’d be a ham, let alone teach electronics,” she said. “I was a typical stay-at-home mom. I hated science at school.”
Now she, her husband John (call sign K8UP) and their two sons are all hams. And the radio gene is strong, already appearing in her 5-year-old granddaughter, Natalie.
“She loves to talk to Santa Claus (by radio) on Christmas,” Fleming said. “He does live at the North Pole, you know. If you listen throughout the night, he will transmit his location, so the children will make sure to be tucked snugly in bed.”
Fleming hopes her granddaughter will attend Field Day.
“She will start studying for the test next year, although she can actually get her license at any time,” Fleming said. “There is no age minimum or maximum. I have no prejudice when I say that this little girl is smart enough to pass the test.”
The HPARC, established in 1965, meets at Hoover Elementary School, located at 23720 Hoover, at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month during the school year.
“HPARC is a group of people who want to have fun while serving the community,” Fleming said. “If someone needs help with putting their station together or with antenna work, we are there. If you need help upgrading or operating, we are there. If you need help, period — we are there. That’s because this is a club of friends.
“Once you get your ham license,” she said, “you are never without a friend.”
About the author
Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski covers Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Madison District Public Schools, Lamphere Public Schools and Hazel Park Public Schools for the Madison-Park News.
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