Club members say future bright for ‘ham’ radio
If you ask members of the Woodford County Amateur Radio Club why they take part in an activity that might seem archaic in the age of computers and smart phones, they might begin to answer the way Rick Nutter did.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s a radio – a cell phone’s a radio,” said Nutter, a longtime member.
They also remind folks that cell phones are often useless when communication’s at a premium. During and after the devastation of much of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria last September, “hams” kept people informed and, in some cases, alive.
“For a couple of months, probably the only way they had to communicate with anybody was ham radio, because all the cell towers … were down there,” Nutter said.
Increased reliance on cell phones and computers haven’t hurt the Woodford club’s output or its recruiting efforts, according to president Greg Shaw.
“Well, our numbers are up, overall as far as new licenses. They’ve made licensing more attractive for new hams and the numbers overall in the country, we’re getting more and more,” Shaw said.
Shaw said the club has 35 active members, most of whom attend the group’s regular meetings on the first Wednesday of the month at Woodford County Fire Station No. 2 on Big Sink Pike – but most do much more than that.
“Every Thursday night at 8, we have Amateur Emergency Radio Service (ARES). And basically, it’s a net where everybody checks in and a lot of us have been through weather spotting courses and all that. I’m a licensed spotter,” Nutter said. “That net goes into action if there’s a tornado or any kind of bad weather. It can be initiated pretty much on anything, and we’ll have communications throughout the county.”
At big events like the Versailles 4th of July and Christmas activities, the group helps with staging and other matters.
If (a floats is) supposed to be in front of the mayor’s office, we make sure it’s at the front of the mayor’s office, or the judge’s office, when it’s supposed to be there,” Nutter said.
They also regularly test their capabilities, including at this year’s annual Amateur Radio Relay League Field Day on June 23-24 behind Versailles Fire Station No. 3 on Huntertown Road.
Some members of the group recently returned from what was billed as the largest annual gathering of amateur radio operators in the world. Paul Harrington, who received his ham license in 1982 and said he’s been a club member “forever,” came home with 350 radio vacuum tubes to, as he put it, “further my interest in getting the old stuff working.”
“My thing is building equipment and fixing equipment and helping other people get their equipment fixed, especially the old, old stuff. I’m very into vacuum tube equipment,” Harrington said.
Asked whether he’d ever had a loved one suggest, “Slow down, partner?” Harrington responded, “Um, yeah. I ignore it.”