Members of the Antietam Radio Association have been meeting with
frequency for 50 years, using their two-way radios to chat about their
favorite hobby and provide public safety.
Launched on June 10, 1952, by a group of local amateur radio operators
who met to exchange ideas, build their own transmitters and plan for their
participation in the American Radio Relay League's annual Field Day, the
Hagerstown-based ARA now boasts about 85 members in four states who meet
monthly at the Hagerstown Regional Airport, club spokeswoman Donnie Sue
The "hams," as they call themselves, use two-way radio stations in
their homes, cars - even on their bicycles - to communicate with each
other over radio waves that span the world.
Hams from Hagerstown to outer space - where astronauts on the
International Space Station communicate with schoolchildren via amateur
radio waves - relay messages on frequencies approved by the Federal
The hams even have satellites circling the earth, said ARA member
Charlie Mulligan of Halfway.
The 1.2 million hams worldwide include kings and celebrities and
"regular people" of all ages, said ARA member Page Pyne of Hagerstown.
And a ham isn't bona fide without a call sign, the amateur radio
license number assigned by the FCC.
"There's a lot of Bobs and Roys and whatever, but your call sign is
unique in the world," Charlie Mulligan said.
Bill (K3UMV) and Joyce (K3UMW) Drager, Charlie Mulligan (N3MVR), Herman
Niedzielski (K2AVA) and charter ARA member Fran Little (W3SCC) sport their
call signs on their cars' license plates.
Numerous antennas jut from the hams' vehicles and homes.
ARA member Stan Klick (W3YGC) of Hagerstown attached a 2-meter antenna
to the handlebars of his bicycle. He tucked the radio inside a handlebar
His mobile radio station enables Klick, 64, to follow the last runner
during the John F. Kennedy 50-mile ultramarathon from Boonsboro to
Williamsport every year to ensure safety communications along the rugged
route, he said.
A two-meter antenna graces the roof, and a 9-foot "outbacker" antenna
projects off the hind end of Pyne's Ford Festiva. The smaller antenna
enables Pyne (WA3EOP) to communicate with other hams within a 100-mile
radius, he said.
He is "theoretically capable of worldwide communication" with the
outbacker, he said.
Some hams communicate with each other within the same town or country.
Others bounce their signals off the upper regions of the atmosphere to
talk with hams on the other side of the world.
Charlie Mulligan, 65, once spoke to a ham in Russia. Pyne, 55, talked
to a ham at the South Pole.
Some hams use Morse code to relay messages. Others converse using
amateur radio frequencies like Internet chat rooms.
Joyce Drager and Donnie Sue Mulligan (KB3AOO), both 63, and Little, 64,
prefer to keep their ham circles intimate by communicating with other
amateur operators closer to home, they said.
Klick and Niedzielski, 65, of Leitersburg, especially enjoy building
and maintaining such radio equipment as transmitters and antenna tuners,
then trying to connect with other hams at varying distances to see how
well their "home brew" works, they said.
Bill Drager also likes building and repairing radio equipment, and
sending images to other hams with the amateur TV equipment he keeps among
the transmitters, repeaters, monitors, microphones and other radio
equipment in his basement "ham shack."
The hams also have a serious side.
They volunteer their services when disaster strikes, providing back-up
emergency communications and coordination between emergency service
agencies without the means to communicate with each other, Drager said.
"Organizations like the Red Cross depend on the amateurs to help them
out," he said.
When tornadoes devastated La Plata, Md., last week, hams in Charles,
Calvert and Prince George's counties used their radios to help organize
disaster relief efforts, ARA members said.
Hams in New York and New Jersey stepped up to their microphones when
terrorist attacks toppled the World Trade Centers, Mulligan said.
"Hams are always there to help," Pyne said.
Local hams recently participated in a disaster drill at the Hagerstown
Regional Airport, during which airport workers and emergency crews
responded to a mock terrorist attack. Hams were stationed at hospitals in
Hagerstown and Waynesboro, Pa., to provide patient information to American
Red Cross disaster relief workers, Drager said.
Local hams provide safety communications during activities such as the
CROP walk in Smithsburg and Cedar Ridge Ride Through History in the
Williamsport area, ARA members said.
They gather at events such as the ARRL's annual Field Day to hone their
emergency preparedness skills, and at the ARA's annual Greater Hagerstown
Area Hamfest - being held at the Washington County Agricultural Education
Center today - to swap equipment and discuss their hobby.
Most amateur radio operators follow the rules established and enforced
by the FCC, ARA members said, but some renegade hams break radio rules
like computer hackers cause trouble on the Internet.
Volunteer hams designated as official observers help the FCC police the
radio bands for hams guilty of such infractions as swearing, playing music
and interfering with frequencies being used by radio stations, emergency
services and other hams, Pyne and Niedzielski said.
Hams can be fined up to $10,000 a day for interference, he said.
For more information about the Antietam Radio Association, visit the
club's Web site at www.w3cwc.org.
If you wish to comment on this site or if you desire information about our club or if you might want some information about any of our activities, please feel free to e-mail us at the address below.
Telephone: (717) 264-6403
Address: PO Box 52, Hagerstown, MD 21741-0052
Club Email: W3CWC
Web Manager Email: W3CWC
The Antietam Radio Association