PARMA, Ohio — A couple of thin, temporary towers stood in a grassy field in Stearns Homestead on April 21 while members of the Parma Radio Club operated some 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 held its Earth Day event in Stearns Farm. Their equipment was powered by the energy of the sun. A large solar panel was located outside the historic Stearns farmhouse.
The radio club celebrates its 70th anniversaryand anniversary, Rogers said. The club has a long affiliation with the Amateur Radio Relay League.
“We started right after World War II, when there were a lot of people with radio and electronics experience,” he said, noting that many other amateur radio clubs have also started at this time. “We are proud to have existed 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 airwaves. The bands are allocated for various purposes, with some allocated to amateur radio operators. Certain bands are also reserved for commercial radio use.
He said that despite the popularity of cell phones, the Internet and other high-tech methods of communication, amateur radio remains popular.
“It’s easy to contact other carriers around the world,” Rogers said, noting that it’s not necessary 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 radio amateurs or radio amateurs 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 chart that displayed the different bands available to amateur radio operators.
“We are licensed to operate on any of the frequencies and we decide which 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 – it said you wait for the frequency to open or switch to another one.
Amateur operators help control the airwaves to make sure people don’t abuse them. Rogers said using foul language or operating a commercial operation on frequencies assigned to amateur operators is not acceptable.
Rogers said commercial radio is 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 generally have a better quality signal.
The radio club also hosts a field day the last full weekend in June and has worked with other amateur clubs for other events to raise awareness of amateur radio operations.
Mike Marganski, vice president of the Parma Radio Club, said he was fairly new to amateur radio, but loved it.
“Each operator must pass a test and obtain a license from the FCC,” he said, explaining that there are three levels of licensing. The first level is that of technician, which Marganski possesses. “My call sign is KE8HBK,” Marganski said.
“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 were about four good-sized radio clubs in the area and several smaller clubs.
“We do outreach with the Boy Scouts because they can qualify for a radio badge for doing a certain number of transmissions,” Marganski said.
“It’s fascinating to see kids using the equipment — sitting at the microphone and talking with people all over the country. Once, the grandson of an operator in another state was talking to a kid about this area. They had never met, but they had a great conversation as if they were old friends,” he said.
The club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Busch Funeral Home Community Hall, 7501 Ridge Road, Parma. Rogers said everyone is welcome.
“We share information on various topics related to amateur radio operations. It’s all about raising awareness,” Marganski added.
Rogers said the club were trying to gather information about his story. For more information about the club or to share historical information, visit parmaradioclub.com.