Progress Through Activity

Amateur Radio Club Inc.

Our Hstory Part 3



Westlakes first 50 Years  -  Part 2

   In mid-1974, the club shifted from Booragul to Teralba. The building fund which had many slogans "A Drop In The Box", "No More Snags" etc was very much in the scheme of things. All through 1975, things were on the improve. AOCP classes went on amid the building work. The club's first radio tower, now with the HF log, periodic antenna, came from Lake Mummorah Power Station and was erected by their apprentices. The tall tower, down the swamp, came from up Maitland way where it served as a mast for a radio beacon.

   For a while, the "swamp" tower was used as a vertical antenna for 160 metre transmissions until a very high tide took out the tuner box. This tower could be named the VK2BRD Tower, as Brian Jones did most of the aerobatics during its erection.

   In late 1975, the club building had its official opening. A plaque outside the secretary's office marks the occasion. A field day was held for the opening and a giant raffle as well. The day was attended by representatives of local, state and federal levels. It was also the event of dedicating the W.S. Otty Training Wing. The sign is still on view today although its use has mainly passed into history.

   Within the next three years, the bank loan of $5,000 for which five members had gone security, was paid back. At the next field day in 1977, the club's pride and joy - a new radio shack - was displayed. It was so irresistible that a break-in took place by removing the screws from the hallway observation window. Luckily, the gear was recovered by a Maitland amateur.

   Meanwhile the Government's amateur radio-examiners went on strike. This meant that the first ever Novice Exam was never held. Westlakes had been pushing for the Novice Licence whilst others were pushing for legalised CB. Early in 1976, the cancelled Novice Exam paper turned up in the mail - no one knew from where. It was to be the starting point for a book, "A Manual of Questions and Answers for the Novice Licence", published by Westlakes.

   This book by Keith Howard VK2AKX would be in demand for many years and it achieved record sales of more then 30,000 copies. Generous returns from this source made possible the construction of the northern wing containing the QSL bureau, activity room. The club also sold Morse practice tapes from 5 to 15 wpm. The originals were sent by hand key by Roger Davis VK4AAR. Another publication sold by the club was "QSO JA Now". The book came with an audio cassette containing common Japanese amateur radio phrases. It was recorded by Etsuko Howard,

   A typical Westlakes "trick" was the mysterious arrival of counterfeit copies of the "Amateur Regulations". These had last produced by the Government Printer in 1978 and were strictly copyright. Unfortunately they were out of print and yet the Department of Transport and Communications continued to hold amateur exams even though there were no "Regulations" for candidates to study. Westlakes gave away hundreds of copies of the counterfeit versions at the Gosford field day - for a small donation of course. An official enquiry as to the source of the counterfeit copies was a waste of time - nobody knew anything. The only clue was inside the back cover in tiny print, "ME FAT PRINTER H.K.".

   During 1978, a westlakes Tuesday night net went to air on 80 metres. It was well supported at first but finally went the way of many good ideas. After CB was legalised, many CB'ers were attending the club's Novice classes and joining the club. Some of these folk had bipartisan ideas and attitudes and so came the fear of existing memebers.

   Westlakes Radio Club Decided to become a company, including in its name the words "Amateur" and Ltd. It would now be run by directors who had to hold an Amateur Licence. The reason was obvious - to stop "CB boom" members stacking meetings and taking over the club. It was a time of ill-will between amateurs and CB'ers for on midnight on midnight on 26 July 1977, radio amateurs lost the 27Mhz band to CB.

   Westlakes launched its one and only DXpedition in 1979 to Lord Howe Island and had special Event QSL cards printed. This provided the bureau with year's of work. Whist on the bureau, Westlakes has run it on behalf of the WIA (nsw) Division since 1980. Just how the club came to that arrangement is a story in itself. It is fair to say the bureau was "hijacked" on its way to Sydney.

   Another group in the Hunter had been running the bureau and it had been decided to send it back to the WIA in Sydney. But the hired truck was intercepted, "Dick Turpin" style at Charlestown and the driver tole there was a change in plan and to deliver the lot to Westlakes Club at Teralba. One can imagine the amazement and annoyance of those non-club members when they found out that the VK2 QSL Bureau was up and running, not in Sydney to where it was dispatched, but in York Street Teralba. Yet another Westlakes "trick".

   The amount of work performed by volunteers sorting QSL cards at Westlakes has been amazing. Alex VK2ZM has dispatched all outwards cards, single handed since 1979. That was also the year that the club first participated in the Conference of Clubs ideal which still limps along today.

   To show that Westlakes was all /Progress Through Activity/, the club created its own solar-powered 2 metre repeater. Located at the Bar Fire Tower in the Wattagan Ranges, the repeater had lack-lustre performance in most of the planned service area. Several sites were tried but ongoing performance problems led to its demise. It has since been replaced with the excellent service enjoyed today - maintained at no cost to the club by Peter VK2ZTV.

   In 1980 came a suggestion from a local gastronome and member, Les VK2AXZ. He offered to write and publish a recipe book containing tried and tested dishes. It was called the /AXZ Cookbook/ and all the income went to the club. One thousand were printed and the cost $2 each. They took 12 years to sell them but they all went out the door - a nice little earner.

   Then it was time for more adventurous ideas. Next was to be the Novice Contest. The Westlakes Novice Contest was the inspiration of club member, Paul Linsley, ex VK2NDL, P29PL, and now VK2BPL. His idea was taken up by the club to promote operating skills and experience to newcomers to the hobby. This contest proved so popular that the WIA wanted to take over. The Federal President of the WIA Wally Watkins VK2DEW thought the contest a great idea but stressed that an organisation other than the WIA conducting it might be construed as "dividing the camp."

   Westlakes donated its own original perpetual trophy to the WIA to be given to the winner. After several years under the new management, the trophy became "lost". Westlakes donated a second trophy to the WIA - that one was still in use up to 2002, the last year the Novice Contest was ever held. In the club library there hangs two Novice Contest Certificates. One is a Westlakes original, the other is the WIA copy. Pick the difference, if you can.

   The AGM of 1984 saw the retirement of the club treasurer, Max McLachlan, after 20 years service. By 1985 much improvement to the clubrooms had taken place, fibro wall cladding, aluminium windows, and false ceilings had been added. Also that year, the club celebrated its 21st birthday with a function at the Lakeside Motel at Warners Bay. The place was packed on a very rainy night by members and guests.

   Westlakes was in a period of affluence as never before in its history. Membership was heading towards 400 - easily the largest amateur radio club in the land. It was free of debt and entirely owned by its members. New blood had arrived in the form of dozens of new, younger members made the future bright.

   This new generation superceded the high school teenagers who had swarmed to the club two decades before. But after this period the knowledge of radio construction and repair was only average. With the advent of computers, solid state gear, and simplified amateur exams and licence grades, it was inevitable that technical ability would decline. The licence came first and the knowledge came second - if ever. A good example of this was the benches that lined the main common area. These had been once set up with multiple Scope soldering stations for members to learn

construction techniques and to make things. It all became obsolete in favour of a single soldering iron in the activities room.


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Westlakes Amateur Radio Club Inc. York Street, Teralba NSW