Progress Through Activity

Amateur Radio Club Inc.

Our History Part 4



Westlakes first 50 Years  -  Part 3

   The popular daybreak Saturday morning Westlakes "Stone the Crows" net first went to air and it still runs today. In 1989, the club's Sunday news segment spread to 7 MHz and in the CW mode too. This lasted almost 3 years before fading away. The year ended with a bang - the Newcastle Earthquake.

   Not all moves by the club have been an instant success. In 1990, it was thought a good idea to sponsor a 2 metre repeater on Mount Arthur, near Muswellbrook. The frequency 146.875 MHz and the call sign VK2RZL was obtained from the authorities. The plan was to establish a 23 cm link from VK2RZL to Westlakes main repeater VK2RTZ on the Sugarloaf Range. It was to be thirteen years later, in 2003, that VK2RZL was first heard load and clear from Mount Arthur.

   1990 was to witness a tragedy. It was the untimely death of club founder and mentor, Keith Howard VK2AKX. He was 59 years old. The main class room has been dedicated to his memory. During ITU in 1990, a roster of club members spent a total of 3 days, 3 hours, and 27 minutes sending non-stop CW. A claim for a world record was sent to the /Guinness/ /Book of Records/. It has never been bettered.

   The club also conducted the first of the deregulated amateur examinations. Many passed the test with the aid of the magic "Westlakes CW Coherer Pills". The year saw the beginnings of "Radio Fests" in the club grounds with the popular "no reserve" auctions. Easter Saturday 1991 was the start of the 8 am "April Fools' Net". It all started as a joke as that Saturday was also 1st April. The net still runs today and gives news of Saturday afternoon club activities. It has been aptly renamed the "Ezybee Net" in memory of its originator, Eric VK2EZB.

   The "Back to Westlakes Day", driven by Tom Libbesson VK2AWL, was another real success. Tom's photographs of all those attending now form a prime record of many past members who a now Silent Keys. The cake was cut by Bill Munn VK2BMX and Joe Waugh VK2IQ as our longest-term members. The photographs are displayed today in the club library.

   The very successful "Wonder Whizzer" 2 metre antennas, promoted by Joe VK2YJ were another winner for the club. And there was the "Top Band Net" on 160 metres, the Christmas dinners with impromptu entertainment, the lectures, the 1,000 ft high weather balloon long-wire antenna launched fro the club grounds, the 24 hour 160 metre ITU marathon from the club shack that made 104 contacts, the all night contesting for the Remembrance and Novice Contests ...... yes, the late 1990's was certainly a period of Progress Through Activity.

   At this time another new breed joined the committee and quickly instigated much needed repairs and upgrading of club buildings. Thanks to a major effort by Geoff VK2EO a new colorbond steel roof replaced the original leaking asbestos one. Entrance doors were replaced and the front entry was completely rebuilt. The Westlakes shack was modernised, relined, and rewired, the classroom was refurbished, a concrete rear entry ramp constructed, ceramic tiles laid in the foyer, and a new air conditioner installed in the library.

   The club buildings received their first ever coat of paint. Gone was the dull bare fibro cement cladding, replaced by heritage colours, cream and green. Next came the long-awaited and much-talked-about rear awning. It was constructed, running the entire length of the north-east wing and finished off with full-length seating underneath. Shade and weather protection at last! Many helped with this work but all knew that the brains and major toiler was Neil VK2KYG.

   Many worthwhile savings initiatives were adopted by the new committee, prompted no doubt by the escalating cost of all the repairs. Separate repeater licences were combined, and VK2ZL was relinquished leaving VK2ATZ as Westlakes original, and now only, call sign. The long-standing auditing firm was changed as was the club's insurer - both at a lower cost.

   It was back to the future when the club purchased a ride-on mower to eliminate the need for a commercial lawn mowing contractor. Terry VK2KTD took over that job. More savings came with technology when the monthly magazine was offered via email. Many chose this option which cut printing and mailing costs.

   A big change took place in 2001. The CB boom had long passed and the fear of a takeover had faded into memory. So, "Westlakes Amateur Radio Club Ltd" became "Westlakes Amateur Radio Club Inc". The benefits of becoming an incorporated body were thought to be many. Some members thought they would have a direct say and a vote on how the club was to be run rather than just the company directors. But it would have paid those members have read the ?fine print? in the new constitution. But on a brighter side, the change meant that annual accounts and reports no longer had to be filed and fees paid to the Australian Securities Commission. Overall, it was a complicated change of the club?s affairs which was deftly handled by Dave VK2RD.

   In late 2001, came sad news. Life member, Eric VK2EZB, passed away after a short illness. Eric had contributed so much to Westlakes progress in those early years when it struggled for existence. He served as Secretary and Editor - punching out the newsletter every month on a battered typewriter. His "Faceless" cartoons will be long remembered.

   Then in 2002, a run of vandalism occurred at the Teralba premises. This was the first ongoing serious problems of this type that anyone could remember. Luckily, insurance covered most of the repair expenses but the repeated attempts of break-ins forced the club to install upgraded locks and doors as well as a state-of-the-art coded security and surveillance system.

   Also in 2002, the club's Packet BBS received a change of location. It had been run an located at the Tanilba Bay QTH of Alan VK2CZZ since 1989. The new location was at East Maitland where the sysop was Bruce VK2EM. But it seemed that Packet had run its race and lack of activity saw the BBS close down in 2003. All the hardware was returned back to the club perhaps to be revived on another day.

   2003 got off to a bad start with news that long-term member Les VK2AXZ had passed away. He kindly left his radio equipment to the club which no doubt prompted the committee to assess all of the equipment owned by the club. It was a long list but all of it was aging and some items barely usable. After a survey of all members, it t was all sold with the intention of refitting the radio room with new radios and modern accessories

   On Australia Day 2003, Geoff VK2KEA led a team to mount a display of amateur radio in Speers Point Park. There were dozens of other groups and displays in the park and the event was sponsored by Lake Macquarie City Council. Another fine idea came from Les VK2ZPA who thought a meat tray raffle would be popular every Saturday afternoon. Was it ever! Perhaps the interest may wane but years later, these raffles were as popular as ever and make a tidy profit.

   Satellite communications arrived at the Teralba clubrooms thanks to a donation of equipment by Dennis VK2DOR although it would take twelve months before the spectacular tracking antennas and their installation were completed. In another year, the idea lay abandoned.

   In October 2003, the club's Saturday morning 6am 80 metre "Stone the Crows" net passed its 750th session and participants received a special QSL card. The net had been run from its inception by Ted VK2UI.

   The next month, the Australian Communications Authority released "A Review of Amateur Service Regulation" - and were there some surprises! It dealt with proposals to eliminate Morse from amateur licensing, a Foundation Licence, changes to call signs, changes to reciprocal licensing, and a new interference policy. After an extensive consultation process, the ACA expected to bring in the changes by early 2005.


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Westlakes Amateur Radio Club Inc. York Street, Teralba NSW