Monday, June 26, 2006

Field Days past - memories

I've been sitting here, reading accounts of some good Field Days from various folks on the SKCC, QRP-L and Elecraft e-mail reflectors. It makes this Field Day washout just a little harder to bear. But at the same time, it brings back some terrific Field Day memories.

It is my pleasure to be a member of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club here in Central New Jersey. It was my distinct pleasure to serve as Secretary for one year, as Vice-President for two terms; and then finally as President for two terms. The PARC Club is a good club; but sadly, is only a shadow of its former self. Up until the ARRL came up with the EOC classification; we always had a great Field Day effort. No ...... that's wrong. Make that a fantastic Field Day effort - maybe the best Field Day effort I've ever had the pleasure to be a part of.

We always seemed to run 2A or 3A. Great Field Day plans were always made by Chuck Phillips WB2MSV (now an SK) and Don Ippolito KO2K. We always set up in a Green Acres field in town. We would have trailers and campers lent to us for the day by Bill Koeth W2WK and by Rich Pascale W2PQ. Bill works for a paving company and would always provide generators, portable lighting, and hauling services for equipment as needed. Chuck WB2MSV would always bring his fully equipped deluxe RV!

Antennas were a Yagi supported by a temporary tower made from an extension ladder. We strung dipoles from wooden A frames and lighting poles that were already there at the field. I think we used Bill W2WK's Butternut vertical a few times. Don KO2K used to work for the township; so the field where we were setting up was always manicured and sprayed for bugs ahead of time.

Drew W2OU was always in charge of the logging effort. He would prepare and send our reports into the ARRL. But the best thing about Field Day was the food! Norm KB2SBB and Charlie N2LHD were masters of the Field Day culinary art along with Richie AA2KS. Norm has since gone on to become an SK; but when the three of those guys got together - wow! A feast - a veritable feast like you've probably never seen at a Field Day. People used to come just for the food! We always had the standard fare, like sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, but then specialties like pasta, sausage peppers and onions; or home made manicotti or some other delicacy would appear from time to time! Richie AA2KS owned a produce distributing business along with his brothers; so we always had fresh watermelon, peaches and the like! There was always plenty of cold soda, water and cold 807s. It seems we never did without; or wanted for anything.

The competition between the CW and SSB tents was always good natured and fun. As a club officer, I always tried to make an effort to be there for the entire 24+ hours of the event. I can't tell you how many times I would almost fall asleep at the key! It seemed we always could have used more operators. Special memories include Phil Galasso K2PG, who would come and guest operate, clutching his straight key. Boy, Phil could make that straight key hum faster and smoother than a keyer and paddles. Then there was one year that we had a doctor, Bob Burrier N2TSQ, as a member of our group. Bob was disappointed as he had to attend a formal dinner on Field Day night. He made sure, however, that he came to the FD site immediately after his social affair was over - tuxedo and all! There's just something "a little different" about sitting next to a guy pounding out code and making contacts at 2:00 AM while wearing formal wear!

It was at a PARC Field Day that I first saw and operated a K2. One year we were having problems with the generators and the electrical panel. So at the 2:00 PM starting bell; we were hanging around with our thumbs you know where. Bob W3BBO went to his car and retrieved his brand new K2 with internal tuner and battery. We were humming away, making QRP CW contacts while the experts took care of the generator problems! In fact, my fondest memories of PARC Field Days were of sitting in Rich W2PQ's pop-up camper with Bob W3BBO. Bob would operate and I would log; and then after a while we would switch. Operating Field Day with Bob was a privilege to say the least. Bob is a superb CW op and a really good contester. Being with him got me into good habits that I still use today.

Yes, the memories are sweet indeed! Field Day will probably never be like that again, however. Unfortunately, set up and tear down became the specialty of too few guys who finally got tired of the work load. A superb Field Day effort is a terrible amount of work; which is best shared by all; and not just a few. In addition, the membership roles at PARC are also a shadow of their former numbers. It takes a lot of people to make a big production effort; we simply don't have the numbers now.

But, Field Day is Field Day. I cannot warm up to the idea of sitting in an Emergency Operations Center; sending out "2A NNJ" from some bunker-like atmosphere. Field Day is brain-melting heat and mosquitoes and sunburn and sudden thunder storms - getting soaked to the bone while disconnecting antennas in a blind panic and being careful to avoid the poison ivy. Field Day is sending CW until you can hear it in your sleep; it's forgetting your own callsign and catching yourself signing with the club's callsign for the next few days after it's all over! Next year, God willing, it might just be a wire tossed in a tree and my K1 or K2 working off a battery; but it will be Field Day - one of the best days of the Amateur Radio year!

73 de Larry W2LJ

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