Local radio amateurs came together on November 16, 1921 and founded the Moose Jaw Amateur Radio Association, while in 1922 the federal government issued the first Canadian station license in Moose Jaw. This station eventually became CHAB.
The Moose Jaw Amateur Radio Club (MJARC), which holds the distinction of being the first club in Canada to receive a station license, celebrates its 101st anniversary this year.
Local radio amateurs gathered at the YMCA on November 16, 1921 and founded the Moose Jaw Amateur Radio Association. The club adopted a temporary set of rules, while the members elected WR (Wally) Pottle as president, Pay Bayley as vice-president, JE Brickett as secretary, and A. Mathers as treasurer.
In 1922, the federal government issued the club’s first station license and gave it the call sign 10AB, while members transmitted signals at 10 watts. This increased to 50 watts in 1923.
However, the members found they could not afford to run the station and turned it over to the Kiwanis club, which returned it a year later. MJARC operated the station at 1200 kHz with 50 watts of power from studios in various locations including the fire station, YMCA building, and Bellamy’s Furniture.
This continued until 1933, when financial problems forced the club to close the station. Commercial businessmen bought it and relaunched it as CHAB. This was probably for the best since in 1934 the federal government forced all experimental stations to obtain a commercial license or close.
Today the club is known by the call sign VE5MA and is active with around 10 members.
Although members have equipment in their homes, the club also has a station set up at the Western Development Museum and a room full of antique radio equipment used in homes, airplanes, and military bases.
A fun pastime
Amateur radio — also known as ham radio — is appealing because it allows talking with people around the world without cellphones or the internet, Vice President Frank Lloyd said. He enjoys listening to AM stations all over North America and around the world, talking with people who still have CB radio, networking with others, and having a fun hobby.
“I’m a radio tech enthusiast playing with whatever comes to mind right now, depending on the day. Some days, it’s HF radios – like in the high frequencies – that can talk from here to Mexico or Australia…”, he continued.
Ham operators need a license because only a dozen radio bands are available and the federal government regulates the airwaves.
People can buy the “Volkswagen of the radio” – usually older handheld radios – for $30 if they are short on cash, while they could buy “the Ferrari of the radio” – an ICOM unit for $2,800 $ – if they have the money, Lloyd said. What matters, however, is that the operators – they don’t have to be tech-savvy – enjoy the hobby.
Long before the internet or cellphone texting, Lloyd sent messages to others and vice versa using “an old, old computer”, a keyboard and radio signals.
He noted that everything sent over the Internet today was started by amateur radio operators years ago. Today, electrical controllers transform messages or images into radio signals and send them to another receiver, where an antenna picks them up and the controller at that end decodes them.
When a signal bounces off the ionosphere, an amateur radio operator can reach someone in Alaska or Australia. Messages can also be sent to the International Space Station using an almost obsolete 30-year-old satellite.
When two stations contact each other, postcard-style QSL cards are exchanged between the parties to show that they have connected, Lloyd said. Operators are excited to collect these cards, while there’s even a contest to see who can acquire the most.
Learning by osmosis
Lloyd has been involved in amateur radio for 30 years. He got into the business “by osmosis” because he was first interested in AM radio and all the channels he could pick up. This interest grew over the years before someone suggested he join a club.
He didn’t give it much thought, but started listening to shortwave radio stations from the BBC Foreign Service and Ecuador. This eventually led him to join the MJARC.
It also helped that he worked for SaskTel for 37 years and worked on older electronics.
As vice president of the club, Lloyd teaches new members about amateur radio and how to use the equipment. He enjoys watching their faces light up as they learn and discover a new world. Personally, he enjoys connecting with people in places like Britain, Australia and Hawaii.
“And I’m a bit of a radio handyman…. I take things apart and put (them) back together,” he added.
Introductory classes are usually held once a year, and once people – regardless of age or gender – become members, club meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at Rodos Pizza at 7 p.m. . Morning coffees are also held on Saturdays at Humpty’s Restaurant on Thatcher Drive at 8am
Visit mjarc.ca for more information.