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The Fall and Rise of an Antenna Tower

by Fred Wagner - AD6FC

The following is a feeble attempt at totally recalling every minute detail that went in to the erection of the new antenna tower, its accompanying antennas and cabling, and the addition of modern, state-of-the-art equipment now installed at the Red Cross building in Crescent City, CA. There will probably be many inaccuracies as to dates, times, and persons involved but, other than these, this recollection will be flawless! I apologize in advance for these flaws.

I remember Del Norte Amateur Radio Club meetings at the room upstairs in the building behind the Flynn Center. It still houses our '88 repeater and the phone patch, among other Club property. There were a couple of flights of stairs to encounter; most of us could make it up (and down) back then. My toes, feet, legs, and general health began to deteriorate, somewhat, and I found it increasingly difficult, especially with a new amputation occurring periodically, to navigate those stairs. I was quite happy when one of our members, Chuck Hartwick (KG6LTQ, N6CEC) announced that we could meet at the Red Cross building. Chuck worked out there, and his boss, Dave Bosteder (KJ6JZO) said it would be fine. We met in the upstairs training room. Chuck's office was immediately adjacent to it, and he worked at his job and dabbled in amateur radio projects, as well.

Chuck had his own rules for organization. He would have a dozen projects, all in close proximity to each other, and often intermingled. He had passwords for all his computer programs and most of those I can't repeat here. His work space was, let's say, “cluttered.” Unknown to most of us, Chuck for years engaged in actively pursuing grant money for various projects. As our Club Treasurer, he went about this stealthily, always coming up with funding dollars. We weren't sure how Chuck handled all this, only that the results were usually stellar, so we didn't question his abilities.

Chuck passed away on February 7, 2011. Christie Lynn Rust, (WA6ZDO) whom I had met several years earlier as she was the best music director/band leader/choir director/etc. that some of my kids had ever known, came into my work Monday morning (the 8th.) to tell me the bad news. I had met Christie through school, and then was very pleasantly surprised to find out she was also an Amateur Radio enthusiast. Very shocking news about Chuck! Hard to believe this could happen to one so young!

Nobody really felt like going through Chuck's stuff in his office, so we put that off for a few months. Prior to Chuck becoming a Silent Key, he had participated in raising a crank-up antenna, which was secured adjacent to the middle back door of the Red Cross building. Something must have been incorrect, because this tower was also guyed, and that shouldn't happen with a crank-up tower. There was an inverted-V dipole for 40 meters, and a dual-band 2M/440 vertical antenna on the tower. The tower stood at roughly 60 feet elevation. There was a Kenwood TS-570D HF rig, and a Kenwood 2M/440 rig inside Chuck's office. Batteries, other radios, parts, cables and some tools were also there.

Going back through old emails, I discovered that Christie started “nagging” in late June and early July of 2012. She constantly insisted that we – whomever would volunteer – undertake the cleaning out of Chuck's office. I volunteered on several occasions, as did Steve Paynter, KA7PRR. During our July 2, 2012 Club meeting, Christie put forth a proposal to undertake the revamping and upgrading of the radio room and its components, and we began talking about the possibility of a new tower. On one such cleaning/clearing exercise, Steve, Christie and I assembled in the radio room, as we now referred to it, and thus began really serious deliberations about how to begin, get funding, where to get help, etc. Steve approached it from an engineering standpoint, insisting on specifics.

Steve's specifics pertained to construction and structure, with safety most predominant. Christie and I balked, at first, as these ideas seemed “overkill,” too expensive, and too difficult to implement. Steve wouldn't let up, so eventually we capitulated. I had discovered that, by becoming involved in EOC (Emergency Operations Center) operations, I was in a position to get in line for some grant money available to our county EOC. The learning process commenced. Aha! One of Chuck's secrets was no longer a mystery! Christie (and Steve, I think) urged me to contact Texas Towers for the best deal on a new tower and the set of equipment we wished to acquire. Quite a bit of phone calls and emails went back and forth, and the end result was that we were able to pare down what we wanted, and we knew approximately what it would cost.

I believe my initial request from EOC was for $17,800. I had listed all the materials and had provided the necessary codes to enter into the grant requests. Emails with Cindy Henderson, EOC Director, place the dates of my initial requests in early May of 2012, so my date recollection is a little distorted. Obviously, Christie and Steve and others had spoken to me before the June/July dates previously mentioned. The grant process was a long, involved process, requiring several steps and many modifications. On October 24, 2012, Cindy informed me that we had been given a $10,000 amount – not the $17K+ we had asked for, but not peanuts, either. Time for adjustments.

We spent several agonizing days trying to decide what to cut from our original list. The first to go was the linear amplifier, as it was the most costly item there. A few other parings, and we brought the amount closer to the $10,000 figure. Meanwhile, Christie had been speaking with Dave at the Red Cross, decrying our lack of funding for the linear amplifier. In a few days, Dave had secured an additional $5,000 for us, and the linear was now back in the picture. A miracle! Then a few kinks. One of the reasons we had decided to buy from Texas Towers is that we hoped to avoid paying state sales tax; however, Cindy informed us that, since this was a county grant, sales tax would have to be paid, just as though the purchases were made in California. Texas Towers was having trouble getting their accountant and EOC's accountant to come to agreement on how payment would be made. Since we now knew sales tax would be charged, we decided to look into Ham Radio Outlet, in Oakland and see what they could offer. During one of my calls to them, I asked if they had any ideas as to from where we might purchase a Rohn 45G, 60 foot tower. They gave me the name and number of Talley, Inc. We initially requested about $6,000 worth of equipment from HRO, and $4,000 for a tower kit from Talley. The total amount was just slightly under the $10,000, but, it didn't include sales tax. I informed Cindy of this, and she worked a deal whereby EOC would cover the tax debt. Whew!

Before year's end in 2012, we had ordered and paid for the tower, radio equipment, and most everything else that was related to them. Packages arrived on a spotty basis as different items often came from different locations. We had some issues with our original antenna tuner, and it took two returns and a request for a different manufacturer to fix that. At least one of our tower sections came in bent, so that had to be returned and replaced. I had forgotten to order a specific section and so we made an adjustment, with additional help from EOC, that corrected that. I should mention that, in communications with Alpha Amplifiers, we were able to receive a discounted price from them for the Alpha 8410. This was offered by one of their executives after we explained our situation, demographics, and details of the methods used to seek funding for our equipment and most importantly, for the linear. HRO wasn't too happy when they found out about our discount, but since we had just spent $6,000 with them, we decided the significant, extra savings plus a little bit of hurt feelings was, after all, worth the effort. By February or March of 2013, all items were on premises. We now had boxes and boxes of antennas, cables, radios and accessories on the floors and desks of an already very cluttered space. The tower was housed in a warehouse area behind Dave's office and would be relocated out back. It was difficult to get in and out of the radio room, even with legs!

The next few months were not overly-laden with extremely good weather and we weren't really certain who and what we could get to help us take the old tower down and erect the new tower. After that, we would need more help in installing antennas and cabling on the new tower. Dave and Christie contacted George Maher, and he met with us in Dave's office and told us he would be able to provide a crane and crew to take the old tower down and erect the new tower. We discovered his crane wouldn't extend far enough, however, to lift the antennas into positions. We did the towers on a Saturday in either late September of early October. It took George and his crew probably about 2 hours, which included eating breakfast dough-nuts supplied by Christie. Christie and I had spent several days out back assembling sections of tower, one by one, and she even had me leverage the top section onto the other assembled sections. We were joined on several occasions by Mike Poole (KE6ZYK), Jaime Yarbrough (KJ6JKL), Mike Becker (KJ6YDI) and his dad. There may have been others but I can't recall all of them. We also installed the rotor plate and some of the guy-wire attachment units. Buzz McCullough, from Pacific Power and Electric, and Jim Norton, friend of Christie and former lineman with one of the cable companies were on hand to align the tower and correctly tension the guy-wires. Prior to that Saturday, Steve had been working to secure the I-beams, designate locations for the 3 post holes, and secure concrete. I believe Dave, through Red Cross, secured payment for all these. I believe Steve had the concrete poured about 3 weeks before the Saturday lifts. Steve also did all of the concrete finishing.

With the tower now erect, intact, and secured we were now ready to begin worrying about building the TH-11DX antenna, which was in 3 heavy boxes inside the Radio Room. While I pondered how many dozen people would be required, how many tool chests we would need, and how many weeks of studying the instructions we'd need, Christie was quietly unpacking the boxes and laying out sections of pipes, tubes, and many packages of very small parts across the floor and desks inside the room. It was worse than I thought, and I resigned as Club President right on the spot. Somehow, I forgot to mention this to anybody and thus began 2 weeks of assembling, step-by-step and page-by-page that huge antenna. We could only go so far as the completed sections were too large to fit into the room. Mike Poole, Jaime, and Doug Mason (K6DCM) also helped, occasionally. Oh, yeah! Steve came in to harass and assist, in that order! Christie had gone to the Crescent Fire Station and had spoken with Chief Steve Wakefield. He sent a crew, with fire truck over to survey the operation and determine if they would be able to help. News was disappointing at first, as they would not be able to maneuver the truck in the back due to wires and surrounding structures. We were told that the ladder probably could not reach above the tower from the front due to the added distance of the building depth. I showed that, mathematically, it should work. (Thank you, Pythagoras!) Chief Wakefield and his crew brought their truck the following Saturday, and a pictorial record of that glorious day exists elsewhere.

Christie and I spent several more days organizing and setting up work stations. We had decided on a switching-scheme to direct the antennas to the correct station, and we didn't want both stations on the same antenna at one time. Christie installed them and did all the wiring, measuring coax and soldering fittings as she went along. Part of her work was done by herself. She also single-handedly moved desks, equipment, and attached all the equipment. It was she who pounded the ground rod into the soil just under the upstairs floor – not easy access and not at all comfortable! Christie ran all the equipment grounds inside the shack, and then connected them to the ground rod she had installed.

It is impossible to adequately thank all those who contributed, many through great sacrifice, their time and talents to the successful completion of this monumental task. The person most present, and if not for whom this project would still be a dream, has been accused of “nagging.” She was and is a gentle persuasion expert, a true friend, and it is an honor to be associated with her and with others like her.

DNARC Officers

  • Fred Wagner - AD6FCAD6FCPresident
    e-mail

  • Joel Wallen - W6JKWVice President

  • Evelyn Armenta - KJ6YDGTreasurer

  • Jaime Yarbrough - KJ6JKL Secretary

Radio at Sea (1891-1922)

The first major use of radio was for navigation, where it greatly reduced the isolation of ships, saving thousands of lives, even though for the first couple of decades radio was generally limited to Morse code transmissions. In particular, the 1912 sinking of the Titanic highlighted the value of radio to ocean vessels.

— United States Early Radio History
by Thomas H. White

Contact Us

Del Norte Amateur Radio Club - W6HY
1672 Northcrest Dr.
Crescent City, CA 95531
United States
Club: w6hy@w6hy.org
Web Master: webmaster@w6hy.org
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