The AARC Begins
The Anne Arundel Radio Club was founded in 1951 by Phil Nesbitt/W3CQ (formerly W3KCQ), Manager at WNAV. He served as the County Civil Defense Radio Officer. The first president was James (Jim) Mills, a supervisor for C&P. The remainder of the Charter Members were: Robert Bass/W3JSI, a math teacher at the Naval Academy; Joe Grissom, son of the Mayor of Annapolis; John Pancoast who ran a filling station in Eastport; George Schmitt/W3NAE, still a Club member, and Chuck Hite/W3SOG, a representative of Sherwin Williams. Mills, Bass and Grissom are deceased.
Early Meeting Places
For the first eight months the club met in Annapolis (on Jim Mills' front porch, at the Annapolis Police Station, in the C&P Building in Parole, in a WNAV storeroom and in George Schmitt's basement). The club was first known as the Annapolis Radio Club, then the Arundel Radio Club. Members were searching for a good place to meet. In late 1952, through the efforts of the School Board, we obtained from the County the use of a one-room schoolhouse in Arnold. After the room was cleaned, it was equipped with three large tables and a desk. A pot-bellied stove supplied the necessary heat in the winter. Club members supplied the wood and coal for the stove. A used refrigerator was obtained for refreshments.Shortly after moving into the clubhouse, the membership voted to change the name of the club to The Anne Arundel Radio Club, so as to be more representative of the whole county.
The AARC, W3VPR, and Field Day 1953
Once located in its new quarters, the club started to grow. In early 1953 the club obtained from the FCC the call "W3VPR" for use on Field Day. (That should make the first AARC Field Day June 27-28, 1953, and dates the W3VPR call sign to that event.) After that, Field Days were held yearly in late June on the club property. The telephone company, thanks to Jim Mills, put up a 60-foot pole for the antennae.
Civil Defense and the AARC
TChuck and Jim wrote the first Civil Defense Plan for Anne Arundel County. As a result, in 1954 AA County Civil Defense bought the Club eight 30-watt GE six-meter FM mobile radios, having a single 807 in final -- also, one 60-watt base station, two 6-meter portable radios, four 2-meter radios and two 50-watt base stations with an 829.B in final (all by GE). One 6-meter base and one 2-meter base were set up in the Arnold clubhouse. The other 2-meter bases were set up in the CD Office in the Annapolis Courthouse. Six mobiles were installed in private ham cars. The other two were mounted on wood bases so that they could be put wherever needed. By this time we had 18-20 members and were holding Civil Defense drills. Members started buying used 6-meter FM mobile equipment, like Link, Motorola, GE ---whatever we could find. Some were made into base stations, and in a year or so we had a 6-meter network and were working closely with the police and fire departments.
The Civil Defence Van
TIn 1958 Civil Defense bought us a 10-wheel Army van from Ft. Meade, with very little mileage but suffering from long storage. By 1959 we had it running well and had installed a 30-watt PA system, a RTTY machine, an HF rig and a six-meter rig. Even a first-aid kit was supplied. On the back of the truck was attached a 5.5 kw generator to power it all. Portable antennae were also carried. Just below the side windows of the truck were painted the words "EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS--W3VPR". Of our membership of about 35, only 8 or 9 were qualified to drive the truck The Club got a lot of use from the 10-wheeler.
The AARC to the Rescue
As we became more and more involved with State and County police, we were soon invited to join the Maryland State Ambulance and Rescue Association. We helped with communications at forest fires, lost kids, downed aircraft, escaped prisoners, drownings, etc. Our greatest job was to set up and handle a radio network for the moving of Sinai Hospital in 1960. This request was made by Dr. Amberman of the Maryland State Police, who also attended some of our meetings.