Vol. LXXIII No. 5 — May 1995
MASONIC AMATEUR HAM RADIO
Bro. Gurnee Bridgman is a Past Master of Poynette Lodge #173, Poynette, Wisconsin and a Past Master of Sunrise Lodge #130, Fargo, N.D. Bro. Bridgman now lives in Bemidji, MN. He is an ardent "ham" radio operator!
This Short Talk Bulletin is more technical than we normally publish. However, the subject of "ham" radio has always been one of great interest. We realize that Short Talk Bulletins must be of interest for many years and we know that some of the information contained in this STB will eventually become outdated. MSA will make every effort to keep ourfiles current so that you may contact us for correct addresses.
There are many ways to have Masonic communication, some well known and some not. One of the ways that is not as well known is participation through amateur 'ham' radio. Ham radio has been in existence since the early '20's, with many Masonic ham (and for that matter, Eastern Stars too) regularly active on the air.
With the growing level of technological sophistication, many would-be hams have expressed concern that obtaining a ham license and then participating would be too formidable and costly a challenge. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are harns as young as eight, and we have seen others get their license at eighty. All it takes is a bit of study and perseverance, coupled with the desire to obtain a ham hcense.
How does ham radio interact with Freemasonry? What do hams that are Masons do on the air? Virtually anything that isn't esoteric would be discussed on the air. Subjects range from simple Brother-to-Brother conversation, to whatever the current topic of interest is at the moment. What's happening in their families, the weather, what's happening at Lodge, or setting up a schedule to meet personally at an upcoming convention — it' s nothing different than one would cover in normal face-to-face conversation, except that this is over the air, and the distances between those talking might be across the state, across the country, or perhaps on a different continent. One especially worthwhile endeavor is "getting on the air" from Shrine or other local hospitals and letting the patients talk with their families (and at holiday season with Santa Claus), especially when that family is far enough away to make normal visits impractical. Or perhaps, just informing a Brother, who might be away for the winter as to what is happening at the local lodge level. Subjects cover virtually anything that you would talk about with a Brother — weather, vacation plans, lodge visitations, potential candidates, how proficiency study is coming along. You name it, it's discussed.
What is required to get a license? For entry level licenses, even the Morse Code is no longer required. However, most communication — fraternal or otherwise — is conducted on frequencies for which some code proficiency remains in force (due to international regulations to which the United States is a signatory participant). The several license grades and their requirements follow...
Novice and Tech — Permits local 'high band' communication. No code requirement. Requires passing two tests covering FCC regulations and elementary theory.
Technician Plus — Requires the same written tests as above, and passing a 5 WPM (Word/Minute) code proficiency. An additional theory test, and 13 WPM code proficiency. An additional theory test. No further code proficiency. A final theory test. Code proficiency at 20 WPM.
Most of the HF (high frequency) communication takes place in the band permitted by the General Class license. Quite often the place (frequency) where ham Masons meet is a regular 'meeting spot,' so you will know right where to be at the right time. Some of the Masonically oriented nets follow
Name of Net Day Time Frequency Listen For
|Name of Net||Day||Time||Frequency||Listen For|
|Masonic Fellowship||Mon-Fri||16:30UCT||14,328mHZ||WA6VYO Lee|
|International Shrine||Sat||14,30||14,328mHZ||WA6VYO Lee|
|Upper Midwest Hosp.||Sun||8:00AM||3,913||WA6VYO Lee|
|Ohio Masonic||Sun||02:30UCT||3,865||WA6VYO Lee|
|Chicago Masonic||Thur||01:00||7,268||WA6VYO Lee|
|Masonic & Shrine||thur||02:00||7,268||WA6VYO Lee|
UCT=Universal Coordinated Time. UCT is calculated on a 24 hour clock, and is six hours ahead of Central Standard and five ahead of Central Daylight time. Example — 01:00 UCT is one o'clock in the moming in Greenwich, England, the spot from where world- wide time is figured. At O1:OO AM there, it is 7:00 PM Central Standard Time (local) time Midwest time zone (and on the previous day). Adjust accordingly for other USA time zones, and recognize that times may change during Daylight Saving Time.
To receive and understand what is said on these frequencies, you need a special type of radio, one that can receive upper/lower side band. Check with your local radio store for further info on this aspect.
Physics and atmospheric conditions also play a big part in reception. Sometimes you will hear the nets on, sometimes not. As a general rule during the day, reception shortens up. At night it lengthens out. Distance covered also lengthens out as the frequency is increased. For example, you will probably easily hear the Masonic Fellowship Net and the International Shrine Net throughout the country all year. Conversely, nets on the lower frequencies will only be heard in various parts of the country. This will be more localized during daylight times, but they oftentimes can be easily heard during nighttime. The author will provide a list of nets to anyone who would like them, just provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
Ham radio has many other facets that may be of interest. One is called 'slow-scan' TV. This is slightly different than what you would see on home TV, but in this case the pictures can be sent around the world. Here's a way to converse Masonically with (for example) an Australian Brother on a face-to-face basis. What about study guides to get a license? They can be purchased from Radio Shack, or a store that sells ham gear. All the questions and answers on the exams are given verbatim in these guides. A better way, though, is to contact a local ham, and ask where classes are held in your local area. It's easy to spot hams too. Most feature their ham 'calls' on their car license plates, or have antennae on their cars. Or you can contact the parent organization of ham radio — The American Radio Relay League: 1-800 326-3942.
Another common misconception about ham radio is that it is expensive. Not so, you can get into ham radio for a modest investment of several hundred dollars. Such gear would be more than adequate to participate in the Masonic nets. My recommendation is to start small and grow as you enjoy and become more familiar with ham radio.
Several Shrine Temples even have ham radio units. Zuhrah in Minneapolis has ZARC (Zuhrah Amateur Radio Club); El Jebel in Denver has RadOps. Others use hams in their Director's Staffs. What do these hams do? They provide communication at parades, during circuses, support for community functions, or whatever else might be needed.
Masonic Ham Radio —it's a little known facet of the Craft. It's a rewarding way to tie into an enjoyable, rewarding hobby with fraternal interest. If I can be of any assistance to any Brother who might be interested in becoming a ham, please feel free to contact me. My addresses follow...
Gurnee Bridgman 12770 Portage Lane NE Bemidji, MN 56601-7158 (2 1 8) 243-2002
Internet: Gurnee@VAX l.Bemidji. MSUS. EDU
CompuServe: 7313 1,2754 Packet radio: W9NT@ KOLAL.#NCMN.MN.USA.NA