History of the North Okanagan Amateur Radio Club

NORAC began with an idea of the hams of the Vernon and District Amateur Radio Social Club, a club where fellow hams met in the fall and in the spring for a social dinner and meeting. In 1974 a couple members of the club (primarily Mike Castricow VE7BTJ / VE7MK and Harvey Bell VE7DKE / VE7YH) had an idea to put an amateur repeater atop Silver Star Mountain for general amateur and search and rescue radio use. Unfortunately at the time, the DOC would not allow a private repeater to be put on the air, it had to be done by an incorporated society. A small group of keen local amateurs consisting of Mike Castrucow VE7BTJ / VE7MK, Harvey Bell VE7DKE / VE7YH, Laurie Devitte VE7DE, Wally Porter VE7WP, Bert Thorburn VE7HW, Bernie Rose VE7YS, Eric Hall VE7BV and Jim Pringle VE7BIM, met at Mike Catrucow’s home to discuss a new club. The purpose of this club would be to sponsor a repeater on Silver Star, teach amateur classes and to generate interest in electronics and radio in Vernon. On October 2, 1975 a meeting was chaired by Vernon and District Amateur Radio Social Club president Harvey Bell VE7DKE / VE7YH where the foundation was laid to forming the new club. Jack Comley VE7CAE made the motion, seconded by George Martinsen VE7BHT / VE7FE, that the club should be named the North Okanagan Radio Amateur Club since the Vernon and District Amateur Radio Social Club was not an official club and the name somewhat limited it to Vernon. On December 22nd 1975 NORAC’s constitution was signed by Bert Thorburn VE7HW, Wally Porter VE7WP, Len Hoover VE7PE, Walter Joe VE7SO and Jim Pringle VE7BIM and NORAC was born. A steering committee was formed, consisting of Mike Castrucow VE7BTJ / VE7MK, Denny Warner VE7ASY, Mike Webb VE7BCT, Len Hoover VE7PE, Dennis Glowa VE7BNN / VE7QP and Fred Amburger VE7ALB. Due were set at $5.00. Once again the reasons stated for forming the club included: 1. sponsor a repeater on Silver Star 2. Ham Classes 3. Go on tours (namely the distillery and to the Telco exchange). NORAC’s first executive, elected November 6 1975 consisted of Denny Warner VE7ASY as president, Art Spence VE7DKY as vice president, and Harvey Bell VE7DKE / VE7YH as treasurer.

The Vernon and District Amateur Radio Social Club’s last meeting was April 19, 1975, where the regular 75 members, plus an additional 50 amateurs from the coast, sat for dinner at the Coldstream Hotel. According to Harvey Bell (Vice President at the time) a great time was held by all and it was probably the best meeting the Social Club had ever had.

NORAC’s official founding fathers are Fred Amburger VE7ALB, Harvey Bell VE7YH, Mike Castrucow VE7BTJ / VE7MK, Jack Comley VE7CAE, Laurie Devitte VE7DE, Denny Glowa VE7BNN / VE7QP, Eric Hall VE7BV, Len Hoover VE7PE, Walter Joe VE7SO, Truman Locheed VE7DKI, George Martinsen VE7BHT / VE7FE, Peter Van Overbeek VE7ACG, Jim Pringle VE7BIM, Wally Porter VE7WP, Bernie Rose VE7YS, Art Spence VE7DKY, Bert Thorburn VE7HQ, Dennis Warner VE7ASY and Mike Webb VE7BCT.

At the time a funding project from the government called The New Horizons Project was available to clubs whose members were over 65 years old. A new Society called the North Okanagan Amateur Radio Social Club (NOARS) was made to gain access to this funding source. Members of the NOARS were automatically members of NORAC although both clubs were independent. This Project would prove to be a major source of funding for NORAC’s early projects.

The original 146.88 repeater was a Systcom repeater tube type, built by Denny Warner VE7ASY and was installed in the Silver Star ski chalet sometime in 1976. On Sunday September 11, 1977 the new 6 dB gain fiberglass Sinclair antenna was installed though the roof on the chalet to replace the original Ringo Ranger. Reports that day showed quite an improvement over the old antenna. The original antenna extended 8 ft above where it sits today due to a winter snow load that had bent the 3 ½ inch aluminum pipe mast. The bent portion of the pipe was cut and the antenna remains in operation today as NORAC’s APRS digipeater antenna. The location of 88 has also never moved, although a tower was installed at some point which houses 146.88’s 4 dipole antenna.

On September 22 1977 a grant of $15,059 for a club station and new Motorola Micor repeater and was received by the NOARS via The New Horizons Project to replace the original tube type repeater ($4000 for the repeater, and about $10,000 for the club station). It was installed in early 1978 and was used until recently when NORAC purchased, via a BC Lottery Direct Access Grant, the Daniels repeater. The Micor repeater didn’t go off the air however; it was moved to Scaia Mountain, where it continues to work flawlessly.

In December of 1978 a motion was passed that NORAC’s 6 dB Sinclair antenna that 146.88 was using be sold to the NOARS which had earmarked funds for maintenance of VE7RSS.

Also in fall of 1978 NOARS and NORAC started working on a club station in the NORD building, 2903 35th Ave. In a Ragchew of March 1979 Truman Locheed VE7DKI says “Many thanks to all who participated and it is hoped there will be more participation of NORAC with VE7NOR activities. After all, it is a CLUB STATION” Sounds like the 65 and over crowd was doing most of the work. Art SpenceVE7DKY writes “Murphy’s law has been a virtual plague in the shack here what with one thing and another but hope to have the TRANSCAN NET up and running every Saturday and Sunday starting the third of March.” At this time in 1979 3 repeaters were operating in the Okanagan VE7ROK 146.82 Kelowna (Black Knight), VE7OKN 146.94 Penticton (Mt Kobau), and VE7RSS 146.88 Vernon (Silver Star), all of which are still on the air.

In the Ragchew of April 1979 the first report of a jammer of 146.88 was documented. A silent carrier on the output of the repeater was heard, and its heading from various signal reports seemed to be in the north end of Vernon. Also Salmon Arm’s 146.76 came on the air at this time, although it was documented as being buggy. Crystals were also ordered for Vernon’s first phone patch, and in summer of 79 the tube type 147.06 (with a minus offset) VE7RVN autopatch was installed at George VE7BHT house, #86 toggled the phone line on and off.

In September of 1979 NORAC and NOARS was merged. Members of NOARS were given a special class of membership called “New Horizons Members”. These members were given life memberships and this membership class was frozen. The NOARS banner continued to be printed on the Ragchew through 1980, but in 81 the name was removed entirely.

In January of 1983 a 154B Western Radio donated by Frank VE7DKN was installed to replace the VE7RVN tube autopatch. NORAC’s first encounter with the Falkland Sled Dog races.

In November of 1985 the OCARC had plans to link with Manning Park which is on 147.06. It was thought that some interference may be created with the Vernon repeater VE7RVN being on the same output frequency. At the request of the OCARC and after discussion between members of repeater committees of both clubs, the Vernon club has moved the frequency of VE7RVN to 147.04 with a minus offset.

In Dec of 1985 fly hills 146.76 comes online.

Sep 87 new repeater project for Thynne Mtn 146.98 is announced with plans to link it to Kamloops and Vancouver. 1 year later in Sep of 1988 Thynne came online. A link to Kamloops was made first and years later the link to Sumas Mtn (Abbotsford) came online.

Frequency changes in Kelowna, the “regular” 147.000 is going to change to 146.82. This will happen in Dec 6 of 1987. Phone patch on 146.62. 146.72 is reserved for a future repeater.

March of 1988 new digipeater for Silver Star on 145.01 was purchased for $1223.13

Sep 1988: Kelowna using 146.82 as the main repeater. 146.72 is for emergency use, and 146.62 is their phone patch.

Since 1977 146.94 was on Mt Kobau the Penticton group opted to change it to 146.92.??

Kamloops 146.85 is up and running. 146.96 on Mt Lolo is on the air, but not working in September of 88. It was replaced in August of 88 and is having problems.

April of 1989 Iron Mtn 146.66 – is installed and the NORD building which houses our autopatch is up for sale, NORD building is moving to Hwy 6.

May 1989 IPARN wanting to set up a link from Silver Star to Manning Park or Iron Mtn through to the coast. Blake suggests some path tests. Search and Rescue now has their own portable repeater at some point this repeater was moved to Silver Star. Up to this point all searches were simplex or used 88.

The Shuswap Seniors Radio Amateur Society puts a new repeater on Bastion Mtn, which later (unsure how many years) moved to Kault Hill.

In Dec 89 it was mentioned that Thynne, Lime and Lolo are linked together in a small network.

The Jan 1990 Ragchew has a good repeater list in it (will attach it in the history at a later date)

May 1990 Club Station of NORAC/NORAS was taken down. The new NORD building on Highway 6 is to be the new club station. Application for the VE7RVN autopatch to be moved to the BC Hydro building on the commonage was made.

June 1990 New 147.02 repeater -600 is running in Salmon Arm

GAP FROM July 1990 to December 1993. If anyone has copies of these please email me at ve7lyd

1993 Noracs 1st Hamfest was held at Silver Star

Jan 1994 This months Ragchew shows the VE7RVN autopatch (147.04) with a + offset. 147.06 VE7RNR is on the air at this point. Armstrongs VE7NOK 146.700 is also on the air.

Feb 94 NORAC’s 2nd Sky High hamfest is a go. Duncan VE7ZAV looking into obtaining the Vernon weather station as a club station, next month it is written “it appears that NORAC will not be successful in obtaining the facility”.

March 94 The Ragchew of this month includes this title: “Amateur Radio Now Permitted In China”

April 94 NORAC voted in favor of pursuing a new UHF repeater for the Vernon area (VE7EGO). Gary VE7EIY offers his property to house it. Noise has been reported on VE7RSS.

May 94 Tech committee determines that the noise coming from 88 is not serious to justify replacing the repeater. Bill VE7HW is looking into replacing the PA deck ($1000) on 88 as the finals are failing.

June 94 VE7RSS Sunday net moved forward to 10:00 am from 9:45 am due to conflicts with the Penticton net on 146.94 apex.

Sep 94 The VE7EGO 444.525+ UHF repeater will be installed at the Commonage West site (VE7EGO). A Motorola repeater has been ordered and the new Delhi tower, Kiosk and repeater is installed in October. VMR donated a their temporary repeater until the new Motorola arrives.

Nov 94 VE7RSS went spurious and was pulled off the air by Duncan VE7ZAV. Replacement parts were ordered and 88 went back on the air. Fundraising begins for replacing VE7RSS with a new repeater.

May 95 Summer break is removed and NORAC holds meetings all year long.

August 95 Doug VE7TVT takes over the Sunday net on 88 from Trudy who took over from Norm VE7EGO when he passed away. Bill VE7WFG and Blake VE7EFA / VE7DO met with Pike Anderson regarding the VE7EGO site and agreed on $250.00/year and no charge for power.

Sep 95 New Motorola 444.525 repeater has been tested and is installed at the Commonage.

Nov 95 Work began for NORAC’s new Club station at the Chamber of Commerce building (Watson House)

Missing Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb.

March 96 Wilf VE7OHM and James VE7JVL installed the new 146.88 Daniels repeater at Silver Star

April 96 Wilf VE7OHM proposes a new repeater on Scaia, which would consist of the old 88 Micor repeater and a new PA deck.

Sep 96 Tuk repeater changes frequency to 145.41-

Nov 96 Anita Pearson resigns as editor of Ragchew (Sep 93 to Oct 96) Michael VE7TFD and Wilf VE7OHM Take it over.

Dec 96 Michael VE7TFD starts NORAC’s website

March 97 Derric VE7GES takes over a chief editor of the Ragchew.

May 97 Motion to install the old Micor 88 repeater on Scaia passed. 2 210C2 antennas donated to the club from Harvey Bell VE7YH. These antennas are still in use on Scaia and on Thynne Mtn.

Aug 9 97 VBX-1 is launched at Silver Star mountain during the hamfest. It consisted of a crossband repeater. The furthest contact was Lyle KC7KSA in Goshen Utah. The balloon was lost and figured to be over Wyoming.

Sep 97 Scaia repeater gets installed by Wilf VE7OHM. A link from VE7EGO to Scaia was made on Sep 21st. 6 meter on Tuk was disabled due to interference on Falklands off air TV transmitter.

Oct 97 Tuk repeater is now linked to Mt Baldy.

May 98 Wilf is the editor for the Ragchew

June 98 NORAC entered an agreement with the chamber of commerce for the use of Watson House as our club station. Ground radials were placed in the walls and foundation during construction and our 60 ft tower will be installed. Dodie VE7DLT takes over as editor of the Ragchew. A motion is made that there will be no July or August meeting this year. A motion to purchase lightening protection for all of NORAC’s repeaters was passed as well.

Aug 8 1998 11:08 am VBX-2 is launched and contains a crossband repeater and an APRS tracker. The package was recovered 70 Km E of Vernon hanging in a tree 40 ft above the ground.

Aug 1998 NORAC’s 5th and final Hamfest.

Nov 98 Lease signed for club station at Watson House. The 444.275 UHF Hub repeater originally located on Tuk has been moved to Silver Star. SIRG network is born.

Jan feb missing

Mar 1999 VE7RVN autopatch callsign was renamed to VE7RIP in memory of RIP. Cracks found in the Watson House foundation will require a geo-technical survey before occupancy can be approved. A motion was passed to Link VE7RSS to the Silver Star hub in the event of an emergency.

Aug 7 1999 11:45 am VBX-3 is launched with a payload consisting of a crossband repeater, APRS tracking and a Slow Scan TV transmitter. The package was recovered in the Kamloops area.

Oct 99 VE7EGO UHF repeater was moved from commonage to Silver Star and replaces the UHF hub. The VE7RHW 146.900 repeater is installed and SIRG consists of Mt Baldy, Silver Star, Tuk and Thynne Mtn. An APRS Digi is installed on Terrace Mtn. IRLP consists of 10 nodes. The basement of Watson house still not completed although the club is holding its meetings there.

Feb 2000 VE7TUK is taken off the air.

March 2000 Chamber of commerce executive changes. New executive was not informed of NORAC’s involvement with the building of Watson House. The future of NORAC’s club station at Watson House does not look good

Aug 12 2000 VBX-4 NORAC’s final balloon launch was successful. The payload was recovered in Glacier National Park.

Oct 2000 VE7RIP BC Hydro building roof was replaced and siding was painted.

Feb 2001 A motion was made to accept the proposed letter of agreement between the Vernon Science Center and NORAC for rent of the radio room for $80/month. NORAC’s new home is now the Vernon Science Center.