Club History

The following historical account is taken from articles by Walker A. “Tommy” Tompkins (K6ATX), Joan Ash (WD6BNH), and Lou Dartanner (N6ZKJ) in the 60th and 75th Anniversary Issues of SBARC’s Key-Klix and from other sources.

“I wonder if, when SBARC celebrates its 75th anniversary in 1995, the hams of the future will find as much to snicker and HI about as we do now when we look back over the past 60 years: back to the days of the Gonsetcators, BC611s, Selenium rectifiers, B batteries, rotary transmitters, AM, type 80s, etc. Maybe then they will look down their noses at rigs with tube finals. DXCC on 20 meters? No challenge there….You should try it with one watt on 432!

“Can you imagine what Santa Barbara’s first hams would see in their lifetimes: communications satellites, moon bounce, slow scan TV, 2-meter repeaters, and solid, world-wide communications way above 200 meters.”

— Joan Ash (WD6BNH) in the 1980 60th Anniversary issue of Key-Klix.


Two score and seven years ago (1920), residents of Santa Barbara in the vicinity of Haley and Anacapa Streets complained of the 1908 version of TVI: weird clattering noises and greenish lights flickering from the QTH of Bill Riley. His was Santa Barbara’s first amateur wireless station and his spark transmitter could be heard a mile away without the benefit of a receiving set.

By the following year, six young fellows were hamming. As call letters were unknown [and not required], they selected their own, all ending in “RK.” ARK was G. S. Corpe, later W6IM. PRK was Al Loyd, later W6SRI. For a decade, radio hamming grew steadily. Those were they days of the rotary gap, glass plate condensers, loose couplers, and Audion detectors. Then came the First World War and the gang broke up.

In 1919, an Air Service Radio Officer named J.C. Lewis came to Santa Barbara (later W6AB). He found a few hams ready for business and formed a YMCA-sponsored club in May 1920, which is the nucleus of our present Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. By 1924, the club attendance had reached more than 200 and the Santa Barbara Radio Club was formed. It disbanded in 1926 and was reorganized in 1927 as the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. In the mid 1930s, radio hamming went into the doldrums and the club died on its feet. In about 1937 it was reactivated.

All the gear used in the early days was home-brew. In the mid-30s, a couple of hams were interested in 112 MHz and would spend their Sundays on the top of the Santa Ynez Mountain. They would take a home-brew mobile rig, a 25-30 ft bamboo pole, and an 8JK antenna and mount the pole atop the lookout tower. With an 8-watt AM rig, they held the 2-1/2 meter DX record for about two years.

The late 1930s and early 1940s saw the advent of the first commercial receivers used by local hams, including the National SW7 and the early Hallicrafters.

Then came Pearl Harbor and hams once more answered their country’s call. The Army commandeered the Club’s transmitter. H. W. Brittain kept the club alive during the war, getting the gang together for luncheon meetings. When peace came again, Brit reorganized SBARC substantially as we know it today. Surplus gear enabled a ham to get on the air with a minimum of cost and many Army or Navy trained operators took up the hobby.

In 1949, Ray Cormack (WA6AMD), B.J. Roger (K6BF), and Bernie Ontiveros (W6FFF) made the first contacts from “W-Land” to Australia and New Zealand on 6-meters.

In the late 1940s, the locals used to get down on 10 meters in the evenings for ragchews, which lasted until the wee hours. In the early 1950s, a 2-meter net was started and Roy Cormack (W6AMD) called roll five nights a week for over TEN YEARS. Two-meter Transmitter hunts were also popular in the 1950s.

About this time, Jim Holmes (W6REK) State Assemblyman from Santa Barbara, pushed through the ham license plate bill and soon hams all over the state were sporting their calls on their cars.

SBARC played a big role in providing communications for the Refugio Fire in 1955. The club members were also active in helping with the Fiesta Parade communications.

In November 1957, the Club’s new transmitter was installed at the Red Cross Building. The SBARC club radio call was W6LUC.

The biggest TVI story in SBARC’s history is the story of Irma (K6KCI) and Lou (K6GHU) Weber. The problem started in 1963 with TVI complaints and rabid neighbors. In September 1963, the city filed a complaint in Superior Court for an injunction to stop the Webers from operating on the grounds they were a public nuisance. The suit stretched out over a 3-year period and was eventually dismissed with prejudice, amounting to a total victory for them and a landmark amateur radio case that was watched all over the US.

Historic Milestones

May 1920 J. C. Lewis (later W6AB) and fellow hams Roscoe Schaur, Al Lloyd, Fred Roebuck, Leroy Cormack, and Bart Bartholemew started a YMCA-sponsored radio club.
June 29, 1925 The Great Santa Barbara Earthquake. Santa Barbara was completely cut off from the outside world. Graham George (6AIV), A. B. (Bennie) Lopez (6AAK), Brandon Wentworth (6UJ), Archie Banks (9AGD), Jim Wiley and others patched together a CW station and sent out an SOS. An operator aboard a Standard Oil Tanker heard the SOS, answered it, and help was summoned.
1952 State Assemblyman Jim Holmes (W6REK) authored a bill that allowed ham radio operators to have vehicle license plates bearing their call signs.
January 1954 The first issue of Key-Klicks is published. The first editor was reknown author Walker A. (Tommy) Tompkins (K6ATX). Asked how the publication got its name, Tommy said, “Key clicks were a headache for any ham and publishing a newsletter for SBARC was a headache for any editor!” In June the name was changed to Key-Klix. It is a trademarked name of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club.
May, 1957 SBARC members approved the Articles of Incorporation of the Club.
April, 1967 Lou (K6GHU) and Irma (K6KCI) Weber won a test case for all of amateur radio when a suit brought against them on grounds their radio stations were a “public nuisance” for causing Television Interference (TVI).
March 1973 SBARC met at the Santa Barbara County Schools Auditorium for the first time, where it continues to meet.
October 14, 1975 The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved our request to install and operate a radio repeater installation at the Vic Trace Reservoir site on the Mesa.
April 1976 The SBARC’s repeater is on the air. The Club was given the call “WR6ANW” for this repeater and it was known as the “root bear repeater” for the ANW Root Beer soda.
November 1976 The Club received its Internal Revenue Service classification of a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Educational Organization.
July 16, 1977 The first Bazaar was held. Items of all kind were donated and sold with the proceeds going to the club. This activity has become a major fund raiser for the Club and is held every July.
1950s, 1971 Hamfests were started in the 1950s, but were discontinued. They were again started in 1971 and have been held nearly every year since. Several hundred people gather for fun, barbecue, and exhibits of amateur radio interests.
December 1977 Touch-tone capability was added to the repeater. In 1980, a fund drive was held to upgrade the equipment to solid state. In the summer of 1980, autopatch was approved for the repeaters.
September 1978 The Club was able to obtained the call sign of K6TZ as its club call, in memory of Ernie Brelsford (K6TZ), who was instrumental in getting the club’s first VHF repeater funded. The Club’s old call sign (W6LUC) (Lovable Uncle Charles) was retired.
1981 K6TZ opened its doors as the Club Station at the Boys’ Club on East Canon Perdido street, where it operated for about four years.
September 1984 Santa Barbara Research donates a step-van to SBARC for an emergency communications vehicle.
February 1985 The first Volunteer Examiner (VE) session was held in Santa Barbara.
April 1985 The Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Red Cross granted us clearance through an Agreement of Cooperative Understanding to move our emergency radio equipment into Chapter Headquarters at 2707 State Street.
August 1987 The SBARC/ARES Mobile Communications Van is pictured on the cover of QST magazine.
Summer 1988 A special receiver was installed at the La Vigia site that monitors for aircraft and marine emergency locator transmitter signals and automatically alerts when a signal is heard for more than 10 minutes.
August 1988 Funding became available to build a completely new repeater system on Santa Ynez Peak. On December 22, the repeater, on 224.12 MHz, was on the air, filling a long-standing need for county-wide and back-country coverage.
1989 SBARC received and award for Outstanding Club in the Southwestern Division of the Amateur Radio Relay League. It was presented at the SW Division Convention.
August 1989 A team of SBARC volunteers went to Santa Cruz island to install the new 223.92 MHz repeater. The machine is powered by five solar panels and backup batteries.
September 1989 The ARRL presented the Club with a certificate honoring our 50-year affiliation with the ARRL.
1990 SBARC repeaters go to sub-audible (PL) tone system.
1991 The Club Station at the Red Cross was dedicated to the memory of Bill Hoover (KB6AH), former SBARC president, ARES emergency coordinator, and VE team leader.
Summer 1994 The La Vigia Hill repeater site was completely overhauled as part of the Cellular One installation. To provide our emergency service, we have 14 supporting antennas,.
December 1994 The automatic receiver selector (“voter”) was put in service on the 146.19/.79 repeater. The receiver allows much better repeater use by operators in the Goleta area and west.
1995 The SBARC Field Day VHF/UHF Station was dedicated to the memory of Gene Nicholson (W6YJO), who left the station to the Club on his death.
1996 The Club was able to license the Portable Repeater with the K6TZ call sign.
1996 The 446.4 MHz was up and running at the La Vigia site and CTCSS was installed on SBARC repeaters to minimize interference from other repeaters on the same frequency.
1996 Key-Klix is awarded a “Superior” rating in the 1995 (and 1996) Amateur Radio News Service Publications Contest.
1997 SBARC goes digital in 1997. It now has a web site and e-mail forwarding service for its members.
1997 A Special Event Communications manual was published in pamphlet form and also run as a series or articles in Key-Klix. It has been reprinted in ham club newsletters from coast to coast.
1997 The Club’s Membership Directory was published and distributed free to all members. And an SBARC tri-fold brochure on the Club and its activities was developed and printed.
July, 1997 A 2-meter Sinclair corner reflector antenna was installed on West La Cumbre Peak site to improve the 145.05 MHz packet coverage from west Goleta to Santa Maria.

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