YCCC: Its Birth & the Early Years
by Jeff Briggs, K1ZM
[Note: This information originally appeared as a series of articles in the YCCC Scuttlebutt.]
Our club reached a significant milestone last year when it celebrated it's fifteenth birthday. Since many of YCCC's current members were not around (or even active contesters in 1977), it may be of interest to learn about the early history of our contest club. This is a project I have been meaning to undertake for some time, so I am glad to finally see it through to fruition.
YCCC was formed in 1977 through a merging of the North East Contest Club (NECC) and Murphy's Marauders. (MM you say Jeff, how can that be? Isn't there a Murphy's Marauders Club in existence today?) Yes, there is, but it is a second generation club - the original MM club ceased to exist when YCCC was formed and quite a number of the original MM members are still YCCC members today including K1AR, K1DG, K1XX, K2TR, K1ZM, K1RM, K1RX and others.
Although memories fade over the years, those who were direct participants and principals at the time remember, I am sure, just how YCCC came into existence. And, it was an arduous and sensitive undertaking. To understand it all, one must go back to about 1973-74 when it all really began.
In these years, the MM club was in its heyday and, as a very new Hartford, CT based club (only about 3 years old if I remember correctly), it was the only real game in town as far as contest clubs within New England were concerned. As a consequence, its members were drawn from all over the Northeast and included the Boston area crowd as well as a good number of Eastern New York boys. Murphy's, at the time, had over 120 members and actually won the SS club competition in 1973, followed by the ARRL DX Test club competition in 1974.
At the time, Murphy's was really something and I can still remember coming to my first MM meeting in 1973 and seeing the callsign license plates parked out in front of Roger Kaul, W1FLM's home in Glastonbury, Conn. It was really awe-inspiring because one after another there they were - virtually the entire top ten in the preceding year's ARRL DX Contest - K1VTM, W1BGD/2, K1THQ, WA1KZE, WA1PID, WA1KID. When one actually got into the building you were then privileged (and I truly do mean that) to meet and learn from other notables like WB2OEU, K1JHX, W1ZM, W1FBY, K1ZND, WA1ABV, WA2LQZ, W1GQO etc. (Although some of these guys are not active today, many of them still are under their present calls which are W1RM, K1RM, K7GM, K1RX, K2TR, K1ZZ, K1AR and K1XX.) Without elaborating further, if you've ever felt like you just walked into a room and were among a group of the GODS, this was what it was like and membership among that kind of a group was truly special indeed!
Unfortunately, those glory years did not last long for MM and, within two short years, a few of the key spark plug guys like WA1KID, WA1PID and W1FLM had moved away, W1BGD/2 had resigned from the club and, with almost incredible speed, club meetings that used to draw around 90 attendees were only turning out 20-25 diehard members. I won't try to affix an exact cause or blame, but it happened and there was considerable discussion among the club at the time as to whether MM should continue trying to be a super-regional club or, alternatively, turn its focus inward and become what it was fast-becoming anyway which was something akin to the Greater Hartford-Area Radio Club.
These discussions continued through 1974 and 1975 and as time wore on, the club continued to drift. Little effort was made to try to keep the Massachusetts and New Hampshire crowd in the club (although it was suggested several times by what was the minority faction within MM) and all the while, meeting attendance began to drop further still. There was even an attempt around 1975 to kick K1AR out of the club for participating at a PVRC multi-multi conducted at W3AU. (Murphy's actually had a by-law on the books that said you could be removed from the club for contributing toward another competing club's aggregate score. Since this is exactly what John had done, an attempt was made to enforce the by-law.) After much heated discussion (the most memorable coming from K1DG), the motion was narrowly defeated. By now the club had become seriously divided and, as we all know, "a house divided against itself cannot stand!"
During early 1976 the Mass/NH crowd decided they had just about enough and elected to break away and form their own club. This was what became the North East Contest Club and its first (and only) President was Roger Burt, W5UDK/1 who is now known as the "zeppelin commander" or N4ZC.
Shortly thereafter, the 1976 club elections were held within MM and believe it or not, no-one really wanted to run for the office of President. Morale had hit absolute zero. Sure, many had strongly-held opinions about virtually anything and everything - but nobody really wanted or even seemed to care much about making the hard choices that would be required to turn the club around again.
In the midst of that scene, yours truly stood up and volunteered to run for the office of President - but upon one and only one condition. And that was simply the following. If elected, an immediate attempt would be made to meet with the club officers of NECC, form a task force and see what could be done to rebuild a super-regional contest club again within the New England/Eastern New York area. Members were advised at the time to understand exactly what they were voting for. The agenda to be undertaken, if elected, would be to work with NECC, listen to their issues and probably, make some compromises that would be necessary to recognize the contributions made (e.g.: points to the club aggregate) by the East Mass/NH contingent.
This meant, when you actually got down to brass tacks, that the proximity of meeting locations would have to be made more accessible to members traveling great distances, the club center might have to be shifted North of Hartford to be fairer to all the club's members and by-laws that shaft people, like the notorious "K1AR-affair", would have to be re-drafted to foster inclusion rather than exclusion which, in the final analysis, was totally counter productive to club morale and the generation of winning club scores.
Actually, it was a pretty clear choice. One could either vote for more of the same which, by then, had clearly demonstrated that it was no longer a viable program or, alternatively, compromise and try to find a formula that would return the club to its former position as a competitive force to be reckoned with in ARRL and CQ/WW club competition. To say that this was an emotionally charged issue is the understatement of the century. There were many within the old MM club who really wanted to run the club as a local Hartford area club, with meetings being held in various members' homes and who didn't give a hoot about competing with FRC or PVRC anymore. And, on the other side, there was a group who wanted to be a part of something more.
In the final analysis, that particular night and that election wasn't the real decision at all. The really hard choices would come later and so, running on a platform of "change", whatever that might bring - which would have to be voted on by the members "en masse" anyway according to the MM by-laws, yours truly was elected the new (and last) President of Murphy's Marauders - a group composed of some of the finest operator talent and also some of the most competitive contest stations that then existed in the country.
Getting elected turned out to be the easy part. Getting the job done was anything but and was fraught with pitfalls and land mines everywhere. Nevertheless, a small core team from BOTH clubs were determined to make it happen. In the next issue, we will review who they were, how the plans unfolded and the process undertaken that gave YCCC its birth. See you then....!
A Dialogue Begins...
Almost immediately following the club elections, an informal working committee was formed within MM and given the task of opening communications with NECC. Over the air discussions among the parties had indicated a willingness within NECC to at least consider some new arrangement as long as there existed the legitimate prospect of creating a different kind of club at the end result of the deliberations - one that would be truly regional in its underlying charter and operation.
With that understanding in mind, an initial meeting was held in Worcester, Mass. at the home of Bob Czajkowski, WA1TAI (now N1TZ) and included Roger Burt W5UDK/1 (N4ZC), Jeff Bouvier K1LPA (K1IU), Rich Roth K1OME, Charlie Carroll W1GQO (K1XX) and Jeff Briggs WA2CLQ (K1ZM). (Apart from being sort of neutral ground, Bob's place offered some of the best cold cuts and beer around!)
The Meeting's Mission is Defined...
During the course of the meeting many former "grievances" were discussed but, only as a frame of reference as to what obviously did not work well before within MM. Generally speaking, it was an extremely positive meeting that had one very straightforward purpose. We defined our mission at the outset as a "what if" discussion aimed at seeing what it would take to again build a "super club" within the Northeast, e.g.: what would the underlying framework need to be to make it happen? How might we define a charter that would be equitable to all concerned? How do you create a sense of purpose to make guys want to drive 150 miles to a meeting just to enjoy each other's fellowship and have fun competing with other big clubs - all at the same time? What would we need to do both to attract new members into the organization and especially new contesters who needed to learn the ropes as to what club contesting is all about? What should the implementation plan be and how should it be presented to the members of both NECC and MM for a decision as to whether to form the new club or not?
Key Elements of the Proposed Club Are Hammered Out...
Obviously, this was quite a laundry list of issues but all of them were given a fair hearing by the end of the afternoon. Fortunately Rich, K1OME, had brought along a draft charter which we used as a straw man during our deliberations. It was modified extensively in its final form but for the better, we thought, when we were done. In summary, then, the following outlines the basic framework that was proposed for the new club.
- The club would be defined as a regional club.
- There would be four meetings a year. These would rotate somewhat throughout club territory to be equitable to all the members - 2 meetings Worcester, Mass, 1 meeting either in West Mass or Eastern New York and 1 meeting in Hartford to be held at the New England Convention. (In those days, the NE Convention was held every other year in Hartford, CT rather than at Boxboro, MA)
- Meeting sites would be selected at points as close to the Interstate highway system as possible in order to make it convenient for those traveling great distances to attend club meetings. Meetings would be held on weekends to maximize possible attendance. (Murphy meetings, believe it or not, were held on weekday evenings in various members' homes! It was good fellowship but mighty tough to do from 150 miles away!)
- The club center would move North along the Mass/Conn border approximately equidistant from the club's two major population centers Hartford and Boston. The exact site would be determined later after studying the two clubs' rosters to see what might be done to keep as many members as possible within the 50 mile zone defined by the ARRL as primary club territory. (Members within 50 miles of the club center were not required to make 2 meetings a year in order to maintain ARRL contest eligibility - so this was a task that required careful analysis. To this day I still have in my possession a very "doggy-eared" map of New England onto which the various members' callsigns are plotted with two concentric circles indicating the 50 mile exclusion zone and the club's 175 mile territorial boundary!)
- Members would be encouraged, but not required, to submit scores to the club aggregate. There would be no "chicken regs" in the club constitution; occasional participation elsewhere was okay.
- An activities manager position would be created within the club to design meeting programs. "How to" programs, slide shows and membership participation activities would be accorded a high priority at club meetings. (This concept became the forerunner to the current YCCC "Contest University" program.) Over the air "mini-contest" practice sessions would be conducted weekly on a new club gathering frequency which was set at 3830 kHz!
- (This, by the way, was the forerunner to the current 3830 kHz contest post-mortem gathering sessions conducted today. The YCCC local club gathering frequency has since been adopted as the national clearing house frequency for reporting contest results and determining "unofficial" bragging rights as to who won the contest!)
- Summer "pizza & beer gatherings" and a club picnic (all unofficial meetings at that time) would be held all over club territory to keep members active and involved with the club in the contest off-season.
- Regional managers would be installed throughout club territory to help collect scores, act as clearing houses for operators in multi-multis and to help with antenna parties, when required.
- The club would host a hospitality suite at Dayton in order to gain as much national exposure as possible after its formation.
- An attempt would be made to link 2m/fm repeaters throughout the club as a means of multiplier spotting in contests. (This was a twinkle in many minds' eyes in 1977. Nobody could even conceive what wonders packet radio would bring about within ten short years and what marvelous benefits it would mean toward keeping the club interested and involved outside the contests themselves! But, at least we knew we needed to have a club-wide spotting system of some kind, if it could be worked out!)
- The name of the new club would be decided by all of the assembled members at the club's first meeting in order to be fair to everyone from both clubs.
- Finally, the draft constitution agreed upon at the meeting and the minutes of the meeting itself would be reported in BOTH clubs' newsletters to advise the members of what had been worked out. Separate NECC and MM meetings would follow in about a month's time where members would be given a chance to discuss the proposal and then choose whether or not to disband the two existing clubs and form a new regional club!
The Fun Really Begins!...
From this point forward, Roger Burt and I held frequent discussions and we honestly felt we all had come up with a really good framework to present to our members. Roger believed the plan would ultimately be accepted by the NECC group once they had a chance to become familiar with the specifics. I was not nearly as confident about MM ratification because I knew there were very strongly held feelings among some members about remaining a local Hartford-based club.
It was decided that not only would the details of the proposal be set forth in the club newsletter, the Murphy Message, but an attempt would also be made to discuss it personally with every member of the Murphy roster in order to learn peoples' points of view and to lobby for a positive outcome. The process of how this was done, which was unique indeed, has never before been revealed. In the next issue we will describe it and the events leading up to what became a cliff-hanger MM meeting that was held at ARRL Headquarters on a snowy night early in 1977 to determine the answer. See you next issue!
The Campaign to Win Approval Begins...
The period following the Worcester meeting was very busy indeed. On the one hand, there were certain feelings of accomplishment but, at the same time, there was a very long way to go. The prospect of contacting each of the MM members personally was not impossible but it seemed both a necessary and a gargantuan task. Since it wasn't possible to see most members in person, this meant that the telephone was the best way to go. Using a club roster, the process began the very next day. About every other day updates and progress reports were conducted by phone with Roger Burt at NECC. It soon became obvious that this was not going to be an easy sell to all customers. It also became obvious that it was going to be very expensive.
One day, after I had explained to Roger where I was in the process, he said "I have an idea that may help you. First, let me check on something and I will get back to you." I did not have a clue as to what he had in mind - but any offer to help was welcome because my phone bill was going to be enormous at the rate I was going! I was spending almost 1/2 hour on the phone with a lot of guys answering questions and trying to stress the positives about what had been proposed.
The next night he called back and explained his plan to me. It seemed that Dana, K1RQF (K1RQ) worked for "Ma Bell" and had the ability to arrange remote conference calls in his spare time at the office. It was suggested that I work with him to run through the roster using his help. As we worked our way down the list, Dana would dial up a number, go about his business at work and let me do my thing courtesy of AT&T. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it sure worked and saved me a bundle in the process. Using this approach, we managed to hit nearly all of the roster in about 2 weeks' time.
Dana's contribution to all of this was never really formally recognized at the time but it was vital. He had enormous enthusiasm for the project and was one of the gang that had left MM to form NECC. His decision had been a reluctant one, though, and he really wanted to see things put back together. Without his help I may have eventually given up trying to contact the entire MM roster due to the expense involved. Dana also performed another valuable function. He used to cheer me up after a really lousy phone call by adding some light humor about the whole thing. On some nights he would even throw in an extra phone call to the weather number in Sydney, Australia and we would listen to a recorded tape of the weather and water temperatures that the young lovelies were enjoying at poolside in the land "Down Under"!
Along the way, I kept notes and it seemed that there were three distinct groupings of feelings regarding the new club. The first grouping was clearly in favor of the idea and wanted to be a part of either a winning club again or at least a club that had a chance to compete with the likes of PVRC, FRC or NCCC.
The second grouping was mezzo-mezzo (e.g.: in-between) and didn't have strong feelings either way. Most said they would go along with the majority based upon what they heard at the upcoming meeting. At least they were willing to consider the idea with an open mind.
The third group was a really tough sell. Actually, this would be putting it mildly. Opinions and comments could be summarized as follows:
- I don't care to be a part of a big, regional club.
- I like small, intimate meetings conducted in MM members' homes.
- I am dead set against the idea of moving the club center.
- The whole thing looks like you sold us out to NECC - you gave them everything they wanted, at our expense.
- The name Murphy's Marauders is very special to me; I really do not wish to see it go away.
- We tried once to look after the E.Mass. and ENY crowd. When we did hold meetings in Albany and Lexington, Mass. there were more of us present from Hartford contained in two carloads than there were of the local guys. It was joke. Who needs them?
- Worcester is better than driving to Boston. But I'd prefer to have most of my meetings be more local to Hartford.
- Your plan isn't really wrong, but we have tried a lot of that before and, in time, nobody wants to do anything. Eventually, you wind up with a roster of dead-wood members who never show. That's why we're down to the diehards that now come to MM meetings anyway. You may be able to get guys pumped up for awhile but, in the end, it will all be the same. Why should we take the risk? It just isn't worth all the effort.
- It just won't work!
- Expletive deleted.
Listening to all the negative comments was truly depressing. This was especially so because many of the most hardened positions were coming from some of the biggest score producers within the old MM. At times it was hard to believe that some of these guys were so burned out about things in general. The good news about it all was that it was a very small group of members. The bad news about it was that they were highly respected and valued members, many of whom had either formed MM or helped bring it along to win the gavels won in 1973 and 1974. The irony of it all was not lost on me at the time.
A couple of personal vignettes are worth telling. The night I called Fred Lass, K2TR, to ask for his support was memorable. That particular night I was pretty down about the chances of success for ratification and I sort of dumped on Fred. I remember telling him that support from guys like him were going to be absolutely critical to passage. "King-Fred" as some of the old-timers still like to call him, was one of the most respected members in the club. If he would be willing to speak out strongly IN FAVOR of the plan, I knew it might swing a few votes of the group that was waiting to see which way the wind was blowing before deciding. Fred was personally in favor of the plan but not wholly-ready to actively lobby for it. At the end of the call I asked him to think about it because I knew it was vital.
Another memorable call was the one I made to Jim Lawson, W2PV. Jim had joined the club in 1974 at a special meeting held in ENY (in his honor) and had been a very active member of the old MM. Jim, to his credit, came to almost all of the MM meetings and I can still remember talking about antenna theory with Jim and Gerry, W1ZM at meetings. Both of these stations contributed millions of points to the club coffers in those years and provided "big-time" contest experience to many past and present MM, NECC and YCCC members. (K1AR once described the experience this way - "At W2PV we all were doing the thing we loved best and we were doing it at the best place to do it in the whole world!" I myself had the privilege twice and John's comment was right on!)
The call to Jim was very interesting. Jim's priorities and point of view were different than most. He explained to me that he viewed his role in a contest club as that of providing one of the lynch-pin big multi-multis and that he was becoming frustrated about having to go begging to find operators just before each of the big contests. One of his direct comments was this "Jeff, I am willing to make my station available; that is what I can do. But, I do need some help in staffing it. How do you think a new club will help me in that regard?"
What I told Jim was that I wasn't in a position to promise anything. But, I suggested that a healthy club that was growing and not declining had a better chance of providing him what he needed than what we currently had. I noted that the new club might also provide a pool of newer ops who, in time, could "grow" into a larger pool of talent to draw from in future years. I said I would personally see what I could do, working with Roger Burt and Fred Lass, to ensure he would not have to work so hard finding operators in the future. Finally, I told him that Gerry Scarano, W1ZM, was on board and would push for approval. I asked that he do the same at the MM meeting.
As the days wore on, it was hard to really tell where things would net out. Roger and I kept in touch and he kept telling me that NECC was going to come through. I kept telling him to keep his fingers crossed because I really did not know.
About a week before the actual MM meeting, I drove to Newington to meet with a small group of the toughest diehards in the old MM club. We spent two hours together going over AGAIN all the negatives. Through it all I would do what I could to listen and then try to stress the positive side of the situation, if there was one. At the end of the meeting, for the most part, it seemed as if positions hadn't changed much. Basically, we agreed to disagree. There was not much room for reconciliation. I went home knowing I would not likely receive much in the way of support when push came to shove at the upcoming meeting.
The Day of the MM Meeting Arrives & Disaster Strikes "Big-Time"...
The arrangements made with Roger Burt called for MM to hold the first meeting which would be followed 2 days later by the NECC meeting. If MM approved the plan, then NECC would vote on it. If MM voted it down, then there was no point in proceeding further. Actually, like most of the core team planning work, this was well thought out. What we had NOT figured on was a change in the weather that almost blew us out of the water!
The MM meeting date was set for a Friday night and was to be held in Newington, Conn. at ARRL HQ. For most of the day it rained. But, after the warm front passed by, a vicious cold front followed. At 3PM it was over 40 degrees; by 6PM it had fallen into the high 20's and it was snowing on top of frozen "black-ice". My phone was ringing off the hook with calls from guys who I knew would vote for the merger but who felt that it was too dangerous to attempt to get to Newington to attend. I called Roger and asked him for his input. My thinking at the time was "CHRIST, we have come so far - we didn't deserve this kind of luck at the eleventh hour!"
After a short discussion, we agreed there was no way to unravel the situation. We had to proceed. Many guys were already underway and in transit simply because they lived very far away from Newington and had to leave early to get there. But, a few really important guys would not be there - they included K1DG, K1XX, and W1ZM. I had really been counting on these guys for some very vocal support at the meeting and it was not going to be forthcoming. It was going to have to be done without them.
So, very reluctantly, Roger and I decided to "roll the dice" and see what would happen. I left for the 90 mile drive to Newington - none too confident of how it all would play out. Roger remained the eternal optimist. His last words were, "Don't sweat it. We'll do okay, it's too logical a plan not to win approval!
In the next 'Butt, the actual events of both meetings will be reviewed. See you then for the details!
Highlights of the MM Meeting...
The drive up to Newington was pretty awful and, upon arriving, there were several more phone messages waiting for me. These were from guys who had called ARRL HQ to let me know they did not want to risk driving to the meeting. A couple of them wanted to know if they could vote "for" the merger by absentee ballot. I didn't think the by-laws allowed for this but I stuck their votes in my pocket anyway, just in case.
In spite of the weather, we had a surprising turnout - about 45 guys actually showed up for the meeting. It was the largest turnout MM had seen at a meeting in a long time; interest in the proposal was high and everyone knew that a vote on the club's future would be taken.
We decided to run the meeting as a "Town Meeting"; everyone was given a chance to talk - as long and as often as they wanted. We also did not set any fixed time limit on discussion. When everyone had said what they wanted to say, we would take a vote by secret ballot.
For the most part, things were pretty civil. Only on a couple of occasions did emotions and tempers really flare. One that I can remember was when someone made the mistake of criticizing the value of those members on the fringes of club territory. Saul, K2XA, jumped up and at first I thought he was going to punch the guy's lights out! The guy was reminded of the fact that W2PV was "one of those guys on the fringes of club territory!"
After about two hours of discussion, we were about to shut it down and put things to a vote. It was at this point that a few of those dead set against the merger took the floor and made their arguments. It was clear to me that there were some who really didn't want to see the old club fade away and be replaced by something new. I always respected their opinion and hoped that, if it went the other way when we voted, they would someday reconsider and come over to the new club.
Just before the vote was taken a few parliamentary rules had to be cleared up. The point was made that we could not vote ourselves out of existence. The second point raised was that the matter could not be brought to a vote that night. The third point raised was that such a vote required a 2/3 vote rather than a simple majority for passage.
A check was made of the by-laws and it was clear that the matter required advance publication in the club newsletter. This had been done well in advance of the meeting and it had been made perfectly clear in the newsletter that a vote on the merger would be the principal business matter to be conducted. The motion was dismissed.
A further check of the by-laws indicated that, once publicly announced, a vote of those present at the meeting was sufficient for passage. This motion was also dismissed.
Lastly, it was correct, however, that a 2/3 majority of those present was indeed required for passage. This was an important point because it could have materially impacted the outcome of the matter.
Finally, with the snow still coming down outside, the moment of truth was at hand. We put it to a vote and I personally crossed my fingers because it was impossible to predict where the "swing vote" would come out. I figured we had at least 50% of the votes but a 2/3 majority was another matter!
I've forgotten the actual number but I believe the "yea" votes were on the order of 78% of the members present. The motion had passed and there was a moment of numbness on the part of many. You sort of wanted to jump up and cheer the moment but, in deference to those who had not carried the day, it was inappropriate. I was also mighty glad I did not need to attempt to raise the matter of the three absentee ballots that I was holding in my pocket from K1XX, W1ZM and K1DG!
I had managed to find and bring several cases of Coors to the meeting and we toasted a new beginning for the club - or so we hoped. In those days, it was tough to find Coors East of the Mississippi River - it wasn't until a number of years later that it was generally available on the East coast. For the most part, it was a happy moment - I did overhear one of the sure "nay" voters comment that, "Gee, I never would have believed there could have been so much support for this motion. This was a surprise!" It was then that I realized that the days and weeks spent on the phone, patiently answering questions and explaining what we were trying to do to each and every member on the roster had undoubtedly won the day for a new start.
Two Days Later - NECC Makes It's Decision on the Merger...
I drove up to the NECC meeting in Worcester and was introduced to the club members by Roger Burt, the club's president. Roger asked me to summarize the decision made at the MM meeting on Friday night which I did. I told the group assembled that it was now up to them and yielded the floor to Roger for discussion.
Unfortunately for me, I had a commitment back in New York and only had about 1 1/2 hours available before I had to leave the meeting. There was much discussion, some of it negative. The principal concern expressed was that NECC had just broken away from MM; why should the club get back together with the same group it had just left? What guarantees would there be that things really would be different this time around? I left that to Roger to answer; it was his meeting and his show. I felt it was not my place to suggest to these guys what they should do; it was going to have to be their decision. I stayed as long as my time allowed and then headed back home to New York.
Later that night, Roger called and chatted aimlessly for about 45 seconds. Finally, when the suspense was about to kill me, I had to interrupt and ask him the outcome of the voting. He said, "Oh yeah. It passed. No problem!" He said there were a few "nay" votes but that the measure had passed handily.
I was ecstatic and glad it was finally all over. After a few minutes the talk turned to planning for the reunification meeting. Since I was not only MM's president but also its newsletter editor, of course a summary of the meeting outcome and future game plan would have to be written up and distributed to all of the members of both clubs. This was done and we announced in the newsletter that the reunification meeting would be held in about a month's time in Worcester. The agenda for the meeting was as follows:
- Election of officers
- Ratification of the new club constitution and by-laws
- Selection of a club name
- Appointment of regional area managers
- CollectionARRL requirements for club affiliation with the League of required information to satisfy
A Few Comments Looking Back 15 Years...
The events described in these pages have been reported totally from memory without the use of aids or old newsletters. As a consequence, if I have overlooked anyone who played a key role or was present at one of the early planning meetings, please accept my apology. It should also be stated, once again, that it was never anyone's intent through the formation of YCCC to denigrate the old MM club or any of its original members. MM had been a fine club but it seemed at the time to have lost the magic that had made it great. The actions taken to make a new beginning seemed, at the time, the best course of action to keep the club viable and position it for even greater success going forward.
In the next 'Butt, we will review the events of the reunification meeting and reveal, for the first time, how this newsletter got its name. (Ever wonder why this rag is called the Scuttlebutt? It's an interesting story! Here's a hint: The "Rajah" had a hand in it - and I went along with it because it was a great idea. Next issue will tell the story in detail!)
The New Club is Formed and Gets a Name
The unification meeting that was held in Worcester was probably the longest YCCC meeting in the club’s history because of the incredible amount of official business required to form the new club. We had an enormous turnout at the meeting; the event had been well-publicized and enthusiasm was high.
The core working committee had produced a recommended slate of officers which was presented and voted on by the group. These were:
President Jeff Briggs, K1ZM
Vice President Roger Burt, N4ZC
Secretary John Kenny, W1RR
Treasurer Bob Cjazkowski, N1TZ
Activities Manager Charlie Carroll, K1XX
After this was done, the next order of business was the process of selecting a club name. I do not remember them all but I know they included the following:
NorthEast Contest Club
Yankee Clipper Contest Club
I was always partial to the name Eastern Avalanche myself. It had a great motto: "Eastern Avalanche – we bury the competition!"
Much discussion was held about these names and a few more. One comment passed by George, K2DM, was that Y triple C sounded pretty neat. There was already an N triple C and an S triple C – why shouldn’t there be a Y triple C? Then, when you tried to pronounce it, it came out with something that sounded like "Yech!". Maybe that wasn’t such a good name after all!
There was sentiment expressed that the name "Yankee" in the title denoted a club of New England origin which was appropriate and that the word "Clipper" in the title was nautical which was also fine since much of the club’s territory is composed of states bordering on water.
There was discussion also about keeping the name MM or NECC but, after a while, it seemed clear that most people wanted to really make a complete break with the old and have a completely different name.
After about an hour, we put it to a vote. Murphy’s and the rest all received votes but YCCC was a clear winner and a motion was made and seconded to call ourselves the "Yankee Clipper Contest Club" or YCCC - A Club of DX and Contest Oriented Amateurs in the Northeastern USA. This later slogan, by the way, appeared on the bottom of the original club QSL cards printed for club members for several years. (By the way, does anyone remember who it was who actually named our club? In case you’ve forgotten, it was Roger Prince, W1BR (K1KDP) who came up with the name at our first meeting. Roger, by the way, is still an active member of the club and can often be seen with his longtime buddy at meetings, Jack Rosiello, K1KNQ. Thanks, Roger! It was a good name and it has stuck!)
After a break, we read aloud the club constitution and there was discussion on this topic as well. It was ratified with a few minor modifications. We then selected club area managers and gathered information on each prospective member to form a final roster for submission to ARRL HQ. (There was a lot of paperwork after the meeting and I can tell you that personally don’t ever want to have to do it again!)
A vote was taken to elect everyone present who wished to join as members of the new club. This may sound odd, but there were a number of former MM members who actually came to the meeting just to see how things progressed. One who joined, then left to rejoin MM and then came back again to YCCC was K1RM, Vinnie Sgroi. I remember receiving a most thoughtful note from Vince at the time, too. As far as I know he is now back in the club again – glad to have you Vince!
This was one of the beauties of the YCCC charter. It allowed membership in more than one club. A number of guys became members of the new MM for participation in the SS contest and threw in with YCCC to participate in CQ WW and the ARRL DX Test. That was perfectly acceptable under the YCCC charter and we surely appreciated the points.
The Newsletter Gets a Name, Too
After the dust settled from the meeting, it was time to write up the story in the club newsletter. But we did not have a name for it yet. I had a few ideas (none of them good) and called Roger Burt for some help. (I always enjoyed calling Roger. He was in the Coast Guard and when you reached the base, he never could be reached directly. So, when the call was routed to him from the switchboard, he would never actually know who was calling and would answer with a crisp, "Mr. Burt". The military still clings to the formality of the "Mister" title for its officers.)
It was the "Rajah" who came up with the name of the ‘Butt. It went this way:
We were talking about it and all of a sudden he blurts out, "How about calling it the Scuttlebutt?"
"How come?", I said.
Rog sez, "Well, you know what a scuttlebutt is, don’t you?"
I said, "Of course I do. You know I was in the Navy – it is the name the Navy give to a drinking fountain. What the blazes does that have to do with YCCC?"
Not to belabor this too long, the deal was that Roger actually had a great idea. Here’s why:
- Navy personnel always congregate at the drinking fountain and kind of BS with each other (very often instead of doing any real work!).
- The stories and information swapped later become known as "Scuttlebutt". One seaman will be overheard saying something like, "Did you hear the latest scuttlebutt about this or that?" It was another name for the latest news or rumors about goings-on.
- Since our club had a nautical name, a Navy/Coast Guard term also fit well.
- No other major club that we knew of was using the name at the time.
So that is how the ‘Butt got its name! The "Scuttlebutt" became YCCC’s journal to tell members about the latest news and rumors going on within the club. And, it happened just that way a couple of days after the YCCC’s initial meeting. Kudos again to the "Rajah"!
By the way, if you have never had the chance to see one of the original ‘Butts you should do so, (I am told K1AR has a complete collection from issue number 1) as they were quite different from the slick publication we have today. These were hand typed at my office at work on weekends and the masthead was made by hand using stick-on "Letraset" letters. The masthead also contained not only the club name but also a picture of a clipper ship with the letters "YCCC" emblazoned on its hull. Behind the clipper ship also appeared the words "The Clipper’s Wake" with a picture of several boats floundering around aimlessly in the wake with their hulls labeled NCCC, PVRC, FRC, etc. Various quotes would also appear on the masthead from month to month such as "#1 is more FUN!".
These newsletters were Xeroxed by a friend at work in the lithograph department in order to save money. They were then collated and addressed by hand in order to conserve club funds. Thusly, we were able to do the early newsletters for the mere cost of the postage. By being a member of YCCC, you got about 8-9 newsletters a year for the mere annual dues at that time of $5 a year – what a deal!
The Story Continues
By now it was Spring and our next official meeting wouldn’t be held until October at the New England Division Convention in Hartford. I submitted the ARRL paperwork and out charter to the League and we became officially sanctioned as an ARRL affiliated club. That first summer we held many pizza and beer gatherings to maintain the interest in the club. One was held at W1ZM’s QTH. Earlier that same day, Ted Gamlin (K1OX) and I (along with a large ground crew) hoisted up a monster 40m Yagi with a 74’ reflector at Gerry’s place. That night, after we had hooked up the coax, K1OME put it through its paces and remarked that it sure made the band come alive! A number of similar gatherings were also held in MA/NH and NY. Interest in the club continued high.
The New England Convention
The Fall meeting in Hartford at the convention was memorable for several reasons. It brought with it the original version of the "Eimac the Magnificent" routine jointly done by yours truly with able assistance from K1DG as Ed McMahon. Members were treated to questions and answers that were drawn from popular television shows at that time. These five drew the biggest laughs:
(DG) Answer: Eight is Enough!
(ZM) Question: How come Arnold doesn’t run 15 KW on 75 meter phone?
(DG) Answer repeated: Eight is Enough!
(DG) Answer: WKRP in Cincinnati!
(ZM) Question: What is the last entry in K1AR’s Sweepstakes log?
(DG) Answer repeated: WKRP in Cincinnati!
(DG) Answer: The Incredible Hulk.
(ZM) Question: What’s the best kind of amplifier to use in the Sweepstakes Contest?
(DG) Answer repeated: The Incredible Hulk.
(DG) Answer: Walton’s Mountain
(ZM) Question: How come W2YV can’t run JA’s?
(DG) Answer repeated: Walton’s Mountain.
(DG) Answer: The Electric Company.
(ZM) Question: Who collects half of W2HCW’s monthly retirement check?
(DG) Answer repeated: The Electric Company.
And so it went. Everyone seemed to enjoy it! DG gave it a name – "Briggs-Mac". It was the forerunner to Rich Gelber’s, K2WR, current routine which gets resurrected every couple of years for an encore, with new material.
The meeting’s turnout was well over a hundred and we signed up around 15 new members. Strategy was planned for the upcoming CQ WW with K1XX helping coordinate stations and available operators. Early plans were made for the upcoming club expedition to KP4EAJ for the CW test.
At one of the breaks, WB2CHO/VP2ML, Chod Harris, dropped in and passed out leaflets announcing the formation of a second generation Murphy’s Marauders and soliciting members for the new club. The idea was fine, but I always thought the timing and choice of venue to sign up members (after all – this was a YCCC formal meeting no less!) was both in poor taste and bad judgement.
Our First Club Contest – CQ WW 1977
An all-out push was made our first year in CQ WW, we had multis all over the place with W2PV, W1ZM, W2YV and others leading the way. Our natural New England advantage gave us a big boost and we had a big number at the half-way mark. A group of us decided to go to KP4EAJ to try to eke out a win with a semi-major multi expedition which included K2DM, N4ZC, K1OME, K1ZM, and Chet, KP4EAJ.
One comedic happening during the expedition was around 10PM Friday night of the test. I was running a pile on 20 CW when the phone rang. Chet picked it up, handed it to me, and said, "It’s for you!" Now I thought he was out of his mind because nobody was expected to be calling me at KP4EAJ. I picked up the phone and it was Fred, K1VR. He wanted to know if he could fly in and join the expedition! It thought he was "Bats", but by mid-Saturday, Fred had arrived and helped us round out the team for the rest of the contest. Monday morning Pedro, NP4A, called in to advise us that UK9AAN, Willy, was on 20m wanting to know who had won the MM class. As luck would have it, KP4EAJ was world high that year and had beaten all comers including Willy’s MM team at UK9AAN.
We took some slides while there at Chet’s place and showed them as highlights at our next club meeting. In one of them, K1OME was shown lifting a galvanized garbage can with a 40m sloper tied off to one of its handles as an anchor point. We called that one, "K1OME rotating the 40m array!" It drew a big laugh from the crowd at the meeting.
YCCC Makes Big Splash at Dayton
One of the first orders of business following the reunification meeting was to get out the word that a major new contest club had been born in New England. We wanted to establish ourselves in some way and Dayton, which was coming up in three weeks time, seemed a great way to get started.
In those early years, Jeff K1IU, ran a part-time travel agent business and if you wanted to get a room at the "Biltmore" (which was THE place that contesters stayed at) plus a plane ticket to Dayton, you definitely needed to work through "Itchy". Somehow Jeff had struck up a relationship with BOTH the manager of the Biltmore and the social director of the hotel and YCCC was really connected on this one! (Jeff continued to run his "shuttle service" to Dayton for several years after the club was formed and I always looked forward to it.)
We decided to host a hospitality suite all three nights at Dayton and passed the hat among YCCC Dayton attendees to cover beer and pretzels which were provided compliments of YCCC to those attending. Word was passed all day long at the flea market and by sun down each night, the YCCC Suite was the number 1 game in town – we had at least 300 guys in our suite, down the halls, in the bathroom, on the terrace – it was great and excellent publicity for the club. You could look around the room and you could not help but notice some of the biggest and best in contesting in those early years – guys like W7RM, W4BVV, W2PV, N6DX, W6HX, K0RF, K4VX and on and on.
There are two vignettes from that first year that need to be revisited because they were classics. On Friday night, around 10 PM we asked for quiet and Jim, W2PV, began conducting a slide show review of his station for the crowd. One guy, who I shall not name, was pretty blitzed and started interrupting Jim to ask questions. At first, although it was an annoyance, the questions seemed rational. But, he kept it up and would even interrupt Jim while he was trying to answer. It became a bad scene very quickly and you could tell that Jim was getting very frustrated by this guy.
It was then that Ted, K1OX, who was standing next to this guy took action. I was pretty close to Ted and, if you know or have ever met Ted, you know he is a big guy – he used to lift a lot of weights and you didn’t want to mess with him. He reaches over and grabs this guy by the scruff of the neck and whispers just loud enough for those in the immediate area to hear, "Look buddy – I am going to give you two choices. You either shut the Hell up or I am going to see you well you fly from the 10th floor!" And that was the last that was heard from the drunk kibitzer. Later on, when he was sober, he apologized to W2PV.
The second story happened later that same night. We were getting pretty low on beer and we still had Saturday night to go through, so we needed to collect more funds. We had put a coffee can out for donations but, as usually happens, most guys pretended not to notice it (you know the story, right?). We were discussing the problem when Fred, K1VR, joined the conversation. Fred said, "If we need more beer money, there’s a real easy way to get it. Let me handle this one!" So, Fred picks up the coffee can and for about the next two hours busts into each and every conversation on the floor and dangles the coffee can in front of everyone’s nose until they cough up some bucks. As he proceeded to seek out his next "victims" a group of us could only laugh and marvel at the audacity of it all. (I guess it takes a big pair of stones to be a successful Massachusetts lawyer! But it worked, and Fred collected more than enough to cover Saturday night’s beer by being aggressive!) Yea, Fred!
That first year YCCC also hosted a small contest dinner at the Tall Timbers Inn. Rush Drake, W7RM, and Ted Gillette, W6HX, sort of make the thing click and it became an annual event after that. In 1978, with a little more organization, we had over 100 attend the YCCC contest dinner. Word traveled very fast around the flea market!
CQ WW 1977 - Continued
YCCC did very well in the aggregate competition that first year, but we didn’t win. I think FRC did and we placed a strong second if my memory serves me well. We got a great write-up in CQ Magazine from Frank Anzalone, W1WY, who wrote something like "Newcomer YCCC came out of nowhere to finish #2! It looks like this club is going to be breathing down everyone’s necks from now on!" The next year, Frank Anzalone even came to a YCCC meeting to give out plaques won by the club which was a very nice gesture. He was a good friend to all and very gracious to YCCC in that first year.
After a really exciting first year, it was time to elect a slate of officers to carry us into our second year. Sadly for us, Roger Burt, N4ZC, had finished his 20 years in the Coast Guard, and had decided to retire to his farm and a new home in North Carolina. We had held a going away party for him at Mort, W1UQ’s, place that summer and I was sorry to see the Rajah move on. He had been a major force in shaping YCCC and his contribution was definitely missed. (He would continue making great scores from North Carolina however, including some of the biggest that have ever come out of that state!)
I was asked to stay on and agreed to do it for one more year. The complete staff of club officers in 1978 was as follows:
President Jeff Briggs, K1ZM
Vice President Jeff Bouvier, K1IU
Secretary John Kenny, W1RR
Treasurer Bob Czajkowski, N1TZ
Activity Manager Doug Grant, K1DG
(It should be noted that Bob, N1TZ, continued to serve for many years as the club’s "financial whiz" and did a superlative job at it. He probably deserves an award as treasurer Emeritus of YCCC!)
1978 - Another Successful Year for YCCC
In 1978 we re-did Dayton with another suite that was a huge success. As already noted, the YCCC dinner at the Tall Timbers Inn was the premier event at Dayton and attended by over 100 of the best known contesters.
Dayton that year also brought with it another "classic" happening on Saturday night. The YCCC suite basically never quit, lasting until breakfast on Sunday morning. When you walked down the hall towards our suite, there were beer cans all over the hall about six inches deep. You almost had to have a navigator just to get there. I was standing in the hall with Gary Firtick, K1EB, when the guy across the hall came outside of his room. (To being with, this was a major "faux pas" because K1IU was thought to have made a deal with the Biltmore’s manager – there were not supposed to be any "civilians" staying anywhere on our floor in close proximity to the YCCC "war zone". But somehow this guy had come in late, needed a room, and was put directly across the hall from our suite.)Well, he comes out of his room, sees all the hundreds of beer cans in the hall and goes into a rage! He began cursing all the noise from our suite and went on bitching about the fact that he couldn’t sleep at all that night. So Gary, in perfect deadpan, says to the guy, "So, what’s your problem buddy?" This enraged the guy even more and the last we saw of him was this guy yelling that he was going off to find the manager and kicking his way through beer cans all the way to the elevator bank! Little did he know that we were "hard-wired" with the manager, but we left it to him to find that out on his own!
K1RQ Comes Through…Again!
In 1978, the club ran a whole host of bulk purchase deals for members. Many of them were the brain trust of Dana, K1RQ. Dana put together at least three major tower orders that I can remember amounting to around 8000’ of various sizes of Rohn stuff at big discounts for YCCC members. He later followed with deals on rotators as well.
K1DG put together a deal on hardline that was enormously popular. I think members got the equivalent of RG-17 hardline for around 2 cents per foot on huge telephone type reels. I can tell you that there was a real shortage of U-Haul trailers in New England that second summer of 1978. Everybody wanted in on that action.
The 1978 DX Tests
In the ARRL DX Contest, N4ZC treated us to N4ZC/KH6 - Kure. It was good stuff, and I worked Roger on 5 bands, missing only 160 from W1ZM. In CQ WW, we had Bill, N1GL, in the Caribbean somewhere and Buzz at VP1AJ. Major multis again took place at W2PV, W1ZM, and K1OX in New Hampshire.
Scenes We’d Like to See Again Department - 1978 or Thereabouts
- K1OX handing K1XX a rope that he had been holding effortlessly arm outstretched straight-out at the 100’ level on his tower. The look on Charlie’s face was priceless as he almost was pulled off the tower, only being saved by his belt. When he looked down, there were two sections of Rohn 25 tied to the rope and Ted had been holding it STRAIGHT OUT like those sections were cotton balls! Man, that guy was strong.
- The famous K1DG story (this one may not be true) about DG pulling the pin on GA25G torque bars without loosening all three guys first! Seems that K1DG was almost into orbit when the remaining two guys pulled the top of the tower over with him still on top! (Even if this one isn’t true, it makes a great Dayton story. Well, Doug, did it??? Inquiring minds want to know!)
- W1ZM being chased by a swarm of bees back to his house after having stepped on a nest while doing tower work! Gerry made it into his garage about 10 nanoseconds before the swarm did!
- K1AR putting a Rohn 25 section into concrete upside down! This one really did happen. Seems John wanted to work those bubs long path through the center of the earth.
- K1XX having a guy anchor pull out of the earth and having his tower fall on a corner of his garage. Luckily, no one was hurt.
- K1OX having the same thing happen with 165’ of Rohn 25 and then soaking the insurance company for a new tower. Then, Ted reused most of the old sections after receiving the insurance check.
- Operating multi-multi at K1OX all night and then having Ted’s girl friend throw me off the couch where I had crashed for some zzz’s the next morning. It seemed she was splitting with Ted for allowing us to run MM and it was her couch! She wanted to take it with her.
- Looking out the window at K1OX the second weekend of that ARRL Phone test and seeing his new girlfriend (her name was also Kathy - natch!!) working with Ted at the 165’ level of his tower. Now that’s the kind of girl friend or wife all of us would like to find - right???!! Just goes to show that any "boob" can do tower work.
- Watching K1OX trying to get a crescent wrench OFF OF HIS TONGUE at minus 10F while working on top of his tower – without losing too much skin! Seems that Ted had put it in his mouth to hold it and the saliva had frozen it to his tongue because it was so cold outside that day!
- Listening to W1RR call JA’s at sunrise on 40m from K1OX that first year! He was nearly swallowing the microphone and was screaming so loudly that no-one could hear the piles of Europeans calling us on 20, 15 and 10 meters. Finally someone suggested to John that he might just as well open the window in the next room that was facing Northwest and give it a try! At least we might be able to hear what was calling us that way.
- Trying to operate MM that year at K1OX with a toilet that would no longer work because the well had run dry! We were making coffee with melted snow. Then someone told me my coffee had been made with yellow snow – Real Good!!
- Watching K2ZM operate 160m at K1OX. John had no real antennas at home and never had used a 160’ high antenna on 160m before. After busting piles for about an hour, he jumped up from the rig, threw down his headphones, and went into a frenzy. I asked him what was going on. He pointed down to his log and said, "I can’t believe it. I’ve been a ham for 10 years and it has taken me this long to find a friggin’ radio that works!" He was happier than a pig in you know what for the rest of the weekend.
Elections - 1979
In April, it was time to do it all again. The club was now two years old and well on its way to being a contender again. It was clearly time to pass the baton to someone else and we were fortunate to have K1DG ready and willing to try to "turn the club into a winner" to paraphrase Doug’s first editorial in the ‘Butt as the club’s new President. The new slate of club officers for year three were:
President Doug Grant, K1DG
Vice President Fred Lass, K2TR
Secretary Bill Myers, K1GQ
Treasurer Bob Czajkowski, N1TZ (Mr. Emeritus!)
Activity Manager Mark Pride, K1RX
With the election of a new team it was time to take a breather and focus on some other personal priorities that needed attention. All of the principal objectives we had set out to achieve had been accomplished and YCCC had become a recognized force in club aggregate contesting.
We had also managed to build a club where ALL contesters, big and small, with monster arrays and kinky wires, were equally welcome. Looking back 15 years, it has been a pleasure to note that "how to" programs like the current YCCC Contest Universities are still with us helping to keep interest high for the new blood coming into the club. Club meetings continue to be filled with interesting programs that keep attendance high!
In large measure, this has been the direct result of the excellent leadership that YCCC has managed to maintain over the years. I am thinking of guys like K1AR, KM1C, K2VV, K1KI, K2TR, N1AU, KC1F, K2WR and the others who have remained actively involved in giving of their time in order to make YCCC what it continues to be today… one of the best damn contest clubs in the USA and a great place to have fun! Let’s hope it remains that way – and, here’s to the next 15 years!