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(In the last issue, we described the Worcester, Mass meeting at the home of N1TZ where the framework of what was to become YCCC was defined. This was jointly undertaken by K1IU, N4ZC, K1XX, K1OME, N1TZ and K1ZM. At the end of the meeting, it was mutually agreed that the new club's charter would be summarized in both club's newsletters and then put to a vote in separate meetings. Ratification by NECC seemed likely; it was felt that the MM vote might be very close indeed. Because of this, an attempt was made to contact each and every MM member on the roster to help ensure the proposal's passage. We rejoin our historical journey with that process about to start - one month before the scheduled MM ratification meeting.)
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:
1) I don't care to be a part of a big, regional club.
2) I like small, intimate meetings conducted in MM members' homes.
3) I am dead set against the idea of moving the club center.
4) The whole thing looks like you sold us out to NECC - you gave them everything they wanted, at our expense.
5) The name Murphy's Marauders is very special to me; I really do not wish to see it go away.
6) 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?
7) Worcester is better than driving to Boston. But I'd prefer to have most of my meetings be more local to Hartford.
8) 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.
9) It just won't work!
10) 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!
[Go to Part IV]