Explorer Post 621



Explorer Post 621 came into being in 1974, to cater to the needs of young people who had an interest in CB and ham radio.  As a splinter group of the Boy Scouts Of America, Explorers are usually vocation oriented groups who hone and develop skill sets in their particular fields.

It all started with a hobby and interest survey which was passed around our Jr. High School (and presumably many others). The survey quizzed teens about their hobbies and interests.  The results of the survey indicated that there were enough young people interested in radio communications, that a group dedicated to such activities may be warranted. Then, presumably, the powers that be contacted people and got volunteers to sponsor and to serve as advisors.  Then, those of us who participated in the survey, were sent invitation letters announcing the formation of Explorer Post 621, dedicated to 2-way communications.  So just for fun, myself, Uncle Albert, his neighbor Nighthawk, and a few other regulars from our Channel 11  CB group attended the inaugural meeting to see what it was all about.  We were each given a copy of the post's agenda and were then introduced to the group's new advisors; Carl - W3NWS, and Ralph - WA3SNR (Both of whom are now silent keys), who's job it would be to encourage and assist us in developing usable communications skills and discipline and to hopefully help us prepare for and obtain ham licenses. The post was sponsored by the Montgomery County Civil Defense, who allowed us to use their annex building to hold our weekly meetings.  In the beginning, there was a big push toward teaching Morse Code and the electronic theory necessary to pass the novice license exam. At first, we were somewhat receptive to this agenda.  But eventually we just lost interest in Morse Code.  However the theory was intriguing (at least for me), and we sat pretty much in awe through every subject that Ralph would cover in his straight-up, no-nonsense approach to teaching. Eventually, even Ralph came to the realization that most of us just weren't that interested in getting ham licenses at that time, (there were a few exceptions; Steve, Red Baron, and at least one other guy passed the novice test), and quite happy with CB radio as our hobby of choice.  So he tailored his lectures to subjects which most of us were interested in. We covered AM and SSB modulation, D.C. and R.F. power, Ohm's Law, frequency oscillators, antennas, and many other basics.  Ralph even brought in a Hewlett-Packard lab standard frequency counter one night, and we all brought in our rigs to be tested.  We also had at least two or three "club projects". One was a bandpass filter, another was a direct conversion receiver and, of course, the ubiquitous code oscillator.  We also restored a Heathkit DX-100 transmitter.  We learned a lot during those times. Word spread and we attracted more CB regulars to the post. At one time, practically the whole post was comprised of Channel 11/10 members.  On our regular Thursday meeting night, the channel was all but dead. The guys on Channel 15 took advantage of the quiet time to enjoy bleed over-free conversations.  But with so many undisciplined CB'ers in the ranks, Carl and Ralph had a tough, almost insurmountable, task trying to dispel our desires to be "loud", and the (especially my) preoccupation with attaining high power.

In accordance with Explorer etiquette, our post had elected officers, if for no other reason than to look official.  We even tried to conduct meetings according to "Robert's Rules", at least in the beginning.  But we were way too undisciplined and antsy to follow strict rules, and our meetings soon devolved into mostly informal affairs.  Ralph and Carl did their best under the circumstances and we did learn a lot of interesting stuff.  Our advisors used their ham radio connections to line up electronic industry experts to guest speak about some very interesting topics, including home computing (4 years before the first TRS-80 "home computer" hit the retail shelves), and antenna theory.  Other than our weekly meetings, we also performed some public service functions.  We once volunteered to answer phones for a local PBS TV station during one of their telethon fund raisers.  I have vivid memories of us all piling into Ralph's VW (Hippie van) bus, for the trip down to the big city.  Another time, we set up a radio display at a local shopping mall, in order to showcase and demonstrate our group's function.  However, the most memorable event that I remember was the 1976 Explorer Road Rally.  It was memorable, not so much because of the service we performed (Yea right!), but how we ran around getting lost and then almost losing our charter over a few crucial mistakes that we made during the event. 

During our scheduled meeting time, we also commandeered the CD's radio shack, which was equipped with 80, 6 and 2 meter ham radios, a scanner, and a Midland 13-885 like mine for CB operations. The Civil Defense guys weren't happy with us using the radio equipment, and often treated us with contempt.  I guess this was the beginning of our mutual disrespect.  Once a month they ran a radio drill with the other sectors.  Usually the sheer amount of bleed-over (Our building was located in the bowels of Norristown where there were no less than 5 different active channel groups less than 1/2 mile away) would make communications painful at best, and nearly impossible at the worst.  I tried being helpful once by suggesting that by turning off the noise blanker, it might help them hear through the bleed-over  a little better (After all, I had a 13-885 of my own, so I knew its little quirks).  My suggestion was met with gruff dismissal, and the type of reaction that we had grown accustomed to getting from adults over the air.  So out of a sense of revenge, we started doing little things to sabotage these guys, and we got a few good laughs watching them try to figure out what was wrong.  Of course we were too smug to consider that these guys would eventually figure out what was happening and who was to blame. I'm sure we only made matters worse for ourselves in the long run.  But it was still psychologically satisfying knocking the arrogant down a few pegs.

The post lasted for around 4 years. I'm not quite sure if there was any one event or circumstance which finally ended it.  More likely, it was a combination of  a few different factors.  Much of the demise of the post may have hinged on Ralph's upcoming retirement and his subsequent moving out of the area.  Then there was the imminent closing of the Annex building (Which is a parking lot today), as well as our tenuous relationship with the Civil Defense to consider. There was also a general decrease in focus, as we had a tendency to fool around in more ways than one.  Attendance was also falling off, as most of the original core group were graduating from high school and moving on to college.  There was not enough incoming "new blood" to cover those who had left, so it became hard to justify continuing the post.  But whatever the actual reason(s) were, the post didn't make it out of the 70's. The acting officers (I was the current president for what that was worth) eventually settled the post's treasury fund and donated it to the local Boy Scout chapter (That was a more politically correct course of action than my suggestion of having a big pizza party). And with that, another very interesting and fun facet in my CB history closed.