The LEGEND of PODUNK HOLLOW
The EGYPTIAN RADIO CLUB
The year was 1929; it brought bad news to the financial markets and good news to the amateur radio community in the metropolitan St. Louis area. The Egyptian Radio Club was formed by a small group of young hams meeting in Herb Wilhelm's, W9APX, dry cleaning shop in East St.Louis, Illinois. The club's name was chosen because the southern part of the state and adjacent areas was called "Little Egypt.” The fledgling club's goal was to jointly pursue and further the cause of their new hobby of "wireless communications."
Amateur radio really began in the early 1900s and one of our club's early officers, Emmet Nowlan, W9LWH, now a silent key, told of having his interest "sparked" in wireless by the roll this new form of communication played on that fateful night in 1912 at the sinking of the Titanic.
Although just a lad at the time his enthusiasm for the hobby never wavered from that time forward. Individuals experimented with spark gap transmitters, crude "coherer" detectors, and chunks of a natural mineral called "galena crystal" that was not only a detector but the forerunner of modern transistors. They used Morse code and the ether crackled with conversations between them. These were the early amateur radio operators. About 1915 the
U.S. government saw a need for regulation, began to require radio licenses and soon after began issuing call signs and controlled operating frequencies. Invention of the three element vacuum tube and oscillator circuits brought many technical advances to radio including voice transmission. Throughout this century radio amateurs have been at the leading edge of scientific experimentation and development in electronics. Many of the AM broadcast stations in the US today started as amateur stations. One good example of this is KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA.
Our club newsletter, The Podunk Hollow News, was widely circulated and drew national advertisers in the early and mid thirties. By this time the club had moved several times finally settling in an old night club building left over from prohibition days. The clubhouse was located on the flood plain, North of Granite City, Illinois; across the road from Chouteau Slough.
Chouteau Slough has been replaced by the Chain of Rocks Canal and the old clubhouse has been torn down. The front page of The Podunk Hollow News proudly stated that fishing, swimming and boating could be enjoyed in season at beautiful "Lake Podunkia" (Chouteau Slough) conveniently located across the road from the old club house. Target shooting was popular in those days at Podunk Hollow and hundreds of old vacuum tubes were set afloat and then sunk by sharp eyed Egyptian marksmen.
The club is affiliated with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) which is THE national organization for amateurs. The ARRL recognized the unique position of the ERC as a "club with a future" by giving us credit for being the "Original Podunk Hollow Gang."
In 1939 the League sent us the original water color drawing by their staff cartoonist Phillip “Gil” Gildersleeve, W1CJD; which depicts the gang performing the spring housekeeping chores at "the shack.” The caption reads, "Greetings to the Original Podunk Hollow Gang -- from A.R.R.L. HEADQUARTERS Gang ....MAY 1939...” We have copies of the picture but have loaned the original to League headquarters where it now hangs on display. It appeared on the cover of QST magazine in 1931.
The Egyptian Radio Club is widely known by its early callsign, W9AIU, first issued by the Federal Radio Commission (now the Federal Communications Commission) in 1930. We are one of the older clubs in the country with a rich history that includes the honor of winning the national ARRL operating event Field Day three years in succession in the late thirties. We have the certificate from the League honoring the club for this achievement.
Emergency and public service communications are often provided by Amateur Radio Clubs as well as the Egyptian Radio Club. In recent years we have been supplying communications for the track and field events of Illinois' Prairie State Games at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville Campus. We also give similar assistance to the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site "Heritage Days" a fall festival and their "Kids Day" in the spring. We own a 7 1/2 KW generator HF, VHF and UHF radio equipment which is always ready for any emergency communications assignment. The club provides license training and testing as well as emergency preparedness training, Field Day contest operation, Egyptianfest (Hamfest) and social activities. Full membership offers voting privileges however associate membership is available for applicants under 18 years of age and for those living more than 50 miles from the meeting place.
We operate four FM voice repeaters; 146.7600 MHz in St. Louis, 146.7900 MHz and 442.4000 MHz both in Edwardsville IL and 224.0600 MHz in Collinsville IL. These VHF/Uhf systems are well located and provide good coverage to the entire metropolitan area for mobile operation and for hand-held radios at somewhat closer range.
In 1990 the old clubhouse was in such shape that the club could no longer afford to keep it repaired. With much chagrin the old clubhouse was bulldozed to the ground and the property was sold to an individual. Again, the ERC was a nomadic club for a couple of years; finally settling into it’s present location in the Holy Family Community Center at 2400 Jerden in Granite City, IL. Club meetings are held on the first Thursday each month at Oliver Anderson Hospital in Maryville, IL. Our weekly net is found on the 146.7600 MHz repeater every Tuesday evening at 8:00 pm local time. All amateurs are invited to check in on the ERC net. This net features both the RAIN Report and Newsline. The club's 10-10 net meets each Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm central time on 28.4200 MHz.
Amateur Radio is under attack on several fronts at a time when our ranks are not growing in number as they once were. For this reason it would be prudent for amateurs to support the ARRL with their membership and likewise join a local radio club because, after all, we are much stronger collectively than individually as we try to preserve the hobby we all love. So if you aren't affiliated with a local amateur radio club yet pay a visit to the Egyptian Radio Club, the "club with a future” (And a colorful history).
Written by Dennis “Mac” McCann, W9UH updated by Larry Unfried WA9KJV