The NFA Amateur Radio and Engineering Club first began in 1944 as the "NFA Radio Club" with the call letters W1HLO. Mr. Tom Baldwin, W1RLX, was the adviser. During the club's first 20 or so years, the ham shack was located on the third floor of the Norton-Peck Library. (This was in the Lafayette Foster house, currently part of the Latham Science & Information Center.) The club faded sometime around 1968 along with its call sign.
In March of 1996, a new ham radio room was created in the Cranston (Commercial) Building and dedicated to Mr. Harold Becker, KA1KRD (SK). Mr. Becker, a 1933 graduate of NFA, was an avid amateur radio operator and donated his radio equipment so NFA could offer amateur radio to its students. In a March 3, 1996 Norwich Bulletin article about the donation, Mrs. Jean Becker said, "He felt that every student, male or female, would not be interested in playing a musical instrument, or going out for sports. He wanted them to have a chance to learn about ham radio." At the time of the dedication, Mr. L. Robert Ochs, N1WPL (SK), was the science club adviser and operated the ham radio room. Mr. Ochs oversaw the installation of two HF antennas (a Cushcraft R5 and a W2AU fed dipole with traps) along with a 2m loop antenna by the Radio Amateur Society of Norwich, RASON. The new ham shack operated for a few years.
In the fall of 2009, the dust was brushed off of the club's log book. The club's original call letters, W1HLO, were re-assigned by the FCC and the club was reactivated. The HF antennas were reinstalled on the roof of the Cranston Building with the help of the NFA Facilities department. The NFA Amateur Radio and Engineering Club now operates HF and VHF in both phone and digital modes. We also have a UHF repeater on 441.950MHz, PL 67.
A former NFA Radio Club member, Vince Chrzanowski '60 (W1OOW), e-mailed his recollections of W1HLO from his time at NFA:
"I was a member of the NFA amateur radio club from 1956 through 1960. I was first licensed as WN1OOW in October 1956 and spent some of my finest hours at NFA in the ham shack in the upper floor (read attic) of the old library. I remember the transmitter as a Harvey-Wells Bandmaster and VFO, and the receiver was a Hammarlund HQ-129X. There wasn't much else in the ham shack but a desk upon which the rig sat and a few chairs.
What sticks out most in my memory, however, was the antenna system. Our only antenna was a Mosley three-element ten-meter beam on the roof, directly above the operating desk. A heavy-duty pipe was permanently mounted through the roof, and inside that pipe went the mast for the beam antenna. The whole array was positioned such that the station operator could reach up to the mast while sitting at the operating desk and manually rotate the antenna. I believe that was Mr. Baldwin's ingenious idea.
The mid- and late- 1950's were legendary for sunspots, and 10-meter propagation was unbelievably good. A quick CQ on 10 meters would always land some choice DX station. Europe, particularly, would come booming in during our study hall periods. Somehow we would manage to get passes to the library and then sneak up to the shack on the top floor. Those, indeed were memorable days! Thanks for helping me remember some wonderful days of my youth."
Robert Lathrop '59 (W5ROE "...and W1HLA, W4YTD, KN1GWP, K1GWP at different times") wrote about his experiences at W1HLO:
"I made my first AM phone contact alone at W1HLO as a new Conditional in 1958. W1HLO was located on the top floor of the library. The three element 10 meter yagi mast came down through the ceiling. "Armstrong" built a pretty good rotor. The Receiver was a Hammerlund HQ 129X and the Transmitter was a Harvey-Wells TBS-50 Bandmaster. The station I worked was K0RAV and I was so nervous I couldn't speak. It was a short contact. That Mike was a scary thing for this new ham. A few minutes I contacted another station and my shyness was gone. I remember listening to them discussing my nervousness. I spent all my free time at the station.
Mr Baldwin coached me through the Novice, Technician, and Conditional. He tested me at 30 WPM before I left the Radio Class he taught.
Mr. Baldwin gave me a key to the station and I operated there as I could find time. I upgraded to K1GWP in Aug 1958 so my operating was in my last year at the Academy and I can't remember anyone else operating there, although there may have been one or two others. I remember Mr Baldwin had a hard time getting others to take the Novice Exam in my class. I took his Electricity and Radio class in my third year. He made an exception for me after I took a written essay exam he gave me."
In the photo above, you can see the "armstrong" rotator pole on the right. Vince and Robert are both in this photo.