The Cambridge Amateur Radio Association (CARA) came into existence on December 4, 1913, when a group of wireless radio operators formed the Wireless Association of Cambridge. The founders were Roy Waller, J. Homer McMunn, Edward “Tom” Sarchet, George Rubicam, George Robey, Don Hinton, Paul Simcox, E.D. Shipley, Ray Sears, and Miss Nellie Waller 8ACU, (Roy’s sister). Nellie Waller was the first licensed female radio operator in the area, the second female operator in the state of Ohio, and only the fourth in the entire United States.

These folks were the real pioneers. They were a young group of experimenters in an age of new technology, with no experts or Elmers to consult for assistance in their endeavors. Transmission and reception of signals in those early days was primitive and limited. Out of town communications occurred only under very rare night-time conditions, by transmitting a group of continuous wave tones, using a code developed by Samuel F.B. Morse, which has since become known as the Morse Code. Starting in 1912, wireless operators were licensed by the government and were allocated special segments of the radio frequency spectrum for operation and experimentation.

In 1914, Roy Waller 8CL was the first wireless station on the air in Cambridge. He founded the first commercial broadcast station, WEBE, which later was changed to WALR in Zanesville, which eventually became WHIZ. Roy’s son, Clarence “Clancy” Waller W8CL, was also a member of the Cambridge Amateur Radio Association.

J. Clayton “Nick” Nicholson, a native of Cambridge, obtained his first license 8CFM in 1919, at age 13, and became a very active and avid CW operator. He became an expert, and it is said that he handled hundreds, even close to a thousand messages each month. Nicholson was a sub-dealer in ham radio equipment and a prime mover in the old Cambridge Radio Club. In 1928 his call was changed to W8VP. It is said that the phonetics for his call were W8 Vest Pocket… he was never known to use phone.

In March of 1935, Nicholson was elected President of The Cambridge Amateur Radio Association and prime founder of the hamfests of 1935 and June 1937 in the National Hotel in Cambridge. (These hamfests were similar to the Dayton Hamvention in that they combined a hamfest with a national convention which including many gifted technical speakers and major equipment sponsors.) Nicholson was a Chief Radioman (RMC) in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was teaching radio in a Navy Communications School in Indianapolis, Indiana, when he was taken ill and later passed away while receiving treatment in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1943.

In 1949, The Cambridge Amateur Radio Association obtained permission from Nicholson’s family to adopt his call, W8VP, as their own, in his honor. The ensuing petition to the FCC was granted. W8VP is now heard as the identifier, both voice and CW, on the club’s repeater system.

In the 1950s and 60s, two former presidents, Al Blancett W8BMS and Clarence Waller W8RVU (Roy’s son, later W8CL) were the main driving forces with the organization, and Joe Wagner WA8AHV helped form a radio club at Cambridge High School. During this period, alignment with the Civil Defense of the county was forged, and many technical achievements through amateur radio were developed which are in use today.

Then, in the 1970s came the development of the high-frequency repeater systems. Former president, Ron Rogers WB8ERB (now WW8RR), developed and placed into operation the first computer-controlled repeater system in the state. An updated version of this system is still in operation today.

Later in the 1980s and 90s, space communications began here when CARA made a radio contact with the 1st space shuttle ham in space, Owen Garriot W5LFL. Technology then began to include ham satellites and moonbounce communications. CARA set many national VHF communication competition records; some still stand today.

In 1999, with CARA’s assistance, Sonny Alfman, W8FHF, formed an organization called the Multi-County Coalition of Eastern Ohio (MCC). The MCC consisted of about 110 hams from nine counties who meet three to four times a year to coordinate radio communications for disasters and large public events. MCC disbanded in 2010.

With the turn of the 21st century, amateur TV and digital communications appeared. CARA members continue to be at the leading edge of technology, following the example set by our founders. Hams communicate across town and around the globe using various technologies such as CW, voice, video, and computers.

Through the years our hams have experienced the evolution of wireless communications – the birth of solid-state electronics; the arrival and departure of the vacuum tube and the advent of enhanced digital communications. Gone are the days of the spark gap… and the days of reveling over a radio contact with your colleague just across town. Even transmitting and receiving video via SSTV (slow scan TV) with amateurs around the world is a common practice.

Today, all sorts of awards are offered to operators for such activities as Working All States, Working All Zones (of the world), working a hundred (or more) countries, Islands On The Air (IOTA’s), lighthouses, grid squares, etc., for those who like to collect QSL cards, often referred to as wallpaper, from everywhere and everyone, to commemorate their radio contacts. Of course, just having a casual conversation with other operators, across town, in another State or in a Country on the opposite side of the globe is quite often a memorable experience! The old adage: “It’s a Small World” becomes readily apparent.

There is also a serious side to the members of The Cambridge Amateur Radio Association. They take public service activities to heart and participate in community activities and provide communications wherever needed, such as fires, floods, parades or special events and celebrations in the area. Several members are involved with ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) and the Civil Defense Agency, which is now the EMA (Emergency Management Agency). ARES members are National Incident Management System, Citizens Emergency Response Team, and SKYWARN weather spotter certified. Some also have radiological and hazardous material trained as well. CARA members practice their communications skills each Tuesday at 8 PM during the local net for handling messages and exchanging information on 146.850 MHz (with a PL tone of 91.5). Where there is a need for communications, CARA is ready to serve!

The last weekend of June kicks off Field Day. This is a 24-hour event in which members set up multiple stations and antennas in an attempt to contact as many stations that they can while using emergency power. This event is coordinated by the ARRL and clubs from all over the country participate in. This is the biggest event of the year which allows hams to hone their skills and have fun at the same time. It’s not a blood and guts contest, but the goal is beat out other clubs by getting as many contacts and points as possible.

CARA currently, consists of approximately 50 members led by President AB8P. Former President Sonny Alfman W8FHF has been an active since 1962 and was the club’s president for more than twenty years. He stepped down as president at the end of the 2015 term. He continues to be a mentor (having taught over a hundred radio classes) and a technical adviser. We would like to thank Sonny for his years of service and hope that he will continue to be a staple in our club.

Past presidents of the club include Roy Waller, Paul Simcox, Clayton “Nick” Nicholson, Al Blancett, Clancy Waller, Ron Rogers, Rankin Cohagan, Jim Hoag, Dick Barrett, Charles Galloway, Steve Brown, Dean Jenkins, Cam McCartney, Bert Nagy, Frank Hyder, Fred Barton, Evelyn Barton, Bruce Homer, and George “Sonny” Alfman.

So that leaves us with you. Are you ready to be a pioneer, or a public service member, or just want to have fun? There is something for everyone. Maybe you are a ham but haven’t explored the possibilities of digital modes. CARA wants you to join us. Come and see what Amateur Radio is all about in the 21st Century.