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Millewatt Mobilers Amateur Radio Club

My favorite section of the Clarion News is the Backward Glance. It's the first thing I always read. While reading the 50 Years Ago in the June 22, 2011, edition, this really drew my attention. Harold Merrilees, K9KOW, had been selected to set up an organization of Crawford County amateur radio operators prepared to furnish organized emergency communications in time of disaster.

Amateur radio operators have played an important role in communication in times of emergency for many years through the ARRL and AREC.

After the Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 17 through April 19, 1961, Crawford County commissioners Chester Eaton, Dorris Nash and Vollie Reasor, along with Civil Defense Director Richard (Dick) Gregory, contacted Harold Merrilees of Leavenworth, a local amateur radio operator, call sign K9KOW, to form an organized communication relay group for the county.

Harold went to work with an earnest, contacting local amateur radio operators. Meetings were set up in the old sheriff's office at that time. Some of those involved were:

Harold Merrilees, K9KOW

Charley Woods, K9KIX

Hershell Hamm, K9UYS

Rev. John M. Hart, WA9BGI

Mike Esarey, K9INF

Bill Austin, W9BGW

Gene Brooks, WB9BEE

Charles Brooks, WA9UDM

Lowell M. Brooks, WA9RRI

Jane Brooks, WA9RRK

Ed Kellums, K9BEG

Richard Gregory, K9KIY

David Wilkins, WN9IIV

Ferris Mock

(Possibly George Pelleman Jr., though I don't remember him attending during my time.)

Harold presided over the meetings, and the Rev. Hart kept minutes, to the best of my knowledge. It was decided to name the club the Millewatt Mobilers Amateur Radio Club. Harold Merrilees and Charley Woods were both radio and television repairmen, so this was just up their alley.

Ed Kellums, of the Indiana State Police, obtained an old base station from the police. The set was about 24 inches wide, 16 inches deep and taller than a grandfather clock. The radio operated on 42.42 megahertz. Harold and Charley converted the set to 50 megahertz. We operated the set on 52.525 megahertz. They also converted some old obsolete radios from REA. The old base station sat in the sheriff's office for years. I don't know what finally happened to it.

Bill Austin, Hershell Hamm and Mike Esarey were very active in the early years of the club. Bill Austin liked mobile radio the best, I remember. Mike Esarey was so good with international Morse code. He could carry on a conversation with someone on his set while talking with someone else in person. He was very good.

Gene Brooks, Charlie Brooks, Lowell M. Brooks and his wife, Jane, were also active. Lowell is the only one of the family left now. He is still active in amateur radio.

I can't remember Ferris Mock's call sign. I talked with two of his nephews, and also to Lowell Brooks, but they couldn't remember it either.

My father died when I was 11 years old. When the Rev. Hart became our minister at the Community Presbyterian Church, he kind of took me under his wing. His health wasn't very good, so I mowed grass, cleaned windows, washed his car, shoveled snow and other chores to earn money to buy radio equipment. He taught me Morse code and the other requirements to obtain a novice class license. The Rev. Hart took me to the club meetings. As a 12- and 13-year-old boy, I was thoroughly amazed with the radios, and talk at the meetings such as amplitude modulation, frequency modulation, ARRL, AREC, QSL, QTH, QSO, vertical polarity and the mars frequency, which I think was on 49.980 megahertz.

It was nice to think back 50 years ago, when I spent time with so many fine people, with such a background of amateur radio experience. Most of those persons are dead now. Harold Merrilees is retired and living in the Huntingburg area. Lowell Brooks is retired and lives in the Sulphur area. Bill Austin is retired and lives in the New Salisbury area. Mike Esarey is retired and lives in the Corydon area. All four of these gentlemen still hold active license.

David Wilkins
Leavenworth, Ind.
July 06, 2011

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