Greensboro Ham Radio History

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    • #1156
      Scott Toth

      On the Tech Forum last night, Roy, N4BYU mentioned that he would like to see us record some of the history of ham radio in the Greensboro area as recalled by those who were there. I think it would be great to have people share stories, and this seems like a good place to do it. Most of us aren’t prolific writers, so anything you provide will be great regardless of how you feel about it. Sometimes it’s best to have it in your own writing anyway, as someone transcribing it might miss some of the nuances of your story. Post your memories below, and if you need a hand, let me know and we’ll work something out. Have fun!

    • #1209

      Not a lot of activity yet. I’ll try and think of some good stories and see if I can rough out a readable draft.

    • #1220

      Buying Ham Gear in the Triad 1977-1983

      This is my first attempt at adding to the ham history of the Greensboro area as suggested by N4BYU and others during the Sunday night net.

      It’s based on recollections from my feeble mind, so please provide any corrections necessary. Feel free to add to this as I’m sure my memory is anything but complete.

      In 1977, the ubiquity of national credit cards (BankAmericard, MasterCharge) and 800 numbers was not fully complete. “Mail order” was still with us. And Mail order meant just that – you filled out a paper order form, enclosed a money order or check and mailed it to the company. In 2 to 4 weeks, your package would arrive via mail – sometimes intact, sometimes not. The streamlined delivery systems like those used by UPS and Fedex today were not established yet. You usually were at the mercy of the Postal service. So, it’s no surprise that most hams bought their equipment face-to-face with a dealer or a seller at a hamfest. And yes, there were ham stores in the area.

      First, there was BiComm (?). Chuck Bino, K4CJZ, ran this out of his house – primarily selling Ten Tec gear. I think he lives in High Point now and Ten Tec hasn’t had dealers in a long time. It seems we may not have Ten Tec much longer either.

      Then we had Williams Radio. This was Wayne Williams’, K4MOB (?) business located in Colfax. Wayne sold mostly KDK/Santec gear. This was sort of the Alinco of the time. It was decent gear and a little cheaper than the K/Y/I stuff. He sold other related gear – antennas, power supplies, etc. Wayne was also known for his work on the CVRA journal – soon to become SERA.

      Vicker’s was located in the Raleigh/Durham area. They carried a variety of brands. You would always see them at most of the hamfests.

      This next one drives me nuts – I can’t recall the name exactly – Telcom – or something like it. It was located on the east side of Kernersville, right off I-40. It was a mom and pop shop – run by Johnny and Barney. No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking. Johnny was a retired Air Force guy and “Barney” was his wife. I don’t know the story behind the name, but everyone called her Barney. Johnny was all business and Barney was the personality of the store. She used to keep a fresh pot of coffee going and would bake cookies and bring them to the store. She used to sit in a rocking chair and knit till someone came in. She used to keep Johnny on an even keel when he would get torqued off about something a supplier had done. She was a delight to talk to and I always looked forward to seeing her as much as the ham stuff. They carried a pretty good variety of equipment and accessories.

      Tenny Freck, W4WL (?) had a small store here, off Bessemer Ave on the little access road that led to US 29. The store here was mostly focused on commercial radio, but you could get most anything through them. Freck’s big store was in Asheville. I drove up there and it was worth it. Lot’s of gear – new and used.

      Then there was Gizmo. I don’t know where the name came from. They were located in Rock Hill, SC. It was a small place with a lot of stuff packed in it. They were also at most of the hamfests. Gizmo had a great group of people working there. They were good-natured guys and would go out of their way to help you. Later, somebody else bought it and moved it to the Charlotte area. I don’t much about that operation. I did talk to the former owner on 20m one day. He was living in Belize, running some kind textile operation down there.

      Moving into the ’80s, a couple more come to mind.

      N4AZM, Frank Wyatt had a store in the back section of his house over in Sedgefield. Frank was retired from the Winnebago/AirStream sales business. He had done well. Frank carried new Kenwood gear, Swan and had a variety of used gear. Well, what can you say about Frank? If you knew him, then there’s not much to add.

      Heathkit opened a store on West Market street out where a strip center was built on land that used to be a drive-in theater. It was a pretty full-line store when it first opened, but became very “computery” quickly with less emphasis on ham gear. Those were the days though when a new computer store was opening every week it seemed.

      I can say that I bought something at everyone of the above stores – a Drake TR4CW, a Regency HR-2B, a Ten Tec Century 21, a KDK 2m mobile rig, a Santec HT, an Icom 271H all-mode 2m radio, a couple of Astron power supplies, a frequency counter kit, a Kenwood TS-430 (still have it and it’s still pretty “deaf”), an AEA PK-232 TNC, various antennas and so on.

      I’m sure I missed some – there was another store in the Raleigh area I think – but this is all that comes to mind at the moment. I could add Lafayette Radio, but I think they had moved from downtown to High Point road and changed their name to Electronix by the late 70s.

      I’ll mention a couple of mail order stores that used to advertise heavily in the ham magazines (yes, there used to be several). Long’s out of Alabama used to have a multi-page spread and so did EGE. EGE was out of Virginia – Woodbridge, to be exact. They were very popular at the hamfests. I visited their store around 1987 or so. Boy, based on the magazine ads and the amount of stuff they brought to hamfests, I was expecting a huge place. It turned out to be a store about the size of Subway in a strip center. I guess they had a big warehouse somewhere. Of course, they are now part of HRO. Another place worth mentioning was EEB – Electronic Equipment Bank – in Vienna, Va. Odd name, but this was the real deal. They were located in an industrial area. The open section on the side with a 20 ft roll up door housed tower sections, large yagis and other antennas. The normal store section had a separate 20’x20′ room with transceivers and receivers lining a countertop that spanned the entire room perimeter. It took a moment to catch your breath. These guys seemed to have everything. Andrea and I spent 3 hours in this place without being aware of it – there was just so much to see. EEB was the biggest store I’ve ever been in that sold ham gear. Unfortunately, most all of the local stores are gone now. The last NC store that I remember was Communication Headquarters down in Wilmington – that was circa 2000. Hamfests were always great places to find almost anything you wanted/needed. I always bought my coax and connectors there amongst other things. Now, they too, are dying a slow death. Yes, the internet has become a great convenience and we can get our stuff in one or two days. I do miss the store visits and the excitement at the hamfests – talking, talking, talking ham radio with like-minded people face to face. I guess I’m lamenting – that’s what old people do – lament.

      And there was Radio Shack. I started going to RS in the ’60s when there was one store at the Summit Shopping Center. I don’t know if they had any ham gear then, but by the ’70s they carried quite a bit of CB stuff. After they merged with Allied, they carried some of the better shortwave receivers, but I don’t remember any specific ham gear. It was the ’90s when they started offering some VHF/UHF stuff – riding the wave of the new no-code tech boom. Well, what can you say about RS – they are practically gone now too.
      Anyway, that’s all I have. I’m sure to have missed plenty, so please correct what I got wrong and what I left out.


    • #1221
      Chris Thompson

      I remember well Wayne Williams – he was also the local purveyor of crystals – those things you needed two of for every repeater you wished to talk on (one transmit, one receive). At something around $8 or $10 apiece, it got real spendy real quickly to rock up even a six channel radio. These youngsters today don’t realize how good they have it with their synthesized radios. 😉

    • #1248

      Yes, crystals were the expense you couldn’t skip. I put a couple of additional pairs in the HR-2B when I got it. That rounded the price out to a near even $200. What’s that today $600 – $700? What deal for a potential 12 channel, 15 watt out, 2m rig.
      I was hoping some folks would remember some other ham stores in the area – I couldn’t have covered them all. Somebody else was bound to have had a store in the back of their house I didn’t know about.

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