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WPA Celebrates 90 Years

Happy Birthday, WPA! I’ve been researching the history of the Western Pennsylvania Section as reported in QST issues from the mid 1920s. I found that the ARRL Board of Directors voted at their February 25/26, 1926 Board Meeting to completely reorganize the Communications Department. At that time, Amateur Radio was growing with a huge influx of newcomers, and was rapidly evolving into a primarily technical and operating hobby that also supported the public service of sending Radiograms free of charge for the public.

Even in those days, telephone technology was replacing and surpassing the services radio amateurs provided as the deep-pockets of the telephone and broadcasting industries continued to build-out the communications infrastructure of the interbellum 20th Century. In the 1920s, Amateur Radio reinvented itself, deprecating ancient technologies such as spark and longwave. Even the grumpy, dyed-in-the-wool die-hards (you know the type) had to grudgingly admit that they were finding the replacement technology of vacuum tubes, crystal-control, CW, short-waves, superheterodyne receivers and AM voice communications to be better, more affordable and more reliable.

Against this backdrop, the ARRL Board moved to modernize and streamline the message relaying, which was also becoming unnecessary as modern radio equipment and frequencies permitted even the average station to communicate over hundreds of miles, compared to the mere dozens that were possible with spark. This made traffic handling much easier, as major routes such as new York to Chicago could be covered reliably in one hop, compared to the three or four relays necessary just a few years earlier.

February 27, 1926 marked the creation of the new ARRL Communications Department, headed up by F. E. Handy 1BDI (later of Handbook fame.) Each Division was subdivided into “sections” which would become official on July 1, 1926. Elections for “Section Communications Managers” were announced in April and June issues of QST, with Nominating Petitions requested immediately and voting to take place in May and June for many of the new Sections. The winners of the first round of elections took office on July 1, 1927, including the WPA Section.

The first Section Communications Manager (SCM) of the new Western Pennsylvania Section was Gilbert L. Crossley 8XE, an Erie native who lived in State College, Pa, where he was an Penn State instructor. I had the honor of meeting Gil when I toured the Engineering Department during my junior year in high school. At that time his call was W3YA, which was also in use by the Penn State Amateur Radio Club.

The WPA Section quietly turned 90 years old on July 1, 2016. Those who know me well, know that I’m not a fan of hiding in the shadows. In keeping with that, and honoring the many accomplishments of the WPA Section and its many active radio amateurs, I am proclaiming the year of 2017 the 90th Jubilee Year for the Western Pennsylvania Section.

Happy 90th Jubilee, WPA!



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