In the Beginning…
There seems to be a lot of stories running around about me having been the chief engineer at KPFK. I never was their chief nor did I ever work for them in any capacity other than having done a few board operating shifts for them as a volunteer back in the mid 50’s while in high school. That was it. That was my only connection to them.
So, where did these stories come from? There have been several people that are said to be the “Official Historians” of the WA6TDD repeater. The problem with these “historians” and the beginning of the repeater is that none of them were there at the time. The repeater moved to the KPFK transmitter building in late 1962. Probably the first person, other than myself to know the real history of the repeater would be Bob Thornberg, WB6JPI, but Bob didn’t arrive on the WA6TDD repeater until sometime in 1965. Other “historians” showed up several years later. From reading the stories attributed to these “historians” I can only say that a lot of assumptions and embellishments were made resulting in a lot of pure fiction about the repeater’s early days.
So, just how did the repeater really come about being in the KPFK building on Mt. Wilson?
My intense interest and desire for building a repeater came after meeting Art Gentry, W6MEP* and seeing his K6MYK repeater located on Mt. Lee above the Hollywood sign. Remote control and automatic systems had always fascinated me, so part of this adventure would be to obtain remote control authorization for K6OQK. Since the application would require schematics and block diagrams, I arranged for the FCC application to become my senior high school drafting class project. The FCC granted the application and simultaneously issued a Second Station call of WA6TDD. That license was assigned to the home of my high school home room and drafting teacher, located near the top of Mulholland and Beverly Glenn.
The first version of the repeater was fairly primitive at best - But it worked!
An acquaintance of mine was a volunteer board operator at KPFK several years after I had been there. One afternoon he asked if I wanted to go visit "the station”? I thought that would be fun, so off we went. While we were there I was introduced to Bill Acord who was KPFK’s chief engineer. Bill and I became friends and one day, maybe two or three months later, I privately asked him about the possibility of putting the repeater in their building on Mt. Wilson. I really expected to be politely turned down, but to my amazement, he was very receptive of the idea. Bill told me he'd have to get permission from management and would let me know. KPFK management said they'd have to check with their FCC Council to find out whether or not this would be legal or even advisable. This was back in 1961 and this part of the process was long and painful for me. Here, this wonderful carrot had been dangled in front of me and was just close enough that I could see and smell it yet it was far enough that I couldn't grab it!
Periodically I’d call Bill to ask if he’d heard anything. I was really afraid of becoming a pest and afraid he’d ask me to stop annoying him. Instead, Bill was always patient and very cordial towards me. After almost a year of waiting I became so frustrated that I finally called Bill with the intent of saying something like, let's forget it because I know it's not going to happen.
Before I could get a word out Bill told me that he had just heard from the station's management and their FCC attorneys and that it was approved. He said there were some stipulations that we'd have to work with: One, I could not have access to the building unless I was accompanied by a station engineer or until such time as I obtained a First Class Radio Telephone license. Second, I would need to get a Forestry Permit before installing the repeater in the building. A few months later I had my First Class Radio Telephone License.
An agreement was drawn up and blessed by the station's management and attorneys. Several years later, and many managers later, the agreement was modified by Pacifica’s Corporate offices, which gave me more room and more freedom for the repeater. The agreement states, "...in exchange for a valuable consideration..." The consideration was that I'd help with transmitter issues as needed. That agreement is still in effect and I still help when I can in spite of being well beyond my “Sell Before” date.
Bill Acord helped me get the Forestry Permit, and Skip Benediktson, the local Forest Ranger in charge of the Mt. Wilson Electronics Area helped to get the permit application through all the red tape. Part of the Forestry Permit application required an “On-Air Test” for any interference. I had to notify all Mt. Wilson Forestry Permit holders 30-days in advance of the test by Certified Mail with a Return Receipt requested, and they in turn had to notify me of any interference. The test began on December 14, 1962 and went through January 2nd, 1963. There was one problem which was resolved by moving the repeater transmitter from the original application frequency of 146.50 MHz to 146.40 MHz. There were no other problems and on January 2nd, 1963 the repeater had a full blessing from Forestry and was allowed to begin regular operation.
WA6TDD originally received on 145.424 MHz. The reason for the strange input frequency is simple: Steve Jensen, W6RHM had a Stoddard NM-30 Interference Meter (a fancy Instrumentation receiver) and a Heathkit Pawnee that covered 2-Meters. Using both of these, Steve and I tuned around until we found a spot that was consistently low in noise and intermodulation products from other equipment on Mt. Wilson. Once we found a spot we measured the frequency with a Gertsch FM-7, rounded it off to the nearest Kilocycle (kHz) and proclaimed it the input. Several years later a FM input was added at 145.195 MHz.
By the fall of 1972 the 2-Meter band had become loaded with repeaters that had popped up on random frequencies. Out of necessity there was this really big Frequency Coordination meeting held and all of the 2-Meter repeaters in Southern California would have to fall into the new plan. No one was allowed to leave until all the repeaters had a frequency pair that fell within the plan. I couldn't (wouldn't) move the output because of the Forestry Permit issues, but I finally agreed to move the input - But, I needed both an AM input and a FM input. After a lot of lively discussion, and I suppose because everyone was getting hungry and wanted to go home, I was coordinated on 147.42 for the AM input and 147.435 for the FM input with 146.40 remaining as the output for both. The transmitter was 100% AM modulated, and simultaneously about 3 kHz FM deviation. The AM input went away a few years later leaving only the FM input on 147.435 MHz. That's how the odd input and output frequencies came about.
We had a lot of family events such as Operation Santa Clause, T-Hunts and of course, regular breakfasts, lunches, dinners, picnics, and the infamous Chicken Fests – actually any opportunity to eat. While we had a lot of fun and probably got into our fair share of mischief, everyone was pretty respectful of each other.
We rarely had the problems that the .435 repeater currently has the reputation for. However, as with any large group, there were a few jerks. (Personally, I'd rather have people think well of me.)
Please take a look at:
These two video clips were made without any preparation. I didn't know about it until Bob Jensen Jensen, W6VGQ (SK) came over to our home, stuffed a mic in my face and said, "Burt, Tell us about the repeater."
*Please see the sidebar in Bill Pasternak's article telling how I met Art & Millie Gentry: http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Technology/tis/info/pdf/pasterna.pdf.
Dan Saltzman, WB6MVP has built a website dedicated to the history of the WA6TDD / WR6ABE repeater. It can be found at: http://wa6tdd.tripod.com/
A lot of the original WA6TDD / WR6ABE repeater is still in my garage.
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