History Amateur Radio in Tuolumne County
By Carl Croci,  NI6Z

Glenn Andrews, WB6LSC, operated the original repeater for the Tuolumne Amateur Radio Service (TARS), which was later associated with that amateur radio club in this county and our Sonora Pass Amateur Radio Klub (SPARK) -- although the clubs never actually joined together. TARS held regular Sunday morning nets on 80 meters, both with CW and voice. Malcom Stuart was net control for the CW net and, usually, Harold Frith for voice operations. TARS members met regularly once a month at the Veterans' Hall, and continues to this day at members' homes when surviving members get together.

In 1982, Burt Wilcox got a call from the California Division of Forestry (CDF) reporting a wild fire north of Jamestown and asking for amateur volunteers to aid in communication. He and Ed Gelston (and possibly others) responded, using HT's to work with the San Andreas control. In essence, this started amateur participation in the VIP Volunteers in Prevention program.

Burt bought the LSC repeater from Glenn's wife after Glenn passed away and decided to build a new one, using the old one for spare parts. He operated the new one, W6FGC, from his residence in Twain Harte for a number of years until he moved it to Andy Anderson's residence above Soulsbyville. The frequency, 146.115(+) remained the same.

In 1986, Burt, Andy, Ed and a few others decided to start SPARK in order to provide a VIP group, more classes, and emergency repeater service to the local area, the county and as much of the state as could be reached from Twain Harte. Burt could hit the bay area from his residence. Burt also published the SPARK newsletter for many years. Meetings were held monthly at CDF headquarters in Twain Harte to begin with, and classes were conducted there and at the Sonora CDF headquarters. Ray Word, KD6CEG was one of the first pupils and, later, a teacher. WA6NSK, Jim Clark, who was an officer with the local CHP, was also very active. Hams from Modesto also cooperated with the SPARK club at first to help get the organization going. Later on, and continuing to the present, SPARK meets monthly on Saturday mornings to provide programs of interest to local hams.

One of the club's stand-out activities happened during 1987. The Stanislaus Complex fire occurred in September of that year. It was of such a magnitude that all of the CDF and USFS communications service were strained to the limit. Burt took over coordination of amateur radio services to help them out and, for eight days, worked at his residence with hardly any sleep to keep our crews working in the field with the state and national forest fire fighting organizations. (There were at least five of our crews in the field and probably at least three repeaters in use to cover the situation. Burt kept the effort organized for all of us.) There is no way that Burt can be thanked enough for his efforts during this emergency.

Primarily as a result of interest in amateur radio generated by activity during the fire, membership in SPARK boomed to include many hams from outside the county as well as local people. A lot of members who joined at that time are still active in SPARK, the present list includes about 60 names.

T-CARES, the Tuolumne County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, started just before the A-Rock fire hit Yosemite Valley and parts of this area. Both clubs operated in parallel with many hams maintaining membership in both organizations until they joined in 1997. (It is significant that membership at the present is about 120 people, with many younger people joining so that they, also, can serve the VIP program, and be available for RACES.)
Ed. note: It is also interesting to note that amateur resources in Tuolumne County have expanded from the original repeater and 80 meter operation to include 160 meter operation, 10 meter operation, three VHF repeaters, one UHF repeater, one APRS digipeater, packet radio operation and a mobile communications unit.

(Silent Key)   Glen Andrews,  WB6LSC,  in his radio shack in Confidence, CA  Tuolumne County taken April 8, 1982. 

(Courtesy of Jim Clark and Sonora Union Democrat newspaper)
Courtesy of Jim Clark, WA6NSK, Camas, WA.  and the Sonora Union Democrat  published August 14, 1990.
Burt Wilcox,  W6FGC,  Twain Harte in 1987.

Courtesy of The Readout, Stanislaus Amateur Radio Assoc. newsletter.

Tuolumne County
ham radio operators
attend summer picnic
at  Pinecrest, CA
(1975-1988 )
(Courtesy of Jim Clark, WA6NSK, Camas, WA

R- Don Butterfied, WA6QWY from Oakdale chats with WA6OYP (Old Yellow Pumpkin) from Modesto.
Standing of the left- O.B. O"Bannon, AJ6E retired FCC officer (SK) , Seated in brown shirt Mike Duck, N6EGQ,  seated across from Mike is Wally Ratzlaff, W6FEJ. 
Bob, W6LDK, of Soulsbyville, CA and his wife.
(Hand to face)  Earhard Ketelson, KE6WZ, visiting from Sunnyvale, CA. who had a cabin at Twain Harte.  (SK) 
George Colacicco, Sr. K6GZK had a cabin at Cedar Ridge.
Jim Hildreth, W6DYF from Sonora.  (SK)
Cliff Wilton, WA6EWR,  Phoenix Lake, CA  (SK- Silent Key (deceased))