Rotarian Joyce Wilson is shown delivering the Rotary Club of Woodville's donation of school supplies to Wheat Primary School's Bobbie Vinson this week. The Club has donated supplies for needy primary school students for quite a number of years now. Joyce has spearheaded the project since it's inception. (Bob Boykin Photo)
The Spurger Volunteer Fire Department is helping memorialize four children that died in an early morning house fire in Spurger on February 4.
On August 8, the department bought and assembled a wooden playground at River Acres Church in Spurger in memory of Koltyn Owen Allen Loftin, Kyi'leigh Beth Mobley Loftin, Dy'cin LeBron Webb and Haven Denise Webb. The playground was paid for solely by members of the Fire Department.
"It is set up at the church as a community playground," said Fire Chief Ellis Jones. "We just thought we needed to do this. It was one of the worst incidents we have ever had happen. All house fires are bad, but losing four children took a toll on everyone."
Since February, the Spurger community, Volunteer Fire Departments and Tyler County have all gone above and beyond to help the family of the children that died. In addition to the swing-set, the Spurger VFD created a program to help put smoke detectors in the homes of the elderly and children that did not have one, free of charge.
Tyler County Amateur Radio Association held its first Field Day on Saturday, June 27, at the Tyler County Emergency Operations Center in Woodville. In the photo, mostly from left to right, are Tina Cleberg and daughter Victoria, Bruce Womack, Barbara Petri, TCARA Vice President Chuck Petri, Billie Yancy and her two granddaughters, Mia and Tatum Miller, EOC Emergency Coordinator Dale Freeman (back), James Wedgeworth and son Joseph, Johnnie and Earnest Matlock, U.S. Rep. Dr. Brian Babin, Floyd Petri, Jeremy Swan, Marc Holcomb, Jim Beattie, ARRL Emergency Coordinator Nick Toparcean and Tyler County Judge and Emergency Director Jacques Blanchette. See WD5TYL.org for all the members. (Jim Powers Photo)
by Michael G. Maness
At precisely 1 p.m., Saturday, June 27, Tyler County connected with the world for its first Field Day as a group of ham radio enthusiasts gathered at the county Emergency Op Center in the Nutrition Center in Woodville.
Easy—use a fishing pole to throw a line over a tree, pull the 160-meter wire antenna over, and in ten minutes you are on the air. All for about $10! Nick Toparcean borrowed some black nylon trout line to anchor the antennae to the EOC window, strung the lead inside, and hooked it to the EOC ham radio. After a few adjustments, Toparcean had the capability to talk to the other side of the earth and—hold your breath—even to the International Space Station. Wow!
Talk about bouncing signals off the moon ... connecting to repeaters scattered from Galveston to southern Oklahoma ... Tyler County was a critical component for completing the last link to this chain of repeaters.
The Tyler County Amateur Radio Association began about two and a half years ago. V.P. Chuck Petri maintains the website, WD5TYL.org, and was the leader this day, as President Charles Zimmerman had to attend a funeral.
The repeater call sign and the club call sign are the same: WD5TYL. The TCARA requested this call sign from the FCC, which was granted just a few months ago. The repeater is located in Doucette and maintained by the TCARA. A repeater "repeats" or takes a weak signal and amplifies it in order to increase the distance of the signal, often called the radio horizon or footprint. Chuck's father, Floyd Petri, maintains a private repeater in Chester.
The permission to install the Doucette repeater was secured by John Stagg and Brian Cater from the commissioner's court in 2010, though several attempts to install a repeater failed. The TCARA partnered with the county EOC and successfully installed the current repeater.
"Amateur" radio does not mean "beginner or novice," rather it refers to all those not in formal military, marine, aviation or police radio communications.
There are three levels of licensed radio operators, entry-level Technician, mid-level General and the top Extra Class license.
The FCC extends operating privileges commensurate with each class, to help insure that operators understand the laws and operate safely.
Toparcean said, "Radio frequencies at the levels we use can be dangerous. Radio waves are radiation. Or one can damage expensive equipment if one overpowers or improperly tunes a transmitter." He illustrated with a water pipe. The goal is for water to flow smoothly. But if a pipe gets choked, it constricts the water, and that is when problems can happen. The same applies to a radio signal. Just as you would want water to flow through a pipe with no leaks or restrictions, you want the radio signal to exit the antenna properly and as efficiently as possible.
The sophistication of the radio community might intimidate a novice, but there was an encouraging environment with plenty of resources. Very family friendly—this gathering had several husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters.
There were six radios up and running: Earnest and Johnnie Matlock had one; Floyd Petri, one; his son Chuck Petri, two; Nick Toparcean ran the EOC one; Bruce Womack, one (who also does the fantastic computer-controlled Christmas light display each year).
James Wedgeworth's eleven-year-old son, Joseph, was there and ready to take his technician's test. Several have been working on and off with radios for decades, like Floyd Petri since in 1957, but just got their first license in the last few years.
They are growing fast.
Tina Cleberg's daughter, Victoria, was practicing her code on the Morris Code training machine. The machine registered each dot or dash and confirmed when a proper letter was communicated. Victoria was gaining expertise as she composed whole words, next will be full sentences, and mom has promised to get Victoria her own machine.
In addition to a load of literature available for visitors, each station had a large poster of the available bands, color coded, with several of the primary frequency ranges. Each band was designated by meters, especially the high frequency bands, as in "10 meters" and "40 meters." That refers to the length of the antennae, and the bands can go all the way up to the "160 meters."
U.S. Rep. Dr. Brian Babin dropped by for this historic event in Tyler County, giving his hearty support for this crucial piece of emergency infrastructure, and reflected on how his father had used ham radios during WWII.
Tyler County Booster Editor Jim Powers has been a ham operator for 54-plus years and related a frightening encounter in Nov. of 1978. While taking traffic from Guyana, someone needed a phone patch. Before long, Powers was relaying patches all over the U.S. A kook named Jim Jones had ordered his "Red Brigade" to shoot "defectors" at the Port Kaituma Airstrip, killing five, including U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan. Later that day, as news leaked out, Jones had led 909 followers with 304 children to drink cyanide laced Kool-Aid.
Ham radios allow communication during complete black outs. Even if the police bands fail, these radios can be up and running in minutes.
The American Radio Relay League, est. in 1914, hosts ARRL Field Day every year for a 27-hour marathon of national communication that crosses the globe. The goal is "To work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands ... and to learn to operate in abnormal situations" (see ARRL.org). Always on the fourth Saturday in June at precisely 1800 or 6 p.m. Zulu or Greenwich Mean Time, which is set at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England—in Woodville it was 1 p.m. because of daylight savings. Though points are accumulated for a variety types of connections logged, there are no awards given. Meant to be less competitive and more collaborative—this is serious fun.
The ARRL is the largest national association for amateur or "ham" radio operators in the U.S. with over 160k members. Field Day is education, practice and PR. They are a part of the International Amateur Radio Union which is organized in three regions: Region 2 has about 830k stations in the Americas, Region 3 about 750k in Asia and the Pacific Ocean, and Region 1 about 400k in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. There are about 3 million operators worldwide.
At the end of the day, Tyler County had communicated with hundreds across the nation. Chuck Petri said, "The farthest contact made during Field Day was by my mother, Barbara Petri, working digital on 20 meters. She contacted the US Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy off the coast of Bougainville Island in Papua, New Guinea.
The TCARA meets every first Thursday at 7 p.m. at 201 Veteran's Way in Woodville, Texas. Visitors are welcome. Please see WD5TYL.org.
Editors Note: This is an excerpt from a much longer story that ran recently in one of Polk County Publishing Companies other newspaper, The Polk County Enterprise. The original story was about Outhouses in Polk County, and included this interesting story about the famous Outhouse Liftoff that Clyde Gray "engineered" out at Heritage Village. Clyde, in addition to being an incredible artist, was a great "promoter." The great outhouse liftoff had to be his biggest success. Heritage Village in Woodville was packed the day of the liftoff with local, area and state visitors, including numerous celebrates. I know this because a 40 year younger version of myself was there shooting photos that day. I shot the top large photos, left and right, in the monument Clyde Gray stand behind in the photo. Last time I checked, a version of the monument with the tiles still stood out at the Village.
by Beverly Miller
Now I saved my best for last — "The Only Flying Outhouse in the World." This story began many years ago, when I was eating lunch at the Pickett House and Heritage Village Museum in Woodville. As I was waiting to be seated, I noticed a newspaper article that was displayed on the bulletin board at the Pickett House. Enjoy this bit of outhouse history! The article reads like this...
Artist and Serial Entrepreneur Clyde Gray stands at Heritage Village next to a monument preserving the day an outhouse took wing in Tyler County. Your (much younger) editor shot the top left and right photos on the monument in 1976."The following is as it is remembered by the writings of Jack Whitmeyer.
"The time: early in the year 1976. America is getting ready to celebrate its birthday. The Cajuns of Nederland, and Port Neches are getting ready to dedicate their new museum, 'The Maison d' Acadian,' which they had built close to the Dutch Heritage Society's Windmill at Nederland.
"The scene: Clyde Gray's art studio at Heritage Village.
"The cast of characters: Clyde Gray, three or four of the movers and shakers from the Nederland group, among them was the man who billed himself as the "Crazy Frenchman," A.J. Judice, a gentleman who was playing George Washington down there. "The discussion: 'The group from Nederland had come up to talk to Clyde about finding them an authentic outhouse which they could obtain. They wished to use it on a float in a parade to advertise the Cajun Museum and to be placed in the back yard at the museum. If Clyde could find them one, they would get a truck and come up to get it and haul it down. Well, Clyde, always the promoter, said he had an outhouse next to the Tolar Cabin at the Heritage Village, which he might be interested in donating, if its point of origin was displayed on it. This was agreeable to everyone, when the other promoter, which was me, spoke up: You fellows might get a little radio coverage out of this, maybe a local TV, why not go for broke. This is America's Bicentennial and the space age is just starting up: why, I just saw in the paper that NASA has appointed a sanitation engineer to work on the new space shuttle. Now, you fellows have connections with the offshore industry and they use helicopters to fly all kinds of heavy loads out to the rigs. Talk one of them into coming up here and flying the outhouse down and placing it on site, that ought to get you some good coverage, (it ended up going worldwide). Well, Clyde jumped on it like a rooster on a bug and the others went along. From here the thing snowballed! Clyde got hold of the man from NASA, yes he would work with us. George Washington came up and certified that, yes it was an outhouse. We put it on a pallet, wrapped it with chicken wire to keep it together, tied it down to the pallet, and put an eyebolt at each corner to lift it with. The sanitation engineer came over from NASA and certified that it was ready to fly. A young musician wrote a song about the flying outhouse and recorded it. He had tapes for sale. Clyde had me print thousands of copies of James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "The Passing of the Outhouse," which he sold for years."
The article continues..."The big day arrived. We had a large crowd; TV cameras all over the place. All the dignitaries gathered on the porch, Clyde introduced them, the sanitation engineer made a speech, Washington waved to the crowd, the musicians sang his song. In the meantime, Jethro Holmes arrived with Tom and Jerry, his ox team; they were hitched to the outhouse and pulled it out to the side of the highway. We attached the slings and made the outhouse ready to be flown to its new destination. The Highway Patrol stopped traffic and right on schedule, here came the helicopter. It was positioned overhead, the cable was dropped, we hooked up the slings, and off it went. There was a car waiting. Clyde, myself and several others jumped in and headed south to get to the destination so we could unhook the outhouse. Well, the wind was strong aloft and the chopper pilot was having trouble controlling his flight so he set down at Kountze and from there got a truck and trailer, loaded the outhouse up and headed to the Jefferson County airport. There, the chopper picked the outhouse again and delivered it on schedule to the Museum at Nederland. National TV picked up the story and ran it that night. By the next day, it was being aired worldwide. For several years we had tourists from all around the world coming in wanting to see where the outhouse had been flown from. Some couldn't speak much English, but they could say "outhouse" and point up."
In a personal interview with Fred Sullivan of Sullivan's Hardware Store in Woodville, Fred told me this story. He said, "My wife and children were returning from Nederland and we saw the trailer, loaded with the outhouse, approaching and the children said, 'look there's the outhouse! Well, the TV cameras didn't catch the outhouse coming down the highway...just the landing of the outhouse, delivered by the helicopter."
Tyler County Amateur Radio Association held its first Field Day on Saturday, June 27, at the Tyler County Emergency Operations Center in Woodville. Ham radio operators have been holding these events for years in preparation for emergencies when their ability to communicate is invaluable. Look for a full-length feature about Saturday's Field Day by Michael Maness in next week's Tyler County Booster. (Jim Powers Photo)