(Note: This background was prepared by Dan - K8GBC)
The Michigan Wolverine Net traces its beginnings to that turbulent period in ham radio when the winds of change ushered in single sideband (SSB). That comfortable old shoe, AM was now being called "ancient modulation" and the sole was wearing thin. The new shoe - sideband - was found hard to break in, and many did not like the style. Angry words were frequently heard such as buckshot and splatter, and that general label hung on the pioneers with disdain. SIDEBANDERS! "Those sidebanders"! Many spit out the word and were openly hostile. Comments of "sounds like Donald Duck", or "that sideband splatter is coming from 20 kcs down the band" was heard openly on the airwaves. Many purest from lofty perches remarked: "I'll stick with AM, the audio quality is so much better". But seventy-five meters was often a mass of heterodynes on any given night and I never considered high pitched squeals quality reception. The stone throwers simply lived in the glass house of receivers unable to cope with SSB.
The receivers that the majority of amateurs used at the time had simple diode detectors, wide IF strips, and AVC derived from the received carriers. Trying to use those woefully inadequate receivers for SSB was a lesson in frustration. Though many amateur radio operators understood their receivers were lacking for sideband use, they were loath to toss them away. Perhaps sideband was just a flash in the pan, as many were saying.
Articles began appearing in publications that helped in receiving sideband signals. Sideband adapters, product detectors, hang AVCs, tips and tricks to tune SSB, and the list went on and on. The first popular SSB transmitters were phasing rigs and later, steep sided crystal or mechanical filters passed the single sideband along. Both home brew and store bought rigs like the Central Electronics 10A were popular. If the ten watts PEP was not enough for you, easily built amplifier running four 6AG7s grounded grid would boost the power to fifty or sixty watts and the SSB was all audio punch.
A growing number of pioneer radio amateurs were paving the way for the rest of us to follow. Some ran with open arms to embrace this new mode while others had to be dragged along, kicking and screaming all the way. Many AM operators were simply dinosaurs unwilling to adapt, but others were held back by pragmatic concerns. Many were using new or like new AM rigs, and were hard pressed to write off this much monetary investment in a hobby. Many XYLs thought rent and food was more important than a 10A that didn't even come with a VFO.
One of the great things about ham radio is its diversity. There is something somewhere for everyone. Some find nets an enjoyable way to operate ham radio, and there are traffic only nets, rang chew only nets, and those that combine both. One popular net of the day was the Buzzard Roost (BR) Net on 3.390 kcs. It was clear that singular AM nets and SSB didn't mix well, and I suggest this was true of the old BR. Standard AM was used here and many thought experimenters should be on VHF or the old 11 meter band. This was unfortunate as many valued friends that had roosted on 3930 were switching to sideband. The buzzards became hawks or doves, and those caught in between were unsure if anyone was right.
Many on SSB felt they were treated as traitors when they came on 3930 with Donald Duck in tow. Some net controls on the old BR tried to accommodate the "sidebands", but running a divided net was awkward. I suggest a few net controls and many members made little effort to understand or accept this new mode. Feelings were hurt on both sides by people that had once been friends. Like a troubled marriage, for some, it could only end in divorce.
The Wolverine Net was founded on January 7th, 1960 and became a mixed net. An early preamble of the Wolverine Single Sideband Net opened with: "ALL STATIONS are welcome and invited to call in. AM stations are asked to carefully zero beat net control, and CW stations please transmit one kc lower in frequency". It's clear the Wolverine Net was not singular, and was ready and willing to serve all views using any legal mode of communication available. Over a few years time, sideband became King and AM was pushed to shelves of antiquity. Many in our ranks that had ties to the BR operated on both nets and reconciled with old friends.
It is said the first net control station was Ken - K8CWG, and the first net manager was Truman - K8JUG. I suggest the original founders never envisioned how enduring this new net would become. This net has remained healthy over the years because of the spirit of the people in it. As new members find their place on 3935 and stay with us, this core of regulars attracts others and the net endures the test of time.. Each member brings their own life experience with them, and the net crosses boundaries of age, social status, and intellect. A more or less information exchange of views on diverse interest and current events takes place. When we set the dignity of the net aside, we still expect the members to use reasonable judgment, and there are always limits of good taste. Perhaps not taking ourselves too seriously is the secret of success, and a quick wit seems to serve us well.
Over the years the old masters became mentors and passed tradition on. Though many fell silent and we marked their passing with regret, their spirit still lives on through this net. Like a good team of players in any game, this net stands solid because of each member's contributions, large or small. It cannot stand on the actions of a few. If you are looking for a place in amateur radio, this is one excellent spot to call home. Reach out and explore life, but remember the light here is always left on. We should cherish the past, but I do not wish its return. We should plan for the future, but be in no hurry to get there. The present is where we all belong.
(By Van - K8GOU)
When rig trouble occurred, the Wolverine Net used our pool of electronic troubleshooters to advantage. Many net members grew up in ham radio with a soldering iron in their hand and a chassis punch in their pocket. Builders and doers were everywhere, and if you had a problem, the net often found the solution. There could be a cost however if, as often happens, it was found that something simple was overlooked.
Like the guy that overhauled his auto engine and then found he had been simply out of gas; we often expect the worst and overlook the obvious. Then sometimes, we use poor judgment and refuse to lie about the cause when disarmingly asked 'Oh, buy the way, what was wrong'?
One case in point was the W8QBE 813 attenuator. Tom Kerr, a/k/a/ 'Digger' was a funeral director by trade, but he knew that the pointy end of the soldering gun went to the work. He seldom grabbed the hot end more than once or twice when building gear. Tom had built a junk box 813 amplifier, but every time it was put on the air, his signal went down several db. This was not his plan for it, so the net did some serious on the air troubleshooting for him to no avail. Tom would come on the net with a troubled mind and an average signal, and we would ask "is your 813 attenuator on"? Then one evening Tom announced he found the trouble, and when he flipped the switch on the amp we noted a satisfying signal increase. The question of cause was asked, and by now Tom was so ecstatic with success he forgot to lie. He told the fact that he had wired a six volt filament transformer to the 813s that required ten volts to operate properly. The cathodes had glowed, but not with their full brightness and power. After that, if there was no other mischief to be though of, you could always ask Tom what filament voltage was needed to run 813s. I suggest we all were reminded to check the simple things first, but only Tom paid so dearly for the lesson. We never let him forget it.
Speaking of lessons. School teachers are highly regarded as pillars of the community and are noted for their 'intel-ek-chew-el in-tegg-rtty'. They find great reward shaping the minds of bright and courteous young people that are so prevalent in society today. Many in this noble profession could have found their fortune in other well paying vocations such as plumbing, but did not.
Ralph - WA8VQL, that great molder of minds added to his own education when he tried his hand at repair of Mr. Crapper's invention. Upon review of lesson material, he now understands the following: Porcelain and glass are synonyms; hammers and cold chisels are not appropriate tools for glass work; the original packaging water closets come in are marked FRAGILE; and last but not least, always remember that unless you have done something really brilliant - don't talk about it!
To add interest at the Lansing picnic it was requested that members bring some 'home made' gear along. There was to be a grown up show and tell time. Les - K8JHA had excellent technical skills and did well in the ARRL sponsored frequency measuring contests. Les had built a lot of other complex ham gear that was also worthy of praise. He was an ARRL Official Observer, and we would often say "look out, the 'Oh' 'Oh' is on the frequency". With wit and humility, Les, who could choose from many well crafted ham projects he had built, made an actual gear from scrap wood as his entry. Now that is humor with class.
Once in a while humor gets a nudge from chance when the wheels all line up cherries, and the jackpot bell rings. This happened when one ham tried to help another ham out. W8NXB had an antenna tuner that needed repair, and W8GQL took it home with him to fix. When GQL returned the repaired tuner, no one was home at NXB's QTH. Not wanting to have to return again, GQL left the tuner on the back porch where he was sure it would be found when NXB returned. Now, an antenna tuner out of its case, to the untrained eye doesn't look like much. Providence entered the picture when the junk man arrived before NXB got home The junk man threw the tuner on his truck and took it to the dump with the rest of the trash. JACKPOT!
Most people with handicaps of some kind want to be treated like everyone else if possible. Marty - KX8J got around normally on an artificial leg. Though they have not been made of wood for years, Marty and the net had some fun about him having termites in his leg. These things are not physically pleasant to wear, and are very hard on the user. When at conventions, he used a battery powered cart to get around on the large display floor. Someone insinuated that Marty had more on his mind than just looking at ham gear. On the back of the cart an impromptu sign was hung that said 'Beaver Patrol'.
One net classic involves the tall tales that are told from time to time. Les - K8JHA was bragging about his strawberries being so big that only one could fit in a wheelbarrow. Les claimed he had to cut them off with a chainsaw. Then someone asked seriously what Les used to make them grow so big. Less replied that he put manure on his strawberries. From the peanut gallery came "you do? I like cream and sugar on my berries". Laughter filled the airwaves. For years after that, any mention of garden crops brought the strawberry story back again in some form.