The Unofficial History of the RAMS
Radio Amateur Mobile Society, Inc.
As told by Les Cobb, W6TEE
A unique Ham Radio club. The Radio Amateur Mobile Society, Inc., better known as the RAMS, was started in Sacramento, California in 1955 by a group of 75 meter AM mobile operators. The club grew around popular Sunday family caravans, called "mobile runs". The club's scheduled activities until 1981 included mobile runs, transmitter hunts, mobile antenna field strength contests, public service communications, barbeques, picnics, up to three family campouts a year, and an annual anniversary dinner-dance. A net was held on the club frequency of 3965 kHz. every Saturday at 10 AM to announce the club activities and for the members to check in. Meetings were held on the second Saturday each month. Pot-luck dinners were held before the meetings every other month. The first club call, K6YJL, was changed to W6HIR, in memory of a founder who died while President.
Ham mobile activities were popular. The concept became wildly popular and the club in its best times had a membership of 150-200 members. With this base to draw from, activities of one sort or another were scheduled every weekend. Members could pick and choose and the club could still have a good turnout. The activities were mostly family oriented, prompting many spouses to take a first-time interest in ham radio, and get their General (or Conditional) Class licenses to operate on 75 meters. The most popular activity remained the mobile run. Hidden transmitter hunts, called "Rabbit Hunts", were also popular. The Annual Hunt every year featured three transmitters to be found, in any order, to win. Favorite campout destinations included (at various times) Ft. Bragg, Gualala, Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park (NV), Crystal Peak, and Big Meadows. Camping in the 60's was mostly in tents, but travel trailers were more popular by the 70's.
SSB comes along. - In the 60's, the club converted to SSB mobile, with much pain. Fixed station phone operating was already largely SSB due to the availability of sideband receivers and transmitters. But affordable SSB transceivers suitable for mobile operation did not appear until 1964 or later. The inexpensive Heathkit HW-12 single band 75 meter SSB transceiver became instantly popular in the RAMS. There was a group in the club that thought that by sticking with AM, they could help new hams get into mobile operation. The pro-SSB faction gained control of the club, and the others dropped out. Most new members in the next few years moved to Sacramento already equipped with SSB mobile rigs, which were popular then. Membership dipped to 65 in 1969, but this was the prevailing attitude in Ham Radio. At this time, RAMS was the largest club in the Sacramento Valley Section! Sacramento ARC had 23 members, and North Hills RC had 13.
Frequency Modulation. In the late 60's, FM repeaters started the climb which would let them dominate mobile operation everywhere. RAMS members W6GDO (W6GO) and W6TEE (me) started a repeater club, the Mt Vaca Radio Club, and wrote the first modern FM article for QST and the Handbook, introducing the ARRL to the subject. The RAMS had a 2 meter AM net, but did not have many 2 meter mobile activities. But more and more RAMS members showed up on trips with FM rigs. And finally, with FM rigs ONLY. The RAMS built a repeater in the early 70's. However, mobile runs did not lend themselves to repeater operation, so simplex on the repeater output frequency was used for these events. The growing use of FM caused a few SSB operators to be upset, just like the prevous conflict. But this did not go very deep and 75 meter SSB was easy to ignore if you were only on 2 meter FM. Most mobile operators preferred the new simplicity of channelized squelched operation.
Photo and Comments Provided by Les Cobb: I told you a few months ago (2009) about hearing from a lady back East that her father had died recently and she found both her parents in this photo. They are center row right and he has a dark shirt, she is in red. They moved to Louisiana 10 or 15 years after the photo.
The end of RAMS activities. In the late 70's, the club acquired a huge influx of new members due to a major training program locally that catered to dissatisfied CBers. Some newcomers from CB even started a new Sacramento ham club to better fit their expectations. This fuel for a major new club also started the downturn of the RAMS. Previously, new members had been hams that had attended activities with their families, liked the group, and joined. But, these new members were only looking for another ham meeting to attend and were not the least bit interested in the activities. Strange as it sounds, within two years RAMS activities were dead. I was the last Activities Chairman in 1981, and after a year of planning events that no one attended, I did not renew my membership of 20 years.
Mobile activities today. Repeaters have mostly replaced HF ground wave communications for local mobile operating, everywhere. The RAMS successfully survived that change, but did not keep the original purpose. It is not widely known that the RAMS still exists as a repeater club. Few know what W6HIR, now on the 2 meter and 220 MHz. repeaters, once meant.
RAMS at Present.The RAMS still meet every 2nd Thursday of the Month at Denney's on Greenback Lane in Orangevale. Our membership has lessened by not our sprit. We have started up a 10 meter net on Sunday nights at 8:00 on 28.480 USB and hope to spark more interest in HF again.
James J. West, N6AAD remembers when...
Shortly after receiving my first HAM radio license, I attended a couple of RAMS meetings, at the Carmichael Park meeting facility. At the time I believe the RAMS Club, assisted the Park District, with their annual parade, and therefore were allowed to use the park facilities, free gratus. I believe I assisted with a parade communications effort, but recall almost nothing about the event.
RAMS History, as told by a special June 1st newsletter in 1959.
February 9, 2017
When the dam was being built in the '60s, the Radio Amateur Mobile Society (RAMS) was the largest Ham club in the Sacramento Valley Section, then based on family 75 meter mobile (3965 kHz) outings called, "Mobile Runs". A popular annual event for several years was to the Oroville Dam construction site. The visitor overlook the first couple of years later moved up the hillside to what seemed impossibly far because the original visitor site was to become one end of the dam.
Son Matthew and I visited the second, higher site a year ago, and I couldn't recognize it. It is a museum, hard to find, surrounded by trees, and barely attended, except for school buses.
On our last '60s construction visit, we had a rare tour into the still dry penstock. That may never be seen again by the public until the lake is drained.
The following year, we scheduled a new start at the brand-new visitor overlook for the Auburn Dam, and planned on several more years of outings. Surprising at the time, construction of the Auburn Dam was halted before the first outing and never resumed. But the overlook is still there. Those of you who work on the Western States 100 and the Tevis Cup Endurance Ride know it as the NCS location. I've never gone over to the edge to look at the non-existent dam and the badly-needed high bridge on CA-49, delayed over 40 years.
But one artifact of the Auburn Dam did get built, and is of value to those Hams working on Tevis Cup, etc. That is the high bridge on the Foresthill road. Otherwise, you have to drive CA-49 down to the American River and climb back up. That old route is still open too. A new CA-49 bridge was unfortunately not built at the same time because it was to pass over or near the dam only after its completion. - Les Cobb, W6TEE
March 4, 2017 (1964 YouTube video):
RAMS HAM Radio Club Hidden Transmitter Hunt - Sacramento, CA