Langlade County Amateur (Ham) Radio History
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Langlade County Amateur (Ham) Radio History

Langlade County Amateur (Ham) Radio History

Leland Fischer
Amateur Radio Operator N9GQG
(ex: KA9YFM) (ex: AAV5MQ)

The Earliest Local Hams

According to an Antigo Daily Journal newspaper article in May 1920. Two of the earliest Amateur Radio operators in Langlade County were Lynn Matthias, callsign 9TO and Harold Chapman, callsign 9UI.

From page 157 of the "History of Langlade County Wisconsin" by Robert M. Dessureau:
"The first broadcasting radio wireless in Langlade County was installed by Lynn Matthias of Antigo. Mr. Matthias
is a member of the American Relay Radio Association. Irving B. Lueck has cooperated with Mr. Matthias in radio experimentation. Harold Chapman and Neal Thayer are among those known to have received messages and enjoyed
radio concerts from great distances."

Lynn Herman Mathias (1904-1998) was a 1922 graduate of Antigo High School and also a University of Wisconsin classmate of Lynn Bradley. He and Lynde went on to work at the Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee. Lynn rose to vice-president of Research and Development and also served on the Board of Directors.

Harold Edson Chapman (1904-1998) was also a 1922 graduate of Antigo High School. His father Caleb was a salesman. In 1930 Harold was a manager for an electric company in Antigo and in 1940 was district foreman for Wisconsin Power and Light Company in Birnamwood.

Neal Burton Thayer (1905-1989) was a 1923 graduate of Antigo High School. His callsign was 9DBY His father was Wayland Thayer who worked on the railroad. In 1930 Neal worked as an engineer for a public utility in Toledo, Ohio and in 1940 he was a machinist in Green Bay.

Irving Buffum Lueck (1905-1995). Irving was a 1924 graduate of Antigo High School. His father August owned a drug store in Antigo. Irving became an electrical engineer and worked at a telephone company in Illinois in 1930. In 1940 he worked as a sales engineer for Bausch & Lomb in New York. I have not been able to find a callsign for Irving. It is
unknown if he ever had an amateur radio license?

The World Becomes a Smaller Place

On March 15, 1937 on page 3, the Antigo Daily Journal had a long article about Maurice N. Driscoll (1904-1948), callsign W9EZT, who had talked to ham radio operators in over 40 countries from his station at 530 5th Ave. in Antigo. Maurice was a 1923 graduate of Antigo High School. His parents were Neil and Alice (Nolan) Driscoll. In 1930 he was working as a filling station attendant and in 1940 he worked on the railroad and was living at 814 7th Ave. (Birth name might have been Cornelius Maurice Driscoll?)

Amateur Radio and the Military

Antigo Daily Journal articles on December 5, 1938, page 4, and December 9, 1938 had a feature story about LTJG Edwin Hirt (1920-2017), callsign W9UGR and his mother Mae Hirt (1892-1976), callsign W9BEY who were both amateur radio operators and lived in Deerbrook. His father William ( 1892-1968) was the manager of the Deerbrook saw mill.

The Hirt family was also associated with the U.S. Signal Corps providing communications during emergencies and assisting military members communicate with family. Later these types of communications were assumed by the MARS program where member Amateur radio operators operate on military frequencies. MARS stands for Military Auxiliary Radio System. When I was an Army MARS member back in the late 1980's and early 1990's my callsign was AAV5MQ.

From 1952 until 1977 there was an Air Force Station located about seven miles southwest of Antigo which had a MARS station. Doug Sylfest, callsign W9EK was stationed at this radar site and now lives in Antigo. Doug told me that there were always hams stationed at the radar site and that they had a really nice MARS station set up. He remembers using a Collins S Line radio to run phone patches for servicemen in Alaska who had family living in Antigo.

Field Day

Another Antigo Daily Journal article on June 27, 1952, page 2 tells about local amateur radio operators field day activities and lists the following operators:

Francis J. "Frank" Repko (1920-?), callsign W1HAY. His parents were Andrew and Julia (Novotny). Frank last lived in Litchfield, NH.

Jim Berner, callsign W9OED, is now a member of the Hoosier Lakes Radio Club in Warsaw, IN.

Carl Somdahl Jr., callsign W9IZE now is W7LI. Carl now is living in Pacific City, OR.

Vern Teske (1922-2010), callsign W9RYA, worked at Delco Electronics on the Apollo Space Program and the Milwaukee Area Technical College where he taught TV and electronics. Part of his obituary read "Verne was the founder of the Ozaukee County Amateur Radio Club, and he was the founder and president of the South Milwaukee Amateur Radio Club for the past 42 years. His love of amateur radio dates back to 1936 when he built his first one-tube radio. He received his amateur radio license in 1947."

Clarence "Bud" Finger (1921-1992), callsign W9EIZ, Bud Finger, worked for the Post Office for many years and became the Antigo Postmaster. Bud really loved working CW.

Robert Finger. Bud had a son who also became a Ham. As Robert upgraded his callsign changed from WA9WGT to KE9P to W9GE. He now lives in Easton, MD.

Anthony "Tony" Michael (1923-2004), callsign N9BTP. Tony operated an electrical repair service in Bryant.

Bob Gillespie, callsign unknown.

Henry "Hank" C. Federman (1909-1965), callsign W9CTD. He lived at 1007 Fulton St. in Antigo. In 1930 he worked as a hotel night porter and in 1940 he delivered newspapers.

Some Other Langlade County Hams now Deceased

Richard Engholdt, (1910-2014), callsign W9FTC. Dick was a 1929 graduate of Antigo High School. He was a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Signal Corp during WWII. He graduated from UW Madison in Engineering and was vice president and chief engineer at Erie Mfg. Co in Milwaukee.

John LaBlonde, (1914-1999), callsign W9FZC. John was a 1932 graduate of Antigo High School. John became one of the main radio technicians for the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Douglas Lovelace, (1916-2002), callsign W9FG (ex W9WCA). Doug worked for the Philco Company as a technical representative at the Antigo Radar Base. He also worked as an engineer at radio station WATK and assisted at the Antigo Airport. Doug was well known for giving many new amateur radio operators their first license exam.

Carl(ton) Kerstetter, (1936-2001), callsign W9NVM. Carl worked for 17 years at the Voice of Music Corp. in Benton Harbor, MI. In 1971 he started a flight service business, Alpha Aviation in Benton Harbor, MI. He became the Antigo Airport Manager in 1975.

Fred Hall, callsign unknown (Maybe Frederic O. Hall, 9BNV?).

James Flannagan, (1892-1972), callsign W9CGO. Jim was a 1911 graduate of Antigo High School. He was a machinist for the railroad and lived at 602 Lincoln St. and later at 722 2nd Ave. in Antigo.

SGT Kenneth Kelly, (1908-1978), callsign K9UKR? Kenneth was a 1927 graduate of Antigo High School. He was an Antigo police officer who served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. After his discharge he returned to his police officer job and also became the FCC required radio serviceman for the police radios in Langlade County. SGT Kelly also owned a radio repair service in Antigo. Later he moved to Milwaukee.
Anyone who has used CB or Amateur Radio is familiar with "skip." That is hearing radio stations from hundreds to thousands of miles away. It may be fun to listen to but it is not so fun when it covers up someone you are trying to talk to locally. An Antigo Daily Journal article on December 19, 1945 reported on the local police station receiving the transmissions on 37.90 Mhz of other police stations all over the United States. During the night of December 18 until the morning of December 19 Officer Kenneth Kelly reported he had heard stations WPVS, WKYX identified as Winchester, MD and WEJL, WJY, WSF, WQMI, WPVL at Boston, MA, WSLF in NC, and a station in Fort Worth, IN all on FM and WQRS in Jersey City, NJ on AM. He reported that he carried on a conversation with the Maryland station. (How could any Ham resist?)

LTJG Gordon J. Aulik, (1920-1995), callsign W9YXG. Gordon was a 1938 graduate of Antigo High School. He lived at 1110 4th Ave. in Antigo. Later he moved to California.

John "Buck" F. Manthey, (1919-2012), callsign
W9YXM. John was a 1937 graduate of Antigo High School. He lived at 1112 Clermont St. in Antigo. John was a civil engineer for the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority).

Ray Szmanda (1927-2018), callsign KB9JPB. "The Menards Guy" of TV commercial fame from 1978-1999. Ray was a radio and TV staff announcer from 1951 to 1958. In 1959 he started the Trans-American School of Broadcasting in Wausau.

Bill Wurtinger (1933-2006), callsign N9RFI. Bill operated a TV and Radio Repair Service in Antigo. He also worked part-time as a deputy sheriff and drove a taxi for many years.

Ernest Geiger (1938-2012), callsign N9QMP. Ernie was a TV repairman and a motor route newspaper carrier for the Antigo Daily Journal. Ernie installed the Antigo 147.315 repeater in the middle 2000's.

Ron Krzysiak, (1941-2014), callsign K9GEC. Ron was a 1959 graduate of Antigo High School. He became a Amateur Radio operator at age 15. Ron was employed at Bell Telephone Company in Green Bay until his retirement in 1996. After retirement he returned to Antigo to live.

Two-Meter Repeaters in Langlade County

In the early 1990's William Volm, KD9HH installed the first two-meter repeater just south of town, on the Gresch's Hill police tower site operating on the frequency of 145.310 Mhz. Bill also helped start the Antigo Repeater Association (ARA) club which took over the repeater operations.

During this time many new hams in Langlade County got their Amateur Radio licenses in classes run by Bill, Mike Hamman, W9BHL and Diane Lodge Hamman, KA9BHK. Diane also had a ham radio station set up in the Antigo Junior High School building.

In the middle 2000's Ernest Geiger (1938-2012), callsign N9QMP installed another two-meter repeater in Antigo. When Ernie died his son Jeff Geiger callsign N9TEV took over the operations of this repeater which operated on the frequency
of 147.315 Mhz until 2019?

Also in the middle 2000's the Langlade County Amateur Radio Association (LCARA) club was formed to help support the new Langlade County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group.

On September 2, 2006 members of the Marinette and Menominee Ham Assistance Team, (HAT), traveled to the Langlade County police radio Kent tower site near Bryant. They helped the LCARA installed a 4-element two-meter antenna on the northeast side of the tower, three support arms and 7/8 inch feedline to a height of approximately 260 feet above ground level. They also installed a two-meter repeater operating on the frequency of 147.255 Mhz.

In November 2006 the ARA merged with the LCARA. The LCARA then operated both the Gresch and Kent repeaters under the club callsign KC9JZY.

The LCRA club ceased operations August 2016. The radio equipment of the Gresch and Kent repeaters was donated to the Wisconsin Valley Radio Association which then took over the operations of both repeaters under the club callsign W9SM.

A February 2000 Antigo Repeater Association (ARA) Membership List

Barb Arnold N9KVZ
Ken Biagioni KB9JWS
Lee Fischer N9GQG
Dan Hackbarth KB9FTR
Carol Hackbarth KB9FTS
Carl Kerstetter W9NVM
Loren King KB9JOY
Shirley King KB9TJA
Ron Krzysiak K9GEC
Mark Pugh N9RMP
Vern Ralph KB9TJB
Toni Thomas KB9FTD
Seth Thomas KB9FUV
Jim Thomas N9JOQ
Jaren Thomas N9KNB
Mary Volm KB9EOF
Leah Volm KB9EOG
William Volm KD9HH
Kezia Volm KB9JZC
Diane Volm N9KII

QSL cards are used to verify amateur radio operators have communicated (QSO) with each other by some radio mode.

MIR QSL front
front of card

MIR QSL back
back of card

front of card

back of card

N4QIV QSO (sk)

K4KKA QSO (sk)




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    Antigo Daily Journal and other references:

  • ADJ, May 5, 1920, page 5, Two Amateur Radio operators pass exams
  • ADJ, July 5, 1930, page 3, John LaBlonde passed Amateur Radio operator exam.
  • ADJ, Dec 3, 1930, page 7, James Flannagan talks to Australia.
  • ADJ, Mar 15, 1937, page 3. Maurice Driscoll talks to radio operators in over 40 countries.
  • ADJ, Dec 5, 1938, page 4, Edwin Hirt, W9UGR, of Deerbrook contacts over 2,000 amateur radio operator world-wide.
    His radio station is also associated with the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
  • ADJ, June 27, 1952, page 2, Amateur Radio Field Day at Fair Grounds.
  • The Capital Times, April 18, 1970, page 9. John LaBlonde.
  • September 2006 "Ground Wave" newsletter, The Marinette and Menominee Amateur Radio Club
  • ADJ, October 6, 2010, page 4. A Look Back: Peeps at our Past. Names several amateur radio operators in 1935.
  • ADJ, December 9, 2013, page 4. A Look Back: Peeps at our Past. Edwin Hirt.
  • Book: "Amateur Radio Stations of the U.S. by U.S. Dept. of Commerce." Lynn Mathias
  • Book: "Amateur Radio Stations of the U.S. by U.S. Dept. of Commerce" Harold Chapman & Neal B. Thayer
  • AC6V's Amateur Radio & DX Reference Guide
  • Amateur Radio History

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