A Brief History

An historical article from Break-In for October 1969. Author Bert Batty, ZL1HQ. Branch 29

The North Shore Branch had its beginnings in 1935 when two or three young men met at a private home to discuss amateur radio, and someone suggested the idea of forming a club and canvassing the district for members.

This was carried out and the first gathering the writer attended, was held at the Stanley Point home of Vaughan Wilson, ZL1JW, now ZL2VW. Soon the numbers swelled and to avoid wearing out our welcome at the Wilson’s' meetings were held at various ham shacks and private homes in rotation. The gatherings were not restricted to licensed hams; anyone, old or young, who was interested in some phase of radio communication or broadcasting, be he an operator or a listener, was welcome and the need for a central clubroom became pressing. 

In May 1937, through someone who knew someone, we were fortunate in being able to rent the Toch-H League clubrooms in Lake Road. It was situated under a private house and had a ping pong table, supper facilities, and space enough for our purposes. A transmitting license was taken out with the call of ZL1MA. Meetings were held here till April 1939 when the building changed hands and we lost our club rooms.

During this period various projects were carried out, including the building of a receiver and a transmitter. It is most unfortunate that the roll of members during those first few years has become lost, but from memory and a roll in 1936 it appears that at least half our numbers were listeners or prospective hams and include the following: V. Wilson ZL1JW, D. Thompson ZL1KB, R. St. Clair ZL1HG, H. Batty ZL1HQ, J. Fleming ZL1IH and also A. Dephoff, A. Whitley, L. Berlyn, R. Knight, W. Seagar, G. Wright, R. Reeston, E. Steel, S. Tattam and Messrs Tidham and Hutchison. By 1939 the following names had been added: A. Amos ZL1GZ, R. Allard ZL1UN, K. Wellington ZL1LM, S. Waite ZL1AB, M. Walker ZL1AU, Max Ward ZL1PE, J. Fish ZL1GF. From July 1938, thanks to Mr. A. Dephoff, meetings were held in the large lounge of his home in Waitemata Road, providing a very friendly and congenial atmosphere.

During war time when all our transmitting gear was safely locked away and stored, one successful project was the building of a tape machine to copy Morse code with the idea of correcting and improving sending. 

The fact that the fast moving pen splattered ink all over the operator and the walls was a minor matter, but it seemed only a short while before we had to move again. We were back to meetings in private homes, and although this does make for very pleasant and closely knit group discussions, it is not fair to the home owners. However in August 1945, thanks to the efforts of Stan ZL1AB, a small room became available at the Waitemata Power Board's meter test rooms, and this move soon proved to be a great help to the club since it was central, and being in the meter testing department, many interesting talks and demonstrations were organised during which Ham gear or any electrical devices could be tested under proper conditions, with as many meters as one could desire on the test benches. Under these ideal conditions, the North Shore Radio Club became the North Shore (Auckland) Branch on October 8th, 1945. With steadily increasing membership by 1948, the need for our own club rooms became more and more pressing and various schemes for raising money were tried out. 

A big Art Union (legal), with alluvial gold as the prize raised ₤150, Wally ZL1PN proving himself to be the champion ticket seller by selling 1000. Quick raffles were run at meetings, and a building fund box threepence per member per meeting was the order. 

In 1948 a new station license, ZL1WO was taken out and is still current. Around this time the A.R.E.C. Section was very active, and as operating practice cycle road races were given radio coverage and field days were organised wherein wives and families were taken to a beach picnic while some of the men retired to the nearby hills with portable rigs to work other sections of A.R.E.C. During 1949 a novel contest was arranged (The North Shore-Northland) Scramble, which consisted of just one hour's operation on a Sunday morning, the aim being to get as many phone contacts as possible in the hour. This was a lot of fun and may bear repeating in other branches. 

By July 1949 plans and specifications for our building were finalised, the Borough Council had granted the use of a small plot of land and building got under way. The timber for the job cost us nothing in cash, but quite something in hard work. A Mr. S. Tattam had offered the Branch a half share in two very large pine trees in exchange for the labour in felling, trimming, cross cutting and all the cleaning-up necessary to prepare the logs for milling.

Our share would result in several hundred feet of sawn timber over and above the amount required to build the club rooms. A cash bonus of about ₤60 helped to compensate the members for some weeks of aching backs, tired muscles and blistered hands and with much satisfaction we were at last able to gaze on a mountain of logs ready for milling. The only trouble was, they were in a gully with the nearest road 100 yards away, uphill. This was where Roger ZL1SG came to light with bulldozer assistance and soon the logs were safely delivered to the mill. Were our troubles over?-- not at all, for before we knew what had happened, we had thousands of feet of first grade timber, but no place to put it. Then someone remembered that Wally 1PN had just moved into a new house with a big empty basement, more hard work and blisters, but our timber was safe. 

The building committee ZL's 1HQ, 1SG, and 1LM enlisted the aid of Bill Dymock, a builder, and since Wally 1PU had just finished his own house, he was made foreman and work began in earnest. King's Birthday week-end saw a large crowd at Wally's place where the framing was laid out and cut, then taken to the site where no less than 28 members turned up to help. It was a grand feeling to see the framework going up but some of us found punching 4" nails a deal harder than punching a key. Flooring timber caused a serious hold-up but this was eventually overcome when ZL1RJ found where he could buy some. 

All the materials now being on hand, an opening date was forecast for Labour Day and all effort was made to finish the interior and make the building weatherproof. When the time came for painting ZL1AGA offered the use of his portable? (transportable) spray paint outfit and the job was finally finished with half the paint on the walls and the other half on the painters. 

During this time another party with a truck man-handled loads of rock to form an approach path from the street to the club room over some rugged ground. The last job of all was a grand and glorious clean-up and the installation of the Branch transmitter ZL1WO and a 30 foot whip antenna. 

The opening ceremony took place on a Saturday evening at 8 p.m. The branch chairman Ken Morrison welcomed a large crowd with representatives from Northland, Western Suburbs, Auckland branch, and our two Radio Inspectors. Our local Mayor, Mr John Guinevan and Councilor Henderson were present and at the conclusion of the proceedings, the Mayor declared the club rooms open and switched on ZL1WO. Stan Waite ZL1AB then gave a most interesting talk on the development of Ham radio. Stan was later presented with a clock as a mark of appreciation for his good work on behalf of the branch. Supper and a general rag chew brought the evening to a successful conclusion.

The North Shore Branch has kept going since then and has passed through some very low patches when only a few of the old stalwarts kept up attendance, but coming to the present time, due to a large extent to good publicity work at schools and fairs by Jumbo, ZL1HV, we have had a very pleasing influx of young boys for coaching for Ham exams, and of those who have sat their exams so far, very good marks have been achieved. This increase in numbers has made the club room quite definitely too small and negotiations for some form of extra space is under way

The activities of the branch these days include the monthly meeting which normally includes a lecture or demonstration, two nights per month or more on coaching new hams, committee meetings, and at least one night when new gear or gadgets are displayed and discussed. 

The annual Field Day is always popular and is entered more in a spirit of fun and enjoyment of a week-end outing than as a serious effort to win at all costs. The Ladies are not forgotten and a dinner evening or a social evening for the XYL's and YL's is an annual event and the year winds up with the Christmas Party (men only). 

Although the A.R.E.C. activities have declined, more is being done towards Civil Defence and soon all the Branch's station gear will be installed and operated from the Castor Bay C.D. Headquarters. * 4 Waratah Road, Auckland.