South Texas Amateur Repeater Society History

Part I — The Beginning and the Early Days

STARS was founded in 1982 by three Valley amateurs who wanted to establish a Valley-wide communication system to support Emergency Communication efforts.
The three pooled their money and purchased a slightly used GE MASTR II repeater station.  They drove to Corpus Christi to pick it up and when it was inspected, it still had the “new car” smell!  What a great way to start.  A (almost) new 100 watt VHF repeater!
The chosen location for the new repeater on 147.390/990 was the original Channel 4 KGBT TV tower in La Feria.
The repeater antenna was a commercial fiberglass antenna, which cost $1200 in 1982 money, at 800 feet fed by 7/8th inch heliax.  Soon, a UHF repeater on 444.975 was added.  The repeaters were controlled by an ACC-850 controller, which was a very advanced controller at the time as it had a vocabulary of words which could be programmed to make voice announcements and a DVR to record short voice announcements.  All of the announcements were made in a male voice.  There was no choice.  The programming of the ACC-850 was a real challenge and only a few of the STARS technicians ever developed the skills.
Soon, the only repeater in McAllen, 146.760, was donated to STARS by one of the founders of the Webfoot Amateur Radio Club.  The Webfoot organization is composed primarily of retired hams who winter in the Valley.  At one time, there were over 100 members of that organization which was located in the McAllen/Mission area.  The owner of 146.760 donated the repeater to STARS as STARS was the only amateur radio organization at the time who had the ability to maintain the repeater.  The 146.760 repeater frequency has remained in operation longer than any of the STARS repeaters, but the repeater itself is third generation equipment.  The repeater was moved from McAllen to Pharr in 2019 due the loss of the repeater site in McAllen.
In the mid 1980’s, a UHF to VHF remote base was installed on the 444.975 repeater.
The VHF antenna was located at 250 feet and the transmitter/receiver consisted of an ICOM VHF mobile radio driving a 160 watt VHF amplifier.  The remote base was frequency agile and controlled by DTMF.  Transmitting on 444.975, a user could command the VHF remote base to QSY to a specific VHF frequency by DTMF tones.  Once the frequency was established, transmissions made on 444.975 were also transmitted on the chosen VHF frequency.  With the 6 db VHF antenna at 250 feet and with 160 watts of RF, Valley wide contacts on simplex were easy and contacts with Corpus Christi repeaters could be made almost on a daily basis.
STARS was doing great with a Valley Wide coverage (almost) new VHF repeater on 147.390/990,  a UHF repeater with a VHF remote base on 444.975 plus a VHF repeater in McAllen on 146.760/160.
Things were really looking good until it was announced that the  Channel 4 KGBT tower was scheduled to be demolished.
The tower was over 30 years old and KGBT decided it was time for a new galvanized tower.  All of the work that STARS had put into the 147.390 and 444.975 repeaters was going to be undone.  What now?  What was STARS to do?

Look for the next segment coming soon!

The STARS Story continues in Part II — Unexpected Luck and a new Direction

2 thoughts on “Part I — The Beginning and the Early Days

  1. KI5IZR says:

    Very interesting history! 💙

  2. Kimball Sumney says:

    I like this and can’t wait for the next part. I am also interested in how RIOLINK can to be.

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