South Texas Amateur Repeater Society History

Part II — Unexpected Luck and New Directions

It has been said that it is always darkest before the dawn and when one door closes another always opens.  Although nice to say as both are positive statements, but I never thought that either was a life rule.  Things don’t always work out for the best.

Boy, was I wrong this time.  The technician who had originally secured the site on the Channel 4 tower, was offered a job at Rio Radio in McAllen.  He accepted the position and was directed to help evaluate a new tower in La Feria that Rio Radio had just completed.  The new Rio Radio tower was 1,000 feet tall with three mounting rings, sometimes called donuts due to their appearance, at 840 feet, 920 feet and 1,000 feet.  Heliax had already been installed on the tower and community antennas for UHF and VHF were being mounted.
The tower was designed to have several VHF/UHF receive antennas at 1,000 feet and several UHF/VHF transmit antennas at 920 feet and 840 feet.  The receive antennas were feed with 1 5/8th heliax and terminated at the bottom with amplified multiport receive splitters.  The transmit antennas were also feed with 1 5/8th heliax and were terminated with multiport combiners.  A repeater receiver could be connected to one of the VHF or UHF ports on an amplified receive splitter and the repeater transmitter could be connected to one of the ports of a circulator/combiner thus eliminating the need for a duplexer.
Receive multiport splitters are devices that are usually amplified to boost the receive signal due to the inherent losses in splitting incoming signals and can have anywhere from two to eight ports.  Transmitter circulators/combiners can have multiple ports as well.
The owner of Rio Radio and the new tower was Fritz Bergh.  Although Mr. Bergh was not an amateur radio operator, he was impressed by the good things that amateur radio operators did for the community.  With a little nudge from the new technician, STARS was offered a position on the new tower.  The receive antenna was at 1,000 feet and the transmit antenna was at 840 feet.  No duplexer!  How lucky could we be?
The interesting part is that the 147.390 STARS repeater was the first repeater on the tower and served as a test bed to determine VHF range on receive and transmit.  Commercial VHF systems were common in the early 1980’s and Rio Radio was determined to capture the market.  In a way, STARS served a valuable role in Rio Radio’s quest for the desired VHF commercial systems.
So how did the new system perform?  Incredibly is the only word that applies.  Stations using an HT inside automobiles in Brownsville could work the repeater with a full quieting signal.  Not bad range on receive.  Mobiles traveling north on Expressway 77 could receive and transmit through the repeater all the way to the Border Patrol Check Point.  An even better result.
The Rio Grande Valley had its first true valley-wide repeater; the Voice of the Rio Grande Valley 147.390!  It was because of the new repeater range that it was decided to request a special STARS call sign.   W5RGV was requested and was issued by the FCC; an appropriate call sign for a repeater that provided Rio Grande Valley-wide coverage.
At this same time, it was realized that a logo for the organization was needed.  Several ideas and designs were considered, but in the end the STARS logo based on the State of Texas seal was selected.  Several calls were made to the Texas Secretary of State to confirm the legal use of the design and after a final approval was received, the STARS logo became the symbol for STARS.
During the 1980’s, Mexican amateur radio operators were building repeaters and locating many of them along the international border.  It was common to hear Mexican hams talking on the STARS repeaters especially since the 147.390 had such wide coverage.  In addition, due to restrictive import duties in Mexico at the time, Mexican amateur radio operators traveled to the US to purchase equipment.
Due to this demand, Valley Radio Center in Harlingen started carrying amateur radio equipment and accessories and quickly became a destination for many Mexican hams.  It was because of this commerce, the presence of Mexican amateur radio operators operating on the STARS repeaters and being physically in the Rio Grande Valley combined with the  demand among US amateur radio operators for a local event that the idea of a hosting a hamfest was formed.

Look for the next segment coming soon!

The STARS Story continues in Part III — A busy decade ahead.

One thought on “Part II — Unexpected Luck and New Directions

  1. KI5IZR says:

    How exciting & very interesting! 😀

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