As this discussion was taking place, in 1979 Mr. Moore passed away. The 147.27 repeater club was about to go in a new direction. Several things took place. In 1980 WFRN Radio 104.7 FM erected a new 498 foot tower to increase their coverage. This more than doubled the height of WFRN which was then at the top of WCMR's AM tower 1 at 210 feet. WFRN is owned by one of Mr. Moore's sons, Edwin. Edwin knew of his fathers wish to allow the Crown ham club repeater a free access high up on a new tower if and when the radio station ever erected one. Ironically it was Mr. Moore's death and insurance money that allowed WFRN to receive their wish.
Also at that time a new group of shakers started getting financially involved. They got to be known as the Big Four, plus Randy. They were Jim Kehr (N9DUZ), Bob Pinkerton (WD9JMA), Don Edwards (KC9DR), and John Johnson (N9DVA) and joining later, Randy Wilson (KB9OY). These guys saw the potential for a good wide coverage repeater and with Mr. Moore financial support gone, these guys chimed in and put up most of the seed money for the new repeater. Each bought a 5 year membership in the new Crown Radio Club and supplied other moneys along the way to make it happen.
The last ingredient that entered into the mix was at this time the FCC added spectrum to the bottom of the 2 meter band, called the sub-band. This new section of spectrum seemed to be the answer to our new frequency prayers as no one wanted to go to the 15 khz inverted channel option.
So with all this happening concurrently it was decided by the new Crown Radio club members to buy new equipment, put it up on the new WFRN tower, and pick a new premium channel in the sub-band to operate on. And that is exactly what happened. At Midnight on New Years Eve 1980 the new 145.43 repeater began operation. A Spectrum repeater was purchased along with a 150 watt solid state amp to drive new Phelps-Dodge cavities and at that point, 1 inch 75 ohm cable TV hard line (because the price was right) and a new Super Station Master antenna mounted at the 360 foot level on the west side of the new WFRN tower. Coverage was excellent and everyone rejoiced. Auto patch was added months later along with battery back up. Then a year later two changes were made to the system. The 75 ohm hard line (now contaminated with water) was replaced with true 7/8 inch 50 ohm hard line and the antenna was moved around the tower (by the fearless Dave Mengus) to it's current location on the north-east corner to give better coverage to Elkhart county at the expense of St Joseph county, which already had more than it's share of good coverage repeaters. The 5.43 repeater was known for two things, outside of it's exceptional coverage, the distinctive tweety bird reset beep, and the little man automatic time announcer. You need to ask Phil Bowers his little man story sometime.
With-in the next year the Red Cross club membership joined in with the new Crown club, which officially incorporated (for the sake of insurance and liabilities) into the Elkhart County Radio Association, better know as ECRA. Ted Smith was less interested in running the old 146.64 equipment and so the memberships of both clubs decided to shut down the old 146.64 site and ECRA would take over operation on that frequency. Shortly there after, about 1982, a 110 foot tower was erected behind Crown International and the old VHF Engineering repeater was put back into service on 146.64, with an auto-patch. This repeater carried the distinction of having over twenty eight, 555 timers in use in it's auxiliary circuitry. That system stayed in operation for another 10 years, until the time came for Crown to expand and build a new building where the tower stood. Verne Daily (call sign?) from CTS asked to take over the pair, which kept it in Elkhart.
Starting from it's beginnings Tom Szerencse was the trustee of 145.43. He maintained it and 146.64 from 1980 though 1989. Then Dave Mengus took it over for 1989 through 1991. Then Tom took over again from 1991 through 1993. In 1993 Dave Evans took over and has it to this day.
In the mid 1980's there was another 2 meter repeater in Elkhart. Tom Szerencse ran a low profile repeater from his home on 146.91, know as the Dunlap Area Radio Team' or DART. This repeater was erected to rebuff the claims of the 147.47 repeater trustee (WD8DSI, later KD8S) who claimed a 10 watt ERP signal mounted 10 foot off the ground at WHFB in Benton Harbor Michigan could cover South Bend. DART could hardly be worked in Twin Branch!
The DART group later began operation of a 220 Mhz repeater in Elkhart county which in December 1989 was sold to ECRA, giving the club repeaters on 2 meters and 220 mhz.
February 28,1989 there are 76 members
November 28, 1989 a $100 donation was sent to Crime Stoppers after a program was presented to the membership. in the ECRA
December 5, 1989, the group voted 22-15 in favor of buying the 224.90 "DART" repeater.
A committee called ECRA Technical group was formed to solve problems such as accidental key downs, intermod problems and packet problems on the repeater on February 20, 1990. The first members were Dan N9DOP, Ken KE9NR, Don KB8ZU and Dennis KA9VTL. The committee was headed by Tom WB9VTZ. At this same meeting a motion was made and accepted to form a steering committee to take the club into the future
On April 17,1990 there were 84 ECRA members. The ECRA took over the running of the NetVRom located at Heritage Cable in Dunlap. This was said to be a good public service for ECRA to provide.
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