[Written by Charlie Durst, then WA4WTX, for the February 1991 Link, John Fish, N4SHX (sk) editor]
Twenty years ago this month the Durham FM Association was formed as a local FM club with a project of building a 440 repeater and autopatch. This group met monthly and by April had thirteen members. The thirteen original members were:
Charlie Durst, WA4WTX [NC4CD]
Sid Edwards, W4QWM
Joe Edwards, W4EL [sk]
Mick Rankin, W4ZUS [sk]
Herman Cone, WD4DBB [N4CH, Goode, VA]
Jack Martin, K4DWQ [sk]
John Kerr, WA4CAK [W4CDR]
Bill Sims, K4RUQ [W4AK]
Don Elliott, W4TMP
Dock McKenzie, K4CHS [Columbia, MO]
Phil Talbert, WB4JFE [Sonora, CA]
Hugh Fisher, WB4NIF [?]
Jim Godwin ?
Of those thirteen, Charlie, Sid, Mick, Herman, Jack, John, Bill, and Don are still in the area. Doc is in Columbia Missouri, Phil is in Miami; and the whereabouts of Hugh and Jim is unknown. Joe Edwards passed away several years ago.
Many changes have occurred over the twenty years. One immediately noticed was the price of the mailing the club newsletter. The first DFMA newsletters were mailed for only eight cents!
After three years the DFMA had grown to 50 members. The club had purchased the 22-82 Hillsborough repeater from Charlie Blair, K4RSH, who moved to Kings Mtn. when he finished dental school at UNC. His 22-82 machine was known as WB4QFZ and our 440 machine as WB4QFT. Later our repeater became WR4AGC. Herman built Pocket Mates and Allie Bell built synthesizers.
In 1977, due to increased interference with the Roaring Gap and Wilmington on 22-82, the DFMA decided to change the Hillsborough repeater to 147.825-147.225. It was a bold move to a 15 kHz. split frequency when very few others had done so but it has worked out well for us. 225 has remained a relatively clear channel with wide area coverage.
In 1974 WB4DBB built a repeater for 220 MHz. In 9974 he moved it to Hillsborough from its original Durham site. The current equipment was built in 76 and 77 and has worked great since then. Coverage was comparable with 225. By 1978, membership had reached 100. The club had repeaters on 147, 220, and 444 MHz.
In 1984, I-40 came through Hillsborough on the way to I-85. The Hillsborough repeater, tower, and building had to be moved over a few hundred feet to make way for the access road. The tower grew from 140 to 178 feet in the process.
Also in 1984 the DFMA incorporated its first RC-850 repeater controller on the 225 machine. In 1987 an RC-850 was incorporated in the 444.1 machine and an RC-85 was used in a new machine on 144.85-145.45. These two machines were installed on the roof of the VA Hospital in Durham.
In 1988, it appeared that we might lose the Hillsborough repeater site. After much negotiation, we were able to retain the site. In 1989 a digital voice recorder was added to 225. The new ID’s sounded great and the voice mailbox was a great convenience. Late in 1989 we added linking to a Greensboro repeater with multi-band remote bases.
Further improvements are being made to our repeaters. The 224 repeater is being rebuilt to incorporate a solid state 110 watt transmitter, multiple receiver sites voting and multi-band remote bases. The 45 machine will also get the 110 watt transmitter and receiver voting.
The DFMA has grown to over 140 members. Its equipment is state-of-the-art. Our repeaters have the reputation of being ”the friendly repeaters”, and it cost 29 cents to mail the newsletter! [now 44 cents].
[transcription and editorial additions: KU4GC, 11/2011]