Centennial Celebration

During 2016, the Radio Club of Tacoma celebrated the 100th anniversary of our founding!

Close your eyes and imagine. In the early days of radio, transmitting and receiving messages was pretty rough. What was it like trying to copy a message sent out into the ether by a spark gap transmitter? And who were those young experimenters from Stadium and Wilson high schools, in suits and ties, who first joined together in 1916 to form an amateur radio club in Tacoma?

The original RCT Officers

From left to right, these first Radio Club of Tacoma officers are Alvin Stenso 7LB (Treasurer), Edwin Moe 7AG (Secretary), Howard Reichart 7HR (President), and Dwight Mason 7DL (Vice President).

The Club was formally begun with around 30 members that were drawn together by their curiosity and the mentoring influence of Father Sebastian Ruth 7YS of St. Martins College near Olympia, WA.

Father Sebastian Ruth KGY

Father Ruth is an example of overlap between amateur and professional radio at the time:  he also established broadcast station KGY at Lacey, WA.  RCT officers Howard Reichart and Al Stenso shortly followed into commercial radio, and Stenso established station KGB at the Tacoma Ledger newspaper office in the early 20's.

Notably, the original RCT membership also included the first YL operator in the Pacific Northwest, Winifred Dow 7FG (later 7CB).

Winifred Dow's station 1917

An article about Miss Dow, One of the Young Lady Operators, appeared in the April 1917 issue of QST magazine.  At that time, she was 14 years old and in the eight grade.  She is also mentioned in the Who's Who in Amateur Wireless column of the April 1922 issue of QST.  She was both an ARRL official and secretary of RCT that year.

In 1927, the Federal Radio Commission granted callsign W7DK to RCT.  The Club purchased a property for $100 at 1462 Oakes St. in Tacoma, and Club members constructed a building to house the Club's radio station.

Oakes ST Clubhouse

W7DK station

Later, during the Depression (1939), the Club was forced to sell this property.  However, the building still stands and is used as a residence.  In 1957, RCT purchased the property it now occupies, at 1249 S. Washington St.

The Club has a large archive of photos.  You can view a selection of them, spanning our 100 years, here.

Having begun in the waning days of spark gap and just as the vacuum tube was being developed into a practical device, the Radio Club of Tacoma has participated in the entire history of radio.  Now blink your eyes and take in the present day world of large scale integration, surface mount components, software defined radios, repeaters linked together worldwide by the internet, digital signal processing, working DX from a mountain top with a tiny QRP radio... Whatever the next 100 years brings, RCT will be there to see it.