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Written by Jerry Durgan, Staff Reporter   

Kilgus family hosts Ham radio club Christmas dinner

The Edisto Amateur Radio Service has been in existence for longer than many members can remember, and the Kilgus family has been hosting the E.A.R.S. Christmas dinner for almost as long as the club’s existence.

It’s always been an annual “drop-in, Merry Christmas, let’s have dinner” sort of affair that members and members’ families have looked forward to, “especially for Betty’s fabulous cooking” grinned one elderly club member who’s been a member, and a Christmas dinner visitor for nearly three decades.

Conversations over Christmas ham and pecan pie, iced tea and coffee run the gamut from the latest in amateur radio equipment and antennas, to gun collecting, politics, to “remember when” stories of long-past field days when hams get together for a contest between ham radio operators throughout the world.

Except for a few that attend each month’s E.A.R.S. club meetings held in Orangeburg, or the occasional radio call, the Kilgus Christmas dinner is the only time that many of the ham operators get to see and talk to one another face-to- face. It’s almost like a once-a year family reunion.

Amateur radio operators and enthusiasts have a long and vital importance. Though its origins can be traced to at least the late 1800s, amateur radio, as practiced today, began in the 1920s. As with radio in general, the birth of amateur radio was strongly associated with various amateur experimenters and hobbyists. Throughout its history, amateur radio enthusiasts have made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur radio operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency.

As a part of Bamberg County’s emergency services, county hams work closely with Bamberg County Emergency Services personnel in times of emergencies, and train with them in conducting emergency procedures. Amateur radios, working on the “two-meter” band, are scattered throughout the county, able to communicate with each other and with ham radio station emergency services both in the county and with the National Weather Service in Columbia.

When power is out, cell phone and “land-line telephones” are inoperable, the amateur radio operator can still communicate with battery-operated devices or generator-powered radio equipment. Essential in an emergency situation.

“I’d like to see more young people get into ham radio,” said long-time operator Carl Kilgus. “Cell phones have put a real kink into amateur radio because of their now widespread and ease of use. But ham radio is more than just communicating, like with cell phones, it’s an intriguing ability to cross the air waves with your own ingenuity and skill.” Most ham operators in the county are in their fifties or beyond (some far beyond), the youngest in his early twenties.

For many years, in order to become a licensed amateur operator, one had to learn Morse code, the “da-dit-da” telegraphic language of the hard-core amateur operator. But it’s no longer required. Today’s beginners in amateur radio can be a licensed ham (an FCC license to communicate on amateur radio frequencies) by taking a basic examination on electric and electronic fundamentals, radio communications protocol, and law pertaining to radio communications.

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