Birth of the Vagabonds

By Glenn James K4OAO (SK)

The first members that were in the initial group that met on the air with a casual QSO on 146.52 MHz were N4ZTE (John) and N4RUH (Max). Later in the QSO they were joined by K4OAO (Glenn), KD4CFS (Hubert), AB4HU (Bud), and K4KEU (Bob). The day was July 15, 1991.

The group met for several days on 146.52 MHz (simplex). Since this was a national calling frequency, we moved to another frequency. This frequency was 146.565 MHz (simplex).

The group decided that it was time for us to have a name for the group, so it was called the "Retiree's Net." That seemed to be a logical name since all were retirees. We met on that frequency for about a week and found that we would have people to come on and transmit as if it was a private channel, without asking for a break, which was a bit annoying.

We then discovered the repeater in Midway and were invited by one of the repeater owners, John Hamby, WB4UZW, to use the machine anytime that we wished. John Hamby, whom we called "Midway John" because of the large number of "Johns" in the group, informed us that there were 12 other owners of the repeater. Other owners called in on the frequency and joined in with their support of us using the repeater.

At that time we were starting the net at 3:00 pm. The reason that we chose this time was that we didn't want the net to interfere with the working people that were out mobile, going to or from work. If you checked into the net you had scan to see if the net had changed frequencies.

Soon there were other welcomed members to join the group. These members were N4UIY, Clint Davis and KD4CMZ, John Anderson. The group agreed to meet at 3:00 pm each weekday. We all discussed that a new meeting time was needed because on days when we were in an interesting subject, we would run until past 4:00 pm. We found some of the people that used the repeater were getting off work around 3:45 pm and were working mobile and talking to their friends. It was agreed that we would meet at 2:30 pm, and then later moved up another half hour to 2:00 pm. (Nov. 11, 1991).

We had our first Breakfast at the K & W on Healy Drive on Tuesday, August 6, 1991 at 9:00 am. Those in attendance were K4KEU, KD4CFS, N4UIY, N4ZTE and K4OAO. This was a fun group that met that day; we laughed and had a "Show and Tell" time with all of us trying to identify a vacuum tube that John Harter had brought to the breakfast.

It was a fun group, but I remember one of the first building blocks of the present net was made by Clint Davis. He asked that we have someone to keep a history of the net. Glenn James (K4OAO) agreed to be the Historian. Little did I realize then what the future would bring and how important the history of the past would be in the future.

August 28, 1991 Breakfast: those in attendance were W4FMN, KD4CFS, N4ZTE, K4OAO and N4UIY. Clint (N4UIY) suggested that we get a name for the group, and that we should come up with a suitable name that described us, since now more and more people that were not retired were joining the net. Glenn James (K4OAO) suggested the name of the "Vagabonds Rag Chewers Net." This seemed appropriate because of the net moving from frequency to frequency. The World Book Encyclopedia dictionary defines the word "vagabond" as "wandering, moving hither and thither, not subject to control or restraint. Nomad (n) a member of a tribe that moves from place to place; (adj) wandering from place to place." With an on-the-air vote, all agreed with the name of "The Vagabonds Rag Chewers Net". Thus the "Vagabonds" were born.

We were a small net but we had a lot doubling and who to turn it over to. K4OAO agreed to be a net control station, yet keep a free moving net. We found that this gave the new members a time to listen and keep notes to comment on when it came their time to talk. The net found that we were interfering with some of the regular 145.27 MHz repeater members, so we moved to the 146.64 MHz repeater of the Forsyth Amateur Radio Club and then, because it was a local repeater, moved to 145.47 MHz, another Forsyth Amateur Radio Club repeater on Sauratown Mountain.

On Dec. 4, 1991, the "Vagabonds" had a noon luncheon at the Country Kitchen in Midway. Just prior to this meeting, Tommy Lemar (K4JYH), owner of the 147.315 MHz repeater, called Glenn James (K4OAO) and told him to announce that he had made his mind up that the "Vagabonds had a home on the 147.315 MHz repeater and that it would be good for all of us."

Time would prove that Tommy's words were correct. The success of the net was amazing. It was due to a few people doing a lot of work and not being afraid to take on a task, come up with good ideas and give financial help to assure it was top quality. There were so many people that did so much in getting the net off, running and "Heading in the right direction." Those people built the solid groundwork and foundation for a good net, those qualities that make all of us feel so close as brothers and sisters, and the feeling of belonging.

After we all took the "Vagabond Pledge," I hope that we will always remember the words of the net control station when he said, "You will always enjoy the freedom, friendship and understanding of all other Vagabonds."

February, 2006, we moved back to the FARC repeater 145.470 MHz and March 2008 we changed the time of the Net to 3:00 pm going for an hour.

[Ed. note: The time was returned to 2:30 during 2011, as the net had been tending to run on until 4:30 and even almost 5:00. According to both KD4CFS-Hubert (VB #6) and KE4ZFN-Bryce (VB #254) on our 25th anniversary net on 07/15/2016, it was Glenn James, author of the above history, who also authored the Vagabond Pledge, as well as the original net preamble/closing script.]

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