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Thad Drinkard is a member of the Eva Amateur Radio Club. The club is having its third annual field day June 23-24 at Shorty Ryan Park on Eva Road.
AP photo by Emily Saunders
Thad Drinkard is a member of the Eva Amateur Radio Club. The club is having its third annual field day June 23-24 at Shorty Ryan Park on Eva Road.

Ham operator hopes to contact royalty
Radio event an opportunity for Eva man to speak to a king

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com · 340-2438

EVA — Thad Drinkard, who lives near here atop Wilson Mountain on Gum Springs Road, has contacted fellow ham radio operators in about 75 countries during the past three decades.

But he has never spoken to royalty. He hopes for that chance here Saturday and Sunday during the Eva Amateur Radio Club’s third annual field day at Shorty Ryan Park on Eva Road.

Drinkard said the Amateur Radio Relay League is sponsoring “His Majesty King of Spain Contest” in that country and King Juan Carlos I “will be on about every (High Frequency) band. Who knows? We might get a chance to swap call letters.”

Competitive environment

Eva’s field day, which will run 24 hours beginning at noon Saturday, is part of an international event that tests ham operators’ abilities to set up and respond quickly and effectively in providing communication services in the event of disaster or other emergency conditions.

Members will be operating their radios near the playground pavilion. Assistant Morgan County Coroner Mac Beard is providing a tent.

“We take turns operating, putting all entries in our log book, cooking and even taking naps,” Drinkard said. “It’s work but there’s a little socializing, and that’s fun. We’re competing against all other clubs in the United States as to the number of contacts using only auxiliary equipment consisting of generators, batteries and solar power.”

The club also gets points for “celebrity visitors.” Pamela Blanton, who is a member with her husband, Tom, said the club invites all Eva, Morgan County and state legislative officials to join them.

“We do this for the community, and we need people to participate, get on the air and become involved,” said Tom Blanton. “We’ll have all the equipment. All they have to do is to show up.”

Pamela Blanton said about 15 members took part last year and that about 50 people visited.

Drinkard, 69, who also works as a team with his wife, Phyllis, said it will be a few months before clubs know who won the competition.

He won’t mind the wait. As a ham operator, he has learned to be patient. He first turned a radio dial in 1956 in Sioux City, Iowa, while serving in the Air Force. A year later, a transfer to Guam interrupted his fledgling ham radio career.

“You have a year to upgrade or renew your license,” he said. “Because all the radio frequencies on the island were used for commercial purposes, my license expired.”

Finally, in 1975, he became a ham again and officials awarded him his call letters, WB4VHF, which he wears proudly on his cap.

He spoke recently to someone on the island of Crete and to brothers of the band in Germany and England.

“I’ve made contact with Russia,” he said. “Most of the people speak some English, but if not, we exchange call signs and note the time for the log.”

Drinkard may be a patient man, but he says he can’t wait for the weekend, when he hopes to say, “Hola!” to a king.

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