CAARA is an ARRL affiliated Special
Service Club located at 6 Stanwood St.
in Gloucester Massachusetts.

How the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association got started

By: Robert W. Spanks, Jr. WA1UCG

The concept for the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association was started in the fall of 1974 by then Civil Defense Communications Officer Larry Sargent (W1ZBE-SK). Larry agreed to teach a Novice class in order to add trained volunteers to the C. D. Communications Team. The age of the personnel associated with C. D. Communications at the time was between 48 - 62 years old. The class was held at the West Gloucester Fire Station with 10 students in the class. Additional C. D. staff assisting Larry were Harold Morrow (WA1KCR), John Day (WA1PDB), and Fran Vidal (WA1HCN now WU1S). Observers in the class were Tom Bernie (K0TB) and Bob Spanks, Jr. (WA1UCG).

During the weeks in which the classes were held, the students and licensed hams talked about what would happen after the Novice class was complete. The idea of a club was talked about, as Larry, Harold, John and Fran had mentioned that “a club has been talked about for years but no one had ever taken the lead to organize one.” From that point forward certain people wrote to the ARRL to obtain their package titled, “How to Form a Radio Club” and wrote proposed “By-Laws” to present to the group for their input. The first meeting was held in the basement of the Sawyer Free Library, where the By-Laws were presented and reviewed. Changes were made and a set of By-Laws were approved. The first slate of officers was also picked. President - Tom Bernie, Vice President - Mike Burke, Secretary - Bob Spanks, Jr., Treasurer - Wilfred Burke, Jr. The purpose of the club was also discussed at this meeting. It was agreed that the purpose would be “To train anyone interested in the art of radio communications and to establish a reservoir of trained personnel to assist the City of Gloucester in times of an emergency, via the Civil Defense”.

At this meeting, another topic discussed was where we would meet. It was mentioned that a possibility could be the 2nd floor of the old Riverdale Fire House on Stanwood Street. A committee was organized to negotiate with the Cape Ann Pigeon Flyers who held the lease with the City of Gloucester. The committee met with the Pigeon Flyers in March of 1975 and an agreement was reached with them to occupy the 2nd floor and how the expenses would be shared. The group moved from the West Gloucester station to the new location in April of 1975. When the move occurred, Larry was still teaching but the students had taken their Novice exams and were awaiting the results of the tests from the FCC. Larry was teaching the theory for the Technician/General Class exams.

The reason a clubhouse was important to the group was first, by having a permanent place to meet, many things were possible to accomplish and the primary goal was to continue to train personnel to be ready when needed in an emergency. The group had visions of having a club station, such that any member could operate whenever they wanted, to have test equipment available for the member's use, to develop a repeater system capable of transmitting all over Cape Ann, and again, to be ready to assist any organization which needed communications.


The first Novice class was held in the fall of 1975 and was taught by Tom Bernie (K0TB). Advertising was done in the local newspaper and a seminar was held at the American Legion Hall with a movie about Amateur Radio, and guest speaker John Pineau, Communications Officer of the Reading Civil Defense. Approximately 25 people signed up for the class with 20 exams given. Some students who are club members today are Ed Cobb (WB1CGX), Joe Pallazola (WB1CHJ), Ed Araujo (AK1U), and Joe Perry (WB1CHF). Classes have been taught every year with class sizes ranging from 6 to 30. Instructors have been Tom Bernie, Ed Araujo, Dan Ferriera Sr., Bob Spanks Jr., Nick Guarrasi, Al Hamilton, and Mike Burke. In order to educate people in Amateur Radio the clubhouse was used to have seminars to register people for the classes.


1975 - 1979

Upon occupying the 2nd floor of the clubhouse, work began to make it a clubhouse. First the ceiling was painted, a workbench was installed, a heater was installed, electricity was improved by bringing a line to the 2nd floor and a fusebox was added. The bookcase was wall mounted and a library was started.

1980 - 1994

Additional improvements were made. An operating radio station was added, a 2nd door was added for fire egress, added heating distribution system, updated electrical circuits (including plugs, lights, and a stove), along with replacing any bad Romex cable. Added smoke detectors, emergency lighting, replaced rotted windows, maintained landscaping around the property, and provided snow-plowing in winter to allow for parking of members as well as neighbors who might need off-street parking in the winter months. The stairway from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor walls were repaired, and the stairs and walls were painted.

Joint Maintenance, 1988 - 1989

Re-shingled roof, replaced flashing and chimney, cedar-shingled the building, added gutters and down-spouts, removed unsafe railing 1st floor (outside), added spotlight over 1st floor entrance.

1993 - 1994

Replaced main electrical system, including new line from pole to building, new electric meter, and new distribution panel with breakers. Added concrete pads with posts to protect new gas meter which was also installed.

Ongoing work ...

New replacement windows to replace old rotted ones, paint trim, hot-top driveway.

Bob Spanks, Jr.

Read the History of the Gloucester Repeater.