We’re fortunate to have a copy of an article created by Walter Maxwell, W2DU, who was instrumental in setting up the amateur radio stations at the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office in New York and then in North Brunswick, NJ. This article covers the move to Dallas in 1979 and continues up to 2000. You can see the original article as posted on the ARRL website here.
We also have a photo from the original station K2BFW in operation during Jamboree on the Air in 1970. This photo is taken of the operating position within the Johnston Historical Museum at the National Scout Headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ.
We’ve also found the original 1971 club constitution. BSA National HQ Radio Club Constitution 1971
The Evolution of Boy Scout Headquarters Station K2BSA
By Walter Maxwell, W2DU
It’s very likely that you’ve either heard, or heard of K2BSA, the club station at the National Headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America, located in Dallas, Texas. Then it’s also likely that you’d be interested in learning a little background on how the station originated.
It is well known that in 1910, Britisher Lord Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scout movement in England. The movement soon caught on in the US, with its original Headquarters located at 2 Park Avenue, New York City until the early 1960’s [editor note, the move to North Brunswick happend in 1954]. After WW2, three top executives at Boy Scout Headquarters were radio amateurs who desperately wanted to have a Boy Scout Headquarters’ club station, but there was no room in the crowded office complex for such a frill. These amateurs were Lloyd Eberhart, K2CVT, then publisher of all Boy Scout publications, the late Harry Harchar, W2GND, editor of all Boy Scout publications, including Boys’ Life, and E.E. ‘Hoisy’ Hoisington, K2GDR (now W4YTA), Chairman of the Safety and Health Department.
Around 1960 [the move was actually in 1954] these amateurs came upon some exciting news. Due to increasingly cramped office space, a move from New York was essential. To make the move possible, Headquarters had just acquired some pristine wooded acreage in North Brunswick, NJ, at the intersection of US 1 and US 130, just south of New Brunswick.
Our three amateurs descended onto the property with glee, because in addition to a long nature trail and large office complex building housing the Headquarters’ business operations, a large, magnificent museum was built to display Boy Scouting memorabilia from all over the World. Their immediate thought was, “What a neat place to operate and display ham radio!” The main display room was about the size of a standard basketball court. At one end of the room an attractive console was constructed of clear maple for the long desired amateur station.
Various manufacturers of amateur gear generously donated equipment to the station. Hallicrafters were the first, donating an SX-111 receiver, an HT-37 transmitter, and an HT-33 RF power amplifier. The late Al Khan, K4FW, (then with Electro-Voice, and later owner of Ten-Tec) donated an EV-664 microphone, and Telrex donated a tower and its then top-of-the-line three-band beam and rotator. Later on, Hammarlund donated its latest transceiver, and then still later, Heathkit donated an SB-101 transceiver and an SB-200 RF power amplifier.
It was my good fortune to live in Dayton (NJ), only eight miles south of the new Headquarters on US 130 (800 miles east of Hamvention Dayton). By sheer coincidence Hoisy, K2GDR, moved in just down the street from me, and naturally, both being hams, we became good friends. What was even more fortunate for me was that he invited me to join with him, Lloyd, and Harry to assemble the station. Guess what? Among other tasks, they gave me the responsibility for the antennas! What a joy that task was. We four then formed the ‘Boys Life Radio Club’ and the original call assigned to the new station was K2BFW, which will be featured in an interesting story later on.
The station operation was very successful. Not only did we four enjoy operating the station, but all scouts and scouters visiting the Scouting museum, who were also licensed amateurs (and other visitors who were licensed), were given the opportunity to operate the station in the same manner as those who visit W1AW at the ARRL Headquarters.
But as luck(?) would have it, the K2BFW operations seemed to go awry during the week-ends of JOTA, the annual October World-Wide Jamboree-on-the Air. This was the time when we expected to have an exciting bit of operation with the new station, when Boy and Girl Scouts visit nearby amateur stations to talk with other Boy and Girl Scouts over amateur radio. And every year, we at Headquarters had licensed scouts and scouters lined up for twenty-four hour operation of K2BFW throughout the entire JOTA weekends.
But alas, a distressing problem arose during JOTA—every year. A scoutmaster, a licensed amateur in Pennsylvania right across the Delaware River from us, obtained a special event call sign for the JOTAs—K3BSA! Wow, the pile ups he drew! Everybody thought he was the Headquarters station. Ol’ K2BFW was left in his dust, and when we announced during every contact that we were the Headquarters station, many of our contacts disbelieved us, and told us to get off Headquarter’s frequency. However, we still made many successful contacts, including lots of DX. We were always able to work HB9S, World Scouting Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, where some of our own Scouting executives had the opportunity to talk with their counterparts in Geneva.
After several years of the distressing problem emanating from K3BSA I decided we needed more recognition and visibility than we could possibly get with the call sign K2BFW. So I decided to get a new call sign that would give us the clout we needed. On checking the Call Book it was obvious that both W2BSA and K2BSA were in use. It was also obvious that W2BS wasn’t in use—but better than nothing, still stands for Boy Scouts.
As a former monitoring officer with the Radio Intelligence Division of the FCC, I was personally acquainted with Rosel H. Hyde, then Chairman of the FCC. I told him of the situation and asked his advice on how to proceed in obtaining a permanent assignment of the call sign W2BS to the Boy Scout Headquarters station. He suggested that I present the situation in the form of a draft petition that he would take to the Chief of the Safety and Special Services Bureau for his comments. (At that time, the Amateur Division fell under this Bureau’s jurisdiction.) Chairman Hyde was in complete agreement with our request. However, Bureau Chief James Barr rejected the petition, saying there were no administrative rules allowing a special call sign to be assigned permanently in cases such as ours. In addition, he stated that old timers who already had two-letter calls would object to a Boy Scout station having a two-letter call. This last comment in his response seemed to me to be a lame excuse.
After learning of this response Chairman Hyde suggested that I revise the petition to include some means for overcoming Bureau Chief Barr’s objections. He also advised me to submit the revised petition directly to the seven FCC Commissioners.
I then started some research; on poring over old Call Books from between 1921 and 1928, to my surprise I found more than 50 two-letter calls assigned to Boy Scout troops all over the Country during that early era. (I also discovered the early FRC policy of assigning two-letter call signs to universities and colleges, all with suffixes beginning with ‘y’.)
The revised petition included a report on my findings concerning the two-letter calls assigned to Boy Scout troops in those early days. By this time Chairman Hyde’s tenure had expired, and was replaced by Chairman Dean Burch. However, Chairman Hyde remained as my advisor, and heartily approved of the revised petition.
As Chairman Hyde had advised earlier, this time I submitted the new petition directly to the FCC Commissioners on April 16, 1968. One of the arguments in the new petition for a permanent assignment of a call sign for the Headquarters’ station I thought would help our position was that in addition of its use at Headquarters, the call could also be used by other scouting groups for their activities in all parts of the Country, simply by obtaining permission from the current trustee of W2BS, and applying the appropriate /n for the District in which the operation occurs. This aspect of the permanent call sign would then relieve the FCC staff from the paper work required to process special-event call signs for other official Scouting activities, such as Jamborees. (I later took some lumps from the FCC staff on this issue, because some Jamboree leaders later ignored that aspect of the petition and requested special call sign WJ7WSC for World Scouting C…
However, after the usual long wait for bureaucratic action, on May 25, 1971, I received a letter directly from the Chairman of the FCC himself, Dean Burch, saying that after careful study and consideration of my petition, the Commission found that they believed the call sign K2BSA would give Boy Scout Headquarters the recognition and prestige required to let the amateur community know who we were every time we went on the air. Petition request granted!
It seems that during the time I was doing the research, the call sign K2BSA had become inactive, and was therefore available. K2BSA was thus assigned to the club station of the Boy Scouts of America Headquarters! As word got around concerning the new call sign, our local scouts and scouters started increasing our visibility by putting in more time on the air, and the positive responses we received proved that our recognition as Scouting National Headquarters was also increasing dramatically.
During the first years of operation with the original call sign K2BFW, Harry Harchar was trustee of the station, but from the time of the new call sign until Headquarters moved to Dallas, I was the trustee, and also the National JOTA coordinator. As JOTA coordinator I was principally a PR man, publishing the pertinent operating information in the October issues of the various amateur publications, including QST, Ham Radio, CQ, and 73.
However, all did not bode well for the Headquarters’ move from New York to New Jersey. It appears that Scouting organizations in the Western portion of the country felt that the new location should have been more centrally located between East and West to provide a more equalized service to the West. The situation simmered until the 1990’s, when the tough decision was made to move to Dallas. For the operation of K2BSA it was not only a tough call, but a fatal one—but fortunately, only temporarily.
Alas, a firm, unbendable high-level Headquarters decision was made that there would be no amateur radio operation and no antennas erected at the new building in Dallas. PRB-1? Then only in an amateur’s dream. What then should become of the present equipment? It was decided to distribute it among the four of us, Lloyd, Harry, Hoisy and myself. As an affcionado of early equipment, it was my good fortune to inherit the original Hallicrafters SX-111 receiver, the HT-37 transmitter, and the HT-33 power amplifier, which I still have in my collection.
Fortunately, quite some time after the move to Dallas, a Dallas Scouter who was also an ardent amateur, and then the SCM for the North Texas ARRL District, the late Walter ‘Dan’ Dansby, Jr.,W5URI, considered it untenable that K2BSA operation was killed simply by bureaucratic executive order. Dan then started a search for a suitable location to house K2BSA and get it back into operation. He initially found a place to house the station at Camp Shuman on Lake Worth near Azle, Texas, and later moved to its permanent home at Camp Wisdom in Dallas. The station’s trustee is Ray Moyer, WD8JKV, and the station manager is Frank Krizan, KR1ZAN. K2BSA’s equipment consists of two HF operating positions, a VHF/UHF satellite position, VHF/UHF voice and packet position and amateur TV (ATV) operating position. The station is operated during Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) and several other weekends of the year. Maintenance is done by Crew 73 members and Advisors of Richardson, TX.
Beginning in September, 2000, K2BSA has been operating and open certain Saturdays of each month for visiting Scout groups to tour and talk with other Hams and, perhaps, other Scouts around town, around the country and, often, the world. Watch the K2BSA web site for details or call the Circle Ten Council reservations desk 214-902-6764 (beginning in July 2000) to schedule a visit. [This is no longer active, Editor]
Finally, it is comforting to know that through the operation of K2BSA, Amateur Radio is being kept alive within the Boy Scout movement, giving its youth an introduction to our hobby and service, and hopefully instilling a desire in them to become a part of our great Amateur Radio Community.