The Fox River Radio League celebrates 100 years!

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The Fox River Radio League (FRRL) is an avid group of over 150 amateur radio enthusiasts. Established in 1924 as a club offering a wide variety of activities and services to the amateur community, the FRRL serves the greater Fox River Valley amateurs in northeastern Illinois. 

Bouncing radio signals off the moon, communicating with astronauts aboard the International Space Station, and using amateur radio satellites are some of the more advanced uses of radio technology. Sending and receiving photos, videos, and digital messages are now common among the FRRL members.

The History of radio and the Fox River Radio League

Currently, in 2024, there are more than 778,000 amateur radio operators in the United States licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. Conversely, in 1924, only 1 percent of U.S. households owned a broadcast radio receiver. Chicago’s first commercial radio stations had just begun operations. 

In the early 1920s, a group of young high school students, mostly from the Aurora area, began the technological journey of wireless experimentation at a very exciting time in history. Those interested in the new technology learned the fundamentals of radio in local high schools. West Aurora High School Science Teacher, Mr. Sylvester Miller, promoted the popular after-school “Wireless Club” starting in 1920.

Early pioneering efforts to communicate using wireless had begun before WWI,  however after the war, and after the US Government lifted the restrictions associated with amateur broadcasting, the desire to build receivers and transmitters excited the young students. Simple crystal radio sets could be assembled using a Galena Crystal and Cat’s Whisker as a detector, a length of coiled wire, headphones, and a simple wire antenna stretched out a bedroom window to a tree in the backyard.

Amateur radio operations, emergency communications, and public service

In times of emergencies, amateur radio provides the “last-mile” link to get assistance. As active weather approaches the area, hams form a “Skywarn” communications network relaying current conditions to the National Weather Service. Many FRRL members participate by responding to NWS Spotter Activations.

Public Service amateur radio communications have also supported many public events through the years. Most notably the Mid-American Canoe Race, Wayne and St. James Farm National Horse Trails, MS Walk, Tour-de-Cure, Walter Payton Run several others where event organizers need on-scene communications to effectively and safely operate the events. 

FRRL is open to anyone interested in radio

Membership comprises youth in their pre-teen years to those more experienced hams enjoying their retirement years. Members have become airplane pilots, communications engineers, school teachers, medical professionals, financial executives, research scientists, law enforcement and fire protection professionals, transportation engineers, builders, musicians, broadcasters, and those who have yet to enter employment meet each month to share in their common interest, amateur radio.

Interested in becoming a ham? All are welcome to attend free license classes. After the classes have been completed, a special group of members will provide you with a license test which they will then submit on your behalf to obtain an FCC amateur radio license.