Gene Mitchell was first licensed in 1958. His interest in radio started from a cub scout manual, building a crystal set and then a short wave radio. It was a classmate in 8 th grade, W3DNS John Ferebee, that showed him ham radio that triggered the want of a license. A member of the Frankford Radio Club, W3IXN, gave him his Novice test. He built his first 80/40 meter cw transmitter from one of the ARRL manuals. He even had a 2 meter transceiver made by Springfield, early on. After a year, he obtained his General and it was on to HF. His favorite band was 10 meters, around 29.15.He also enjoyed 20 SSB. He is a life member of the ARRL, AMSAT, and PARA. He is also a member of the Roosters #601 on 3990.
In 1957, Gene had taken a trip “Around the World” with his parents, missing the first 8 weeks of 9th grade school. He did assignments while on travel and made it though the year at Bala Cynwyd Jr High. The following year at Lower Merion Sr High, Gene found school tough. His parents attributed his lower than usual grades to his Ham Radio activities. They decided to send him off to private prep school to get him away from Ham Radio. He spent the next 3 years at St Peters School in Peekskill, New York. It didn’t take Gene long to meet local hams there on the school day out, Monday afternoons. He first found WA2FTO, a local vet across the street from the school. He began hamming on Monday afternoons. He soon found a local group of high school hams including WA2AKK. After a promise to learn pi to 75 places as a requirement of joining their little group, they built a 75 meter transmitter in a coffee can and gave it to Gene. It really worked. Gene was now on the air right from the school. Gene, by the way, made the honor roll numerous times while at St Peters, even with his ham radio.
It was in 1962 that he earned his 2nd class radiotelephone license, before graduating from high school. He thought at that point that he might go into broadcasting or commercial 2 way radio. Many of the other hams in the local area, the Main Line Phila, also were getting commercial licenses and Gene wasn’t going to be left out.
He spent 11 summers in New Hampshire at a private boy’s camp, Camp DeWitt, taking short wave and then ham radio with him. He always wanted to go to an “overnight camp”. He formed a radio club, setting up his ham station, and was responsible for licensing at least 6 others, including the director of the camp K1IQO Fred Allen and his son, Ted. He also used a portable to communicate from Mt Major back to the camp clear across Lake Winnespaukee on one occasion. Gene kept in touch with many of his suburban Phila ham friends over 75, 40, and 20 meters from camp. Gene was part of a group that carried a sailboat up Mt Washington and sailed it on the “Lake of the Clouds”. He has hiked to the top of Mt Washington, by the way, about 4 times. He has also climbed 20-25 other mountains in New Hampshire.
Gene graduated from Valparaiso Technical Institute in Indiana in 1965. He has an Associate Degree in Electronic Engineering. While in Indiana, where the Chicago area was the birthplace of 2 meter FM, he became active on both 6 and 2 meter FM. He also built an auto-patch operating between 146.94 and 52.525 MHZ with Motorola 30D stacked units. The autopatch used dual pulsing tones to dial, since touchtone receivers were not available. One of his favorite activities, while there, was fox hunting on 146.52, which took place every Friday night. Everyone had built their own homebuilt DF loops. Gene used the school ham station on HF to keep in touch with his many ham friends at home. He remembers talking to Freddie, W3PHL many times from W9SAL. The school station was very active on 2 meter FM. While there, in his second year, he also became a part-time Deputy Sheriff for Porter County, starting as a radio dispatcher and later attending the police school. He also found time for roller skating, which became hi regular Friday night activity.. He was also chief transmitter engineer for WVTI, the school radio station as well as a DJ..
One of the first (of 3 known) 2 meter repeaters in the Phila area, not including Gene’s 6 to 2 meter repeater, and the birth of the PARA system, was a split system between his parents house in Merion and K3JPB in Newtown Square in 1966. The receiver was in Newtown Square and the transmitter was at Gene’s. It was an ARRL Convention and Expo in North Jersey that the first duplexer was found. Gene was responsible for obtaining a 94 site for an early repeater of PARA’s at the Berwyn Roller Rink.
After graduation from VTI, Gene went on to work for A T & T Long Lines for 6 years. He worked in the 4A long distance switching, the 5 crossbar switching for Auto-Von, the Auto-Von test board, and the microwave radio room. He did obtain a rack cabinet and many touch tone receivers for donation to PARA and other clubs in the area. He also went on to improve his auto-patch by switching to 449 mhz when he moved to Devon, one of the highest locations on the Main Line. It was a clash between his 449 mhz auto-patch and his job with the Bell System that changed his career for awhile. Remember that this auto-patch was demonstrated to the hams at the GE King of Prussia meeting in 1969. Ma Bell did not like anything connected to her phone lines. In Sept 1971, Ma Bell, not understanding Gene’s auto-patch, labeled Gene’s Motorola 450HT, with a touchtone dial attached to the back of it , as a “blue box” and all hell broke loose. It took till 1980 before a settlement was reached.
Gene was involved with Lower Merion Civil Defense and became RACES Radio Officer in 1967. The township had purchased about a dozen Motorola pack sets and handie talkies that Gene made operational on 2 meter FM. He is also presently a member of the Chester County ARES RACES group.
Gene was the first frequency coordinator for the area starting about 1966. His information was fed to a database maintained by W2GHR, Gordon Pugh, also a Bell employee and engineer in New York.
In June of 1972, he started building a roller skating rink in Kimberton, which he designed himself. It opened Nov 29th. His rink was very electronic and computerized. By spring of his first year, he set up a commercial repeater at his house in Devon with an auto-patch. In 1977, he purchased two Apple II computers. One was used for payroll and accounting while the second was used for controlling the heat, lights, air conditioners, and fans. Gene also connected to the “Source”, the for-runner of AOL and CompuServe. He also had his ham station at the rink. He even hosted PARA board meetings there.
He married Maria in 1973 and they had a boy and girl, now both grown up. Mike is N3QLZ, also a PARA member. Mike likes APRS and his portable Kenwood D7. Mike works for US Interactive in Gulph Mills, either doing web pages or maintaining their web page servers on the Internet all day. Anne works on a farm.
Gene built a house in 1977 on top of Bacton Hill, 700 feet elevation. It included a 70 foot Tri-ex tower. The tower collapsed within itself September 1998 from cable failure that raises it. PARA had a 16 input on this at the time.
Gene has been in Rotary Club since 1975. He was in the Phoenixville Club till 1993 when he switched to the Exton Frazer Rotary Club. He has served on both Boards and was President of the Exton Frazer Rotary in 1996-97. He believes strongly in participating in community service
Gene is also responsible for starting the web page not only for the Exton Frazer Rotary Club, but for the Rotary District 7450 web site as well in 1996. He is now part of the District Technical committee.
He also teaches for Adult Night School for Chester County, which he has been doing for 8 years. His courses include “Building Your Own Computer” and “Backing Up Your Computer”. He has also demonstrated computer technology to groups including the Exton PC Council, based at the Exton Chester County Library. It was at one of these demonstrations that the Adult School program of the Main Line found him. After a year with the Main Line Adult program, The Adult Night for Chester County enticed him over there. .
In 1987, after 15 years, he sold his rink because of the insurance situation (crunch). In 1988, he opened his present business in Frazer, building, repairing, and upgrading computers. His little store on Rt 30 is a one man operation. As always, he is right on top of the technology. Gene feels there should be a closer tie with the hams, since most are into their computers. He wants to share computer technology by radio and promote monitoring the repeaters again in the evenings. Gene enjoys surfing on the Internet & APRS with his Toshiba Libretto portable Pentium, satellite TV, and Canoeing in the summer. You can find Gene on 146.94 or 76 most of the time.