Hammin' it up with HAM radioBy LYDIA
GRIMES - Features writer
Edmund Brewton was the area's first radio operator. On the downtown
mural he is depicted using a telegraph key in his job as Brewton's first railroad station agent.
Now, some 150 years later, Leon Bruton, the man who posed for the mural is
also a radio operator.
"I'm having a great time, talking all over the world on my little 100-watt
radio with a piece of wire for an antenna," Bruton said. "I've talked to ham operators on every continent except Antarctica.
I've worked several stations in Russia, as well as in the middle east, Australia, New Zealand and a bunch of South Pacific
islands, and I never fail to get a thrill when I can log some rare and distant location."
In 1968, working on Kwajalein in the Pacific Marshall Islands, Bruton studied
for and acquired his first amateur radio license, with the call sign KX6GW. But when he returned to the states, he did
not pursue the hobby.
Leon and Frogene Bruton moved to Brewton in 1994, and met their Belleville
Avenue neighbors, Larry and Vicki Fussell. Fussell is amateur radio operator N4CBS, and so they became good friends.
"Larry encouraged me to get back into ham radio," Bruton said. "And finally,
in 2003, I passed the exam for the basic license, and in 2004 I moved up to General Class Operator. Larry holds an Extra
Class license, the highest level, and I hope to pass that test within the next year."
In Brewton's day, the only means of radio transmission was by telegraph key,
using a series of dots and dashes known as Morse Code.
Later the invention of the microphone made voice communications possible.
Some hams still prefer to use code, or "CW," however. One of these is Scott Hillman, WA4TYH, who was first licensed
in 1976. Hillman is Trustee of the Brewton Two Meter repeater, which is licensed to the local amateur radio club, the
Brewton Amateur Radio Union, call sign WB4ARU.
The repeater, or the tower, is located on Ridge Road and allows the local
operators to stay in touch with each other. This has a range of not more than 100 miles. The other radio can reach all over
the world and a log kept by Bruton shows just who and where the calls were from.
According to Web site QRZ.com, there are 30 licensed amateur radio operators
in Brewton. Among those active, besides Fussell, Hillman and Bruton, are Franklin Smith KF4TH, Johnny Miller K4VMT,
Chris Johns KI4GGH, Scotty Hillman WA4VTL and Charlie Metcalfe KE4RRN. A complete listing can be found on www.qrz.com.
The local ham club meets monthly, usually in a local restaurant, or at a member's
home. There are no dues or commitments, and the only requirement is an interest in radio communications. Fussell, club
president, encourages anyone who has ever thought about ham radio to attend and learn more about this fascinating hobby.
"It is just clean fun," Bruton said. "We have strict rules on what we can
or cannot do or say."