Here is a history of the Pepper Net as told by Sid Dietz W2DE (SK) in 2002.
“The Distinguished Pepper Net” It’s Beginning, History, etc.
The Pepper Net began around 1960 and was organized by Amandus (B.B.) Wenzel W2HX, Cesar Arena W2SVV & Robert Cline WA2TNS for the purpose of enticing another Amateur Radio Operator Dr. Ed. Burroughs K2QKS to get on the air with them at 11:00 PM each night, after his office hours, as he just didn’t find any other time available in his busy days as a surgeon at the Trenton, NJ area hospitals.
Ed K2QKS & B.B. W2HX both had been “Hams” before World War I and operated “Spark Transmitters”, when they were in junior high school. Dr. Ed. Burroughs didn’t remain active in Amateur Radio while he was in college and medical school, but still was interested in radio.
Around 1950, the Gonset Company, who made Shortwave Converters for use on automobile car radios, so that they could tune from 3.0 to 30 Megacycles (term used before Megahertz) and made H.F. Band Mobile operation much more popular in the years following World War II.
Then around 1953, The Gonset Company made a Two Meter VHF transceiver that operated off of 110 volts AC power as well as 6 Volts DC or 12 Volts DC, which were the voltages used in automobile ignition and car batteries. They called this transceiver “The Gonset Communicator” and it gradually gained popularity with Civil Defense units, as an excellent piece of radio equipment for local area communication and the Amateur Radio community was happy to offer aid to Civil Defense activities at that time.
By 1960 almost every town had Hams using Gonset Communicators and they fondly were called “Goonie Boxes” as there were about one cubic foot in size and the antenna connector was on top of the unit and ¼ wave whip antenna that attached to the transceiver was included in the transceiver. So, it was a natural to use the Gonset Communicator for local “ragchewing” among the area Hams and the Pepper Net members used these popular transceivers, often with outdoor vertical antennas as well and horizontal polarized multi element beams, if more “DXing” operation was desired.
Dr. Ed. Burroughs did become active in Amateur Radio again with his old friends and the Pepper net attracted new members to join in and sizeable number of other Hams and “Shortwave Listeners” to also listen in on Police Band Radios and Scanners that could be programmed or the listening frequency selected by the use of Quartz Crystal.
Caesar W2SVV was a very avid gardener and grew a variety of Pepper Plants in his garden, some were very hot and others were mild, and he would offer some of the peppers to friends, who could choose the degree of how hot a pepper they desired. So, the conversation often was about his gardening activities. So, this group took on the name of the “Pepper Net”.
In the early 1970’s FM (Frequency Modulation) started to be utilized by the amateur radio community on the VHF Bands and slowly made the AM Mode on these bands obsolete. Next it was followed by “Repeater Stations” in the mid 1970’s and so the Pepper Net moved to use of the W2ZQ Repeater at 10:00 PM each night, but this took place around 1980, as the repeaters were a bit of a craze in the 1970 to 1980 period when HandiTalkies began to appear, but 1980, W2ZQ was able to set aside an hour for the Distinguished Pepper Net.
Prior to that, the various Civil Defense Radio Groups also were adopting FM radio in place of AM Mode, and the Pepper Net met at 11:00 PM on the Mercer County frequency of 145.52 Megahertz, and since most everyone by that time in the Pepper Net was already active in Mercer County Civil Defense, they all had FM Radio equipment with the frequency of 145.520 Mhz in their station shacks.
Some of the potential Pepper Net stations, preferred an earlier time than 11:00 PM so 10:00 PM was tried for a while, but the use of the 10:00 PM time slot offered by W2ZQ won out over the 11:00 PM time.
Many stations joined the net over the years, and the range of operation capable when using a repeater instead of “simplex frequency” operation allowed many more Trenton area stations to join in, or listen in as they traveled in their cars or operated from home, etc.
Around 1974, many Hams in the greater Philadelphia area who were on Two Meter Repeaters began to get together for lunch on the first Wednesday of each month at the Buck Hotel, and George Hautenschild W3KD was the organizer of it and the lunch group grew rapidly, reaching about 70 Hams present for lunch at the peak of this activity and was known as the “Buccaneers”!
So, around 1977, Caesar W2SVV suggested that the Pepper Net gang get together for lunch in Trenton, NJ area and it was done on the 3rd Thursday of each month, and we at first met for a number of years at the Italian American Sportsmen’s Club, on Kuser Road, in Hamilton, NJ.
The Net luncheons have moved around to various places over the years and members have come and gone, and those gone have been replaced by many interesting individuals, who have made the Pepper Net an interesting group of good friends and interesting guys to listen in upon.
A number of former Shortwave Listeners were inspired to get into Amateur Radio after discovering the good fellowship and camaraderie of the Distinguished Pepper Net. Hopefully, it will continue to be around for many more years to come.
Seventythrees from W2FDE
P.S. W2FDE has been a member of the Pepper Net since 1969. Sidney Dietz W2FDE
January 13, 2002