Time To Bring Back SAROC

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by WA6ITF, Aug 31, 2007.

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  1. WA6ITF

    WA6ITF Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I moved to California in 1972, I joined a group called the Pallisades Amateur radio club of Culver City. And only a few weeks into my becoming a member I learned that our club -- en mass -- would be headed out to Las Vegas for a ham radio convention known as SAROC. (I later learned that this acronym stood for the Sahara Amateur Radio Convention because its home was the Sahara Hotel on the Las Vegas "strip.")

    By far -- in its day SAROC was second only to Dayton. It was also the spot where most of the Japan-based ham radio manufacturers previewed their wares. This is likely because most of the import radio companies were in the Los Angeles area back then and SAROC was but a 4-hour car ride or 35 minute flight on PSA or Air-Cal.

    Keeping in mind that thids was the 1970's, it was amazing that year after year, SAROC consistently pull betweern 5,000 to 7,000 attendees. A lot of that had to do with it being in the nations gambling playground - Las Vegas -- rather than ham radio itself. None the less, the attendance was large enough to warrant manufacturers to use SAROC to introduce their latest wares at SAROC rather than Dayton. It was not until SAROC disappeared that Dayton became the place to introduce the latest gear.

    More important, SAROC was just plain fun! Its planner -- Leonard Norman -- I dont remember his call -- developed just the right mix of ham radio and family fun. Dayside their was the convention and nightside all the fun of Las Vegas. (SAROC had no banquet or planned activities in the evening. Just privately run hospitality suites. DX, contesting, FM, etc. The nights were yours to do with as you like.)

    Like all good things, SAROC came to and end in the early 1980's. Not because the show had changed. Rather because iof the declining health of Mr. Norman, SAROC simply faded away.

    There was an attempt to bring it back in the middle 1980's with a very classy show called "Ham-West." The young couple that put it on ran it for two years -- in October of 1985 and 1986, but never achieved the same success as SAROC. Possibly because it was a more "traditional" show with all sorts of organized after-hours activities and a full banquet.

    As I look at the past two decades since the last magor show took place in Las Vegas I cannot figure out why nobody else has picked up the idea and brought a SAROC-like show back. All one needs to do is use Leonard Norman's simple formula, and Las Vegas being the entertainment capital that it is -- would do the rest.

    Those of us who had the fun of SAROC remember it fondly. A lot of us wish it would live once again.

  2. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    SAROC stood for "Sahara Amateur Radio Operators' Convention" and it was usually held at the Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas. However, in January of 1972 it was held at the old Flamingo Hotel instead of the Hotel Sahara. I don't remember if the Sahara was undergoing a major remodeling, if there had been a fire, or what. But the convention that year was definitely at the Flamingo!

    Leonard Norman's call was W7PBV and he was the ARRL Section Manager for the Nevada Section. Norman held a Conditional Class License (which was given by "mail", therefore he had not appeared before an FCC examiner). During the mid 1970s the FCC called in a number of Conditional Class licensees to retake their examinations, this time with an FCC examiner in attendance. He did not pass the examination. If I remember correctly he actually tried 2 or 3 times but failed each time. The result was that he lost his license and his interest in amateur radio.

    During the days of SAROC (probably still today) there was a "list" provided to all of the major casinos of those persons who were to be given "VIP" treatment. Although I did not know it at the time, my wife and I were put on that list. Whenever we called for a reservation for one of the shows we were asked at which hotel we were staying (this turned out to be how they made sure we were the "right" people). When we attended the shows we were given some of the best seats in the house usually center stage or, in the case of the Stardust, my wife and I were seated almost on stage! No special "tip" to the staff or anything like that. We were treated as "royalty". I found out later that Norman had put my name on "the list".

    The worst seats that we had all week was at the SAROC banquet itself! They were not all that bad. However, considering the great seats that we had the rest of the time they were pretty bad in relation to the others.

    Glen, K9STH
  3. W0LPQ

    W0LPQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Bill, I agree, SAROC was a lot of fun indeed. Yes in '72 it was at the Flamingo. I was there .. on vacation, but helping the Collins bunch out. At least the air fare was covered by the company .. as was the hotel.

    Funny to be on the phone with Cedar and have hookers walk by all the time. Got old after a while. As I remember the rooms were not all that great, but they expected you to be downstairs gambling.

    Don Wallace spent quite a deal of time at the booth. Did get to meet Jim Fisk and the infamous W2NSD.

    Went to a couple of shows with the Circuit-Stik people (they made stick on resist patterns for circuit boards).

    Shows around the strip were nice. Like Glen, I don't remember if the Sahara was undergoing any renovations or not.

    Good idea however..!
  4. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Somebody please start one out on the west coast. I need another excuse to visit out there!

    I was on the committee that did the ARRL National Convention in San Jose many years ago, so I have some appreciation for the level of work involved.
  5. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I forgot to mention but at SAROC 1972 the hotel ran out of "regular" rooms so my wife and I got a "suite" at no additional charge! Now that was "living"!

    There were several "hospitality suites" on the same floor and we didn't spend much at all for food the whole convention. Now my wife and I don't really drink that much, but along with all the "booze" there was usually a pretty good "feed" as well. Therefore, when ever we got hungry we just walked up and down the hallway visiting a different company's "hospitality suite".

    Of course in this area (Dallas, Texas, area) we have HamCom which, as of last year, is in Plano, Texas, the next city north of Richardson where I live. The location is less than 5 miles from my house and during the winter when the leaves on the trees are gone I can see the building from the top of my tower.

    Glen, K9STH
  6. K7FE

    K7FE QRZ Lifetime Member #1 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Len, W7PBV used the phonics "pretty blue violets." I remember him using that when we were on AM before SSB was popular. Pat, K7KBN knows him as well.

    The Sahara Hotel was mob owned then as were several others (read "most"). The rooms were typically decorated in colors that made you want to leave the room if your eyes were open. They needed you in the casino.

    SAROC was a great deal of fun and I do wish that it would be brought back.

    Terry, K7FE
  7. NA4BH

    NA4BH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looks to me you guys already have a commitee put together. Start it back up, I would go to it. What better place than Las Vegas, I go there often. I would rather spend my money on equipment and have a good time, than feed the machines and hope to have a good time. See you there, "What was the date again"? [​IMG]

    Great Idea, GO WITH IT.........
  8. WA6YEO

    WA6YEO Ham Member QRZ Page

    One of my favorite SAROC memories is one time when my OM, Dan WA6PZK, and I were just coming over Halloran Summit. It was Thursday, around 1:00 in the afternoon, and we were finally able to pick up the talk-in frequency, and we heard the following exchange:

    Mobile station: (Asked for and got directions) What time will the exhibits be open?

    Talk-in: The exhibits will be open tomorrow morning. The first event this evening will be the Ham Radio Horizons (remember that wonderful magazine?) cocktail party, which starts at seven.

    Mobile: What???!!![​IMG] I'm going to arrive at 1:15, and there's nothing until seven? What the ##@@## am I supposed to do for the next six hours?

    That was like 25 years ago, and Dan and I still get a chuckle out of that one.

    I would love to see SAROC started up again!


    Adrienne WA6YEO
  9. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    SAROC was wonderful, but I started attending just before it went away.  Don't have the particulars, but seems it was late 70s or early 80s it dried up.  We do have nice Conventions here in California, and if you want Gambling just like Vegas, there are loads of Indian Casinos all over the Southland.  In fact, next weekend is the ARRL Southwestern Division in Torrance, not too far from Disneyland and LAX.    Hope some Midwesterners and East Coasters hop a flight and come out to enjoy a grand time.  But my guess as to why SAROC went away have to do with the Indian Casinos.  Vegas used to be the MAIN Destination for many of the Californians, but it was quite a drive across the desert.  But to see all the headliner shows and get in on the ACTION, they would do it.  And what better excuse to go to Vegas than a Ham Convention?!!!   Now, these Indian Casinos are almost on every block.  There are probably a dozen right here in the San Diego area.  They top Vegas with great Buffets, Loose slots, and shows of all the top stars and bands.  Vegas must really be suffering because of these Native American Casinos which are completely packed 24 hrs a day.  Consequently, the once very impoverished Indians are now very very Wealthy and giving back to the community with lavish donations of money and compassion.  Another thing that is doing in West Coast Hamfests are the weekly Swapmeets, like TRW, Cable Airport and Chino Hills.  Torrance isn't even having a swapmeet this time because it would conflict with the Cable Airport meet.  As a past ARRL Convention Chairman and organizer, I know the business end of what it takes to get these to go, and it is a nailbiter right down to the openning door.  Exhibitors are very tardy and skittish about signing up, other than the big 3 (I,K & Y) and registerees don't sign up until that convention morning when they wake up, and decide to go.  This saved our 2006 Convention in San Diego, which turned out great because of a massive walkin, but weeks before the event, it looked like it might be a bust!!  So Conventions are very difficult to get going, as most have found.  Dayton is so successful because of its legendary immense flea market and few if any exhibitors would even think of missing it.  Centrally located in the US, it draws from both coasts (Though it is a LONG ways from San Diego!!)  I used to drive there in the mid 80s, wow, that would cost a fortune today in gasoline!!  So, if someone wants to get a new SAROC going, count me in on registering and attending. It will be a BLAST!   Just hope you can get several thousand more enthusiastic Hams and all the Exhibitors to come.  73
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