WATR (1190) The WATR Company 100w
The following information was provided by Contributor Robert Paine:
WATR, Waterbury, began operation on June 15, 1934 - exactly 14 years to the day before WNHC-TV. The owner was Harold Thomas, a very clever and resourceful engineer. He had experience at WEAN, Providence RI, before coming to Connecticut.
The station's original studios were on the top floor of the Hadley Furniture building, 57 Grand Street. There were two studios, control room and office(s), as well as an open area which was used at times as an auditorium studio.
The original frequency and power were 1190 kcs. at 100 watts. The transmitter may have been homemade, owing to Mr. Thomas's knowledge. The transmitter may have been downtown for a short time before being located at 79 Baldwin Avenue in what's now a residential area of Waterbury. The street is also known as Radio Lane.
In 1937, the station moved to 71 Grand Street. Offices were on the second floor with studio and control room on the third floor. There may have been a studio on the second floor as well.
In the later part of the decade, WATR's frequency changed to 1290 and then to 1320 in the NARBA frequency shift of March 29, 1941.
In 1948, WATR moved to 440 Meadow Street to a building specially constructed for radio. Offices were on the second floor with three studios and control room on the main level. Going by the outline of the floor after the station moved in the 70s, the rooms were fairly small. The arrangement was efficient, however. The entrance was at the left center of the building and opened into a lobby with the staircase on the left. To the right, from front to back, was a small office, a small studio, the control room and the large, rectangular studio at the rear. Any discrepancies to this description will be forwarded.
In 1953, WATR-TV began operations. The large studio was used for television with a small switcher and audio console installed in the control room facing the studio. There was also a studio on West Peak, Meriden Mountain. I don't know which studio was built first, nor if both were used at the same time or not.
In 1973, WATR-AM/FM/TV moved to separate locations. The AM transmitter site was expanded to house radio operations and TV moved to the transmitter, which was then located on Peach Tree Road in Prospect.
In its early years, WATR was affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System and the regional Yankee and Colonial networks from Boston.
WATR was also affiliated with the Connecticut State Network. This was an inter-connected group of stations which shared programs and news. A WTHT engineer related that when it was key station for the network, election night was organized chaos. The Conn State Network's management rotated annually. Member stations elected a new president and board of directors. The key station was, according to information received, simultaneously switched to that of the elected president.
Additional WATR notes:
WATR 1320khz In 1934 Harold Thomas put the station on the air. He was from the Yankee Net.
Dean Valentino was on the air in 1943
Sam Ellman was station manager.
Located on Grand St. (Lower) next door to Hadley Bldg.
Summer of 44 added networks, ABC and Mutual.
Gene Valentino was on the air in 1955. The Meadow St studio was flooded with the studio underwater. The Baldwin Ave transmitter site was on high ground. They went on the air from the transmitter site. Got reports from police, hospital, etc. Once we got on the air the whole staff came by to work. WATR was the only radio station in Waterbury on the air during the disaster, broadcasting Red Cross, FD announcements, etc. to a huge listenership.
Polish show, 9/1/34, Victor Zambroski's with wife Sophie
"Rocky the Space Jockey", Mr. Rothchild.
Basically top 40 and early rock. Pounding beat type of presentation with loop tape in the background.
Coffee Break (still on) half hour show with personality interviews, started in 1963 with host Barbara Davitt. Started as the weather girl. At 5am the news director would call her with the weather and then she would read it back to be recorded.
Sam Ellman was the manager in 1963. Pres Gilmore put her on the air w/a regular show, the first time was the day Pres. Kennedy was assassinated.
John Bunnell. Wildman Steve did a R&R R&B show in the evening.
Bob Gilespie ND, Tim Sulliven Mornings. Vestro did sport. Tony Marvin Tony's Time 3pm weekdays. Chatter about this and that and music to make you smile.
Chuck The Night Owl Show.
Tom Shute, GM and PD and morning man has been on since the 90s.
Jay Clark talk popular show.
Ed Flynn talk show.
The photos below are courtesy of the Waterbury Time Machine,
Original transmitter building on Baldwin Avenue
Sam Ellman (left) and Al Vestro (right) hosted the popular Phone Your Answer quiz show in the 1950s.
Waterbury Mayor T. Frank Hayes (seated at left) is interviewed on WATR by Waterbury Democrat reporters Raymond Fitzpatrick and William "Billie" Fitzpatrick in 1937. Hayes was indicted by a grand jury for political corruption one year later.
The WATR studios were in this building on Meadow Street from 1948 to 1972.
"Listened to Bob Ruge, Wildman? Steve Gallon, and "Hound Dog" Lorenz as a teen ager led me into Waterbury radio in 1956. I created the "Nite Owl Show" on WATR in 1967. Most of what I played were the great hits of the time, and I continued playing them as they became "Great Oldies". I did 30 years in Waterbury radio, and loved every minute of it. I retired my show on New Years Eve 1997. A few other great names on Waterbury radio in the '50's... Bob Terry, the man who originally created the "Nite Owl Show". He started out doing mornings on WWCO, then did the Night owl night-time show for about a year in the mid 50's, and later went to WATR for a short time. Joe McGuiness, sports announcer, took over the Night spot until he finally left to go to work for WADS in Ansonia. He finally found a permanent home at WTIC working with Bob Steele for many years. Also, a 50's morning man at WWCO, Peter Brochan with his "Naugatuck Calling" morning show. Another 50's broadcaster at WWCO in the mid 50's was news man & Sunday night jock, Wayne Hickox. I did emergency fill-in starting in the 50's, and the last time I worked for WWCO was as an engineer part time when Frank Jancowicz left to go work for WWYZ in the 90's. I also did continuity and some traffic at the station.
Thanks for the memories!! Played marimba (like a tenor xylophone), of all things, on WBRY's Uncle Don show in the early 50s; hung around WBRY and WATR as a late '50s teenager -- Lou Dennis, Al Vestro, Sam Elman, and a very cranky talk show host on WATR -- and went on to WHUS at UConn when it was more fun than business. Other faves were WDRC, WTIC (Who can forget Bob Steele?), WAVZ, WWCO and WQXR. Captain Midnight; Dragnet; One Man's Family; The Lone Ranger; Doctor Christian, The Buster Brown Show; (Dare I say it?) Amos 'n Andy; Let's Pretend; Kaltenborn, Heatter, Winchell, Murrow, Don McNeil, Paul Whiteman, Ted Mack, The Army Air Force Band, R&B, blues, 50s quartets, bubble gum, rock and roll (not "rock"), elevator music, Gershwin/Ravel, Classics (hadn't yet discovered country/bluegrass yet); thanks, Radio, for bringing me up right. The Lord alone knows what happened to ya' from there.