WATR (1290) 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.
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.