On Sale Now!
Author: John Ramsey
# of Pages: 128
Over 220 high quality images
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
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Radio broadcasting has been an integral part of the history of Hartford since the early part of the 20th century. WDRC was the state’s first station (1923), and they helped pioneer FM radio technology in the early 1940s. Many Hartford residents learned about the end of World War II via radio, and the medium played a key role in keeping people informed during the floods of 1938 and 1955, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the great Northeast Blackout of 1965. Surprisingly, Hartford, the capital of “the land of steady habits,” saw two stations break from the pack to help bring the British Invasion to the state in the early 1960s. And thousands of schoolchildren eagerly listened to WTIC’s legendary Bob Steele on wintery mornings as they excitedly awaited school closing announcements. Hartford Radio offers a glimpse into the history of the area’s broadcast stations and the people who ran them.
WDRC (AM) was the first station in Connecticut. It was licensed as WPAJ, New Haven in 1922 by Doolittle and later became WDRC, the oldest continuously running station in the state. The first studios were at 817 Chapel Street in New Haven. Later WDRC moved into the Taft Hotel.
Contributor Robert Paine: "What I've read from the Courant and, perhaps The Times, is that CBS wanted the station to move to Hartford to fill in the gap between Springfield and New York City. I don't know the details of the time line but the station did move fairly quickly. The signal coverage tests, etc., took awhile but the physical move was apparently accomplished in somewhat less than (I think) two weeks. The New Haven studios, at the Hotel Taft, were closed and a lot of long days and nights were put in readying the studios and transmitter. I believe that not all the work was finished by the time the station signed on in early December."
On October 4, 1930 WDRC petitioned the Commission to move the station to Hartford from New Haven. Owner Doolittle Radio Corporation had obtained a option for a lease for studio space on the third floor of the Corning Building at 11 Asylum St. in Hartford. In addtion they had arranged to purchase several acres of land at 783 Blue Hills Ave. from Mrs. G.J. Maher for the transmitter site. Previouly they had conducted a transmission test from the Bloomfield site with satisfactory results. A newspaper article about the planned move stated that a 500 watt transmitter would be installed and that new equipment would cost at least $50,000.
On December 6, 1935 WDRC Celebrated its five year anniversary by announcing the lease of the entire sixteenth floor of the Hartford-Connecticut Trust Building on Main St.
May 10, 1936 was the date of the formal opening of the new WDRC studio facility at 750 Main Street in Hartford. The culmination of two years rebuilding and replacmeent plan encompasing WDRC's studio, transmitter and antenna. In October 1934 construction of the new WDRC Bloomfield transmitter buidling and tower began. In December, 1935 the station began to broadcast from Bloomfield. At the time the Executive staff included Walter Haas, Secretary and studio director, William Malo, sales manager, Italo A. martino, VP and CE, Robert Provan and Harvey Olson, announcers and Stirling B. Couch, program director.
WDRC moved to Hartford in November 1930. On or about Dec. 5, 1930, it signed on from new studios in the Corning Building at 11 Asylum Street (the same building used by WCCC in the sixties and seventies). The CT State Register in 1931 has WDRC, owned by the Doolittle Radio Corp, operating on 1330 KHz with 500 watts.
Two new towers were erected at 869 Blue Hills Avenue to support the station's "T" antenna. These early towers were located near the south border of the property. According to Contributor Wayne Mulligan the base of the East tower had to be removed when we expanded the parking lot and parts of the other base are still visible in the field behind the fence.
In 1935 these towers were replaced with the two self-supporting towers that are still in use today (photo below) and the power was increased to 1,000 watts. Wayne recalls "the East tower was the first of the new towers built in 1935. When they went to build the second one they couldn't get galvanized steel so that one is not galvanized. Also, the original transmitter building was located in what is now the parking lot near where the generator now sits."
In Dec. 1936 the station moved to the 16th floor at 750 Main Street. Sometime in the 1950s, it moved to the transmitter site at 869 Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield. It moved back to 750 Main Street in at some point in the the 60s. Sometime in the mid seventies the Bloomfield site was renovated and they moved back there to stay.
In 1938 WDRC was operating with 5,000 watts day and 1,000 watts night and in 1941 the frequency was changed to 1360 Khz.
There is an excellent and comprehensive WDRC history/tribute site:
Tom Ray at the controls of WDRC, 1977! Photo courtesy of Tom Ray.
750 Main St. in Hartford, twice home of WDRC
April 23, 1971
August 27, 1971
I recognize Dickie Robinson, but who are those young lads with him?
Frank Holler, Chuck Dube and Mike Stevens in the AM studio, 1991.
The infamous Howe board in the AM studio, 1991
Tom Kelly with “The Incredible Hulk" in the Big D remote studio.
Tom and Bill Pearson
DJs Dana and Bob Marx in the FM studio, 1976.
DJ Thomas on the air. 1976.
DJ Thomas in the AM studio, 1976.
Production studio, 1976.
The legendary Charlie Parker hard at work at his desk. 1976.
Lon Landis in the WDRC News Room, 1976.
Transmitter room racks. The BC-5P transmitter is on the far right. 1976.
The images below are of the WPAJ studio in New Haven, c. 1922.
Original WPAJ tower.
Rare image of Doolittle's radio station after the call letter change to "WDRC". The entire station was located in the back of his radio and appliance store. Many appliance stores built and operated their own radio stations in order to sell radios.
Early 1930s images of WDRC's new facility on Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield, CT.
The first WDRC transmission system on Blue Hills Ave in Bloomfield, c. 1930. The two towers supported a "T cage" antenna. These towers were later replaced by the two towers that still stand on the site today.