WILI first went on the air October 5, 1957. It was launched with an invitation-only party at Willimantic's Capitol Theater and attended by leaders of the community.
WILI was engineered by Donald Howe, a professor of electrical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The frequency of 1400 at 250 watts was non-directional. It was chosen because it had been vacated by WICH in Norwich when WICH moved to a regional frequency. But there was a competing applicant--Robert Mensel of Willimantic--who was proposing a daytime-only station at 500 watts on 1430 kHz. The 1400 plan was a tight fit with the FCC's interference rules at the time. Howe had to construct a test antenna site on the John Pollack farm. Howe used a six-foot diameter gas-filled balloon to lift 200 feet of #17 (fine) wire. Nine 200-foot lengths of aluminum wire were used for the ground system. The radiated power was 51 watts on 1200 kHz. With this signal, Howe made the field measurements to prove 1400 would work, and the application won.
The first owners were three French-Canadian businessmen from Central Falls, RI: Goyette, Lanthier, and Cote. They also owned WPCT in Putnam (later WINY) and were in the fuel oil and lumber business in Rhode Island.
The late Herbert C. Rice bought WILI in May of 1959. The studios were located on Route 6, at the corner of Airport Road in North Windham. Studios were in the back, and offices were in the front. The station was 250 watts day/night, on the air from 6 A.M. to 11:15 P.M.. On a typical afternoon, the announcer was Ed Read. He worked Noon-6 P.M. Monday through Saturday. Les Douglas was the News Director. He worked a split shift--5 A.M. to noon, then came back for the afternoon shift. The music format was contemporary 45's with occasional big band oldies from the '30s and '40s
WILI moved to downtown Willimantic at 948 Main Street in 1961. At that time power was increased to 1000 watts day/250 night. The FCC allowed them to broadcast 1000 watts day and night in 1973. The antenna height was doubled to 404' in 1972. WILI moved to their present location at 720 Main Street on Columbus Day 1987.
In 1985, WILI changed to a "full-service" adult contemporary format, and now features "Today's hits and yesterday's favorites." In September 2005, Hall Communications bought WILI, pledging to keep it a community-oriented, locally operated station.
WILI's studio on Main Street in 1964
Susan and Dennis with the Attorney General.
Mr. Rice, 1960s.
Dan Hayden went on to Hartford's WCCC and then WHCN.
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