The 1946 CT State Register lists a Construction Permit for WNAB on 1450 KHz. with 250 watts, owned by Harold Thomas.
Recollections of WNAB, Bridgeport (1952-54)
By Dick Bertel
In 1941, just prior to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War Two, WNAB at 1450 kilocycles signed on the air for the first time. It was owned by brothers Harold and Levon Thomas. Harold was also the owner of WATR in Waterbury. The station’s 250 watt transmitter was located on Locomobile Point, named after the high quality but very expensive automobiles that were built on the property until 1929.- WNAB was an affiliate of the Blue Network, which soon became the American Broadcasting Company and carried almost all of its programs.
The studios were on the top floor of a three story 1920s office building in downtown Bridgeport. To reach them from the street, you had to climb two flights of an imposing marble staircase. At the top of the stairs was a photography studio on the left and WNAB straight ahead and to the right where you walked directly into a reception area. The studios were oddly configured, in that the reception area was between studio B, which also acted as a control room, and Studio A, where live music and discussion shows originated. As I recall, the windows of the two studios didn’t quite line up. This required the announcer in B, who was operating the board for Studio A, to contort himself in order to throw a visual cue to the talent.
Studio B, where most of the local programming originated, was a floating studio, similar in structural design to the NBC studios at Radio City in New York. It was like a box within a box, suspended on all sides by springs, to minimize extraneous sound such as trailer trucks which rumbled by on the street below. It was accessed by a double door, which created a sound lock.
The board was rather compact, as I recall, with, perhaps, eight pots. It was flanked by two RCA 70-D turntables, the workhorses of the industry in those days. They were capable of playing 78 RPM records and 33 1/3 lateral cut transcriptions with the same arm. (Although 45s had been on the market for about three years in 1952 they were not yet used in commercial radio stations.)
To the right of the board operator was a table on which sat a Magnacord PT6-1 tape recorder. It was state of the art for its day and a tape editor’s dream. It was the only machine the station had so it was used for field recording as well as studio playback. It came in two sections, the reel to reel mechanical tape transport section, and the (vacuum tube) electronics section, which included the amplifier and speaker.
At the transmitter was a lathe disc recorder. If a program was to be kept for permanent file, the board operator in studio B, when cued by the transmitter engineer, would start the tape for transfer to disc.
Lining the studio walls on three sides were shelves of 78 RPM records, all filed alphabetically by artist. If you were doing a record show you could simply get up, thumb through the files and choose your next record.
The business and sales offices were located in the front of the building, away from the activity of the studio area.
My first full-time job was at WNAB. When I was hired in 1952 WNAB was still very much a network affiliate. Television was the dominant medium by then but radio had not yet reacted. There was no rock ‘n’ roll yet, no top 40 and no need to fill the schedule with local programs. Besides, the network was still in full operation – in fact, ABC had just completed building brand new network radio studios at 30 W 67th Street in New York. They provided WNAB with soap operas and quiz shows during the day and dramas and comedy shows at night.
The station carried the Lone Ranger, Lum ‘n’ Abner, Ozzie and Harriet, Death Valley Days, Walter Winchell, Louella Parsons, Bill Stern, plus in-depth news coverage and analysis. Remember, too, that the network compensated the affiliates for carrying its sponsored programs.
Although the network dominated the format there were regularly scheduled times during the day allotted by the network for local programming. Mornings were open from 6 to 9 AM as were other times during the day, allowing the affiliate to do news and local programming. Each weekday at 3:30 PM ABC Traffic would alert the affiliates to any program changes that might be occurring.
The staff announcer’s job in those days was to stand by in the studio while the network was on, watch the clock and set up the next break. Most of the time the break consisted of live copy but occasionally it called for a transcription. The highlight of the evening shift was the 11 O’clock Report, a rip and read newscast taken right off the UPI wire. As I recall, I also hosted two daily record shows, one from 4:15 to 5 PM and another from 6:30 to 7 PM.
Sports coverage included high school football and basketball games and any other events that could be sold to local sponsors.
On Sunday nights from 11:15 to 11:45 WNAB broadcast a live dance remote from the Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport. Ray Collinari, the station’s sales manager, was also the assistant manager at the Ritz, so he would host the broadcast. A WNAB engineer would set up the equipment, hook into the permanent Class A line that was available and set his levels for the broadcast. Staff announcers would volunteer to do the announcing (there was no fee) just for the experience. I hosted many of the big bands, including Billy May and Lionel Hampton.
As I recall we had a total of 12 full-time staff members. That included three engineers at the transmitter, the announcing staff. program director, continuity director, traffic manager, and sales and office personnel. On-air staff in those days consisted of Jack Dahlby, who was also the program director, Bill Edwardsen (replaced by Wes Hobby in late 1952) sports director Bob Ritzert, and myself.
I left WNAB in the spring of 1954 to join the staff of WSTC in Stamford. I look back on those years with great fondness because the experience I gained there allowed me to go on to a very rewarding career.