HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WNLC (AM)
 Contributor Robert Paine provided much of the following information:
 
    WNLC New London began operations in the latter half of September, 1936. The studios were in the Mohican (or Mohegan) Hotel, 281 State Street and the transmitter was located on City Pier on the Thames River. The 1936 CT State Register lists the owner as Thames Broadcasting, Inc.
    WNLC was a daytime only operation on a frequency of 1500 kc. with 100 watts power and was the first station in Connecticut east of the Connecticut River.
    The studios at first were on the 4th floor of the hotel, but early on were moved to a suite of rooms on second floor. By 1951, there were two studios - one blind from the control room, news room, technical area and offices.
   WNLC's transmitter suffered severe damage in the 1938 hurricane. WTHT engineer Roland LaLanne reported that one of its engineers went to New London with a 160-meter amateur transmitter, which was re-tuned to WNLC's frequency.  Mr. LaLanne also related that he understood the station may have operated from the lower end of State Street, near the railroad station, during the hurricane. There is no known information about this.
   In the 1930s and 1940s, WNLC was affiliated with Colonial and Mutual and later, the Yankee network.    
   WNLC moved to 1490 KHz on March 29, 1941, in accordance with the NARBA frequency shift.
   On December 8 or 9, 1941, an enemy attack warning was issued for the East Coast. The Eastern Connecticut defense command was headquartered at the New London Sub Base, and area military authorities activated defense plans. Official information and orders were disseminated over WNLC.
    The 1950 issue of Broadcasting Yearbook shows the following key personnel: Roderick L. Morey, President; Gerald J. Morey, Gen. & Commercial Manager and Chief Engineer (he was Paul Morey's father); Leo Keegan, Commercial Manager' and J. Patricia Morley, Promotion Manager.
   In the early 1960s, WNLC moved operations to Foster Road in Waterford. The building housed offices, studios, news operations and transmitter. An eight tower arrangement was installed and the station operated on 1510 kHz with 10 kw daytime and 5 kw nighttime power. A bomb shelter-operations bunker was built in a hillside about a football field-length from the rear door.
     The original WNLC tower still stands. When WNLC
abandoned 1490 for higher power on 1510, its original tower was sold and placed on the ferry to Orient, Long Island, and sent to Sag Harbor, where it was used for WLNG-AM 1600 when it signed on in 1963.
      By 1969, WNLC was affiliated with the ABC Information Network and later carried CBS.


  WNLC has a massive antenna system consisting of eight towers!



Additional historical information:
    WNLC was the second most powerful station in the state with 10,000 watts (only WTIC had more and all of the rest of the AMers in the state had 5,000 watts or less).  It required a directional antenna (DA) system consisting of no less than 8 towers, 6 in line and 2 in line, in order to prevent this powerful signal from causing interference to other stations in the area.  The only problem was that the signal was focused into a thin beam pointing out to sea (rumor has it that the station served as an unofficial "get me home" navigation aid to submarines stationed at the nearby Groton submarine base, and we've heard more than one report that the station's signal could he heard as far a the Azores!)
    Legendary CT broadcast engineer Hillis Holt told us years ago that back in the sixties he approached the management of WNLC offering to redesign their system for free to provide much better coverage with half as many towers and 2,500 watts. Hillis just hated the waste of all that power being sent out to see.  He was turned down.   The 10,000 watts gave the station bragging rights, and "Second Most Powerful Station In The State" was printed at the top of the coverage maps they gave to potential advertisers.      
    In the late seventies the station was faced with financial difficulties due perhaps to the high cost of running the powerful transmitter, the cost of upkeep on the eight towers and the decline in AM listenership.
    The station suffered a fire under tower 3 in the doghouse in June 1997 and operated non directional with 100 Watts a while.
     On April 01, 1998, Hall Communications changed the call sign to WWJY and notified the FCC it was surrendering its nighttime authority and removing five of the eight towers, leaving it as a 10 kilowatt, 3-tower day timer...if it ever returned to the air. 
     The station signed off for the last time in November, 1998 and the
FCC  canceled license as of 11/03/98.

Contributor Robert Paine recalls the Foster Road studio building:
    "As I can recall, the building was somewhat L-shaped. The front door was to the right side, as were the business offices. There were two doors Along the corridor to the rear was, on the left was a rectangular room that housed the WTYD-FM automation when it signed on. I'm not sure what was behind that but the next room was, I believe, the record library. The next room was the production studio, followed by a small, narrow news studio, the control room and transmitter room.  Opposite the latter were audio racks, at the end of which was a small table for the engineer. Behind the racks was the workshop. Ahead of that may have been a closet or small room, the men's room and a wall that extended to the main corridor. On the other side was the news room with a small closet (I think), near the outside wall, for the AP machine.  I don't recall what came after the news room but I'm certain the ladies room was in that area. At the end of the hallway, approximately across from the FM automation, was a lounge with one or two vending machines."

Mr. Paine continues:     "...I went to the Mohican Hotel at 281 State Street, around 1971. The suite that WNLC had occupied was being renovated but I was able to see what I think was one of the studios and the control room. The studio was perhaps 20 by 18 feet (uneducated guess). The control room was little larger than six or eight phone booths. At the time, it appeared the audio console was at a 90-degree angle from the studio, so as to be to the left of the engineer. That opened into a large corridor and I was told the area had been used for the station's Bandstand-type record show, hosted by announcer Bill Hoffman. He was, by the way, track announcer at the Waterford Speed Bowl in the early 60's. That area might have held as many as 15 or 20 couples. In one corner was a raised dias, similar to what Dick Clark had on American Bandstand. The rest of the area, to the best of my recollection, (didn't) have any indication of the station's presence."

  One contributor recalled:
from the 1967-72ish period are: Jim Reigert - mornings; Jim Scott - midday; Tom Brown - afternoon. There was an announcer, who was an engineer at WERI-AM&FM, Westerly RI, who did early afternoons around 1970. His name MAY have been Bob, but I'm not sure.
    
One of the part-timers was Tom (or Thom) Wilborn. I recall he worked Sunday evenings. His full name was Thomas Lee Wilborn and was stationed at the New London Naval Base. I think he'd been with the U of Arkansas station, KASU-FM. His goal was to work for KMOX, St.Louis.
     Bill Hoffman was another WNLC announcer in the 1960's. I think he preceded Jim Reigert. He also announced the races at the New London- Waterford - now just Waterford - Speed Bowl. For a time in the 1960's, part of the Saturday night racing card was carried on WNLC.
    
Len Stevens was on the air in the 30's and 40's. I don't know if he was there in the 60's. He was the station's sports director.
    
Dave Connors was news director and John "Cousin Johnny" Small was program director or station manager. CJ did "Starlite Ranch and Round-up Time", a country music program. Every December 23 he did an all-night show, called "The Night Before The Night Before Christmas Show". He is, as I understand, still with WNLC-FM and doing country music. CJ threw me out of WNLC (figuratively, not literally) when I used to hang around on weekends. 
    
Note to CJ: if you read the following, please understand I'm NOT making fun of the show, just relating what can be termed a spoonerism. With that caveat, I'll admit that at times the show was referred to as "Starlite Raunchy Round-up Time". Hey, it's got to be pretty good as I understand it may still be on the air. Ya doesn't last if ya isn't good.
    
Dave Lind was one of the engineers and had a hand in getting WTYD-FM on the air in, I think, the latter part of December, 1969. The chief engineer at the time was Randy Barrett. Randy was kind enough to send me two sheets of old WNLC stationary. On one he drew a diagram of the studios in the Mohegan Hotel as they were when he joined the station in 1951 or so.”
  

William Cunningham wrote:
     "I did 2-6 pm at WNLC am 1510 from Oct. '73 - May '74. Jim Reigert did mornings, Jim Buchanin middays, and Ric Everette 7-11. John Fleming was the OM, and Paul Morey, GM. I had always wondered what happened to the building and towers at Waterford Industrial Park..Thanks to the great shots taken in 2010, now I know! I retired from radio in 1994..what a long strange trip it's been.- " 



Part I – Thames Broadcasting, and early days of WNLC

September 22, 2012
John G. Morey
Son of G. J. Morey, who was founder of WNLC

    I have LOTS to say. I will try to recall and describe things in about the same order in which they appear in Robert Paine’s description. As many topics in this discussion of the early days occurred prior to my birth in 1954, much of what I relate is secondhand recollections.    
    Thames Broadcasting Corporation was first formed in March, 1935. I still have the old stock certificate book with the stubs, going back to those earliest days.    
    Four individuals formed the corporation and put up the initial investment funds. 3 of them were my relatives. My grandfather, Roderick L. Morey, a businessman from the Boston area, was initially the largest shareholder. Then, my father, Gerald J. Morey. He was the driving force in establishing a radio business and was its primary manager for most of the 40 years of our tenure. My uncle, Edwin Morey (Roderick’s oldest son) held shares during the early years.
    The 4th initial stockholder was a Daniel E. Noble. He was an engineering professor at UCONN in Storrs (in those days, known as Connecticut Agricultural College). Dr. Noble was in charge of the college radio station, WCAC. My father, Gerald, was at UCONN, studying under Dr. Noble, working at WCAC, and learning the radio business, between 1934 and early 1936.
    Somewhat recently, maybe 10 years ago in a UCONN historical publication, there was an article about Daniel Noble. He had been at the college for many years before my father arrived there. Evidently he had been involved with the founding of WDRC in the early 1920’s, as well as other early radio stations in Connecticut, but no mention is made of WNLC in that article.
      Over the years my father gradually bought out the other shareholders. Daniel Noble and Edwin Morey both sold out their shares by the early 1940’s. My grandfather, Roderick, remained a major shareholder until the early 1960’s. At the time we sold out in April of 1976, my father was essentially the sole owner, with over 99% of Thames Broadcasting stock. My mother, Mary Morey, and my oldest brother, Paul Morey (who took over as general manager in the 1970’s until we sold out) held fractional shares.
    An interesting note, and a rare example of early career focus! My father was only 19 years old in March of 1935 when Thames Broadcasting was formed. He was so young that his father had to legally co-sign with him via power of attorney. But when the station actually went on the air in September of 1936, he had turned 21.    
    In the early 1980’s, my parents and I took a day trip up to UCONN to try to get a nostalgic glimpse of my father’s early days there. The building which housed UCONN’s engineering department, and WCAC, in the 1930’s, was still standing. It is an old brick building on a knoll, not far behind the large Storrs Congregational Church on the corner of North Eagleville Road and Route 195. The title, “Mechanics-Arts” was still on the façade above the main entrance, though in the early 1980’s it housed UCONN’s personnel and admissions offices.
    Anyway, we drove around the back of the building, and my father was thrilled to see an old strip of copper flashing above a window. This was part of WCAC’s infrastructure in the 1930’s when my father was a radio student there!
    Since that trip in the 1980’s that building has been extensively renovated and the copper flashing is gone. It now serves as UCONN’s Islamic Center. But the old title, “Mechanics-Arts” is still over the façade.
    In the first days of WNLC (September 1936) the studios and business offices were on the 4th floor of the Mohegan Hotel. The transmitter and tower were on the end of the Central Vermont Dock. (Not City Pier, as R. Paine writes) Central Vermont Dock was next to the State Pier, which both jut southeastward into the Thames River from near the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. USGS topographic maps from the 1940’s through the 1960’s actually mark the site of the “WNLC radio tower”.
    At some point the studios moved from the 4th to the 2nd floor of the Mohegan Hotel, where they remained until about 1963 when everything was moved to the Foster Road site in Waterford. I retain some vague personal memories of the Mohegan Hotel studios (I being 8 years old, or younger, at the time). I recall the business offices, and my father’s office, on the window side of a corridor, facing State Street. The studios were down a side corridor toward the interior of the building (no windows). I remember standing in a hallway as a child, looking through a window into the main studio where a DJ named Ed Reed was broadcasting.
    Back to the 1930’s, and in particular, the 1938 hurricane...
    The storm surge drowned out the transmitter building and the high winds toppled the tower. Fortunately, the Mohegan Hotel was a massive and strong structure; New London’s largest building, and the studios were undamaged. My father told me that part of getting the station back on the air within one day involved “stretching a wire across State Street from the Mohegan Hotel to a building on the other side”. The station was able to broadcast at low but sufficient power to serve the local area until permanent repairs were made.
    My parents lost more than severe damage to their business in that storm. They had just married in July, and were renting a house at Oak Grove Beach on Niantic Bay. The hurricane completely washed away that house and all their personal property and wedding presents which were in the house. After the hurricane they moved to an apartment in the Mohegan Hotel and lived there for several years. My oldest brother, Paul, was born in 1940 when they still lived there.
     I have a few photos of WNLC from the early days. At least one picture of the transmitter building with the rooftop tower on the Central Vermont Dock. And a few pictures in the old studios; not sure if they are from before or after the 1938 hurricane.
    After my mother’s passing in late 2007, a resident of Dayville, Connecticut noticed her obituary in the newspaper and remembered her and my father. It was an Andy Havrilla, who evidently was one of WNLC’s first employees as a young man in the 1930’s! He had recalled actually doing some announcing on the station. More amazing, he had some early recordings which he was very kind in transcribing to a CD which he sent to our family. The sound quality is a bit scratchy but is fascinating to listen to. The first part of the recording was a report for radio station WOR out of New York about the 1938 hurricane. WOR had sent a remote broadcast team to New London after the storm and they had used WNLC’s studios to file their reports. Later in the recording is a broadcast of Hawaiian music which Mr. Havrilla hosted on WNLC. You can hear him using WNLC’s very early promotional slogan “The Friendly Voice of the Thames”.
    Within a few years of signing on, WNLC increased power from 100 to 250 watts, and also got authority to broadcast at night on 250 watts. I think it may have been when we changed frequencies from 1500 to 1490 kc. That held until about 1963 when we moved to 1510 kc and increased power to 10,000 watts. But even after that, we held onto the old 250-watt transmitter for use as a back-up. When we sold in 1976 we still had that old transmitter! I wonder if it was that very transmitter that the subsequent owners used in 1998 to broadcast at low power when they had trouble with the fires that eventually resulted in the AM station going off the air for good, as described by Mr. Paine.
    My father’s hobby was boating. In the summer we often cruised the waters of Long Island Sound. I recall a boat trip to Sag Harbor on Long Island around 1970. Not far from the marina in Sag Harbor was WLNG’s radio tower. I recall my father saying how it had been WNLC’s old tower from the Central Vermont Dock. We got into a small dinghy we carried on our boat and rowed up near the base of the tower to take a close look; a nostalgic look for my father?
    I have lots to say about the power increase and directional antenna which we operated from 1963 onward. But for now I’ll leave off here and let you digest this information about our early days as eastern CT’s first commercial radio station.

 

Part II – WNLC High Power years thru 1976

November, 2012
John G. Morey
Son of Gerald J. Morey, who was founder of WNLC

Concerning the directional antenna which we operated from 1963 on, I first want to make an important clarification about the “narrow beam going out to sea” that has appeared on Robert Paine’s descriptions and has also been repeated on other web sites.

We had TWO separate directional patterns. A DAY pattern using 10,000 watts, and a NIGHT pattern at 5,000 watts.

First I describe the DAY pattern with the 10,000 watts. For this pattern, we used a parallelogram of 4 towers – the 2 center ones in the line of 6, and the other two towers off to the side. Restrictions to protect other stations were less, during the day, and we used a 2-lobe pattern then. The LARGER lobe went north-northwestward. Much of central-eastern Connecticut, roughly between Hartford and including Norwich, almost to the Massachusetts line, had a good signal from us, and we had considerable daytime listenership from that region. The lobe maximum, which went to the west of Norwich, peaked at about 1250 mv/m at one mile which approaches the RMS of a 50,000 watt station! The second lobe, to cover New London and Groton, went southeastward and maxed out at about 900 mv/m in that direction. So I want to stress and stress again that, during the day, anyway, we did NOT BEAM ALL our power out to sea! The greater part of our 10,000 watt daytime signal went northward, over interior eastern Connecticut.
 
Around 1970 I attended a boarding school near Great Barrington in far western  Massachusetts. Sometimes in the late afternoon I would use a transistor radio to try to pick up WNLC, and we would frequently “boom in” there at times, at least before we had to switch to the night pattern at sunset.

To some degree, it is true that much of our NIGHT power of 5,000 watts was sent southeastward toward the ocean. This was done using the 6 towers in a line. The radiation pattern was a single flared lobe with a center axis aligned at N 125 degrees E. We had severe night restrictions on the power we could send westward (to protect WLAC in Nashville, TN; the Class I station on that “clear” channel) as well as northeastward (to protect WMEX in Boston). Admittedly, at night very little signal, not more than 10 or 20 mv/m, was sent northward or westward. But we did give Waterford, New London, and Groton, the area we were licensed to, a solid night-time signal. The shoreline communities farther east, such as Mystic, Stonington, Pawcatuck, and Westerly, RI, also got good night coverage from WNLC. Between Waterford, CT and Westerly, RI, we offered good night-time coverage to over 100,000 potential listeners. Much better coverage than we ever did with the old 250 watts on 1490 kc!

Concerning the night pattern – the chief engineer, Randy Barrett, kept a collection of “QSL” cards. At night we were frequently heard much farther away than the Azores, or submarines at sea. He had several reports of WNLC being picked up on the west coast of Africa, and at least once, from Australia!

Even during the day we had some weak coverage areas in the “nulls” of our pattern, as did almost any station with a directional antenna. A narrow null pointed northeastward toward Boston where we were limited to about 150 mv/m, to protect WMEX. And to the southwest, where we had to protect WLAC and other stations on the same or adjacent channels. Driving west on I-95 we had virtually no signal beyond the Connecticut River and Lyme. But these weak areas didn’t really bother us, until about 1970 and later, as I will eventually explain.

Yes, we did play up our 10,000 watts, but I do not recall any slogan calling ourselves “Connecticut’s 2nd most powerful station”. I do recall one letterhead claiming us to be “New England’s only 10,000 watt station”.

It was about 1962 or 1963 and I was about 7 or 8 years old when we were building the facility on Foster Road which would house the new WNLC studios and 10,000-watt transmitter. My next-oldest brother, Bill, was 14 or 15 at the time; still in school. (My oldest brother, Paul, who would eventually manage the station for a while, was away at college and rarely seemed to be  home during those years). The building of the new station was a very exciting time. I often remember being in the car when my father was driving down the primitive Foster Road to this massive construction site where nearly 30 acres of swampy woodland had to be cleared to make room for the 8 towers. Driving down Foster Road was very mysterious and even a little scary! A narrow, bumpy dirt road, with the car often being scraped by roadside brush. For a while my father nicknamed that primitive driveway “Burma Road”. We even made a home movie through the car windshield of the hair-raising ride through the dense woods, with that sense of relief when we rounded a bend and emerged into the clearing where the transmitter building was under construction. We still have that movie footage.

More excitement, at night, when the towers were up, all 8 of them topped with flashing red beacons which could be seen for miles from certain locations. Boasting about a broadcast power of 10,000 watts was one thing. But not to be out-done was the visual impact of those 8 towers, in that geometrically precise array, their beacons flashing through the night! And clearly visible from many areas. One of the most impressive views was driving west on I-95 from New London into and through Waterford. At one point you had a sweeping view of all the red-flashing transmitter towers off to the right. You approached the line formed by the 6 towers, lined up precisely with this for a second, and swept on past. It was something that always thrilled me; it was like some science-fiction movie come true! Something looking that spectacular HAD to be powerful! In the early and mid 1960’s, I’m sure that spectacle didn’t hurt our promotional efforts. This was before “NIMBYism”, the “Jetsons” era, when much science and technology was held in awe. That bygone age when the Town of Waterford was thrilled to have one of the earliest nuclear power plants being constructed at Millstone Point.

I recall many nights, when the station was under construction, when Bill and I were riding in the car with our parents. And often we would glimpse those flashing red lights of our new towers! Not sure how this started, (I think Dad started it, to his later regret when it probably got tiresome) but Bill and I would start seeing who could scream loudest, “I see tower lights! I see tower lights!!”

Good times and fond, nostalgic memories. Who would have ever thought that station would stop broadcasting (on AM; WNLC survives today on 98.7 FM  as will be explained) and those towers would be taken down within our lifetimes?

Not to be forgotten was the fallout shelter. It was only a fallout shelter; never really intended to be a blast-proof bomb shelter. We often went in there and looked around when it was under construction and being outfitted. This was of particular interest during that tense cold-war era. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis very well, and being utterly terrified, even though I was only 8 at the time. My parents often reminded me that it really wasn’t “our” bomb shelter. It was built and funded as per Federal Government guidelines as part of the “Emergency Broadcast System”. Supposedly it was designed to house 2 people, licensed broadcast engineers, for up to 2 weeks. If the place wasn’t blown to smithereens by a nuclear weapon aimed at the Sub base in Groton, these 2 people, safe from radioactive fallout, could broadcast emergency information from in there.

In Robert Paine’s web description of the abandoned fallout shelter there was a question about a large rectangular opening in the wall near the entrance door. My understanding is that was for an air filtration system that would remove radioactive particles and other contamination from any air entering the shelter. Air did NOT come through a roof vent – I think the rooftop duct was for transmission cables to the whip antennas above the shelter that were used for broadcasting or for incoming radio communication.

There was a 50 kw diesel generator on site, behind the transmitter building. One of the engineer’s routine tasks was to run that generator for an extended period at least once a month. This could easily power the whole facility, including studios and offices. If the grid power failed – as it often did during storms, etc (and the famous blackout of November, 1965), we could get that station back up and running at full 10,000-watt power in less than a minute. But that generator was only housed in a simple metal shed. The fuel tank was a standard above-ground tank. Definitely not blast-proof. In a serious nuclear war with an H-bomb detonated over the nearby sub base it is hard to imagine that generator surviving. That gone, I’m at a loss knowing if any men who made it to the fallout shelter would have any power to run or broadcast much of anything. I’m not aware of any other generator or power source, aside from some batteries, in that shelter.

I still have in my possession and use, in my spare bedroom, a wooden table that was actually IN that fallout shelter for several years during our tenure at WNLC. (It goes back prior to then – it was our family kitchen table way back as early as the 1940’s when my oldest brother Paul remembers, as a child, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at that table!)

I recall many of the names of the air personalities listed in Robert Paine’s description. Jim Reigert, Jim Scott, and Tom Brown were with us for years during the 1960’s. Dave Connors was as much into sports as news. He often broadcast local school football and basketball games. We were part of the Yankee Network through much of the 1960’s. When that network folded sometime in late 1966 or early 1967 we affiliated with ABC Information Radio network. I recall that when Yankee folded a lot of people missed them and complained.

One interesting childhood memory from the 1960’s. I was fascinated with the United Press International teletype in the newsroom. Some evenings I would ride with my mother down to the station to pick up my father. I would head for the newsroom and spend a lot of time watching that machine print news literally “hot off the press”.

“Cousin Johnny’s Starlite Ranch and Roundup Time”, largely traditional country-western and bluegrass music, was a fixture of our nighttime programming for many years. During the day, our format was “adult MOR” or “Middle of the Road”. Not much rock and roll; A lot of singers from the 1940’s and 1950’s with a smattering of country vocalists, folk, and a few of the softer pop songs. Definitely appealed more to the PARENTS of those days, more than to kids my age or my brother Bill’s age. Kids at school often let me and my brother Bill know that the music we often aired was on the “wrong” side of the emerging “generation gap”. When we would sometimes hassle Dad about why we couldn’t play more Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc, and be a ROCK station, his reply was it was the PARENTS and the older generation who were buying houses, cars, furniture, groceries, etc from our advertisers. Catering to them rather than the kids was a pure business decision.

Later on, from about 1969 onward, my oldest brother, Paul, gradually took over from my father as general manager. He cautiously moved our format to a more rock-pop orientation that appealed to younger people (and to baby boomers who were getting older and starting to raise families, buy houses, furniture, cars, etc.). We switched from the ABC Information network to ABC’s “American Contemporary” network. Around 1972 or 1973 we took Cousin Johnny’s Starlite Ranch program off the air and played “top 40” instead. (Cousin Johnny did have a brief revival on WNLC in the mid 1990’s, many years after we no longer owned it.) One of my brother’s priorities was to put WNLC on the air 24 hours a day, instead of signing off at midnight as many smaller-town stations did. Some of the WNLC air personalities I remember from the 1970’s included Jim Cook, Jim Buchanan, Chuck Morgan, and Mark Elliot. Dave Connors still did some news, sports, and a call-in talk show named “Sound Off”. We had a younger news man on staff named Mike Xirinachs – who today can still be heard doing news reporting on WCBS out of New York. We also had an air personality named John Fleming, who eventually became our programming director. Sometime after we sold the stations, John Fleming became well known as the spokesman in advertisements for the “Bernies” chain of appliance and electronics stores. His likeness appeared prominently on their fleet of delivery trucks.

I never had much to do with the business or programming aspects of the radio stations. From about 1968 onward I went to distant boarding schools rather than to local schools. So I never got much feedback as to whether our playing more rock-pop on WNLC in the 1970’s, rather than the “MOR” we played in the 1960’s, bridged the musical “generation gap” that much. Maybe not; as the 60’s shaded into the 70’s, so-called “progressive” or album rock on FM was becoming more popular among the young.

I was always kind of a science nerd, somewhat introverted, and as I went through the high school years, my main interest in WNLC was, “why do we have all those 8 towers, and how do those directional antennas work?”. At a young age I was always fascinated when my father brought home the Potomac Instruments field intensity meter for various reasons. He taught me how to calibrate the unit and measure the signal strength of radio stations, whether our own, or others. During the 1970’s I often manned one of those field meters when we made adjustments to our antenna system, and frequently ran the rounds to make the required weekly record of our monitor points.

Around 1971 I succeeded in deciphering the trigonometric equations which are used to calculate the radiation pattern of a radio station, using as inputs the spacing and orientation of the towers, plus the phasing and power distribution of the towers in relation to one reference tower. It wasn’t easy! Even math teachers at school were stumped by some of the notation, which ended up being an older way to express “cosine”. One of the sources I used was a paperbound text published in 1949, “Theory and Design of Directional Antennas” by Carl E. Smith, C.E., which my father had on hand, and which he likely studied when he was considering switching from 1490 kc to a frequency with higher power potential back in the 1950’s. I still have this book. My father also let me peruse all the official application documents and proof-of-performance reports prepared by broadcast engineers in Washington as part of the design and implementation of our antenna system. I quickly learned about plotting in polar coordinates as well as the logarithmic “ground wave field intensity” analysis sheets. My father also had a very thick folder of the polar plots of numerous radio stations with directional antennas around New England and even beyond. One of the schools I attended had one of the early Digital Equipment Corp. minicomputers. Needless to say, I was quite thrilled when, after a number of months of mathematical struggles, I would plug in the parameters of our own station, or others, into a computer program I wrote, and sure enough, the printout would correctly match the polar plots of the radiation pattern!

Digital Equipment Corporation had a user’s society called DECUS. I submitted my program to them, and it was accepted and published.

I recall my father sometimes mentioning a Hillis Holt. But I don’t recall seeing any design of an antenna system by him. The design and building of our antenna system took place when I was very young; long before I tackled the mathematics of all this as a high school student. I do remember my father briefly mentioning that he once considered applying for a frequency somewhere in the 1200 kc range (1260? 1290??) where, with an antenna system constructed somewhere near the Thames River in the Uncasville area, he might have been able to use a pattern that would cover Norwich as well as New London at night. Maybe that was Hillis Holt’s idea? Perhaps a suitable plot of land in the right location wasn’t available or for sale? Or maybe the channel available was a so-called “regional” channel with a 5,000-watt maximum power. For whatever reason, obviously, we didn’t go that route.

The period of time that I was old enough to understand the mathematics of directional antennas, 1970 and later, was also the time when we started noticing some coverage problems with our pattern.

One problem involved radio station WMEX, also on 1510 kc, out of Boston, Massachusetts. That station had been on the air for years with a 5,000 watt directional pattern which they used day and night. They had a construction permit to go 50,000 watts daytime (staying at 5,000 watts night). That was not implemented until 1969 or 1970. Prior to then we never had much of an interference problem from them. After they went on with their 50,000 watts, we often noticed severe interference from them in our “null” areas during the so-called “interim hours”. Sometimes we suspected they were occasionally running their 50,000 watts at night on the sly (a real no-no!) and we sometimes checked their monitor points, but could never prove this.

The “interim hours” run about 2 hours after sunrise and also about 2 hours prior to sunset. This period arises when the Earth’s upper atmosphere takes on some night skywave propagation characteristics when the sun is low on the horizon. In those years (maybe even now?) the FCC never really understood or recognized “interim hours” skywave generation and did not regulate it well. When designing antenna systems, legally, it was either “daytime”, when only ground wave mattered and skywave didn’t. Or it was “nighttime”, when more detailed analysis of vertical radiation patterns had to be performed, with the intent of stringently regulating skywave generation. This was particularly important on the “clear” channels such as 1510 kc – but again, only after official sunset and prior to official sunrise.

The problem with WMEX’s 50,000-watt daytime pattern was, though it was legal with respect to ground wave, it was a very “dirty” skywave generator during the interim hours. Excess skywave generation reduces ground wave efficiency. It can even interfere with a station’s own ground wave in fringe areas and make its own signal almost unlistenable. But maybe they figured with 50,000 watts to spill all over the place it didn’t make any difference, and during the “interim hours”, even the FCC didn’t care. Whatever, from about 1970 on, it created some problems with our outlying coverage and in “null” areas and legally, there wasn’t much we could do about it. One thing my father did was direct Randy Barrett, our chief engineer, to pump our transmitter modulation a little harder and less conservatively, which may have helped somewhat. In 1974 we attempted to fill our daytime nulls as much as possible by adding 2 more of the nighttime towers to the daytime pattern. Later we had a construction permit to move a tower about 30 feet with the intent of  filling our nulls even more, but we did not build it.. the people who bought the station from us in 1976 did build it.

There was another more subtle, creeping issue that may have reduced our broadcast efficiency in later years. Randy Barrett kept detailed graphs of our weekly monitor point readings. You could clearly see an expected seasonal swing of stronger signal during the winter and weaker signal in the summer due to absorption by foliage. But long term, over the years, the signal slowly declined – the winter peaks and summer troughs tended to be slightly less than the seasons before.

As is common with AM stations, our transmitter site was built in a low-lying swampy area. Wet areas have higher “ground conductivity” which, in combination with the grounding grid of copper wire radiating from the base of each tower, enhances AM signal propagation. Right after the transmitter was built, I recall there were many areas of standing water among the towers. Ducks liked to nest there. In the early and mid 1960’s, as a child, I sometimes went there to ice-skate on those shallow ponds when they were frozen on cold winter days. But over the years, gradually and with little notice, these ponds disappeared. The water table was lowering. By the 1970’s the fields between the towers were mostly dry and lawn-like. My father had me mow them. Was this drying out of our grounds reducing our coverage? At one point around 1974 or 1975 I even suggested to my father and brother that we should restore the transmitter fields to wetland, if possible. The suggestion was noted and even taken somewhat seriously. But by that time we were negotiating to sell the stations (which was effected in early 1976) so a project like that was sort of a moot point.

Robert Paine suggests that in the late 1970’s WNLC was having some financial problems. Not during our tenure!! Our business was always viable, in spite of the interference and coverage problems of the 1970’s just described. Maybe after we sold in 1976? All I can infer in that respect was that Mercury Broadcasting, the group that bought the stations from us in 1976, turned around and sold them to another party in the early 1980’s for substantially more than we got. So they couldn’t have been doing too badly, themselves.

In the next and final segment I will describe the fate of WNLC after we sold, and its evolution into the current FM station on 98.7. Also my father’s other broadcast ventures, including the “original” WNLC-FM in the 1940’s, the founding of WTYD, and even the very barest possibility that he might have gotten the rights to establish Connecticut’s first TV station!

 

 

 

 




On August 14, 2010 we visited the former location of WNLC's studios and transmitter on Foster Road to see if we could find any evidence of the station's operation.  Visiting abandoned broadcast sites can be a little sad, and this locaiton at the end of a run down road was no exception.  The pictures below tell the story of what we found. 


This is the pad that the studio building sat on.



Another view of the pad.



The area behind the building where the station's massive antenna system was is now pretty overgrown.



At first we weren't sure if we would be able to find any evidence of the towers but then we came across this broken antenna tuning unit insulator on the ground.

The field behind where the studio building used to be was the site of the station's massive, eight tower directional antenna system, the largest in the state.  The towers are gone but we were able to find evidence of them.  Above, the base of the west tower.


The eight towers were aligned in two parallel rows, with Six towers running L-R behind the building and two more towers beyond that.  This picture is of one of the easterly towers in the line of 6.


This tower was closest to the building.


 We located one of the old transmission lines.



Part of the original ground screen at the base of one of the towers.  Reportedly the original ground system consisted of over 100,000 feet of copper radials!

In doing research for one of our other websites, www.coldwar-ct.com, we had discovered several reports that the original WNLC facility on Foster Rd. included a bomb shelter/bunker complete with an operational studio which could originate broadcasts during an emergency.  Several other CT stations had similar set ups at one time or another, including WELI, WICH, WQQW and WTIC, so we decided to try to verify the stories which were plausible especially considering WNLC's proximity to the Groton Submarine Base.
     You can see pictures of the remaining shelters at other stations elsewhere in CT here:
http://coldwar-ct.com/Fallout_Shelters.html


 When we went looking for the old WNLC bomb shelter in August, 2010 we weren't exactly sure of it's location and as you can see in the photo above the area is quite overgrown.  But after walking around for a few minutes we spotted this conduit sticking out of a mound of earth.   It was a vent pipe from the top of the shelter that tipped us off to the location of the structure.


The front of the WNLC shelter which is buried into the side of a hill.


Looking in the front door which had been pried open by vandals we weren't  sure what we were going to find.


Unfortunately vandals had done a pretty good job on trashing the interior of the shelter. After going throught the front door and proceeding down a short corridor one has to turn right to access this room.  Like many shelter, this one had a right angle turn at the entrance for blast and/or radiation protection.


We noticed something unusual that we hadn't seen in the other shelters  we had visited: a small pass through adjacent to the door.  This concrete walled space apparently had double doors which would have allowed small items to be passed through from the outside to the inside of the shelter  without opening the larger door.  We're not sure what this was used for.


Remains of the electrical service panel, along with conduits (we assume) leading back under the parking lot to the
studio proper.


Looking from the main room into the area where the studio was originally located.


Given how vandalized the place was we didn't expect to find any of the old studio equipment but we did find a side room where you can still see the counters that supported the console, tape decks and turntables.  The papers were old program logs from the 90s.


View looking back towards the entrance corridor.



Looking out from inside the shelter.  Thankfully the shelter was never used in  an emergency but one has to wonder what the occupants would have seen looking out this door after emerging from the shelter after a war.

 
Three of the eight towers behind the building can be seen in this 1982 photo.



1982 photo of the WNLC bomb shelter which reportedly contained a small studio and emergency AM transmitter.

WNLC Memories:

William Morey:  
All I can say is this sure brings back memories. I remember as a kid in the 50's on up WNLC, which my father started in 1936 at the age of 21. If only he could have seen what we have today, he would be amazed at how far and how fast electronics has taken us.


Curtis Searle:
I was a part timer at WNLC AM for almost a year starting in late 1979. Reading about the fire. Made me recall being in the studio on a saturday night running a program. The phone lights up and it is the Waterford Fire Dept. Letting me know that an antennea was on fire. The box that housed the pattern switch had burned up. I tried calling the bosses and engineers and got no one. The station stayed on the air. I also got my on air break when the DJ who worked Sundays 11a-3pm was very intoxicated slurred a little while on air then decide to leave sick. Once again I could not get a hold of any bosses. Seeing the pictures from August 2010 were very sad. The bunker was neat it had its own 500 watt transmitter. A studio and If I recall correctly music to play. Along with Civil Defense papers. The old station was L shaped. I think the restrooms were across from the am studios. And a couple of vending machines. Another 500 watt transmitter and the equipment to monitor WTYD. WTYD FM was automated and you had to change the tapes every 6 hours. The on air studio had a button you would push to broadcast am over the fm mostly news. Then when a tape would break a bell would ring. To let you know that dead air was being broadcast. With out fail the bell would ring when I was on the air on the am side. You learned to change the music tapes very quickly. Our top of the hour ID was WNLC New London asking you to wear white until the hostages come home. ( U.S. Embassy Hostages held by and in Iran 1979 and 1980.) Being on the air at WNLC was great.


T. Allen Colvard:
If anyone is interested... i was the chief operator/engineer for WNLC-AM(1510)/ WTYD-FM(100.9)in the mid-80's. the morning man for 'TYD and was responsible for the format shift to Adult Contemporary from Beautiful Music; took alot of heat in the press for that one! i also worked the overnights on 'NLC (oldies) with little regard for format constraints and had the most listened to program in non-rated radio!! The first live remote broadcast 'TYD did from the mall in Waterford we did using the MARTI from the sister. Management wouldn't spring for a board op to fire the EOM since 'TYD was automated, so i rigged a "missle-fire" button using a PL generator from a 2-way radio set and tied it to the HARRIS automation to trigger the next event. KOOL!! (pun intended) i've got slides of the original construction photos of the antenna farm at Foster RD. including the FEMA bomb shelter and generator shed. y'know... in case of the russians :) dropping their regards :( we'll chat later... back then i went by Alan Paige...... pause for obvious reactions of recognition. Pushing the "envelope" was my contribution to AM radio engineering, that RCA-BTA5/10U would never modulate an AM envelope the same again.


Bob Paine:

I want to correct and/or explain a few things I wrote about WNLC.
  I should have said and meant to say that I was told - as best I can remember - that the WNLC AM transmitter was on City Pier or State Pier. Reading Mr. Morey's article about the early days seems to jog a very small inkling that I might have been told it was on the Central Vermont pier. Sorry I didn't make it clear that I was recalling as best I could.
  About the financial situation in the 1970s - ditto, I should have said that I had heard the problems MAY have existed but it was secondhand information.
  Regarding the small square opening near the entrance of the fallout shelter studio, it would make perfect sense that it would have been where the air filtration unit would have been located. I had absolutely NO guess as to what it might have been.
  My thanks to Mr. Morey for the information about the station's early days. I look forward to reading more of WNLC's history.




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