HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WPOP (WNBC)



Hartford Radio
Author: John Ramsey
ISBN: 9780738576664
# of Pages: 128
Over 220 high quality images
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing

Order Today by clicking below:
http://shop.hartfordradiohistory.com

Book Description: 
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.



WPOP (WNBC)

There is an excellent website dedicated to the history of WPOP located at:
http://www.wdrcobg.com/wpop.html

Don't forget to check out the other WPOP page links on the left as well as the link to what was WPOP's sister station, WMRQ, 104.1.


      
On March 12, 1935 WMFE, 1380 kc, 250 watts, came on the air licensed to New Britain, Connecticut with studios located at  272 Main St.
      On March 13 of the same year the call letters were changed to WNBC which stood for the city of license.  According to the 1936 CT State Register the station's owener was William J. Sanders.
       Richard W. Davis, who was the General Manager of Radio Station WNBC at 147 Main Street in New Britain, Conn. in 1935

       We have not been able to determine where the transmitter and antenna(s) were located prior to June, 1936 but the records indicate that by that time they were on Cedar Street in Newington where it remains to this day.  The power was increased to 1,000 watts the following year.
        In 1937 the studios were located at 147 Main Street in New Britain.

        From appr. 1938 to 1956 the studios were located at 54 Pratt Street, Hartford       
        In March, 1941 the station’s frequency was changed to 1410 kc as part of a government mandated frequency shift that affected 90 percents of all US stations.  By the end of 1941 WNBC had increased power to 5,000 watts.

       The city of license was changed to Hartford in June of 1942 and the studios moved to Hartford as well.

       Two years later, on October 9, 1944, the call letters were changed to WHTD.  This new call sign lasted less than two years when on April 10, 1946 they were changed to WONS.  This came about because the owner of the station at the time was a gentleman named William O'Neill (not the former governor).  Thus WONS stood for "William O'Neill's Station). 
        Dick Bertel recalls:
        "The station was located on the second floor of a well-worn office building at 54 Pratt Street, across from Society for Savings.  WGTH consisted of two studios separated by s control room which were accessed through the station’s reception area.  The board for the larger studio was in the control room, requiring the services of an operator or engineer.  The patch bay, outside telephone lines and reel to reel tape recorders were also located there.  The smaller (but still good sized) studio had its own, simplified, low-profile control board that gavet he announcer a clear view of the control room window but functioned independently from it.  The custom-made table on which the board was mounted was positioned in the center of the studio, which allowed guests to sit on the opposite side, facing the announcer. There were two RCA 70-D turntables comfortably located on either side of the announcer.
         "WGTH was owned by General Tire and had been created a year or so earlier by the merger of WTHT and WONS.  As a result the station was affiliated with both ABC and Mutual and was able to pick and choose which shows it wished to carry.      
    "Both networks had, by now, reduced their entertainment programming considerably, although ABC still offered “The Breakfast Club” in the morning, and Mutual carried “Gangbusters “on a weekly basis in the evening.In addition, Mutual featured a live hour long version of Bob and Ray from 5 to 6 PM across the board and ABC Radio inaugurated a short-lived nighttime program called “Listen”, for two hours Monday thru Friday.  It was a news and features-oriented show modeled after NBC’s weekend success “Monitor” which had debuted a few months earlier.
    "On Saturday mornings the station broadcast a live talent show from 10:15 to 10:45 which originated in Brown Thompson’s basement.  An engineer would set up the equipment which included a large electric clock on a stand and the assigned announcer would head from the studio to the store, which was only a three minute walk. A studio audience, made up of family and friends of the young performers, cheered and applauded after every performance.  The show was terminated in the fall of 1955.
    "On Sundays WGTH would carry foreign language programming in the late morning and early afternoon.  The various hosts would sit opposite the announcer who would spin the records which were usually brought from home.
    "The station had its own mobile truck which was used for remotes.  It was equipped with a radiotelephone which enabled the engineer to communicate with the station or anyone he needed to call.
    "WGTH fed the Mutual network twice while I was there.  Bob and Ray broadcast their hour long show from the Armory in conjunction with an event being staged there and veteran journalist and commentator Cedric Foster did his afternoon newscast one day while he was in town.
    "WGTH was still primarily a network affiliate in 1955.  Record shows were used to bridge gaps between network feeds which remained the primary source of the station’s programming.  However, as the networks’output declined, more and more local time had to be filled.  And so, in the fall of 1955 the station hired disc jockey Bobby Lloyd to hosta daily afternoon block.  Bobby had a wonderful sense of humor which he injected liberally between records.  His music still featured the major commercial artists of the day, because rock and roll had not yet main streamed.  Bobby wasn’t with the station very long when he received a lucrative offer to move to WHEC in Rochester, New York.
    "There was incredible turnover at WGTH.  Within three weeks of my arrival announcer Dick Faguehad left.  Also, an evening announcer, whose name I can’t recall, resigned.  They were replaced by Steve Gilmartin, who would later join WMAL in Washington (he was the voice of the Washington Redskins), and Mike Lawless who would become a popular disc jockey at WPOP.
    "Within the same three week period or so Program Director Lou Brookes was replaced by Bob Andrews who would oversee the operation for the next few months.
    "John Deme was the Sales Manager of WGTH when I started in September, 1955.  However, he would leave the station in 1956.  John became the driving force behind WINF, Manchester, which went on the air in 1958.
    "Hillis Holt was Chief Engineer of the station, and, although he would appear at the Pratt Street studios regularly, I think hespent the bulk of his time at the Newington transmitter site. Hillis would later join John Deme to put WINF on the air.
    "Dottie Coleman was the station’s so-called Women’s Director.  She hosted The Dottie Coleman Show Monday through Friday from 12:15 to 1:00 PM.  She would interview guests, including authors, local personalities and others looking to promote their projects and ideas.  One such guest, I recall,advocated the consumption of cod liver oil as a way of lubricating arthritic joints.  I was Dottie’s announcer and foil and we both had a difficult time trying to keep it together.
    "Early in 1956 WGTH moved out of the Pratt Street studios and set up shop at the site of its sister station, WGTH-TV, located at 555 Asylum Street, just beyond the New Haven Railroad overpass as you headed up the hill.      "The station now operated out of a makeshift studio adjacent to the TV operation.  This was undoubtedly a cost-saving move,although the on-air staff didn’t understand what was happening at the time.  By March the station was sold, pending FCC approval.  By now, Jack Downey, Manager of WGTH-TV, assumed responsibility for its day-to-day operation.
    "I left WGTH in May,1956 to join WTIC and two months later the sale went through.  Shortly afterwards the call letters were changed to WPOP and a contemporary music format was created that would last for the better part of 20 years.
"


       Contributor Robert Paine:  "My understanding about General Tire is that the company bought the Yankee Network in the 40s. I'm not sure when they purchased WNBC/WHTD but believe it to have been around 43 or 44." 

       Bill Davies: 
"The merger, to avert a long, expensive, competitive battle for the allocated channel 18, was between General Tire (a.k.a. General TeleRadio) and The Hartford Times. The resulting WGTH-1410/WGTH-TV-18 actually stood for
General Times Hartford. The TV side later became WHCT, and when CBS owned it, a young Charles Osgood was in charge! I talked with him about that at WPOP's 50th anniversary. He said his subsequent career switch was from CBS'
youngest GM to its oldest cub reporter!"

     On December 1, 1953 the station became WGTH which stood for General Times Hartford.  Two years later RKO Teleradio Pictures sold the station to Tele-Broadcasters of CT, Inc, and changed the calls to WPOP.  Contemporary Top 40 Music commenced in 1958.

      We have one report that WPOP might have operated out of the Hotel Bond in the fifties but several other reports point to 418 Asylum, the building on the west side of the intersection of Asylum and High Street, as the location.     
     In the seventies a pre-fab building was added in front of the transmitter site "in the swamp" on Cedar street to house new studios and offices.
    It is believed that WPOP initially operated non-directional during the day and directional at night.  Several local engineers have reported that in order to put a better signal into the New Haven area the station applied to the FCC to operate with a directional daytime pattern which they still do to this day.

    Augie Santana and Bobby Krowka were the station's engineers around this time.
    Later the studios were moved to a new location several miles east on Cedar St. in the late seventies(see picture below) and the pre-fab studio building was removed as part of the Cedar Street widening project. Reportedly the pre-fab building was actually dismantled, sold to a car dealer, and re-assembled in Holyoke, MA
    The music format was abandoned on June 30, 1975 when the station switched to the NBC News and Information Service format. 
    WIOF, WPOP's sister station moved to the Cedar St. location in the late seventies. 
    Around 1998 WPOP's studios were moved in with the Clear Channel cluster at 10 Columbus Blvd in Hartford and the station affiliated with ESPN Radio.
    John Ramsey recalls "when WPOP was purchased by Clear Channel in '96 I had a chance to do some engineering work for WPOP, a station I had grown up listening to in the sixties.  On my first visit to the transmitter site I was surprised to see an old, retired Westinghouse 5,000 watt transmitter with the call letters "WNBC" on the front of it.  I had had no idea that WPOP had used those call letters in the distant past.   At that time the station's format was news/talk.  On January 13, 1997 the format was switched to all-sports."


1937 Letterhead


1950

1956


WPOP's old studio building on Cedar St. in Newington.  They operated out of this site, for a while with sister station Radio 104 in the eighties and up until 1998 when they moved to 10 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford.  The building was sold in 1999 to a church group which still owns it.  2009 photo.

One of about a half dozen WPOP pop music albums produced by the station in the sixties and seventies.


Another WPOP Album.


WPOP's old studio building on Cedar St. in Newington.  They operated out of this site, for a while with sister station Radio 104 in the eighties and up until 1998 when they moved to 10 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford.  The building was sold in 1999 to a church group which still owns it.  2009 photo.


2009 Photo of the first WPOP studio/transmitter site on Cedar Street in Newington.


Inside view of those near, translucent, glass bricks in the front of the old building.

If you look really close to the left of the T handle in this picture you will see the faint outline of the letters "W N B C" on the front of this old Westinghouse transmitter at the WPOP Cedar St. transmitter site.   WPOP used the calls WPOP for a number of years prior to the New York station using them.


 1956

 
1957





Del and Mrs. Raycee with Sammy Davis Jr.



WPOP Jocks 1967.  L-R:
Gary Girard, Dan Clayton, Lee Baby Simms, Woody Roberts, Bill Bland and Bill Winters. (Heatherton is not in this photo).



Del Raycee



Bob Scot, Don Blair and Del Raycee at Manchester race.



WPOP Live Remote Broadcast from JJ Newberry's.











WPOP Chief Engineer Augie Santana





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