HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WPOP (WNBC) Memories


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

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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 MEMORIES



    

Listeners and former WPOP employees are encouraged to share their recollections about the station for possible inclusion on this page.
  Send your comments to admin@hartfordradiohistory.com

WPOP Memories:

Robert Paine:
WPOP was located at 54 Pratt Street, Hartford, from appr. 1938 to 1956. I saw the place in 1974. The caretaker opened the suite of rooms for me. I saw two of the four - a studio and control room - and it looked as though it had been left as it was when the equipment was moved. The lead lining was still on the CR wall. I have a diagram which I'll get to you.

Dick Bertel’s Recollections of WGTH Radio, Hartford (Sept. 1955-May, 1956)
I joined the staff of WGTH, Hartford in the early fall of 1955.  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. 


Susan Bailey:  
Bob Michaels hired me to do news at WPOP Many years ago. It was the job that brought me to CT in the first place. Pretty much changed the course of my life. Like throwing a pebble in the pond and watching the ripples spread.


Janice Davis Kiley:  
My father was Richard W. Davis, who was the General Manager of Radio Station WNBC at 147 Main Street in New Britain, Conn. in 1935. I have just been going through his old papers and found a letter dated December 10, 1935 from P. J. Hennessey, Jr. an attorney for the National Broadcasting Company, telling my father that WNBC could no longer use the call-letters for the station. I have a copy of the letter he wrote back and it was terrific. I guess WNBC won the case!


Del Raycee


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