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WRCH Memories

If you are a WRCH listener or former employee you are welcome to submit stories and memories of the station for possible inclusion on this page.  Email admin@hartfordradiohistory.com

Kathy Wyler on WRCH.

Tom Ray, former WRCH chief engineer:

I notice the pictures of the original WHAY transmitter building.  When I worked at WRCH/WRCQ in 1983-1985, that building had been remodeled into an apartment.  One Sunday night, I was on my way home from Washington, DC after attending an AM antenna seminar at the NAB.  Driving on I-84, I noted that only one of the five WRCQ towers was lit.  I looked at my watch (it was late).  I looked at the towers.  I called the FAA from home to report the tower light outage.  The next day, it was time to troubleshoot why 4 towers had no lights.  My assistant, Ray Halleck, and I schlepped out into the swamp and opened the gate on tower #1, the one closest to the building.  There, all around the inside of the fenced enclosure, was broken glass – red tower beacon lenses, red lenses from the side lights, broken light bulbs.  Checking inside the gates of the other 3 towers in the line showed the same thing.  Breaking out the binoculars showed that indeed, there were no lenses on any of the fixtures on the towers, and no light bulbs, either.  Turns out that Saturday night, the apartment dwellers had a “kegger”.  And, of course, when you’re snockered, it’s a lot of fun to climb those 275 foot towers and take out the light bulbs!  They make a cool noise when they hit the ground!!  Enzo DeDominicis, President of WRCH/WRCQ, was not pleased.  It was expensive to repair and relamp all those fixtures!

Also during this time when I was at WRCH/WRCQ, we built the new WRCH facility in the new Channel 61 building on Rattlesnake Mountain.  I fondly recall the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, when the Canadian tower crew was looking to get out of Dodge, and I pestered them (because Enzo was pestering me) to get the WRCH transmission line into our room so we could turn on the new transmitter.  They grudgingly agreed – and almost stopped when they realized the couple of tight bends they would have to make with 3-1/2” transmission line – not an easy chore.  I also recall going up the elevator in the Channel 61 tower with an Engineer from ERI, the antenna manufacturer.  WRCH used a panel antenna which wraps around the tower.  Conveniently, there was a landing platform directly behind the center of the antenna.  You couldn’t fall out of the tower, as the antenna effectively enclosed the landing platform.  But, I don’t get along well with heights.  I stood on the landing platform taking pictures, then turned to get back into the elevator to wait for the ERI guy – who had climbed over the antenna on the outside of the tower and was jumping up and down on one of the antenna elements – with no climbing belt!  With heart in throat, I asked what he was doing, and how he knew the element was properly bolted into place.  His response, “no one ever fell off a tower because they didn’t hang on!”.  Well, how about because they COULDN’T hang on???  Then there was Channel 61 testing into their transmitter into their dummy load.  We used to watch the test patterns clear as a bell (this was just the dummy load – no antenna connected) at the WRCH studios on Birdseye Road.  I remember the night they tested their antenna – full power – while it sat on sawhorses on the ground.  The next day, there was no grass in the area where the test was done!

Eric (Marenghi) Johnson:
AM 910 and later 100.5 FM were owned by Aldo DeDominicis and his nephew Enzo DeDominicis.  WHAY had been a middle of the road station with personalities.  Easy Ed Harrigan was representative of that free-wheeling era.  WHAY also aired an Italian show in prime time weekdays featuring Enzo himself, first billed as Enzo Romano, then later using his real name.
The stations were licensed to New Britain.  Enzo said that he had a talk with New Britain advertisers, asking them if they would really support a New Britain station. The alternative was to re-position AM 910 as a Greater Hartford station and not provide localized service to New Britain.  The latter course was chosen.
WRCH AM 910 began airing the mostly orchestral instrumental Beautiful Music format in the early 60s, with considerable success.  Mantovani and Percy Faith were representative artists.  Vocals aired on a limited basis. 
The feel of the station was elegant, formal, reserved and classy.  WRCH did not invent this format but they did it very well.  It was a mood format with powerful stationality and fans who did long-hour listening.  Unlike other formats of that day where announcers talked in and out of most songs, the music on WRCH was generally segued in sweeps of 4 or 5 songs with very little or no talk.
I was a high school kid at the time and I loved it.  I also listened to WPOP and WDRC, but I was captivated by the sheer elegance, formality and class of the WRCH format.  I knew other teens who listened to it, too.  Some considered it good music by which to do homework.
I wanted to work there when I grew up, and I did.  I was News Director for 4 years in the 70s.  The lineup then was Alan Ford in the morning, Fred Swanson in early midday, Dick Ellis later midday, Lou Terri in afternoon drive and Bob (Mazzarella) Marx at night. 
Fred Swanson had stayed on from the old WHAY.  His style was most typical of the format and when I hear the station in my head today, I hear Fred.  Dick Ellis had a phenomenal, rich voice and was also Program Director.  The music was all done locally at that time with a format Dick Ellis devised.  The relationship between songs, the mood their progression created, and the way they flowed into one another were all key elements.
Van Saunders was the most recognizable news voice of the station for many years. His trademark signature on the air was "Good Day".  His name and on-air delivery evoked the impression of a rather stiff old WASP-Yankee persona.   Actually he was a volatile, intense Italian named Salvatore Piacente.
By the mid 70s, FM was becoming a more serious factor.  WRCH-FM 100.5 aired a syndicated version of the format.  A fellow named Fred Constant had bought WKSS-FM and put the format on it with some success.  In the end, WRCH-FM prevailed and morphed from old beautiful music into the light AC that keeps it a market leader to this day.
The most striking feature of the station was the tone of its ownership.  Aldo and Enzo DeDominicis conducted themselves so differently from  today's corporate radio owners.  They made money, a lot of it, but their whole attitude toward the station was one of pride, old world Italian family pride.  They were just great to work for.

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