HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
Your Subtitle text
WRYM (WKNB) Main Page
(Additional photos can be found below and on the various WKNB/WRYM sub sections available on the menu at the left of the page.)

 

On July 6, 1946 a permit was issued to New Britain Broadcasting Co for construction of a new station at 1056 Willard Ave in Newington.  On August 18 of that same year WKNB came on the air for the first time.  The station was licensed to 840 KHz with a power of 1,000 watts, daytime only. The WKNB call letters stood for Kensington-New Britain. Both the studios and the transmitter were located on Willard Avenue in Newington, CT. The New Britain Broadcasting Company was the licensee.

          Contributor Bill Davies recalls:
    "It was CT’s first post-WWII station, and I remember listening to its inaugural broadcast one Sunday afternoon. A few stations around the country sent audio greetings to be aired, including one from “sunny California,” in which, during the congratulations, the SFX suggested the closing of a window and abruptly ending the sounds of thunder and pounding rain!

      "The (station) carried the NY Yankee games to the extent possible – many more day games then – within their authorized hours. Later they added WKNB-FM-103.7 and broadcast the full schedule as I recall, extending beyond their usual 10P signoff as necessary. (The old St. Louis Browns were then the westernmost venue of the American League.) Live baseball hadn’t yet reached central CT TV viewers, and FM receivers were neither abundant nor inexpensive. Win Needles once told me that, as a WKNB sales employee, he delivered fixed frequency (103.7, of course) FM sets free to many bars in the area. This encouraged fans to come in and listen to the Yankee games while quaffing a few!"

One of the original engineers, Charles Portia, contributed the early photos below from 1947 (see also "WRYM 1947" page).
        Apparently the studios were located at 218 Main Street in New Britain at some point early on.
         WKNB had a sister station, WFHA, "New Britain's only FM station which operated on 103.7 Mhz."
        Louis A. Sodokoff was the owner and early FCC documentation lists the first transmitter as a RCA 1-G yet an original inventory from 1948 shows the transmitter as a Gates BC-1T, a unit which was decommissioned from back-up service in 2008.
        In 1958, the program line up was as follows:

6:45 - 10 a.m.  Phil Hale

10 a.m.  Barry Barents News

10 a.m. - Noon  Jack Comley

Noon - 1 p.m.  Shirley Palmer

2-5 p.m.  Chuck Carron

Contributor Mike Drechsler (former Promotions Director):

“When I came to Hartford, in 1959, from NY/NJ, I carried the check that was to buy WKNB-Radio in NBC's spin off of WKNB Radio from Channel 30. NBC sold both stations - rumor was that it was "embarrassing" to have an NBC owned and operated 1,000 watt radio station in the same town as long time NBC affiliate WTIC.”

“Sheldon Smerling was WKNB radio's new owner and my boss . . . Shelly successfully owned drive-in movies in New Jersey and decided to try radio. We remained in Channel 30's building, paying rent at 1422 New Britain Avenue, West Hartford , for a while until we decided to rehab the transmitter building on Willard Avenue in Newington and move there to our own facility. About a year or so later the station was sold to Louis Sodokoff from Long Island.”

          “In 1959 and into the early 60's familiar voices continued on the WKNB Radio air. Phil Hale, Bill Hennessy, Jack Comely, Barry Barents, Tex Pavel, Ed Liska, and a few others stayed on both radio and separately owned TV. The station manager was Norton Virgein (sp).”

          “During Shelly Smerling's watch, we lost a helium weather balloon from the roof of a Berlin Turnpike car dealer and then did it again at the grand opening of the Cinerama (movie) Theater. High winds broke the mooring lines.  Shaped like a blimp with streamers, this device was much bigger than the first one, now heading toward Bradley Field airspace with our very large call letters painted on it. We alerted the tower. They were not happy.”

“We broadcast Yankee Baseball and so I borrowed a Yankee uniform from the Bronx Bombers and, wearing motorized skates (yes gasoline powered motorized skates), I skated in a parade in New Britain handing out schedules. Bob Steele later had me on his TV sports show. We also put a model on the skates when a NYC photographer asked us to do something with the skates. His pictures of my "secretary" were published in newspapers and magazines worldwide.”

“One year we won the Greater Hartford Advertising Club's grand award for our jingles – [WKNB has a happy sound]”.

New owner Louis Sodacoff hired a consultant who changed the format and call letters to WRYM.

 

          On January 1, 1960 the program line up was:

7:00 a.m. Phil Hale

10:00 a.m. Bob Leonard

1:00 p.m. Bill Bolte

4:00 p.m. Open Mic

4:15 p.m. Sign Off

    In December, 16, 1960, WKNB radio and co-owned channel 30 television transferred from owner National Broadcasting Company to Connecticut Television, Inc. (see article below).
        The station
had four metropolitan hardtops cars in its fleet.

          In 1961, employees of Beacon Broadcasting Company licensee of WRYM, included: Bob Leonard Station Manager and Michael E. Dreschler Promotions Director.

In 1962 WRYM 840 New Britain, “Rhyme”, became the first all-beautiful music station in the state.

In 1962 WRYM received a Construction Permit from the FCC for a new FM station on 100.5 Mhz.  The FM antenna was to be mounted on the AM tower on Willard Ave. When engineering studies indicated that the original monopole tower would not support the proposed FM antenna, application was made to the Commission in June, 1963 to replace the AM tower.
            The WRYM-FM construction permit, FCC number BPH-3529, was modified on February, 1963 to reflect plans for a different antenna and transmitter (see WKNB-FM section). Unfortunately, for some reason, WRYM never received an FM license. Subsequently that frequency was licensed to WRCH-FM.
        In 1984 owner Sodokoff passed away unexpectedly forcing an involuntary transfer of station ownership to Hartford City Broadcasting Company.

         Barry Kursman was General manager in 1993.

 

Above:  Rare photo of WKNB studios on Willard Avenue in Newington taken in 1947, just after the station went on the air.   The tower can be seen in the background.  The station still uses the same building 60-plus years later.  Photo courtesy of Charles Portia, WKNB engineer, 1947.  (Charles Portia photo)
Above:  The WKNB antenna behind the Willard Avenue building just after construction in 1947.  This tower is still in use today!  (Charles Portia photo)

 
Above:  Ad from 1947 Newspaper.

In 1998 WRYM received permission to add night service and a second tower was added to the Willard St. property.  Although limited to only about 200 watts at night, the addition of night time service was a major achievement.
    In 2004 Hartford County Broadcasting sold Connecticut's WRYM (840 New Britain
) to Eight Forty Broadcasting for $1.06 million.

Mr. John Jeski, the host of a Polka show which had been on WRYM for over three decades, died on Sunday August 19, 2007.  Jeski's live Polka broadcast from the Polish Home in Newington continues to this day in its forth decade of weekly broadcasting, perhaps the longest running remote broadcast in the history of broadcasting.

In 2008, Lucio Ruzzier, one of the owners of the station passed away.  The station is currently owned by Eight Forty Broadcasting Corporation, Walter Martinez station manager.

 

Notes:

Alumni include:

Bob Leonard Station Manager 61

Michael E. Dreschler Promotions Director 61

Announcers, Barry Barents  58, Bill Bolte  61, Jack Comley 58 , Phil Hale 58, Bob Leonard  61, Shirley Palmer 58, Chuck Carron 58,

Samuel V. Balnius, Engineer, Mike Drechsler*  medrfd@comcast.net

 

(In 1948, WKNB-FM 103.7 started airing the Rural Radio Network, the first fulltime FM format for farmers and agricultural interests.)

Above:  WRYM daytime tower made by Linco.  2008 photo.
Above:  1947 picture of WKNB announcer at the controls.  (Charles Portia photo)
(Charles Portia photo.)Above: Transmitter engineer Charles Portia standing in front of the huge 1,000 watts AM transmitter in 1947.  Today these transmitters are smaller than a two drawer filing cabinet!  (Charles Portia photo)
Above:  Another announcer at WKNB, 1947.  (Charles Portia photo)
Above:  December 16, 1960 newspaper article about the transfer of ownership of WKNB  radio and Channel 30 from NBC to CT Television, Inc.  (Charles Portia photo)
Above:  Program Director "Scout" in the WKNB News Studio, 1947.  (Charles Portia photo.)
Above:  WKNB receptionist.  Charles Portia photo.
Above:  1947 photo of Charles Poticha, WKNB engineer.
Above:  WKNB remote broadcast, location known.  Possibly from the 1960s.
Above:  WKNB had a large fleet of vehicles to cover news stories, including no less than four Metropolitans, one of which is shown above.

Above:  WRYM owner Louis Sodokoff (middle) and his wife Sylvia. W. Davidson & Kenneth Greensley. Date unknown. 

Above:  L-R:  Mrs. Klein, Robert Klein (owner), ?, date unknown.
Above: In 1998 WRYM (formally WKNB) added night service.  Tower on left is used at night along with the tower on the right, which is used day and night.
Photo 2008.

In February, 1963 this Construction Permit (CP) was issued to WRYM (AM) authorizing the construction of a new FM station on 100.5 Mhz. (Actually the document above is a request to modify the FM CP because a new AM tower was required to support the proposed FM antenna. 

For some reason WKNB didn't build their FM station on 100.5 in the time alloted by the FCC so their Construction Permit expired.  As the letter above indicates, on April 14, 1965 the Commission refused to renew the permit ending permanently any plans for WKNB to have an FM station and freeing up the frequency for what would become WRCH-FM.


1954


1964


1964


1967.  John Diskes photo.


1968


1969

 
1970


1970


If you walked down this hallway in the basement of WVIT Channel 30s New Britain Avenue Studio 45 years ago you would have found the studios of WKNB AM and FM.
2009 Photo


1975 image of live WRYM broadcast of the Lithuanian Show featuring Al Dzikas.




1964

WRYM Memories:

Earl Carron:  I was C.E. of this station in 1959 about the time that Louis Sodofoff purchased the station. Have fond memories of the transition from WKNB to WRYM. Left to build WEDH-TV Ch. 24. Was Stan Ozimek's engineer (for 13 years) - broadcasting from the Polish National Home in Hartford. Ah, so many years ago!

Website Builder