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In late 1962 the South Congregational Church on Main St in Hartfod purchased WFNQ, 93.7 Mhz for $10,000. The station had previously provided "storecast" music to supermarkets from 9am to 9pm.
The call letters were changed to WSCH and the new station came on the air in September, 1963 as an independently incorporated FM station operated by the church. Their intent was operate it as a public educational FM station. Early programming consisted of live broadcasts of the Hartford Symphony and the station was affiliated with the Eastern Educational Network.
By January, 1964, WSCH was on the air 98 hours a week. Daily 15 minute “Viewpoint” editorials on the air were presented by Dr. Gray, who also conducted “Phone-the-Pastor” program on Saturday evening. The Sunday morning 11 o’clock church service was broadcast, and F.M. radios were placed in the homes of all shut-ins who desired them. The National Educational Radio Network (NERN) accepted WSCH as a member and this enabled the station to present programs from many lands in addition to the quality music which originated in
A financial statement from January 1, 1963 shows the following expenses: Equipment, $25,463; salaries, $12,200; transmitter maintenance, $1.806 and tapes and records, $2,251. The total budget in the first year was $65,000 with most of that amount going into building the new studios at the church.
According to the first WSCH Annual Report from 1963, requests for the station’s program guide were being received at a rate of 75 to 100 per week! The station drew a large audience by broadcasting the UN Sessions live during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first year that station had five regular employees, a station manager, a secretary, a board operator, a transmitter attendant and an engineer.
The financial costs on
Above: South Congregational Church. 2009 photo.
Hartford Gunn took that article in hand to The Ford Foundation hoping for seed money to create a fund to support a national network. They devised The Corporation for Public Broadcasting whereby CPB could accept government money for us, but it would insulate the funding. By doing so CPB would comply with FCC guidelines to receive government funding but not be spreading government propaganda to stations in return.
We put an FM receiver with an antennae in the bell tower of South Church to get our Boston link through a WGBH link at Amherst University. WRVR-FM installed an antenna in the bell tower of Riverside Church in NYC to get our transmission from Meriden Mountain. Likewise we installed a tuner at our Meriden Mountain transmitter site to radio relay NYC to Boston via our local broadcast.
For a local FM station to have an in-house chamber music group, rights to broadcast the Hartford Symphony Orchestra , The NY Philharmonic (live from NY), The Boston Pops & The Boston Symphony Orchestra (Live/Boston), The Marine Corps Marching Band, (Live/Washington), and so forth, we created a golden moment in the industry. I was guilty of pre-empting my own local WSCH schedule because I provided the key link between Boston and NYC. Remember there was no satellite at the time; everything was off-the-air radio relay.
When I left South Church Broadcasting to go to college ( was 18 yrs. old at the time) the station was thriving. I was receiving hundreds of letters from listeners praising our broadcasting. I was proud of my accomplishment both at the station and our little network. Hartford Gunn wanted me to continue working for him and going to college in Boston but I knew my academics would never have a chance with my passion for broadcasting. And, when first moving to Hartford I had promised my parents I'd return to Michigan for college after WSCH was established. Little did I know how important my work there would be to the beginning of NPR and PBS. We founded a national treasure. While I never received any credit on the books at NPR or PBS I know how it all began. That's good enough for me.