HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WSCH

(This section is under construction. The text below is a draft history, more information is needed.  Please contact us with corrections, updates and/or suggestions. Email us at: admin@hartfordradiohistory.com.)


WSCH

      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 Janu
ary, 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 New York’s Riverside Church. The studios were located in rooms under the sanctuary, at No. 1 Buckingham St. in Hartford.  The transmission facilities were on West Peak in Meriden.  According to early station documents, Reverend John R. Elmore, Mrs. George Mead, and Mr. J. Harold Williams, Esq., carried major responsibility for the organization and operation of WSCH.  The signal was 7,000 watts in power, heard over CT, Long Island and portions of MA and NY State. 

          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 Meriden Mountain were shared with another station. That station closed on March 2, 1964 because of lack of financial support, giving listeners only a few days warning and it proved impossible to continue WSCH.  Within a year the 93.7 frequency would be reused by what is now WZMX.




Above: South Congregational Church.  2009 photo.

WSCH Memories:

Contributor Bob Donaghey:
I was hired to be the first station manager and guided the construction along with John Elmore.  I basically programmed  and built the stationsimilar to WGBH in Boston along with programs and live broadcasts from our studios.  I became a good friend of WGBH general manager, Hartford Gunn, and was offered a job as program director in Boston but I opted out to get a college education.  Hartford also offer me various jobs at NPR/PBS in Washington but I went to work at CBS TV and the Ed Sullivan Show directly from college.  Hartford became the President of PBS and the man I was to replace in Boston later also became a PBS President.  In essence although I helped create PBS with Hartford and about 5 other nearby station managers, I never got any credet because I never accepted working there.  Our Ford Foundation grant of a million to build a national network was due to our coverage of Castro's Cuban stand-off.  Hartford, Jack Summerfield (WRVR/NYC), and I devised PBS as a direct result of our "off the air" radio relay we devised using WSCH to glue Boston and NYC together.  In just a few weeks we had links up and down the East Coast of the US.Deep in my files I have a couple newspaper stories about my work at WSCH that appeared in the Hartford Current.  I'll dig them out and send them to you.  I know that there was a great article that appeared in the  NY Times about our (new network)  coverage of the Cuban crisis which I don't have but I'd like to have a copy of it.  If I can get one I'll send it along. 

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.


Contributor Tom Ray:
   
  My wife belonged to South Congregational when we met.  She was afraid the minister wouldn’t marry us because I was brought up Catholic.  At our first meeting with the minister, he asked what I did for a living.  At that time, I was CE at WKSS.  The conversation immediately turned to RF, tubes, transistors – because South Congregational owned 93.7 at one point, which became WLVH when South Church sold it.  The minister, Dr. John Elmore, had been their CE at the time.  So for almost an hour, Dr. Elmore and I discussed radio, FM, transmitters, while my poor wife-to-be sat there with her mouth open.  The meeting was supposed to be about us!  At the end of our time, Dr. Elmore asked what we had been doing together as a couple.  My wife mentioned that we were in the process of rebuilding the kitchen in the house I owned so she would be comfortable living there after we were married.  Dr. Elmore stated, “well, you’ve got a good Engineer here – and you’re doing a kitchen.  If you two are still talking in 3 months, there should be no problem with you getting married”.  That was the extent of the conversation about “us”.  My wife, 23 years later, has yet to let me live that meeting down!
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