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WSTR (pirate)

WSTR-FM was a pirate broadcaster who operated in West Hartford in 1973 from the vicinity of Kennedy Park.

The operator, "Ray" recently submitted the following WSTR history:

“ WSTR-FM” was an “educational” endeavor stemming from my introduction to radio at a tender age of 15 by friends I had met in Fishkill New York around 1969-70. Jim S. had built an AM and FM station “WSPF” under the guidance of a relative who was in the broadcast industry as a CE. Jim, in high school, had secured his FCC 1st Phone ticket and worked part time as an engineer for a local station. The tube transmitter built by his brother-in-law had a spectacular sound and range; we were told it was legal. His station was run as any other professional station. We all had air shifts, ran ABC news at the top of the hour, PSA’s and some commercials. We had a listener line and took requests. I started out reading local news and eventually had a slot for my show as Ray Stevenson. This was big stuff and a lot of fun, every night from 6pm to 11pm and weekends from noon to 11pm. WSPF had a “staff” of about 6-7 DJ’s and the older guys took the later shifts, after all we had homework and chores to take care of.  We were found out and visited by the FCC, a local radio DJ had taped our programs and sent the tape to the FCC, and shut it down as a non-licensed station. A slap on the wrist but my friend complied out of fear for his 1st Phone ticket.

Not to be deterred I cobbled together a rudimentary station consisting of a crude board, 8 track player a hand-me-down turntable.

(First station in Fishkill, NY)

 Using my allowance I went to Radio Shack and purchased a FM transmitter module. These were part of the experimenter kits they offered back in the ‘70’s. It was a fully assembled module, +9 volts DC, audio in (mono) and an antenna output and you’re “on-the-air”. With slug tuning I claimed 89.3mc as “my frequency”. It was easy then as there weren’t many stations in the “educational band”.  Over time I learned some metal (power drill) and wood-working (hand saw) and improved my equipment to be more functional and “broadcast-like”. Going to visit the station my friend maintained as an engineer I was able to gather information on professional equipment and of course fell in love with Gate Radio Company audio consoles. My next build was a “copy” of the Gates Stereo Statesman. While if you looked through rose colored glasses there was some resemblance it did have 2 VU meters which were tied together as it was a mono board. It did have a cue channel and functioned as you would expect a pro board to.

(later modified with 2 VU meters)

My father was transferred to the Hartford area around 1971 and we settled into West Hartford. I built my studio in my bedroom which included my newly built board, 2 turntables, 2 Collins cart machines of course a mic and “network” access for ABC news. We created jingle packages which friends of mine, with excellent razor edit skills, took jingle promo tapes and deftly cut each letter W-S-T-R from the audio track, spliced the letters together and then with the same technique created a custom jingle pack for my station. These guys were creative and clearly had too much time on their hands!!!!  The cart machines were the Collins version of the P190 ATC cart machine, my station had 2 of them and with the prerecorded jingles and PSA’s we really sounded pro.

(ATC version of the Collins cart machines)

WSTR-FM was an after school and weekend operation. One weekend day the door bell rang and 3 teenagers, 2 long haired guys and a cute young woman asked if I was running a radio station they were tracking. I forget the actual conversation but I think we went back and forth on why they wanted to know, FCC paranoia I recall. As it turns out these folks were also in the “bootleg” radio hobby. So over time John R., Bruce K. and I became friends and visited each others stations. I remember John’s board as being unique; the turntable pots were on the extreme ends of the board where typically the far left pot is where the mic control would be. Took a little bit to get used to but logically it made sense because if you put your turntables left and right of the board, the closest pot to the left turntable was channel ones pot. If your tables were on one side, which would be confusing, John was just misguided…..but I recall John had a “real” studio control room, wish I had pictures.

We reviewed my transmitter set up and how well it “got out” and since it was a module the only “modification” that I could so was antenna length, input power voltage and audio input. The module was designed for +9 volts and I did find that if I boosted the input voltage to +12 volts it did make a big change in field strength. I also optimized the antenna length based on the transmitter frequency which I set for 89.3mc. I measured field strength with a portable radio with a VU meter attached, ran a 1KC tone and went out and did my measurement. Crude FIM but you could detect a change.  I recall I was able to get out 1-2 miles with a decent signal.

Over time I left the Hartford area and as they say you can take the boy out of “broadcasting” but can’t take “broadcasting” out of the boy. I still enjoy refurbishing Gates Radio consoles and have a “non-broadcast” studio in my home that I use to play audio through the house as I can’t stand commercial radio, it’s not like it was back in the day. I’m currently working on a “real” Gates Stereo Statesman console that came out the southern Connecticut area, it’s a basket case but I’ll get it back to factory specs. I’ve refurbished a Gates/Harris Stereo 80, sold that and have a Gates Executive console that I refurbished and use frequently.

(Studio with Gates Executive console and Gates CB77 Turntables)

(Gates Stereo Statesman project)

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