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WTHT-FM signed on March 29, 1948 on a frequency of 106.1 MHz. We have not been able to find the station's power but it is said that the station covered a 20,000 square mile area. WTHT-FM was licensed to The Hartford Times, a fact reflected in the call letters "WTHT". The studios were located along with those of WTHT (AM) at 555 Asylum Avenue in Hartford, also the home of channel 18 television, WHCT-TV. The combination FM studio/control room was located adjacent to the TV master control area.
The transmitter was located atop what was then called the Times Tower. It had been the Heublein Tower before The Times purchased it.
It is believed that at first the new FM station simulcast much of the AM schedule which included some classical music programming. There are accounts that music took over more and more of the schedule.
According to Robert Paine:
"WTHT-FM went off the air sometime around Jan-Feb, 1950. It was totally without fanfare. According to the story the engineer who was there told me, one night there had been a big snowstorm. The engineer who had been on duty apparently left the vent open and snow/ice/both got into the innards. My source told me next day he went to the station to get it on the air. The transmitter came up fine on low power but kicked the circuit breaker each time he went to high power. The CE told him over the phone to try one more time and BA-VOOOOOM!!!......that was the end of said xmtr."
There are reports that the station manager immediately placed an order for a new transmitter but after being off the air for a week without a single call from a listener the order was canceled.
Contributor Bill Davies:
"I heard the inaugural WTHT-FM broadcast (albeit on a WTHT-1230 simulcast) on a Monday at 8:30P, the usual time for H. Bob Harrington’s “Journeys in Jazz.” The program opened with dididahdit dahdah, dididahdit dahdah – FM in Morse Code a couple of times. It was played by locally prominent organist/choir director Gordon Stearns, who also undoubtedly played more traditional organ music during the course of the program!
"The 1948 CT State Register & Manual listed WTHT-FM’s power as 5,600w, which may have been its transmitter output, in contrast to the 20 kw effective radiated power that most area Class B stations were claiming at the time.
"For one or two seasons, the Hartford Chiefs Eastern League baseball games were carried by normally competing WONS-1410 and WTHT-FM-106.1. Not until many years later when I sold radio time did I wonder how the salespeople at the two stations split the commission on their common accounts. WTHT-FM had a superior coverage area, while WONS likely attracted most of the listeners!
"Al Cohen worked for WTHT in the ‘30s and ‘40s and is still going strong as we approach 2011. Among other accomplishments, he wrote the ubiquitous Arthur Drug jingle – “…open all the time, always open, never closed…” He tells amusing stories about the stations’ lavish parties at the Times Tower- the FM transmitter site – including a visit by candidate Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 Presidential campaign. The structure subsequently reverted to Heublein Tower after the Hartford Times sold it.
"For a while, most of the original early post WWII Hartford area FMs were fully simulcasting their AM sisters. As burgeoning TV made greater inroads, most area FMs, in those pre-remote control days for transmitters, reduced their hours to the minimum 3-9P. WTHT-FM took it one step further and discontinued its Sunday schedule altogether, not long before it returned its license to the FCC."
Old radio showing WTHT on button.
Above: In the foreground is 555 Asylum Ave in Hartford, one time home of WTHT-FM, WTHT (AM) and channel 18 television. 2009 photo.
Another view of 555 Asylum Ave, former location of WTHT-FM. 2009 photo.