HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WTHT (AM)


Front row, L-R, Ray Markey, sports department; Laureat H. IBob) Martineau, program director; Charels Masini, engineer;  Charlie  Niles, news department; Standing: Howard Wessenberg, Al Cohen,  engineers; Fred Bieber, announcer;  Charles Haaser, news department;   George Monaghan, announcer; *Harry Broderick, engineer*; Walter Nilsen,  announcer; Miss Dorothy Rocheleau, hostess; Paul Baumgartel, Joe  Mathers, commercial staff; Dick Blackburn, chief engineer; G. Glover  Delaney, commercial manager. Cedric W. Foster, station manager and Jack Lloyd, sports department were not present at the time this picture was taken.




Special thanks to Contributor Robert Paine who supplied the majority of the material below:
    

        On December 10, 1935, the Federal Communication Commission issued a Construction Permit to The Hartford Times, Inc. for a daytime broadcast station on 1200 kilocycles at 100 watts daytime operation. The station was to be located at 933 Main Street.

        On January 10, 1936 the F.C.C. announced the call letters of the new station will be WTHT; the license to be effective as of February 4.

         On May 28 WTHT was granted a modification of its permit, allowing for the installation of a vertical radiating antenna tower and to change its proposed studio and transmitting site to 983 Main Street.
 
        WTHT went on the air at 7 a.m., Wednesday, August 12, 1936. The offices, studios and transmitter were located on the top floor of the American Industrial Building. The antenna was a 204-foot Blaw-Knox self-supported vertical radiator located atop the 285-foot building at  983 Main Street.

        The original staff members were as follows:

        Cedric W. Foster was Station Manager of the independent station. Norbert O’Brien, formerly commercial manager of WESG, Elmira, N.Y., headed the commercial and advertising departments, assuming his position on September 15.  Richard K. Blackburn, formerly research and development engineer at WTIC, and assistant to J. Clayton Randall, plant manager of that station, was appointed Chief Engineer. Also in the technical department were control operators Howard Wessenberg and Frederick E. Bieber.

        Announcers for WTHT were Walcott Wyllie and John S. Lloyd. Miss Paulette Wolozin was station hostess and secretary. Office management and accounts were under the supervision of Warner Murphy, son of Hartford Times General Manager Francis S. Murphy.

         WTHT received its first license on August 13 and in September WTHT became an affiliate of the regional Colonial Network, based at WAAB, Boston, and the Mutual Broadcasting System.

        There are reports that it was possibly Sept., 1933 when WTHT stayed on past its usual sign-off time to cover the floods. The F.C.C. gave the station permission to continue broadcasting after normal hours for the emergency.

         By special authorization, WTHT remained on the air past it normal sign-off time in order to broadcast the November election returns. Another special authorization was issued in December which allowed WTHT to remain on the air past normal sign-off to broadcast the annual Hartford Times Carol Sing from The Times Portico.

         In 1937 WTHT acquired the hours and facilities of WNRI, Newport, Rhode Island, which had forfeited those facilities. WNRI, owned by S. George Webb, never made it to the air and was deleted by the F.C.C., allowing WTHT full time operating hours.

         In July of that same year WTHT was honored by stations of the Mutual network, and by the Colonial network in special programs observing the start of the station’s full time operating schedule. WTHT was now heard daily from 7 a.m. to midnight, except for Sundays when it signed-on at 8 a.m.      

        On August 17 WTHT was licensed for full time operations. Power remained at 100 watts.

         By mid 1938 the station was in operation from 7:00 a.m. until 12 midnight, using the on-air slogan “The Voice of Hartford”.

         On September 21 WTHT began emergency service due to the hurricane that devastated New England and the East Coast. The regular program schedule was abandoned. Electrical transcriptions were aired in order to facilitate the broadcasting of bulletins and personal messages.

        The only network program besides the regular newscasts which the Voice of Hartford carried was that of Fulton Lewis, Jr., news commentator. News from the Washington correspondent did not disrupt the service which was at the disposal of the community.

         In late 1938 Cedric Foster was succeeded as Station Manager by C. (Charles) Glover Delaney.

         In early 1939 WTHT’s daytime power rose to 250 watts, and the station joined the regional Yankee Network, based at WNAC in Boston and in October the Community Radio Workshop, a joint effort of the little theater players of the city, celebrated its first birthday this month.

         During the 40s WTHT’s affiliation with the Colonial Network ended, as the latter was discontinued due to a government ruling against broadcast duopolies. The Mutual and Yankee affiliations continued. Presumably, Colonial was disbanded and some of its stations joined, or were already members of, the Yankee chain.

         In March, 1940 L.H. “Bob” Martineau, who started in the program department of WTHT two weeks after the station opened in 1936, joined the sales staff. In June the F.C.C. granted WTHT a construction permit to raise nighttime power to 250 watts. The change was implemented later in the year. A new RCA 250-watt transmitter replaced the 100-watt equipment.

        The power increase caused WTHT to be heard more clearly at night. The daytime signal increased also, allowing Manchester, New Britain, Bristol and Middletown to receive The Times’ station without difficulty.

         At 3:00 a.m., March 29, 1941 WTHT changed frequency from 1200 to 1230 kilocycles as the result of the NARBA – North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement – Treaty, which affected 1,300 North American broadcast stations.

         On June 5 WTHT announced that Cedric W. Foster, Station Manager, would leave WTHT to join the executive staff of the Yankee-Colonial Networks in Boston, effective June 23. Later that same month General Manager Francis S. Murphy announced the appointment of C. Glover DeLaney as Station Manager, succeeding Cedric W. Foster who was joining the Yankee-Colonial Networks.

         On June 10  WTHT took over the entire 16th floor of the American Industrial Building, 983 Main Street. New offices and studio/operations areas were constructed as part of a renovation-expansion plan.

     June 18 Francis S. Murphy named Sereno Bowers Gammell, director of news for WTHT. Cedric Foster was honored at a farewell dinner in the Hartford Club.

        Cedric Foster left WTHT for The Yankee Network in Boston, where he continued a daily news commentary that was fed to the Mutual Network. He also started the first sponsored frequency modulation nightly newscast at 6 p.m., over Yankee-Colonial’s W1XOJ/W43B, transmitting from Paxton, near Worcester, Massachusetts.

         In September WTHT’s new office, studio and operating areas were completed. Several score of official, business and professional persons were given tours of the new facilities.

 

 

1942

 

February 2

        Una King, WTHT’s popular woman commentator, marked her second anniversary on the air.

 

February 6

        WTHT broadcast to Hartford’s sister city in England, Hertford. From 3:45 to 4:15, the stations sent greetings and messages of encouragement, as well as musical selections, which was transmitted via shortwave station WRUL.

 

November 3

        WTHT planned to stay on the air until at least 3 a.m. the next morning in order to broadcast election returns. The station set up microphones in The Times newsroom. Commentary and analysis were provided by Times’ political editor, Moses Berkman, and city hall reporter, John R. Case.

        Formal coverage began at 8:30 p.m., with Mutual’s Fulton Lewis, Jr., broadcasting from New York. The station broadcast the state picture to the network at 8:35 and again at 9:24 and 11:24 p.m.

        A big screen was set up on The Times Portico and the “Telautograph” flashed up-to-the-minute election news throughout the evening. In addition, news bulletins were announced through loud speakers and radio reports were also broadcast.

 

1943

 

January 2

        Laureat H. “Bob” Martineau was named Commercial Manager of WTHT by General Manager, Francis S. Murphy.

 

September 8

        WTHT flashed the news of Italy’s surrender 15 seconds after it was received at 11:49 a.m. Only the time necessary to tear the flash bulletin from the news printer and get it to the announcer on duty elapsed.

 

poss. October

        It was announced that Frederick E. Bieber, has succeeded L.H. Martineau as Commercial Manager. Mr Bieber has been with WTHT since its opening, August 12, 1936. Mr. Martineau joined the sales staff of the Yankee Network in Boston.

 

1944

 

July 6

        From his office, news director Sereno Gammell spotted smoke to the northwest. At 2:43 p.m., a roaring fire in the vicinity of the Barbour Street circus grounds was visible from the office windows of WTHT. Delaying reports until some tangible news could be obtained, the station continued broadcasting the Boston Red Sox-Detroit Tigers game until Mutual broke into the game with word of the fire. The network interrupted the game for a bulletin about the fire, possibly from information provided by a press association.

        WTHT joined with the other Hartford stations to provide the city with coverage of the fire at the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus at the circus grounds on Barbour Street. The tragic fire started at appr. 2:31 p.m. and consumed the big top in about ten minutes.

        The remote truck was dispatched by two-way radio to the scene of the tragedy. It had been near the Connecticut River, close to the Wethersfield town line.

WTHT broadcast from the porch of a house across from the circus grounds. WTHT broadcast from the front porch of a home across the street from the circus grounds. Output of the remote amplifier was connected to the telephone outlet in the living room. Personnel sent to the scene may have been chief engineer Charles Massini, engineer Roland LaLanne, program director Bob Gillespie and announcer Jack Lloyd.

        At 9 p.m., Mayor William Mortensen broadcast from his office over WTHT and WDRC, his first official report of the tragedy. Again at 10:15, the mayor addressed the city over the two stations. A WTHT engineer handled the technical details for both broadcasts.

 

December

        President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave an address in Hartford. Engineer Roland LaLanne installed wiring at three locations in the city, at the direction of chief engineer Charles Massini. The original plan was for a ramp to be constructed in the street in front of The Times, which would have allowed the president’s car to be driven up onto the Portico. After setting up and taking down the amplifying system three times in an on-again, off-again proposition, the chief executive finally addressed the city from his train platform. WTHT put the president on the air as well as providing the sound system for the throng assembled at the State Armory adjacent to the tracks.

 

1945

 

        The popular program, “Hartford Speaks”, returned to the air after a three-year absence. The on-the-street interview program was broadcast from in front of Victory House. Originally hosted by Fred Bieber and Bob Martineau, then serving with the Navy, Hartford Speaks was conducted by Una King and Joe Girand.

        Ed Squires, in WTHT’s business office for almost two years, resigned to join WELI, New Haven.

        Special studio and remote programs were presented by WTHT during Netherland-Week-in-Hartford. The celebration coincided with the liberation of Holland, and featured several prominent Netherlanders in Hartford.

 

Late '48

        Plans were made to move the WTHT facilities to new quarters in a four-story building on Asylum Street.

 

December 1

        WTHT relocated to the new Times Radio Center at 555 Asylum Street. The station concurrently swapped affiliations with WHTD, with Mutual and Yankee going to that station and WTHT joining the new American Broadcasting Company.

 

1946

 

        (about March 14)

        WTHT formally opened the new Times Radio Center at 555 Asylum Street. The larger studio measured 40 by 20 by 15 feet, while the smaller studio was designed mainly for newscasts, station breaks and interview. A raised control room looked into both studios.

 

1947

 

Early

        A new Lingo tubular vertical radiator was installed atop 555 Asylum Street.

        C. Glover Delaney was promoted to General Manager of WTHT.

 

1948

 

March 29

        WTHT-FM began operations. Originally, the station carried most or all of the AM program schedule, but later began originating its own programming for part of its broadcast day.

 

1949

 

1950


       
Richard K. Blackburn became Assistant Manager and Technical Director.

 

January or February

        WTHT-FM left the air as the result of snow infiltrating the transmitter.

 

1951

 

        WTHT became affiliated with the new Connecticut State Network and, for a period, served as the key station.

 

1952

 

 

1953

 

July or August ?

        Gannett papers, parent company of WTHT’s licensee, The Hartford Times, enters into an agreement with RKO General, parent company of The Yankee Network and WONS. Gannett and RKO will form an entity for the purpose of applying for UHF Channel 18. As part of the agreement, Gannett will surrender the WTHT license, avoiding a conflict of interest by the entity owning two AM licenses in the same city. WTHT must continue operations until mid-February 1954 in order to fulfill commitments to its advertisers. Accordingly, the ABC Radio Network will move to the new station.

 

1954

 

February 12

        WTHT submitted its license for cancellation to the F.C.C., effective the end of broadcasting the following day.

 

February 13 (Saturday)

        WTHT ceased broadcast operations. General Manager Richard K. Blackburn gave a short message of thanks and farewell shortly after 11 p.m. The following morning a new station, WGTH, signifying the merger of WTHT and WONS, began operating on the latter’s frequency of 1410 kilocycles. The ABC network also moved to the new station.

        The WTHT operating area was converted into the studio, control room and technical area for the new WGTH-TV, Channel 18.
        

        In 1938, WTHT acquired the operating hours of a Rhode Island station that had never signed on which allowed the station to change frequency to 1230 which it did on March 29, 1941, in accordance with the NARBA. By this time the power had increased to 250 watts fulltime.

 

             Originally an affiliate of the Colonial and Mutual Networks, it later affiliated with the Yankee Network. On December 1, 1945, the facilities were moved to 555 Asylum Avenue, the Americal Industrial Building, just beyond the railroad overpass near the corner of Hopkins Street. Simultaneously, WTHT affiliated with the American Broadcasting Company, which lasted until the station went silent.

When WTHT merged with WONS (on Pratt Street) on February 14, 1954, it morphed into WGTH (General Tire, Hartford). The ABC affiliation went to the new station. Still later, in 1956, WGTH became WPOP. WTHT's studios and control room were converted for television use for the new WGTH-TV, Ch. 18, which began operations in the summer of 1954.

Contributor Robert Paine recalls:
          
        The 1230 khz frequency was dormant until 1958, when a new station, WINF (now WLAT), took to the air. Studios were located in Manchester, CT, which was also the City of License. There is no relationship between the two stations except for the frequency.

 

WTHT Recollections:

Robert Paine: 

    "Robert Lahanne started at WTHT in 1941 and stayed with it until the night it went silent. He and Dick Blackburn were two of several present. Dick recorded the final sign-off, which played at 11 pm. He then told Roland to switch off the transmitter. Roland told Dick that he - Dick - had signed the station on so he should sign it off!

        "...Channel 18 used the former THT studio-control room area. The small studio (that faced west), small room beside it (to the rear of the building) and master control were used to house technical equipment. The large studio (to the side of Master Control, MC, facing Asylum Avenue) became the TV control room. A small announce booth was constructed in the right angle area between the two studios. The studio was in the old Times exhibition area, east of the old MC/new MC."

Contributor Robert Paine provided this floor plan of the WTHT studios on the 16th floor of the American Industrial Building at 983 Main Street after the expension in 1941.

Announcer Joe Girand, courtesy of Ed Brouder, date unknown.  Joe would later go on the WCCC.


1941


1943

1945 Ad, courtesy of Ed Brouder

Another view of 555 Asylum, home of WTHT. 2009 photo.

Above:  The buliding in the foreground is 555 Asylum Street in Hartford, home at one time of WTHT, WTHT-FM and channel 18 televison. 2009 photo.


1960 Ad


December, 1949 ratings showing WTHT as the number 3 stations, behind WDRC and WTIC, with an 18.8 share of the audience. Here are the other stations on the list:
WDRC - 32.9%
WTIC - 27.1%
WTHT - 18.8%
WHAY - 1.8
%


Hooper ratings from December, 1949:
WDRC/WDRC-FM - 30.5%
WTIC/WTIC-FM - 26.9%
WTHT - 22.0%
WCCC - 6.4%
WKNB - 4.7%
WONS - 4.4%
WHAY - 1.7%


Promotional Booklet, date unknown.


The photo of the three men is posed in Master Control at 983 Main, facing south. The window behind the man on left is Control "A." Behind the engineer is the window that looked into Studio "A".


"The News Voice of Hartford"


Sketch of the new (Sept. 1941) studios, etc.


Hand drawn sketch is the layout at 555 Asylum St., looking west.


Una King



Del Raycee and Una King.



2009 photo of former WTHT salesman  Al Cohen in the WWUH Production Studio recording his recollections of his days at WTHT for the upcoming WWUH Radio History documentary.


In 1935 WTHT (1200 kc), the station of the Hartford Times, came on the air with 100w fed into a 204' Blaw Knox self supporting tower sitting a top the 285' tall American Industrial Building ...at 983 Main St. Their stuidios and offices occupied the 16th floor of that same building.

Above: The WTHT tower can be seen in the lower, middle part of this 1938 image of downtown Hartford taken looking East.


Above: The 204' self supporting Blaw Knox tower originally used by WTHT can be seen in this undated image of Hartford.  The tower is can be seen to right of the image, on top of the American Industrial Building across Main St. from G. Fox which is the large white building in the center of the image.


Above:  After WTHT moved to 555 Asylum St. in Hartford they used this rooftop Linco antenna.
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