HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WTIC-FM (W53H) (W1XSO)






Hartford Radio
Author: John Ramsey
ISBN: 9780738576664
# of Pages: 128
Over 220 high quality images
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing

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Book Description: 
Radio broadcasting has been an integral part of the history of Hartford since the early part of the 20th century. WDRC was the state’s first station (1923), and they helped pioneer FM radio technology in the early 1940s. Many Hartford residents learned about the end of World War II via radio, and the medium played a key role in keeping people informed during the floods of 1938 and 1955, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the great Northeast Blackout of 1965. Surprisingly, Hartford, the capital of “the land of steady habits,” saw two stations break from the pack to help bring the British Invasion to the state in the early 1960s. And thousands of schoolchildren eagerly listened to WTIC’s legendary Bob Steele on wintery mornings as they excitedly awaited school closing announcements. Hartford Radio offers a glimpse into the history of the area’s broadcast stations and the people who ran them.





WTIC-FM (W53H, W1XSO)

From the official WTIC History document:
      "Another important step in WTIC's history was taken in 1939 when the Travelers Broadcasting Service Corporation applied for and received permission to build equipment necessary to broadcast experimentally by Frequency Modulation.
    "It was also in January of 1940 that the FM Broadcasters, Inc. was formed, with WTIC general manager Paul W. Morency as a director, and on February 5, five days before WTIC's fifteenth anniversary, the Travelers Broadcasting Service Corporation began operating experimental FM station W1XSO on 1 kilowatt of power and a wavelength of 43.7 Mc.  The station broadcast WTIC programs from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. daily. 'News From Here and Abroad',  and NBC feature presented 8-8:15 a.m. on weekdays, was transcribed by WTIC beginning January 31 and broadcast from 8:15 - 8:30 p.m.  The title of the program was changed later to 'World News Roundup'.
     "On April 30, 1949, W1XSO broadcast a concert of the Symphony Society of CT from Bushnell Memorial Hall.  Another concert by the Symphony was broadcast on May 14.  On May 1st, the FCC had been asked for a boost from 1,000 watts to 50,000 watts for W1XSO, but the permission for the increase was not granted.
     "On September 13, 1940 W1XSO was authorized to change its frequency from 43.7 mc to 45.3 mc.
     "WTIC's FM station began operating on a permanent basis on December 15, 1941, with new call letters W53H.  Power output and wavelength were the same.  Except for two commercial programs taken from WTIC (the G. Fox & Co. 'Morning Watch' and Jack the Tire Expert's 'Ask Me Another') the station produced its own programs.  Opening at 7 am daily (except Sunday) W53H would close after the 'Morning Watch' and begin its regular schedule at 3 pm. Closing time was 9:05 pm. The station presented five-minute newscasts on the hour (the 6pm news was 15 minutes), a sports summary at 7:05 pm, and a 'Between the Lines' news commentary from 7:45 - 8 pm.  A daily 'Welcome to FM' program was dedicated to FM set dealers.  New set owners were greeted, given the latest news on FM developments, and the station's program highlights of the day.  Sound demonstrations were also given on the program, showing the fidelity of FM broadcasting. Revamping of floor space in the west central portion of the Grove St. building during the year provided the FM station with a new announcers' control studio (the old studio "B" had been used previously).  A new Transcription Library and Newsroom were constructed in that section of the building at the same time.
     "Musical programs, naturally, dominated the FM station's schedule, but there were other interesting features such as Jane Dillon's daily "Children’s Hour with the Story Lady," and Bernard Mullins' "Library of the Air" with readings from famous books and novels and periodicals.  The WTIC orchestra, under the direction of Rubin Segal, presented special FM programs, and among the titles of the recorded and transcribed presentations were "Symphonic Matinee," "Sunset Hour," "Background for Dinner," "Voices in Song," "The Little Concert," "Pop Concert," "Concert Miniatures," "Diminutive Classics," "Salute to South America," "Echoes of the Opera," "String Quartet," and "The Symphony Hour".
       "On December 19, 1941 W53H broadcast the Hartford Oratorio Society's presentation of "The Messiah" from Bushnell Hall."
        "On FM station W53H, which was still operating from 3pm to 9:05 pm (except on local boxing-match nights), the Travelers Insurance Companies began sponsoring "The Symphony Hour" Mondays through Fridays as of January 12, 1942.  On January 18 of that year "Box at the Opera" program was initiated as a Sunday evening feature.
     "On Tuesday, March 10, 1942 W53H began broadcasting blow-by-blow descriptions of local boxing bouts, and WTIC established the practice of rebroadcasting them by transcription at midnight.  
      "May 1942 saw special remote pickups from Sprague Hall at Yale featuring students and faculty members of the Yale School of Music in vocal and instrumental programs, the Yale Glee Club, the Orpheus and Bacchus Club, etc.  Some of the Glee Club broadcasts were carried simultaneously on WTIC.
     "In the month of May, 1942, a new tower, pole and turnstile antenna were erected for W53H near the transmitter plant on Talcott Mountain in Avon at a cost of $17,111.96.  Better reception was thereby made possible throughout Central and Northern Connecticut and Western Mass.  The original transmitter, built by WTIC's engineering staff, was still in operation. 
      "W53H (and WTIC) were operating in accordance with the U.S. Office of Censorship's "Code of Wartime Practices" as of June, 18, 1942.
     "The schedule of W53H has been changed somewhat during the year 1942.  The station was now joining WTIC from 5:45 - 7 pm, and was originating its own newscasts only at 4, 8 and 9 pm.  New music program titles were "Daily Tune Test," "Pan Americana Musical Travelogue," and "Sweet Sing".  
        "Effective Feb. 20, 1944, WTIC-FM extended its daily schedule of operations, opening at 2:58 p.m. and closing at 11:17 p.m.,  Also, as of that date, all FM programs were taken from WTIC excepting "Library of the Air" and "The Symphony Hour".  FM station identifications were made in the station's own studio, requiring an announcer on duty during all hours of FM operation, until later in the year engineer William Marks devised a push-button for WTIC's announcers' studio which permitted simultaneous identifications for both stations.  In giving the call letters, WTIC announcer would say "This is Hartford WTIC-FM," pushing the button as the letters "FM" were pronounced.  The complete sentence went over the air on station WTIC-FM, but the final letters were automatically cut off on station WTIC." 
    "In May, 1946 important changes affecting WTIC-FM were initiated.  This included the sign on of another FM Transmitter on 106.7 MC on March 9. The transmitter was a Radio Engineering Labs 3-kw unit purchased at a cost of $11,500. Also acquired was a new G.E. circular antenna ($3,500).  The 45.3 MC signal remained on the air.
    "On December 1, WTIC-FM which had been operating temporarily on an upper band of 106.7 MC with 1-kilowatt changed to 93.5 MC with 250 watts of power, still maintaining service with the old transmitter at 45.3 MC and 1kw.
    "On March 1, 1947 WTIC-FM began operating on its permanently assigned frequency of 96.5 MC with a power output of 3-kw.  Service also remained on the lower band, 45.3 MC at 1kw.
    "Although FM radio makes no claims of distant coverage, a telephone call from San Francisco on November 12 proved that WTIC-FM's 45.3 mc transmitter was being heard on the Pacific coast.  A. L. Hughes, who had placed a long distance call direct to the station's LD room, held the telephone mouthpiece to his FM receiving set to confirm that he was getting the station's signal.
    December 31, 1948 WTIC-FM discontinued operation of its 45.3 mc transmitter in accordance with an order issued by the FCC.  Although the FCC actually withdrew the lower band from FM broadcasting some months previous, the station was permitted to continue service to owners of early receiving sets until such time as the band was definitely assigned for other purposes.  The transmitter, built by WTIC technicians and placed in operation in February, 1940, was among the first in the country to broadcast.  It held license #9.  WTIC-FM had been operating on two frequencies since 1946."


     W1XSO took to the air for the first time on February 23, 1940 from studios at 26 Grove Street in Hartford.  The FM tower was at the WTIC AM facility at 375 Deercliff Road, atop Avon Mountain in Avon, CT. Travelers Broadcasting Service Corp. was the licensee and the station operated with 1,000 watts on 43.2 MHz. 

      In December, 1941 the station changed frequency to 45.3 Mhz. and commenced commercial operation with the call sign W53H. On November 1, 1943, the unpopular alphanumeric call system was dropped and the station was assigned the call letters WTIC-FM. When the FM band was changed to 88 - 108 MHz, WTIC-FM was assigned 93.7 but it never used that frequency, instead settling on 96.5 MHz in 1948.
    During the sixties and into the seventies WTIC-FM was a classical music station.
    In the mid-seventies WTIC FM was purchased by a local group of investors.  Shortly thereafter the format was switched to Top 40, a move which angered a number of listeners who ultimately created "The Connecticut Classical Listeners Guild" in an effort to challenge the transfer of WTIC-FM license.  Wisely, the FCC stayed out of the programming side of things and the wishes of the new owners prevailed.

Contributor
Stanley David Sasiela:

     "In your excellent history of WTIC-FM you mention that the station had classical music format in the 1960s an 1970s, at least until 1977.   I just want to mention that they did have classical music in th 1950s.  I was in high school in Manchester at the time and would listen to my favorite station - WTIC-FM.  I also was fortunate to visit the WTIC AM and FM studios a number of times in that time period and visit with such notables as Ross Miller and his engineer Fred Edwards.  The year must have been 1953 as my sister married in December 1952 and I recorded her wedding - on tape.  Fred Edwards offered to transfer it to disc, which he did - but that had to be in 1953.  I also interviewed Robert E. Smith for a college paper which may have been in 1956 or 1957. I have many fond memories of radio in central Connecticut from 1943-1959.

     I was also able to visit WONS (now WPOP).  And I remember the great polka programs from New Britain's WKNB and the 7-8pm Classical program on WHAY.  My dad broke down in about 1948 or 9 and bought an FM radio so he could listen to the evening Red Sox games on WKNB-FM.  They were not available on AM as the AM was a daytimer.  I remember WCCC, WKNB, WHAY, WHCN, WINF and WMMW (in Meriden) as brand new stations.  I guess that makes me old - but only 74. I have always loved many types of music and for the popular music of the day the most important program was Ross Miller's Juke Box Jingles in the early afternoon after which I would tune to WNHC-FM for more pop tunes of the day.  In the forties we enjoyed WDRC's Music off the Record (MOTR) which I believe started at 3pm.  WTHT was great for the serial shows for kids in te afternoon although I preferred those on WONS such as Terry and The Pirates, Superman and Captain Midnight all between 5 and pm.  WTIC had serials for women at that hour such as Portia Faces Life, Front Page Farrell and Just Plain Bill."

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt from  the unofficial history of WTIC Engineering written by Charles Fitch, reprinted with permission.

     Although the Broadcasting yearbook lists WTIC-FM as beginning on February 5th, 1940 apparently from the FCC's records, all that was happening that year was an application to build a new station on 45.3 MHz initially annotating a 50 kw transmitter plant. This application went in July 26, 1940. The application was amended to a lower power and a license was granted for that facility on July 24, 1942.

     Not everyone was convinced that FM would prosper and in the new high frequency band as AM, FM and 'special modulation' for facsimile, etc., could be used on request. That request was made on February 19, 1944.

 

     Surprisingly right in the middle of the war fledgling WTIC-FM changed frequency to 43.3 MHz and installed an RCA FM 50A transmitter finishing out the war and their time on the FM 'lowband' running considerable power.

 

     The end of the war brought peace and a new FM spectrum and so on January 20th, 1947 the station applied to move to 93.5 MHz using an REL model 519A-DD 3 kw transmitter producing about 8 kw ERP which was installed and licensed on March 18, 1947. The next transmitter was an RCA BTF-1D 1 kw which precipitated an ERP reduction to 5.45 kw.  In 1964 the station increased power to 15 kw ERP and finally to it's present 20.2 kw in August 1980. Somewhere in there, WTIC-FM was assigned its present frequency of 96.5 Mhz.

 

     The station, like many early FMs, was programmed with a heavy classical music format. In the late 70's with the success of  contemporary music on the AM side, the FM moved to more modern music triggering one of the strongest listener reactions ever witnessed. The public response and petitioning before the FCC

to make the station's format a license renewal issue was acrimonious to say the least and set the arguments and issues that would be used as a model by all that followed seeking format redress before the Commission.

 

     Eventually market place economics were viewed as the ultimate criterion for what was the best format use of a station and modern music continues on the station to this day.  

 

 

Above:  1973 picture of the southern part of the WTIC AM/FM/TV facility taken facing west.  The large tower on the right is channel 3's, the middle tower is the WTIC-FM tower and the short town on the left is the original WTIC-FM tower.  The white ball on top of the short tower is WTIC-TVs weather radar. In 1973 WWUH moved to the site with its antenna on the "radar" tower.

Above:  Aeral photo taken in 1973 showing the height of the WTIC facililty in relation to Hartford which can be seen in the background.  From left to right, the tower are:  WTIC-AM (2 towers), Channel 3, WTIC-FM and WWUH.

Above: This is all that is left of the original W1XSO (WTIC-FM) tower. Originally topping out at 300', it was cut down to about 100' around 1970 to accomodate channel 3's weather radar.  This photo was taken in 2006.  The weather radar is long gone but you can see WWUH's auxiliary antenna on the upper left rear leg of the tower.  The tower also supports STL antennas for WWUH and WJMJ.

Above:  Construction Permit for 45.3 Mhz from October, 1941.
Above:  WTIC-FM tower as it looked in 2004.  Channel 24 is on the pylon on the top.  The WTIC-FM panel antenna is near the top of the structure and the WWUH antenna, which serves as an auxiliary for WTIC-FM, can be see on the upper right (the two black objects). 


1972 Letterhead

1957 Photo of Transmitter Building.

1941

1941

FM Defense Net


Above: The Jan/Feb issue of the WTIC-FM Program Guide listing classical programs.


WTIC Management, 1965.
Courtesy of the WTIC Alumni site.


1965
Courtesy of the WTIC Alumni site.


WTIC Announcers, 1965
Courtesy of the WTIC Alumni site.


Engineering Staff, early 80s.


FM Transmitter c. 1992


Gary Craig's FM Morning Crew




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