Radio Stories…5 Radio Stations…WCWP

Radio Stories – 5 Radio Stations….WCWP

Fifty years ago this afternoon, on March 16th, 1965, students at C.W. Post College on Long Island flipped the switch  and sent WCWP to the air waves on 88.1, joining the small group of non-commercial FM radio stations.  To mark this historic date, and inspired by a wonderful evening I spent this weekend with some old friends from the WC10866074_10153165140095908_3454611210513062696_oWP Alumni Association marking this special anniversary, I thought it appropriate to re-post my WCWP essay, first posted in October of last year.

Happy 50th Birthday WCWP, and thanks for the knowledge, the friends, and the wonderful memories!

 

As a child of the 50s (I was born on the second day of the decade), I was by birth, a card carrying member of the TV Generation, but I remember the radio was always on in our house. I’m not talking about the family gathering around the Atwater Kent console in the living room to hear the latest episode of ”The Shadow,” like in an old movie.   The closest thing we had to that was a Magnavox console in the living room that had a radio and a turntable and a huge 7 inch TV, and it was there that I’d watch Hoody Doody Monday through Friday afternoons….through the “snow.” But with the exception of the Saturday afternoon Met Opera broadcast, that wasn’t where the major radio listening was done as I was growing up.   The favored listening location, and the radio that got the most use in our house was in the kitchen. Our kitchen radio was a green plastic RCA portable, that never

imagewent portable, but was on during breakfast, after school, and during our dinner hour. There was occasional music coming from that radio, but by and large it, was the voices that I remember. I remember hearing voices like Bill Cullen and Frank Blair on NBC’s Monitor, but the station that seemed to be on more than any other was WOR.   We’d listen in the morning to Rambling with Gambling for school closing information, news, and weather, then the Dorothy and Dick show that emanated from their living room; afternoon programs with John Wingate or Bob and Ray, and of course, Jean Shepard on my Zenith bedside radio as I tried my best to stay awake until his classic stories and the show ended each night! I guess to my parents generation, TV was new, but radio was an old friend, and thanks to their listening pattern, it soon became an old friend to me! In fact, you kind of started to think of these voices that you heard every day as friends you just hadn’t met, but that didn’t diminish in any way the fact that they were your friends!

So with that as a back drop, or perhaps because of radio being a real part of the soundtrack of my early life, perhaps I was destined to spend my adult life working in the business….but it took a long time to get around to figuring that out, and for that I can thank WCWP Radio at C.W. Post College!   WCWP first went on the air in the fall of 1961 as a closed circuit, carrier current station. In 1965 it expanded it’s reach with an FM Educational license broadcasting on 88.1 FM, and could now be heard both on and off Post’s Brookville campus.   Unlike some “college radio stations” today, WCWP was (and still is) staffed by students with everyone in the Post community having the opportunity to work there.

In the fall of 1967, a 17 year old recent high school graduate showed up on the Post campus, and among the things he checked out, was the orientation event at the college radio station. It really seemed like it was right up my alley, but there was a problem. I was a commuter student, traveling from Queens, and I was without a car. My first year at Post, I got to and from school by grabbing rides where I could, catching the occasional train ride, and doing whatever I could to get close to Post or home on a daily basis. Not exactly conducive to being able to spend evening hours at a college radio station! So as attractive as I found the station at that orientation event, I was not able to sign up because of my transportation issues, so it was class and home for my freshman year.   It was also 4 majors during my first year and a half at Post as I attempted to discover what the heck I was going to do for the rest of my life…I frankly had NO IDEA!

About mid-way through my sophomore year at Post, I once again changed to my 4th and last major….Music. I got involved with the Post Choir and it’s smaller split-off group, The Chamber Singers, and for the first time felt like I was getting involved in the campus community. The first semester of my junior year, because of a Fine Arts School requirement, I registered for a stage lighting course in the Theater Department. On the first day of classes that fall, I showed up at Post’s Little Theater for this class and couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it because I was the only person registered, and they’d canceled the class! So it was back to my advisor, and then back to registration, and I was able to get registered for Theater Arts 52 – Introduction to Radio.   This class was held at the Benjamin Abrams Communications Center which was the home of WCWP and was taught

imageby James McConnichie who was the adult in charge of the radio station. He’d been an ABC Staff Announcer in the golden age of radio, so his info might have been a little dated, but it was radio, none the less. He suggested that working at the radio station might help with one’s grade, so since I now had wheels of my own (my bright gold 1968 Ford Falcon), sign up I did.

The first thing I did was work as a newscaster. I remember my first night, sitting in the WCWP News Room…just me and the UPI teletype. I knew nobody, had a limited idea of what I was doing, but also remember I had friends from the Music Department listening that night. I was to do drop-in news with the DJ that night, and I remembered I did, and then did a not horrible job bantering with him when I was done. I did a couple more shifts, and then sat down with the News Director to review my work.   It was deemed acceptable, and I was given additional shifts. It was fun now being one of the voices on the radio, and the more I worked at the station, the more involved I got, and the more other staff members became friends!  As a commuter student, I didn’t have the level of friends that those students living on campus did, but between my involvement with the Music Department and WCWP, I was starting to remedy that and become more and more involved.   Soon, the radio station became the place I’d hang out between classes and where I’d go many afternoons when my class day was over. I was doing more and more things at the radio station, learning more about the various jobs at a radio station, and getting to be known by the student leaders of the place as a member of the team. Then Kent State happened, and life was very different on every college campus!

All through the Fall of 1969, Vietnam war protests picked up across college campuses across the country. In November, the MyLai Massacre increased public opposition to the war, and in December, the first draft lottery since World War II (I got #125) was held which really brought the war in far away Southeast Asia home for many college age Americans. Then Kent State happened!   On Monday afternoon, May 4th, Ohio National Guard Troops fired 67 rounds at students on the campus of Kent State University, killing 4 and wounding 9. This happened on the forth day of campus protests, after President Nixon announced the Cambodian Incursion of US Forces on April 30th. The shootings led to protests on college campuses throughout   the United States, and a student strike that caused more than 450 campuses across the country to close.There were protests on all the Long Island College campuses including Post’s, and eventually most classes were canceled. That was just fine because WCWP went into high gear with coverage. Between protests on our campus and others, there was a lot to cover. I remember being sent to cover a protest on the Hofstra campus with a tape machine and my official WCWP Press Pass, and I also remember a night when I sat in one of our production studios taking in reports from the field. That night I must have edited tape for 2 or 3 hours, and by the time I was done, I had obtained proficiency in a skill that I would use on a daily basis for years….until tape went away and digital became God!

When what was left of the semester ended, and students went home for the summer, WCWP still had to stay on the air, and as a local kid, I became more and more involved. As the seniors on the staff graduated, positions became available, and suddenly I was WCWP’s News Director! I had a day job that summer at a day camp in Glen Cove that WCWPpg2included driving a Yellow Chevy Suburban School Bus, picking up and dropping off kids.   I took it home every night and most nights detoured to WCWP. I’m sure it was totally against the rules, but the rest of the summer staff at the station got a kick out of taking the “school bus” out to dinner. During that summer I started doing more and more things at the station. We had an afternoon show called “The Going Great Show” that was a mix of music and information, and I started doing occasional shifts on the show.     It was about this time that Bill Mozer took me to work with him at WABC one night (see blog post, How Did I Get Here https://fdthird.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/how-did-i-get-here/), and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up!

The more involved I became in the station, I discovered that there were two groups of staff that were fighting each other. There was the “Top 40” group that wanted WCWP to be run like a station like WABC, and a “Progressive” group that wanted much freer form radio, like a WBAI. Although I gravitated more towards the “Top 40” group, I had friends on both sides of the argument, and really didn’t want to choose sides. That Fall, WBAI’s Steve Post was hired as the new Director of Broadcasting, answering a call from the “Progressive” group for a new attitude in the Benjamin Abrams Communications building! As the News Director, I worked with Steve and got to know him a bit. He was a real radio hippy, with long hair, jeans, wild shirts and an attitude to match.   His desire was to expand the staff and expand we did. We had much more news, a larger news staff, and plans for more wires to increase our ability to cover stories. Members of the campus community were invited to participate in the station. That Election Day we had incredible coverage with WCWP reporters at all campaign headquarters, and a 3 hour election night wrap-up featuring reports from all our field reporters, and studio commentary from faculty members of the Political Science Department. It was a night we were all proud of!

It wasn’t just news programing that expanded, as there were also lots of new shows on the schedule that fall, many of which pushed the envelope. It was one of those shows that brought an end to the short run of Steve Post at WCWP and took our station off the air just after Thanksgiving.   One of the new shows had a segment that the school thought was outside the bounds of good taste, and their reaction was to shut the radio station down and fire Steve Post. On the heels of that spring’s college protests against the Vietnam War, the staff was not going to accept this, and the incident sparked 2 months of protests and occupation of the radio station building. It quickly became obvious that the two fractions at the station took opposing sides with the “Top 40” group siding with administration, and the “Progressive” group leading the sit in. Both sides also demanded that every staff member choose which side he or she was a part of, something that a small group of us were unwilling to do.   We drafted a letter to both sides asking for a middle ground to be found that would allow WCWP to return to the air, and our reward for this was being labeled as ” future fascists of America” by lawyer William Kunsler at a rally at Post. Damn…just when I’d discovered where I wanted my life to go, the college radio station was gone!

The protest lasted well into January, until on the night of January 13, 1970, the remaining occupiers of the radio station were ordered out of the building under threat of suspension from school, and the Steve Post era at WCWP ended. Soon after, WCWP Chief Engineer Bill Mozer was appointed WCWP’s Director of Broadcasting (a position he held till 1990), and he assembled a small group to help him bring WCWP back to the air. He brought in WCWP alumni Ted David who’d moved on to the world of professional radio, Bill Epperhart who Bill and gone to high school with and who’d been an engineer at WABC TV and would soon be an engineer at WABC Radio, and a small group of students that I was lucky enough to be a part of. On the night of February15, 1970, WCWP returned to the air with a very limited program schedule and we were back in the radio business!

WCWP 1 (2)WCWP2 (2)

 

That June I graduated from Post, and the next fall I started at Announcer Training Studios in NYC, studying for my FCC First Class license, but I was not done with WCWP! It was still where I hung out at night, still where my friends were, and still where I was working in radio.   When I started working at WHN the following April, I would still hang out there, and Bill Mozer even hired Bill Epperhart and me as “Contract Engineers” to help him out with the legal and technical aspects of running the station, and I was still there a lot.   When I started teaching Introduction to Broadcast Engineering at Post in the early 80s, WCWP was where I’d take my class for “lab work” (such as teaching them to edit audiotape) and where I encouraged my students to get involved….much as I’d been in the 60s.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, I owe my life to WCWP. It was the place that gave me a direction, it was the place that gave me skills I needed to get a job, and it was the place I met people who influenced the rest of my life ( if you’ve read my blog 1977, you will know that my life was truly affected by folks I met at that radio station…. https://fdthird.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/the-year-1977/ ).   It was the place that gave me an opportunity to do all the jobs that happen in a radio station, so that for the last 42 years, I have not only known what I had to do, but what the person I was working with needed. It’s not only about a radio station, but it’s about the friendship of a man who I have known for better than 45 years, Bill Mozer and what he means to me and what he means to WCWP. If Bill had never said, “wanta come to work with me tonight”, or had not asked me to help put WCWP back on the air, or had not had a history of excellence at WCWP, I might very well not be in my 38th year at WABC!

There are two things I’m very proud of in relationship to being a WCWP Alumni.   The first is that last April I was inducted into the WCWP Alumni Hall of Fame, along with Billimage Epperhart and Ted David, two guys who were there that night in February, 1970, when we put WCWP back on the air. I’m very proud to be a part of the history of WCWP knowing that it will have a long future. The second thing I’m proud of is that even today, I’m not the only Post Toastie at WABC. Present WCWP Director of Broadcasting, Dan Cox, took the lessons he learned from Bill Mozer to heart, and still runs a quality radio station and an excellent training ground. It’s because of Dan’s work that several of the young folks who I work with at WABC learned how to do it at WCWP. I guess you can go home….

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Want to read Steve Post’s book…including the chapter about WCWP? Follow this link for a PSF version. http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Bookshelf/Playing%20in%20the%20FM%20Band.pdf

 

 

 

 

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