Calling all stations: A starting look at the radio history of York County
Reader Bill Schmeer, who recently shared some memories with me about eating at Gino’s, happened to send me an e-mail about his work in York County radio.
Serendipitously, it came about two days after I had an e-mail exchange with John Loeper about an idea I had, for a couple of posts about radio history in the county.
John got me thinking when he commented on the best X of York County.
He writes: “The problem with 105.7 being the ‘X’ in your poll is that it used to be the “Q” … and started out as a ‘W’ … (WNOW-FM). ALSO, it will no longer be known as the ‘X’ when the station changes its format , as all radio stations eventually do.”
He also writes, “WOYK used to be WZIX and before that it was WORK (great call letters) from 1932 to 1974 … I wonder how many people remember ‘Doc’ Daugherty? The Bon-Ton record department used to have vote every year from there customers on York’s most popular DJ and Doc and Ed Lincoln used to take turns winning it … nobody else ever came close. Having grown up in York and having worked in York radio for 12 years I would love to read more about the history of some of York’s radio stations.”
Well, that’s where Bill comes in.
Bill writes: “I only worked at WSBA from December of 1968 to February of 1976. I had worked at two radio stations, WAZL, in Hazleton and WILK in Wilkes-Barre, before coming to York to work in the news department. On taking the job, I was asked to change my name from Bill Schmeer to Bill Shepherd.”
He continues: “Radio is theater of the mind and Susquehanna Broadcasting pushed that theater to heights far above what local radio was known for at the time and blew away the competition. We tasted that in Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre when Susquehanna bought WARM-AM, in Scranton and changed the format to music and news delivered by big voices that exploded out of the speakers and grabbed you by the ears. They did this with the seven AM stations they were permitted to own at that time. They knew exactly how to play the game while the rest of us sat around with our mouths open. I wasn’t aware of WSBA, because we couldn’t pick it up in the northeast, but Alvin Wolfman (Al Wolfe), who recently passed away and with whom I had worked in Wilkes-Barre, took a job as morning DJ at WSBA, called and said they needed a newsman. I came, auditioned, and took the job. Although the characters changed periodically, the Sensational Seven were still in power mode and the station dominated the region for a long time.”
“In 1972, during the flooding from Hurricane Agnes, WSBA shut down the music and became a message center for 2 1/2 days as did the other stations in the area. Speaking of the weather, It was my boss, Phil Eberly, vice president and general manager of WSBA, who passed away last fall, who persuaded Joel Myers to expand his weather service from business and industry to cover commercial broadcasting. WSBA had a contract with another service and couldn’t become Joel’s first client. That honor fell to KYW Radio, in Philadelphia. Susquehanna’s Scranton station, WARM, as the second client, and WSBA was it’s third. It was the program director at WARM, who’s name escapes me, who came up with the name, ACCUWEATHER and the rest is history. Incidentally, the Scranton station was AM only. It didn’t have FM, that’s why WSBA-FM is able to use the same call letters, even though the station was sold long before Susquehanna Broadcasting was put on the market.”
“Susquehanna was a good company to work for and I have many fond memories. Louis Appell was a gem of a boss, who took care of his people, and you have to admire him. He was a salesman at the radio station, when his father, who had purchased the radio and set in motion a new TV station, died. Mr. Appell put Channel 43 on the air and went on to build a company that had AM and FM radio stations from coast to coast and from border to border. It should be noted here that the FCC had lifted the restriction on the number of broadcast outlets owned by any one company. But Channel 43 was the only TV station the company ever owned.”
Memories of WSBA’s former offices on the Susquehanna Trail
Thanks for reading this far into a long post – I know there’s a lot here, so I tried to break it up with some other fun stuff too! I’d love to continue talking about radio history, so while I LOVE hearing from those who worked in the industry, even if you’re just a longtime listener with memories of your favorite radio shows, please comment!