Thursday, August 16, 2007

Radio station WARE

On the top of Coy Hill in Warren, Massachusetts, is this tower along with two others. This was the first tower constructed for radio station WARE. Its call letters were WRMS at the time, and it became one of the first directional radio stations in the world designed to provide nighttime protection to other stations on the same frequency. The design work was performed by Professor Don Howe of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His work allowed radio stations to continue on the air after sundown. Before him, all the local stations needed to shut down in the nighttime so they would not interfere with each other.

The hill was 1177 ft MSL, one of the highest in the area. However “Google Earth” shows it as only 1133 ft and renames the hill, “Coy’s Hill as part of the continuing rewrite of history. The road to the top of the hill is “Coy Hill Road,” properly marked with street signs, and the locals living on that road certainly know their own addresses. Coy Hill Road runs from Warren to West Brookfield. Only Hummers and similar vehicles, can navigate the entire length because of its poor condition on the West Brookfield end. Lucy Stone’s birthplace is about a quarter mile up the hill on the West Brookfield end. Lucy Stone was an early suffragist who retained her maiden name after marriage –something unheard of at the time.


Working at this radio station was my first job in the broadcasting industry. I helped the previous Chief Engineer, Chris Payne, move the studios from an old building in Ware’s freight yard to leased quarters on Main Street. Once that was working, Chris went off to Amherst to build a new radio station WTTT, and I remained behind as the new Chief Engineer of WARE. I was on-duty 24/7 and lived at the transmitter site. For this, I received $100 per week. Since the station had a directional pattern in the nighttime, a licensed radio engineer such as me needed to be on duty every night. This definitely messed up my social life! I was eighteen years of age at the time.

Sometimes a deejay didn’t arrive so I’d have to take his nighttime air shift. It was during one of these shifts that I coined the often repeated joke, “Governor Peabody is the first governor of a state that has four towns named after him. They are Endicott, Peabody, Marblehead, and Athol.” This joke nearly got me fired. The owner, Al Roberts was an active participant in the Peabody campaign and didn’t take such jokes lightly. Many years later, when it was safe to do so, a Boston radio personality claimed that he invented the joke. Others take the credit, I just take the heat.

Later I moved to WDEW in Westfield, Massachusetts where I designed and built their radio transmitter. Professor Howe helped me obtain FCC Type Acceptance by performing the measurements that I didn’t have the equipment or skills to do. You can read about this in my book, Abominable Firebug.

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