Remembering WDBS

The Campus Radio Station of Duke University (1950-1983)


Fledgling Campus Radio Station Tests Wings at Duke University; Mathis and Elmore At Helm

This article appeared in the Rocky Mount Sunday Telegram on May 28, 1950.

By BOB WILSON

DURHAM, May 27 -- Good evening, ladies and gentlemen -- this is radio station WDBS, owned and operated by the students of Duke University.

That's what Duke students heard at nine o'clock last Friday night if their radios were turned to 560 kilocycles. Most of them were.

WDBS, campus radio station of Duke University, is now operating after a year of preparation. The 100-watt transmitter sends its signal out over campus power lines to every radio on the sprawling West Campus, and a long-term student dream has been realized.

A campus radio station has been a campaign promise in many student government campaigns, but something always has seemed to hold up the product.

But last year a small group of determined students decided that Duke would have a radio station before they graduated. Sonny Elmore and Archie Mathis, both of Rocky Mount, talked the idea over with Logan Bruce of San Antonio, Tex.

The trio investigated and fund that the Duke class of 1949 had left a small sum of money to help finance a campus radio outlet. With this nucleus, the group began to look about for more aid.

A columnist for the "Duke Chronicle", campus newspaper, proposed a monster benefit show. With help from radio and stage celebrities from all over the State, the show played to a packed house, and the proceeds put WDBS another step closer to reality.

Duke administration officials heartily endorsed the idea and better still, came forward with financial aid.

With support from students, administration and faculty, plans for the new radio station were rushed rapidly to completion. Special sound-proofed studios were constructed, and electrical engineering students built and installed the transmitter under Elmore's direction.

Tentative program schedules call for two hours of broadcast time, from 9-11 o'clock, five days a week. Weekends the station will remain silent.

Programs in this initial period necessarily are simple. Each broadcast will begin and end with a summary of campus news and notices from administrative offices.

[illegible] shows will [illegible] much of the broadcast time with a nice balance between popular and classical music. Plans for the future include on a seven day schedule, plays by the Duke Players, and musical and talent reviews staged by Hoof 'n' Horn, Duke musical comedy society.

Control of WDBS rests with a joint faculty-student Radio Council which elects all key station personnel. Student members re elected to the council in regular student government elections and faculty members are appointed by the president of the University.

Backers of Duke's new radio voice hope that the station soon will become financially self-sufficient through the sale of advertising to local merchants. All profits will be turned back into the station for the replacement of equipment as needed and purchase of new items.

"WDBS is having a modest beginning now," said station manager Bruce, "but we're thinking of television prospects for the future!"


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