History of WGHB/WFHH/WFLA and WSUN

Information for this timeline was compiled from Department of Commerce publications and contemporary newspaper accounts.

Dec. 10, 1925. WGHB-Clearwater six-hour dedication broadcast. Station was licensed for 500 watts at 1130 kHz, to George H. Bowles Developments. 425 telegrams are received from 36 states and Canada. One was received from St. Paul Island, Alaska. The station had purchased the 500-watt transmitter previously used by WSB. WGHB was located in the Fenway Hotel, which was actually in Dunedin, near Clearwater.

July 1926. WGHB ownership changes to the Fort Harrison Hotel (Edward A. Haley).

Dec. 2, 1926. WGHB new quarters opened at the Clearwater Community House.

Jan. 9, 1927. WGHB moves to 850 kHz.

Jan. 31, 1927. The Radio Service Bulletin reports that the WGHB call has been changed to WFHH (for Fort Harrison Hotel).

June 1927. Ownership of WFHH is changed to the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce in June 1927.

June 15, 1927. WFHH moves to 820 kHz.

July 27, 1927. St. Petersburg city commission approves contract for St. Petersburg Chamber to purchase of half interest in WFHH.

Aug. 15, 1927. The WFHH call is changed to WFLA. [This call had been used until now by a station in Boca Raton.]

Aug. 18, 1927. Final agreement reached between Clearwater and St. Petersburg to divide ownership of WFLA.

Oct. 1927. WFLA ownership changes to both Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Nov. 1, 1927. WFLA moves to 590 kHz, 750 watts; WSUN inaugural broadcast; WSUN begins sharing time with WFLA. (WSUN operates three nights per week and alternate Sundays.)

Jan. 1, 1928. WFLA/WSUN moves to 580 kHz.

Nov. 11, 1928. WFLA/WSUN moves to 900 kHz.

Nov. 15, 1929. WFLA/WSUN moves to 620 kHz, part of a re-allocation affecting most stations in Florida.

May 9, 1932. WFLA/WSUN begins testing the first directional antenna in the U. S., designed by Raymond Wilmotte. The antenna, consisting of two towers spaced a quarter wave apart, was installed at Bayview, Florida. An appeals court had ruled that the earlier coverage area of co-channel WTMJ Milwaukee should be restored, and the WFLA-WSUN DA system was installed to avoid a power reduction.

1930s. Ownership of the WFLA half of station changes to Florida West Coast Broadcasting Co., controlled by Ham Baskin (former Clearwater mayor) and W. Walter Tison (who had built WGHB).

1938. Ownership of the WFLA half of station changes to Tampa Tribune.

Jan. 23, 1941. WFLA moves to 940 kHz; WSUN remains on 620 kHz.

Mar. 29, 1941. WFLA moves to 970 kHz.


Radio Station to Broadcast First Program

Euphemia Kavassa and Associates Artists Will Take Air Tonight in Clearwater

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Dec. 2, 1926.

The new Clearwater municipal broadcasting station WGHB, located in the Community house, will send out its initial program this evening, featuring Euphemia Kavassa and associates artists of St. Petersburg.

The program follows: [...]

Station WGHB was formerly located at the Fenway in Dunedin and is considered one of the most powerful in the country. Reports of splendid receiving have been sent in from all parts of the United States and foreign countries as well. Recently a movement was afoot to change the station letters to WFLA, but the request was not granted.


First Daylight Radio Program Given by WGHB

Clearwater Station Is Commended in Many Telegrams on Success of New Feat

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 10, 1927.

CLEARWATER, Jan. 9--A trail of new accomplishment in radio broadcasting was blazed here Saturday when radio broadcasting station "WGHB" after exhaustive tests sent out its first daylight programs to the north.

Heretofore considered impractical because of the interruptive bombardment of static, the broadcasting program was sent out at 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, eastern standard time, for a period of an hour. Reception was pronounced as perfect by radio engineers who cooperated with station "WGHB" in northern cities. Telegrams of the results achieved as received in northern cities poured into the radio station early this evening.

Tests of the daylight broadcasting program have been carried on for the past two months by W. Walter Tison, engineer and announcer, assisted by Wally Wiley, assistant engineer, with cooperation from leading radio engineers of the nation, and as a result the daylight programs will be broadcast each afternoon throughout the winter until excessive static interruption in the spring makes the broadcast programs by daylight no longer possible, Mr. Tison said.


City Approves Half Interest in Radio Plant

Tentative Action Taken by Commission on Report Made by Kerrick

Charter Vote Called

Referendum on New Document Officially Set for Middle of July

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on June 14, 1927.

Purchase of one half interest in the Clearwater broadcasting station for $15,000 and appropriation of an additional $10,000 for operation of the local studio and maintenance of the output station was tentatively approved by the city commission Monday night on recommendation of Joe H. Kerrick, chairman of the radio committee of the chamber of commerce. The proposition carried the approval of the chamber of commerce board of governors.

Under the terms of the contract with Clearwater, St. Petersburg would have a clear and undivided half interest in the broadcasting station. The city would have its own call letter, own announcer and would have control of the station three nights a week, alternating with Clearwater on the Sunday night programs.

Operation would be by the remote control system but, according to Kerrick, the listeners will have no way of knowing the station was not directly in St. Petersburg. Kerrick pointed out an advantage in [illegible] that the output station would be twenty-two miles from this city, eliminating the possibilities of blanketing the receiving sets here.

The Clearwater broadcasting station is of 500 watts but Kerrick said it is operating as a 75-watt station.

The city commission gave its approval of the proposition with provision that the city attorney endorse the contract and that a letter from the board of governors, chamber of commerce, be included in the records as endorsing the project.

Operation of the station would be controlled by a committee of six, three from each city, with an additional member to be called in as arbitrator.


City Approves Radio Purchase

Half Interest in Clearwater Station Bought; Veillard Makes Objection

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on July 28, 1927.

Contract between the city of St. Petersburg and Clearwater for the purchase of a half interest in the Clearwater broadcasting station was approved by the city commission Wednesday on recommendation of a majority of the city radio committee composed of commissioners D. C. Wilkerson, Robert Arnold and Ralph Veillard.

While Wilkerson and Arnold recommended favorably on the purchase, commissioner Veillard submitted a minority report in which he opposed it, contending that the city could accomplish more with its money by buying service through the Clearwater or Tampa station.

Veillard read a letter from a Tampa radio operator criticizing the proposed purchase of the Clearwater plant.

It was explained by S. S. Martin, director of finance, that the purchase of a half interest in the radio plant represented only $7,500 of the $25,000 budget item provided for radio. It is planned to spend $7,500 in maintenance and operation of the Clearwater station the first year and $10,000 for maintenance and operation of the local broadcasting studio.

'I am not a radio fan,' Commissioner Arnold declared, 'but I am convinced that the purchase of a half interest in the Clearwater station is the best proposition for the city and I am willing to tax myself as an individual to put St. Petersburg on the air through the Clearwater station.'

Commissioner R. C. Purvis expressed the opinion that the city would get more for its dollar through radio broadcasting than through any other means of advertising. He said the name of Clearwater was known throughout the north through its broadcasting. All local programs broadcast through the Clearwater station will be announced as coming from St. Petersburg.

Commenting on the reigning arguments put forth by J. H. Kerrick, executive vice president of the chamber of commerce, and O. F. Fraze, chairman of the chamber radio committee, Commissioner Veillard referred to them as 'high pressure talks.'

Mayor Maurer commended the advertising value of radio broadcasting with the assertion that 'People interested in radio are listening in at all times. They will hear St. Petersburg many, many times.'

With the approval of the purchase by the city commission, it is expected that contracts will be signed within the next week by the city.


WFLA Letters Given Station

Quest for Two Years Gained as Government Issues Radio License

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 16, 1927.

CLEARWATER, Aug. 15 -- Negotiations for two years were consummated here today with the announcement that the Clearwater radio station license had been renewed with new call letters WFLA. Formal dedication of the station under its new letters was held with a special program tonight.

Notification of the new call letters was received today by the chamber of commerce from W. D. Terrell, chief of the radio division of the Department of Commerce, Washington.

The letters intending to signify 'West Florida' were formerly used for the station at Boca Raton, about 18 miles west of Palm Beach. Two years ago when the chamber of commerce leased the radio station from George H. Bowles, efforts were made to secure the WFLA call but Boca Raton had priority. Repeated attempts continued unsuccessfully until the new license was received today by Park B. Norton, president of the chamber of commerce, and W. Walter Tyson, directing announcer of the station.


Radio Battle Slated Today

Federal Meeting in Washington Will Be Attended by Dann

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 27, 1927.

Formal request for an increase in power from 500 to 10,000 watts at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater broadcasting station and protest against the proposed change in wavelength of the local station, will be made today before the Federal Radio Commission by a Pinellas county delegation composed of Herman Dann, St. Petersburg; Mayor H. H. Baskin and Walter Tyson, Clearwater.

The local party left Tuesday night for Washington where the conference will be held this morning at ten o'clock. The meeting was arranged by Senator Duncan U. Fletcher, who visited here last week in the interests of the broadcasting station.

After visiting here and studying the brief to be presented to the radio commission by the local delegation, Sen. Fletcher immediately arranged for the meeting and at the same time defended the local interests in their protest against the proposed changes which would have made St. Petersburg and Clearwater divide their broadcasting time with Orlando.


Local Radio Plant Given Added Power

250-Watt Increase Allowed for a Period of Sixty Days After Arguments

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 28, 1927.

An increase in power from 500 to 750 watts for a period of sixty days has been granted to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater broadcasting station as a result of a conference held in Washington Thursday between the Federal Radio Commission and local representatives.

Attending the hearing were Senators Duncan U. Fletcher and Park Trammell of Florida who aided the local representatives in placing their arguments before the commission.

The new order gave station WFLA at Clearwater a frequency of 690 kilocycles and an increase in power from 500 to 750 watts. The local delegation requested an increase to 10,000 watts.

Representing St. Petersburg and Clearwater were Herman Dann, Mayor H. H. Baskin and Walter Tyson of Clearwater.

Included in the brief presented to the federal commission was a request that the commission suspend an order that the local station share its time with a station in Orlando.

The Associated Press carried the following dispatch Thursday relative to the meeting in Washington:

Senators Fletcher and Trammell, both Democrats, of Florida, and Herman Dann, of St. Petersburg, president of the Florida state chamber of commerce, appeared before the Federal Radio Commission today in behalf of station WFLA, of Clearwater, Florida. WFLA has requested the commission to suspend an order that it share time with a station in Orlando.

The Clearwater station is municipally owned and has been operating since 1925. A $40,000 municipal studio was built recently at St. Petersburg and arrangements were made for joint operation with the Clearwater studio. These arrangements will be nullified and several thousand dollars subscribed by the community fruitlessly expended if WFLA is compelled to divide its time with a third station, the Florida delegation contended.

The matter was argued at an informal hearing, the commission endeavoring to find an allocation satisfactory to all parties affected by the order.

The Florida station had asked the commission to suspend the order that it share time with WDBO in Orlando, Florida.

At the informal hearing today Senators Fletcher and Trammel of Florida, Herman Dann, of St. Petersburg, president of the Florida state chamber of commerce, appeared in behalf of station WFLA.

He informed the commission that arrangements have been made for joint operation of the Clearwater station and a new $40,000 broadcasting studio in St. Petersburg.

Division of time with a third station would nullify these plans, he said. Both the Clearwater and the new St. Petersburg studios are municipal organizations.

The Florida delegation expressed satisfaction at the temporary allocation granted by the commission.


WSUN
WSUN studios were in the second floor of the Municipal Pier's casino


WSUN Arranges First Program

New City Station Will Go On Air Officially Tonight; Seek Results

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 1, 1927.

St. Petersburg will go on the air for the first time tonight at 7:30 o'clock on the new call letters approved by the federal radio commission, WSUN, as a separate broadcasting station, announced as "St. Petersburg, Florida, operating under the Chamber of Commerce."

The premiere night on the air for the Sunshine City will be the unofficial opening of the local service, in accordance with the privileges granted by the federal radio commission in response of the delegation which went to Washington, and who returned Monday after a notably successful trip to the capital.

In that delegation were Herman A. Dann of this city, president of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce; Mayor H. H. Baskin, of Clearwater; Walter Tison, radio engineer of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater jointly-owned station, and they were supported at Washington before the commission by United States Senators Duncan U. Fletcher and Park Trammel of Florida and by George W. Bean, Republican national committeeman from this state.

"We are especially anxious to have the people of this city and county phone in tomorrow night on the effectiveness of the reception of the program," said Ora F. Fraze, chairman of the local Republican committee. "We will appreciate the courtesy if radio fans will telephone to their Shrine club, dial 7985, giving us their impression of the reception."

"St. Petersburg will begin at once to do her part in increasing the power of the jointly owned station from 500 to 750 watts. We are assigned the separate call letters WSUN; on 590 kilocycles, 508.2 meters wavelength. The committee was accorded the privilege of selecting its wavelength from five different wavelengths and selected 508.2 as the most advantageous in the list."

The program tonight will start at 7:30 and continue until 11:30 p.m.

The committee is trying out several applicants for the position of announcer and one of these will make announcements tonight, and a different one the next night.


WSUN Changes Place on Dial

WJAX Will Broadcast on St. Petersburg's Old Place; Tampa Protests

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 15, 1929.

A change in the dial position of WSUN, local municipal radio station, became effective at midnight. Programs in the future will be broadcast on the 620 kilocycle channel instead of 900, as heretofore.

Necessary minor mechanical adjustments were made by the engineers at the station early Friday morning, according to A. Squires, directing announcer.

The change came as the result of a recent order by the Federal Radio Commission announcing a reallocation of wave lengths which affected practically every station in Florida.

WJAX, Jacksonville, will broadcast in the future on St. Petersburg's old 900 kilocycle allocation. Tampa's station WDAE has been ordered to broadcast its programs in the future on 1220 kilocycles, though protests have been filed by the station's owners with the commission. No action on the protests have as yet been made. Up until Thursday night WDAE had been operating on WSUN's new wave length assignment.


WFLA-WSUN Experiment May Affect Technique of Regional Radio Stations

Wilmotte Designs Directional Antenna to Reduce Signal Toward Milwaukee And Permit Increased Power

This article appeared in Broadcasting on Apr. 1, 1932.

The future of most regional broadcasting stations may hinge upon the success of the new directional antenna just installed by WFLA-WSUN, Clearwater, Fla., in an effort to comply with the court mandate instructing it to reduce its signal in the direction of Milwaukee, according to W. Walter Tison, director of the station.

Designed by Raymond Wilmotte, British authority on transmitting aerials, the antenna is the first to be installed in this country for broadcast use. Mr. Tison said it is the opinion of WFLA-WSUN officials that the new radiating system will function as claimed by its designer and that it will become standard equipment of regional stations seeking to serve only their own trade area.

Because of interference caused on the 620 kc. channel used by the Florida station as well as by WTMJ, Milwaukee, the Court of Appeals instructed the Radio Commission to "measurably reestablish" the service area of the Milwaukee station as it existed prior to 1929, when certain shifts were made on the channel. The Commission reduced WFLA-WSUN's power from 1 kw. night and 2´ kW day to 250 watts night and 500 day, pending installation of the new equipment at a new location. If the Wilmotte antenna is effective in curtailing the signal toward Milwaukee, the station will be permitted to use the higher powers.

"Down here, where we see radio differently," said Mr. Tison, "the idea of shielded transmission appeals to us from many angles. The foreign situation is getting bad. Cuba has recently put into operation many new stations on almost all the so called clear channels or split frequencies. Unless the American stations agree on something soon, it will mean a clear U. S. channel shared with a Cuban or Mexican station."

The station will begin testing the new aerials late in April under the personal direction of Mr. Wilmotte. Associated with Mr. Wilmotte in the project is Lieut. Commander T. A. M. Craven, consulting engineer. Construction of the new station and antenna is being directed by William P. Hilliard of Chicago and Joe H. Mitchell of Clearwater.

The aerials of the new system consist of two vertical radiators which are fabricated steel towers 200 feet high and set in place on a special Lapp insulator designed especially for this type of work. Three guy wires with interlocking insulators hold the verticals in place.

The vertical radiators are set exactly a quarter-wave apart with the transmitter about midway and slightly back of the direct line between the towers. A transmission line comprising three wires properly spaced in accordance with the transmitting frequency feeds the respective towers. The line also is a quarter-wave long and is arranged in a semicircle to accomplish this end. The towers are excited and with proper phasing to accomplish what might be termed as the positive and negative effect to distort the field pattern in a given direction.

The experiment is of importance, Mr. Tison said, because "it is a known fact that a regional station can appeal to the higher courts and curtail the service of another and more successful regional which might be sending a strong signal outside its zone." He declared this happened to WFLA-WSUN in the WTMJ litigation.

The new transmitter is a 5 kW Western Electric with the 50-cycle panel and visual frequency indicator. The building is a brick structure 60 x 40 feet and is located on a ten-acre tract overlooking "Old Tampa Bay" within sight of the cities of Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg.


An article on the first directional antenna in use in the United States can be found at http://www.oldradio.com/archives/stations/tsp/WSUN-WFLA.pdf.


Radio Station Is Trying Out New Equipment

Antenna Designed By Famous British Authority Will Get Its First Real Test

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on April 6, 1932.

CLEARWATER, Apr. 6 - The eyes of the radio world are focused on WFLA Clearwater, where the directional antenna developed by Raymond Wilmotte, British authority on transmitting aerials, is being given its first real test.

If the Clearwater tests at Bayview are successful, stations along coastlines and in lake areas may be able to double their inland service areas by blocking waves which hitherto have gone out over the water and reflect them back to add their power to those regularly emanating inland, Walter Tison, station director said today.

With the installation of the new equipment at Clearwater it is hoped to throw the entire power of the station up the peninsula and reduce wasted power which has heretofore "gone to sea," Tison said.

"Experiments with the antenna show that it tends to act as increasing the power of a station without the transmitter's actually having greater wattage. For instance, a 1,000-watt station on a seaboard emanates waves in a concentrict [sic] circle of which the transmitter is the center. Naturally, half the waves go out to sea. By causing these waves to be reflected inland, the station becomes equivalent to a 2,000-watt transmitter. Inland receivers pick up the regular 1,000-watt inland wave, and the reflected 1,000-watt sea wave," Tison said.

The new equipment has been installed by WFLA in an effort to receive a license for greater power from the federal commission who ordered that the local station reduce her power last summer when it was found that WFLA was interfering with WTMJ, Milwaukee.


Radio Stations WFLA AND WSUN To Test Power

Four Government Engineers to Supervise Broadcasts Next Week

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on May 1, 1932.

CLEARWATER, Apr. 30 - Extensive tests by engineers of the federal radio commission will be started here May 9 to determine whether the new transmitting equipment of radio stations WFLA and WSUN will interfere with the Milwaukee station.

Walter Tison, director of broadcasting for the two stations announced today that the government would send four engineers to Clearwater. One will be stationed at the new transmitting station at Bayview to take all meter readings on the test broadcasts. There will be an engineer stationed in Milwaukee, Chicago, and other points in the west to check the signals as they are received there. Three other engineers will work through Pinellas county and the local district covered by the two stations.

The tests will continue over a period of six days. By June 1 it is expected that all facts in connection with the tests will be assembled and sent to Washington.

Tison expressed confidence today that WFLA and WSUN would be able to begin operation in June on the full power of 1,000 watts night and 2,500 watts day.

Preliminary tests he said had been very satisfactory and showed that the new shields eliminated interference with the Milwaukee station's signals. In the preliminary tests, the commission has had engineers in Washington and Chicago receiving the signals. It has been found that the signals for the local station are scarcely audible in Chicago when the shields are on.


Burgert Brothers photograph, 1936


WFLA, Tampa, Fla., Sought by WSUN

St. Petersburg to Pay $125,000 For Time-Sharing Outlet

This article appeared in Broadcasting, Sept. 15, 1940.

Acquisition by WSUN, St. Petersburg city-owned station, of the facilities of WFLA, Tampa, with which it shares time on 620 kc., is provided under an agreement worked out between the two stations Sept. 10, subject to FCC approval.

The city of St. Petersburg would acquire the half-time facilities of WFLA for $125,000, under authorization given at a council meeting Sept. 9.

The arrangement grows out of the action Aug. 28 of the FCC in granting the Tampa Tribune, principal owner of WFLA, a new regional assignment in Tampa on 940 kc. with 5,000 watts day and 1,000 watts night [Broadcasting, Sept. 1]. The grant, however, was conditioned upon the station divesting itself of its interest in WFLA, and the WSUN sale was worked out in compliance with that edict.

The Tampa and St. Petersburg stations have divided time for 13 years. Under the proposal W. Walter Tison, general manager of WFLA and the only individual owning stock in the station, will sell his 45% interest to the Tampa Tribune, which in turn will liquidate the Florida West Coast Broadcasting Co., passing its physical properties together with time on the air and its NBC-Blue contract to WSUN. Thus the latter station would become a fulltime NBC-Blue outlet on 620 kc. WSUN would continue to use the Bayview transmitter near Clearwater, installed by Mr. Tison in 1932, as the first directional station in the county.

The Tribune owns 55% of the common stock of Florida West Coast and all of the preferred stock. In the liquidation of the corporation, the Tribune would retain the call letters WFLA, subject to FCC approval for its new 940 kc. station. Mr. Tison will remain as general manager of this operation.

Upon completion of the new WFLA transmitter, to be located at Rocky Point about five miles from Tampa, the new station will become the NBC-Red outlet in the area.

In commenting on the sale, Mr. Tison said that while he was reluctant to sell his interest in WFLA, it nevertheless was an excellent manner in which to clear up one of the few outstanding division of time stations and that his effort was to cooperate by sale of his stock.

S. E. Thomason, publisher of the Tampa Tribune and the Chicago Times, announced that his company was relinquishing its present WFLA property, subject to FCC approval, at a figure less than two-thirds of cost. "We make this contribution to what appears to us to be a happy settlement of a part time radio operation that has been fraught with costly difficulties, both for WSUN and WFLA," he said.

Mr. Thomason explained that his new station would retain contractual arrangements for the Red network programs of NBC and relinquish its interest in Blue network programs now broadcast over WFLA. He said that arrangements are not completed but he understood NBC has indicated readiness to extend the Blue to WSUN.


WSUN towers and transmitter building on Gandy Boulevard
Photos courtesy of Bob Sheilds


New AM Transmitter and Towers at WSUN

St. Petersburg, Florida

This article appeared in RCA Broadcast News, July-August 1952.

In its twenty-fifth year of broadcasting, Radio Station WSUN has increased its coverage 50 per cent in the richest market area of Florida without increasing power. This was accomplished by installing an RCA BTA-5F 5-KW transmitter and two new 500-foot Blaw-Knox self-supporting towers at a new transmitter site more than a mile out in Tampa Bay.

Municipally Owned and Operated

WSUN is owned and operated by the City of St. Petersburg on the Florida West Coast--one of the few municipally owned and operated stations in the country.

Completion of the new transmitter and towers was the culmination of intense planning and effort under Ross E. Windom, Manager of the City of St. Petersburg, and George D. Robinson, Manager of WSUN. Robinson, known as "Major" to listeners up and down the Florida West Coast, has been connected with WSUN since 1935, and station manager since November of 1948.

Chief Engineer of WSUN since 1927 is Louis J. Link, under whose direction plans and requirements of the new transmitter installation were co-ordinated. The directional antenna system was designed by James C. McNary, Consultant. Construction of the transmitter building was done by the Construction Division of the City of St. Petersburg, under the direction of Paul C. Jorgensen, City Engineer, who also designed foundations for the towers. Erection of the two 500-foot Blaw-Knox self-supporting towers and construction of the tower foundation was done by the White Construction Company of St. Petersburg.

WSUN began broadcasting in October of 1927. For the first thirteen years time was shared with station WFLA, using the same transmitter but operating from separate studios and business offices. The two stations alternated on week-days and shared time equally on Sundays. Air-time during the first year was four hours daily. This was increased to eight hours in the second year, continuing until May 17, 1930, when WSUN joined NBC, and air time was increased to 17 1/2 hours daily. WSUN went to full-time operation, 7 days a week, January 23, 1941...with continued operation from Bayview.

First Directional Antenna in U. S.

In May, 1930, WSUN moved from downtown Clearwater to Bayview, on Tampa Bay, with a new 5-KW installation which included a two-element directional antenna system designed by Raymond Wilmotte. This was the first directional antenna system to be used by a commercial broadcasting station in the United States. With the Bayview installation, WSUN began operation on 620 kc...and since that time 620 kc has become synonymous with solid coverage in Florida.

Original Transmitter in Smithsonian Institute

The original WSUN transmitter is now a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

New Transmitter Dedicated by Don McNeill

WSUN continued transmitter operation at Bayview until the move was made to the new transmitter installation near the end of the land-fill leading to Gandy Bridge which extends nearly three miles into Tampa Bay. The official dedication of the new installation was made January 22, 1952, by Don McNeill on the "Breakfast Club," an ABC network program which originated in St. Petersburg that day.

Transmitter Building Planned for TV

The two 500-foot Blaw-Knox towers straddle the highway leading across Gandy Bridge--midway between St. Petersburg and Tampa. The transmitter building is about 100 feet from the highway. It is 44 by 58 feet...with height above floor level about 17 feet. Rooms have 10-foot ceilings. The floors and flat roof are of reinforced concrete slab construction. The walls are concrete block, with four-foot attic and five-foot basement. All wiring between equipment and lighting circuits is run in galvanized conduit under the floor and through the attic. All conduit connections in and out of boxes use special ground lugs to insure solid ground back to the power panel, which in turn is connected through a copper bus to station ground. All reinforcing rods and structural steel are welded together and tied into the station ground. Metal plaster lath on all interior walls is also welded together and tied into the station ground. In addition, the studio at the transmitter is double shielded with copper screen. This was done in anticipation of the installation of television equipment in the same building with AM equipment--and the probable use of TV cameras in the studio.

Behind the BTA-5F is a room eight feet wide, which acts to some extent as a plenum chamber. In this room are the modulation and plate transformers, as well as the dehydrator for the co-ax line. The door to this room is not interlocked. The high voltage bus behind the transmitter is protected by an expanded metal guard--with both transformers behind an interlocked fence. Louvres are provided in the outer wall for air intake, drawn through spun-glass filters. Transformers are so arranged that air is drawn across both. With the door not interlocked, and high voltage equipment behind fence, inspection is easily accomplished at all times.

Installation includes a BTA-5F 5-KW and a BTA-1L 1-KW transmitter as auxiliary. Audio amplifiers, modulation and frequency monitors and other equipment are mounted in four racks. A special custom-built audio console and two 70-D turntables are provided for the studios. Microphones and cue speaker in studio are relay-controlled by a small announcer's console in studio. This same system is carried through in the main WSUN studios on the Municipal Pier in St. Petersburg. The entire transmitter building foundation rests on 28-foot 12-inch wooden pilings driven on 10-foot centers. Foundation footings are re-enforced-steel concrete and tied into these pilings. Transmitter installation includes a 50-KW auxiliary power generator. The 50-KW auxiliary generator rests on a separate foundation which is isolated from adjacent floor by a 4-inch cork vibration isolation strip. With this power plant, plus the 1-KW transmitter, duplicate telephone lines from the studio to transmitter in different cables, and with duplicate audio equipment--the chances for time "off-air" are reduced to the barest minimum.

The BTA-5F incorporates a provision for automatically reducing power to 1 kW should any transmitter fault continue. When this occurs the 1-KW auxiliary transmitter starts automatically. Both the studio and transmitter control room are acoustically treated.

The phasing cabinet is mounted to the left and in line with the front of the BTA-5F. In addition to the usual tuning controls on the front panel, there also are mounted the push-buttons for relay switching to day or night pattern, as well as switching from main to auxiliary transmitters. Push-button switching is provided to permit alternate use of duplicate transmission lines to south tower. A dummy load is provided and the transmitter switching is so arranged that with one transmitter connected to the antenna, the other is automatically connected to the dummy load.

The Antenna System

The new antenna system's two 500-foot Blaw-Knox self-supporting towers are spaced 565 feet apart. As noted in the accompanying photograph, both towers are set in the water--one on each side of the highway leading across Gandy Bridge. The actual location being about one and a quarter miles out in the open waters of Tampa Bay, permits an ideal ground system. This, of course, was an important reason for choosing this site. The southeast tower alone is used for daytime operation with the northwest tower floating. The northwest tower is cut in at night to form a directional pattern. The northwest tower, located near the transmitter building, will also support a TV antenna. The top section is so fabricated that the elements of a Super Gain TV antenna for channels 7 through 13 may be attached, with orientation such that a directional pattern may be obtained. A special platform is built on the northwest tower at a 300-foot level for mounting a "dish" antenna for studio-transmitter microwave TV relay. Both towers are fed with a 1 5/8-inch coax line. A walkway on piling leading from the transmitter building supports the coax feed line to the northwest tower. The coax line to the southeast tower is in duplicate, with line switching provisions located in the phasing cabinets. Lines to the southeast tower are led through a 30 x 30-inch concrete trough provided with a removable metal cover. Lines continue under the roadway through 8-inch cast iron pipes and into another concrete trough on the other side of the road. On the other side of the roadway the lines are enclosed by a high steel fence and supported on rollers on galvanized pip set in concrete. As the lines leave the concrete trough they are gradually raised five feet to reach the ground screen beneath the tower. This bend is quite gradual, along a total length of 127 feet. Only one 90 degree bend is used in the entire line; located below the transmitter building. The northwest line has only one 45 degree bend in its entire length. The tuning houses at both towers are ample in size--10' x 10' x 7' high.

Line terminating units are of the open panel type mounting, located near center of tuning houses. Tower feed leaves through a bowl insulator in the roof center. Half inch copper tubing was used to feed all four tower legs. Sampling loops for phase and night remote antenna current reading are located on towers about 100 feet above insulators. Isolation coils are installed in the tuning houses of each tower, behind the antenna tuning panels. DC arc protection is provided to kill the transmitter on heavy lightning hits.

Towers and Tides

The foundation for the tower legs are tied together by a grid of reinforced concrete beams, which in turn support the tuning houses. This grid of concrete beams also supports a transverse grid of 3" x 12" creosoted timbers on 3-foot centers upon which the ground screen is laid. The ground system under the towers is about 10 feet above mean sea level. (Refer to front cover for view of tower base and ground system.) This height was selected after extensive research on tides in Tampa Bay. Extra precautions were necessary because of the exposed location, and the possibility of high tides during stormy weather. It will be noted in Fig. 13 that an extensive outrigger was built around each tower. This was designed to stabilize the ground, since the rise and fall of tides might affect the antenna system. The outrigger consists of piling set on 20-foot centers, 35 feet outside and parallel to each of the four sides of the towers. A 3/8-inch copper wire run through eye-bolts on these pilings level with the timber grid is outer support of 120 radial wires connected to a bonding strip around each tuning house. Under each tower the ground screen was laid on these radials--silver brazed to the radials on 18-inch centers. All connections in the ground system are silver brazed. Radials run down each outrigger piling from the 3/8-inch outrigger wire and extend in a circle to a full 400 feet where possible. Along each side of the roadway passing between the two towers, the radials were cut off and silver brazed to 4-foot lengths of 5/8-inch copper ground rods driven 12 inches beneath the surface.

With the complete new installation of transmitter equipment and towers, plus the salt-water ground in the new site--field measurements prove WSUN has extended its .5 mv line by an average of 30 per cent to give 50 per cent better coverage of the thickly populated central area of Florida--one of the nation's fastest-growing retail market areas.


WSUN photos courtesy of Bob Sheilds


WSUN - Why Stay Up North?

The following is taken from St. Petersburg: An Oral History by Scott Taylor Hartzell.

A case of brew is yours, the radio announcer teased in 1927, if you know how many mentions the beer gets in this "rapid-fire" commercial. After hearing the competing station's offer, some of WSUN's broadcasters replayed the commercial slowly and counted. The entire staff called in and won enough beer for a bash, to which they invited the sponsor and the rival announcer. Neither showed.

"We had some wonderful times back then," WSUN's former chief engineer, Louie Link, told the St. Petersburg Times on November 3, 1957. Those times embraced several WSUN milestones: it introduced the city to local radio, and it owned and operated the nation's first directional antenna. For years the station was a revenue producer and publicity medium for the city. "It's the only station I remember," said Ruth Huff-Saylor, 74, who at age 6 discovered WSUN on her father's crystal radio.

The seeds for WSUN were planted in 1925, when Jack Dadswell based a former Georgia 10-watt station at his Fenway Hotel in Dunedin. He later sold the station to Walter P. Fuller for $2,000 and some land; Fuller moved the operation to his Jungle Country Club Hotel. It was "the first radio station to operate in the city, a station now known as WSUN," Fuller noted in St. Petersburg and Its People. To honor a delinquent pledge of $5,000, Fuller, who never listened to the station, gave it to the chamber of commerce in 1927. The station partnered with WFLA that year, and the AM sisters shared broadcasters, the same network, and the same Clearwater City Park transmitter. WSUN -- Why Stay Up North -- was born after the Federal Radio Commission approved its August 22 application.

WSUN's initial broadcast emanated from the Shrine Club in October 1927 with the message "St. Petersburg's the best place to live." In November, powered by 750 watts, WSUN premiered from its $40,000 studio on the second floor of the Municipal Pier's Casino. Crowds surrounded the pier to hear chamber of commerce president and official broadcaster Byrd Latham clear his throat over outside speakers. A dance was broadcast that night from the Homestead Restaurant. Ora Fraze, city radio committee chairman, then asked listeners for opinions about the evening's 7:30 to 11:30 airing. "It was a community station," former WSUN radio and television general manager Earl Welde said.

Locals, who chose WSUN's first announcers, depended upon the station for storm warnings, late news, election returns, and road and citrus reports. From Alabama to Alaska, from Cuba to Central America, listeners hailed WSUN. "I enjoyed the program of dance music from St. Petersburg," said Milton J. Bobring of St. Louis. "You came in with terrific volume." Broadcasts aired Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays at noon ad night, two hours each stint. Sundays were mostly silent. The station was boosted to 1,000 watts in June 1928 and increased to 2,500 watts in November 1929. While working, WSUN pioneers dodged falling plaster, delivered news from a broom closet, and broadcast from booths with Turkish-bath conditions. Microphones were raced to heated boxes after every show. "The moisture raised Cain with broadcast equipment," Link added in his 1957 Times interview.

WSUN suffered through decades of feuding between the Chamber's secretary and St. Petersburg's city manager, who controlled policy. "It's practically impossible to serve both the interests of the chamber and the city ... under the existing method of control," station manager J. Karl Fritz lamented as the battle waged. But locals loved the station, which in 1930 became an NBC affiliate and began broadcasting full time. "WSUN dominated St. Petersburg's listening audience," said resident Lon Cooper. "All the city's news was there." Jim Robinson, son of former WSUN station manager Maj. George Robinson said, "News was magic to people then." Entertainment features grabbed local interest also. "You could go anywhere in St. Pete, or Tampa or Clearwater at 5:45 in the afternoon and hear Amos and Andy coming out of every radio," WSUN's Maurice Hayes told the Times on November 3, 1957.

Another show, It's a Small World, transported residents across the globe via a supposed magic carpet. At least one listener called in wanting to know "how we stopped and started [the carpet]," recalled the show's host, Fran Sutton. Other entertainment features boasted celebrities such as Eddie Cantor and Guy Lombardo, said Robert Vaughn, a former WSUN program director. Residents considered the station's sports broadcasts a home run, too. "During the World Series, customers rushed to our store to make sure their radio was working," said Cooper, who remembered WSUN's desperate calls in the night for radio parts from his father's electronics shop.

On February 13, 1937, WSUN was named the ultimate local station by broadcasters surveyed along Florida's web coast. "WSUN squeezes in the lead on the strength of its list of accomplishments," the survey proclaimed. Two years later on December 12, the city obtained the station's franchise from the chamber of commerce. The station broke from WFLA in 1941 and became an ABC affiliate while airing from the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the site of the nation's first directional antenna. The station attracted the attention of celebrity Ted Mack, who attempted unsuccessfully to lease WSUN after it enhanced city profits more than $442,000 between 1940 and 1950. The station also enriched charities, such as the Christmas Toy Shop that aided needy children. "We tried to do everything we could," said Paul Hayes, the station's first all-night announcer.

Commentator Paul Harvey often made surprise visits to WSUN in the 1960s to broadcast his show. "He had a key, but we never knew when he was coming," Welde recalled. In 1966, the city ended nearly 38 years of WSUN ownership and sold the station to WCAR Inc. For the next three decades WSUN transmitted from a $35,000 building near the Gandy Bridge, airing sports, talk, and music. "WSUN was the dominant country station in the market into the 1980s," said former Times radio columnist Roger Fisher. In 1998, WSUN began simulcasting local television's Bay News 9. Today as part of Cox Radio, WSUN broadcasts alternative rock music on 97.1 FM from studios in St. Petersburg using towers in Holiday, Florida.

Return to front page