Some History of

The following is the FCC microfiche file on WNSI, transcribed by Xen Scott on November 16, 1995.


  • 4/3/39 Granted auth. for a new station on 1370kc with 100 watts, 250 watts LS, unlim., at St. Petersburg, FL., eff. 4/10/39. The first listed call letters were WBOX.
  • 5/1/39 The call letters changed to WTSP.
  • 10/2/39 Granted a C.P. for 1370kc, 100 watts, 250 watts LS, unlim.
  • 12/11/39 Date first licensed. The licensee was Pinellas Broadcasting Co., St. Petersburg, FL. They were granted 1370kc, 100 watts, 250 watts LS, unlim.
  • 12/18/39 Granted mod. of lic. for 1370kc, 250 watts, unlim.
  • 6/4/40 Vol. transfer of cont. of lic. corp. from Sam H. Mann, McKinney Barton and Dorothy Line to Nelson P. Poynter, eff. 6/27/40.
  • 11/19/40 Granted a C.P. for 1350kc, 500 watts, 1kw LS, unlimited. There were extensions of completion date.
  • 3/24/41 Under NARBA, they were granted 1380kc, 250 watts, unlim.
  • 6/26/41 Granted a lic. to cover the C.P., as modified, for 1380kc, 500 watts, 1kw LS, unlimited.
  • 11/14/46 Granted a C.P. for 1380kc, 5kw, DA-N, unlimited. There were extensions of completion date. License to cover the C.P. granted 11/9/48.
  • 9/19/56 Vol. assign. of lic. to WTSP, Inc., eff. 10/1/56.
  • 7/15/59 The call letters changed to WLCY.
  • 6/20/63 Vol. mod. of lic. to change the name of the licensee to WLCY, Inc.
  • 7/25/69 Vol. transfer of cont. of lic. corp. from N. Joe Rahall, Sam G. Rahall, Farris E. Rahall et all, to Rahall Communications Corp., eff. 10/3/69.
  • 6/27/74 Vol. transfer of cont. of Rahall Communications Corp. to N. Joe Rahall, Farris E. Rahall and Richard O. Jacobs, Voting Trustees, eff. 6/27/74.
  • 2/27/76 Granted auth. to identify dual city of license as St. Petersburg - Tampa, FL.
  • 7/28/78 Vol. assign. of lic. to Florida Radio, Inc., eff. 9/12/78.
  • 8/26/81 The call letters changed to WNSI

Some Fidonet Posts by WTSP Engineer Don Kimberlin in 1992-1994

Sept. 19, 1993

... Well, the Dirty Mic Switch was War Story # 17683, but the Loose Mic Switch is yet another.



... The "Control Room" at St. Petersburg's WTSP during its ownership by the St. Petersburg Times was a proud jewel of the Times Publishing Company and its owner, Nelson Poynter. It was also, however, a truly "working" one, wherein it was used as a Master Control Room for special events and the fairly frequent network originations that occurred from a vacation spot and had a "control room operator" at work in it, while various times were covered by "combo operators" and DJ's who "ran their own board." The number of "combo operators" was increasing greatly, and WTSP increased its hours to 24 daily, except Sunday night/Monday morning.

For some period of months, the overnight "program" was merely a fourteen-inch tape played back on an Ampex playback deck at the transmitter, complete with all breaks and ID's on the tape. But, an enterprising salesman found the Tampa area's appropriate sort of all-night client, the Club Carnival, an out-and-out strip joint in downtown Tampa.

Best (or worst) of all, the client decided they wanted a "live remote" from right inside the Club Carnival, but there were a couple of operational problems.

First, the constant noise and "boom-ba-da-boom" of the drums accompanying the non-stop strip show made it impossible for the announcer to ever work, much less be heard there inside the place. So, the answer was to build a "soundproof booth" for the announcer to do his "live broadcast." It helped somewhat, but whenever the mic was open in that booth, you could still hear the rumble of the drums at a fair level, even when speech was knocking the AGC back.

Second, a combination of GTE rates that made it uneconomical to have a music quality line and GTE's long-standing inability to provide such a line anyhow, resulted in having to staff the control room back in St. Pete with a combo man who played the records, did the breaks, and inserted "produced" commercials. (Of course the content of the entire program, by its very nature, constituted a nonstop commercial for the Club Carnival anyway.)

There might have been an option in a sensible economic situation, since the WTSP transmitter was located right along the main highway halfway between Tampa and St. Pete, with copper pairs from the "toll cable" split off and terminating there ... with two terminal strips that indicated the "Tampa end" and "St. Pete end" of each pair, which GTE used at its convenience to provide lines and dial tone, since there was no local cable out to the transmitter from St. Pete. However, GTE insisted on its tariff- given "right" to charge an additional 14 miles for carriage right past the transmitter to downtown St. Pete and back out to the transmitter again ... even though they never did that in reality. Thus, it was determined to be a better arrangement for WTSP to incur all the labor costs of double-staffing for the Club Carnival "event," and the use of a Schedule D line from the club to the St. Pete studio. (Which we found, when GTE built it, ran on a "Tampa end" pair right up into the transmitter, where a GTE repairman came out to put two little jumpers over to the "St. Pete end" to carry our own program line on downtown! Oh, yeah, we "tried it," but the roll-off was too much for the many miles of unrepeatered old copper toll cable, and after equalization in one spot, sigs were down too close to the ever-present hum in Florida buried cable.)

... Anyhow, now we have the scene ready to explain the Loose Mic Switch. Back downtown in the St. Pete studio "control room," the audio console was a Collins 212-B, well know to many old-timers, I'm sure. Its switches operated vertically, as compared to the horizontal operation of most other consoles, and the "program channel" position was down, while the "audition bus" was the up position. That Control Room mic switch got batted a lot by DJ's who'd run in with their coffee or a newsbit off the wire, or just a casual swat at it when dropping the phone to their feminine admirers when a record or network program ran out. As a result, even though the 212-B was made with nice heavy-duty telephone-type lever switches, that particular one was pretty loose and sloppy. As a matter of fact, there were occasions when a sheet of paper dropped on it had knocked the control room mic on the air. Its springs and bearings really were that loose.

... The event of the Loose Mic Switch occurred during a "produced" commercial insertion by the combo man from the studio. At the time, the person was one who has gone on to become a TV anchor in major markets (but we won't mention his name here), and true to the genre of a "DJ," he usually had feminine admirers there in the control room with him, waiting and watching in awe as their Media Giant Hero performed his labors, which were to play records when the announcer over in the soundproof booth wanted a break, and at quarter-hour commercial insertions. The program never even included network news on the hour, since at that time Mutual Radio stopped service after the midnight hourly news.

... The Club Carnival musical logo for its spots was a dixieland band playing "The Rampart Street Parade," which opened in classic New Orleans style with some trombone riffs and several short pauses, before one could hear the imaginary band come marching up the street playing the main theme. The DJ's line was always the same:

<music up for riff>
<music down> Anncr: Girls ...
<music up for riff>
<music down> Anncr: Girls!
<music up for riff>
<music down> Anncer: GIRLS!!!
<music up and establish Rampart St. theme>
<music down to BG> ... Yes, it's always Girls ... .Girls!
... GIRLS!!! ... At the beautiful Club Carnival in downtown Tampa!
<music up & establish, then down for announcement>
... Whereupon the announcer would read a rundown of the week's featured strippers and their "specialties" from prepared copy.

... Well, it all worked well, except one night when the one-day-to-become-relatively famous combo man mishandled one of his little tricks in the studio, and the mic switch didn't flip back up and down quickly, because its old springs had just gotten too tired. His little trick to impress his Admirer Of The Evening was to flip the switch up to the audition bus between his intonations of "Girls!" and say to nobody, " ... and ugly old broads!" It really would impress them with what powerful things happened "behind the microphone" that only they know about.

... That is, until that fateful night the Mic Switch Springs Gave Out, and he sat there all night long, getting his "And Ugly Old Broads" remark on the air for hours. The guy in the booth at Tampa usually had his own sort of "private show" going on in the booth, or out on the Club Carnival floor, which was pretty obvious on the air most nights, because he got really sloppy diction by about a half hour into the show, and the door of his booth kept getting pushed open by unseen but highly imaginable causes. Attempts to interview the happy clientele of the Club Carnival were usually pretty fruitless after about 1 AM, since most of them were so sloshed they couldn't even be understood, much less answer the questions that were asked. The transmitter operator was either asleep (not unlikely) or outside taking in the night air (frequent, at least on the off-swamp side of the transmitter building), or just plain had his monitor turned way down (because after hearing "Night Train" or "Ebb Tide" and all the other classic 50's stripper favorite records for the thousandth time tends to make you do that) ... so no one really heard it ... except, as always, another of those famous Scourges of Radio, Some Listener Who Told The Client The Next Day.

... And so, that night marked the end of live broadcasts from the Club Carnival in Downtown Tampa. The client got into a hard review of what was being provided at the costs incurred, and the show got changed by the next night into a special new tape made for the Ampex playback unit at the transmitter, with produced Club Carnival spots inserted in the tape. Actually, it got more boring than ever, because now you heard "Night Train" and "ebb Tide" at exactly the same time every night ...

Aug. 22, 1993

... And there were the contests that went really wrong, like the "Treasure Hunt for the New Car Key." WLCY managed to tease the whole area with a series of clues for about a month, and had all sorts of people looking for that key for a brand new car that was, of course, on display in out front of the car dealer's place, festooned with signs about it being the prize. You guessed it already ... .the REAL key was hidden in a crack of an old wooden post out by the old movie studio on Weedon's Island, and the happy winner just took that key down to town and drove the prize car away! (I guess they sorted it out, but they never were able to wind up the contest with the hoopla they wanted ... )

... And there was the "Guess When the Snow Will Melt" fiasco, with a new boat, motor and trailer for a prize. The prize was on display with a chain on the trailer tongue just looped over an iron post under a pile of melting ice down in the Central Plaza parking lot..right out in public. You guessed that one, too. Several nights before it was planned to have a big event about the judges deciding the instant that the last of the "snow" melted, someone came by, lifted the chain out of the "snow pile" and hauled the prize away. That one never did get found, and the sponsor was not at all happy when he had to come up with a second boat, motor and trailer so the promotion could be completed. Maybe the public never knew about that one!

Dec. 13, 1992

... Ad therein lies a lot of what the attraction of "real" radio was: To think one might work in the place where such fame worked. That can even be done by extrapolation.

... Example: WDAE in Tampa, Florida was the place that purchased the radio studios from the 1939 New York World's Fair and transported them, lock, stock, barrel, interior furnishings, WECo 25B consoles, 639A microphones, polycylindrical walls and the works back to Tampa and re-installed them in the premises of the Tampa Tribune, their owner. Every day was filled with stories about who had been "on the radio" at the World's Fair.

... Across Tampa Bay, at WTSP, owner (and St. Petersburg Times publisher) Nelson Poynter planned on a TV station, and so bought all the equipment, including a transmitter that ran into a dummy load, and installed it in his newspaper building downtown. When it lay dormant for years due to the FCC freeze, they started up a business making kinescope recordings of famous Big Bands that came to the St. Petersburg Coliseum doing their stuff - perhaps the world's earliest "music videos"To sell to TV stations for those early attempts at TV programming, for use in cities where people thought that a video version of Million Dollar Ballroom was what TV programming was supposed to be (oldtimers may recall seeing some TV stations try out having a deejay on the air for a while). ... Anyhow, over at WTSP , you could walk over into the TV "studio," and put up a three-minute Ralph Martieri or Benny Goodman or Dorsey video on a projector and watch it in the control room, and imagine where the footprints in the hallway were.

... Powerful creative aphrodisiac, it was!

May 29, 1993

... And do you know how old that stunt is? WLCY had me put in an answering machine with a spiffy jingle on its outgoing message cart in 1958 ... .on a number reserved for "the request line." The request messages never got listened to, as it was a Top 40 station, so every valid request would be played within an hour or two anyway ...

June 21, 1993

... All true, too. FWIW, to help fill in your files and Barry's, WLCY started out as WTSP in St. Petersburg in ... .1937, I think, built by a local consortium of four professionals, like a doctor, lawyer, I-don't-recall-who-else, and the publisher of the St. Petersburg Times, Nelson Poynter. It was on 1370 with 1 kW-U; moved to 1380 in the 1941 shuffle. After WWII, Poynter bought it out from the others, increased it to 5 kW-DA-N, with the night pattern designed to provide a broad null toward the north at the same limits as the former operation, thus its weak SIGs your direction at night. A large argument ensued from the then-CE, Bill Mangold, who wanted to move to 570 in 1947 and get an advantageous freq, but Bill lost out to the Washington advice to "avoid problems with 570 in Cuba." In order to maximize WTSP's range, Bill got with Walter Holey, an ex-FCC RI consulting from Atlanta, and built an antenna system with a 5/8 wave daytime tower that also was used for its height for an FM antenna, as well as the center radiator of the three-tower night array. (Other stations were built this way, but I don't know who did it first..). Anyhow, the FCC gave them a bad time about the small skywave lobe of the night array, but they overcame it. Walter Holey was quite expert on antenna systems and their performance, and in those days just after WWII, when copper was scarce, put the antenna system in with only four radials around each tower, leading down into the salt water swamp the array is located in. But, in that day and age, one would never tell the hallowed FCC one had done such a thing. He proofed it all out, and showed it performed correctly ... but he never got around to telling the FCC about it! Some years later, in the late 1950's, we had to do an overhaul on the entire antenna system, and Walter came back to town, whereupon we did a whole week of testing, comparing the radiation levels and circularity of each tower separately ... and they all put out a nice, textbook circular pattern, just as they had years before. That salt water swamp is just a nice, conductive ground plane. Watch it go to heck when the swamp gets filled in!

... Anyhow, WTSP in its Times heyday was a leading Mutual network affiliate, in the sense of originating most of the Mutual programs from Central Florida, like the Spring Training Mutual Game of the Day and occasional feeds from around that part of the state. I got to do a lot of them, sitting next to the great baseball announcers who'd come to Florida with their teams. During the Times ownership, the catchlines were: WTSP: Welcome To St. Petersburg; WTSP: Where the Stars Parade, but of course, we parodied it with WTSP: Why Take Sleeping Pills!

Endnote: Bill Mangold remembered his 570 idea, and years later built it at WPLP in Pinellas Park, and Walter Holey came back to build another "groundless" array ... this one saying so on the license. It of course, became WTKN, and the 570 transmitter has moved up to somewhere in Pasco County, isn't it?

... Anyhow, thanks for the kind words. Hope all this blather helps fill in some gaps for you and Barry.

Feb. 8, 1993


The Setting: Early 1960's, St. Petersburg, FL, after Roy Nilsson had made WLCY and the Swingin' Gents a runaway success in the Tampa Bay area, pulling things like a 60 on Pulse and Hooper surveys of the era ... .literally making and snagging all the added audience that $6 pocket transistor radios could make with a whole age group that radio hardly knew before ...

The Scene: Running the old RCA BTA-5F on AM that had been there since 1947, now with "combo people" who might read the meters once every 6 hours, whether they needed it or not, regardless of the still-effective FCC rules that the transmitter's meters were supposed to be in constant view and logged every 30 minutes.

... Only two of us to keep the whole place functioning, however, fixing carts and cutting mangrove bushes out of the tower legs in the Florida swampland the place was built on, and a myriad of other chores. 24 hours per day operation except midnight to 6 AM Mondays. So, we got inside the transmitter plant in the wee hours of each Monday, and had that puppy in top shape for what it was ... which was a brick of a transmitter plant ... .but no standby transmitter ... that had been pillaged out and shipped off to another station in the group.

... We'd usually be there for Monday start-up and go home around 7 AM and sleep for a while. Then it was usually back out to the station around 3 PM or so, to continue the other chores.

... One Monday afternoon, I was driving back out to the station on the edge of town, and the audio sounded strangely distorted, in a peculiar sort of way ... nothing that sounded like a typical cause. On arriving there, I walked right into the transmitter room rear entrance and things were obviously wrong. Antenna current was way down, final current was quite low ... and the transmitter was hanging on; not tripping any overload relays.

... On looking in the window of the RF final amplifier cubicle, the source of the trouble was quite apparent: One-half of the center-tapped bright tungsten filament of the 892-R tube had burned out. Now, when this happened, the broken piece would typically fall down inside the tube in such a way as to short it and make the transmitter shut down ... or cause the whole filament to open up so there would be a similar failure. In this rather unique case, the doggoned thing stayed on, with such inadequate emission that it kept on running, putting out maybe half its 5 kW, but of course, with audio for 5 kW getting pumped at it, so it was overmodulated ... and pretty badly; worse than you ever normally hear an AM broadcast station doing it.

... The "swinging gent" up front was, of course, lost in his art as usual, with his phones switched off to the line audio, because they didn't like the compressed sound of the air monitor. No telling how long it had been that way. The transmitter log didn't have a reading on it for about the past 5 hours.

... I went down to the control room and told him I had to take some air time to change the final amplifier tube. The P.D. happened to be in there, and asked, "How long will it take you?" I replied, "If I get the spare tube out there in its crate, and have the tools lined up surgery-style, I think a minute or less."

... Nilsson asked, "How about just waiting a minute or two, while you get the spare out and tools ready, so I can type up an announcement, then go ahead and dump it when you hear a direct cue?" In that crazy place, I could only say, "Sure, Roy," and I ran back up to the transmitter room and started getting things out.

... At the end of the record, the jock came on, played a musical stab, and read: "In order to make some minor adjustments to The Tower of Power for Great Tampa Bay, WLCY has to leave the air for just a few seconds ... .but don't despair! Call in and tell us how long you think we'll be off, and when we return, the closest guess will win a copy of the album, whatever was hot that week! Start calling now!"

... I dumped it and changed an 892-R in pretty good time ... .42 seconds on the transmitter room clock, and even put a clip lead around the time delay to punch it back on as soon as the filaments looked bright. During the process, I noted that the phones were ringing off the hook!

... Soon as there was a carrier up, the jock started right back in with another musical stab, and, "OK, folks we have another big winner here at the Tower of Power for Great Tampa Bay, WLCY - St. Petersburg/Tampa! It's <name> of <town> who called in to say we'd be off for 54 seconds, and we were really off for only 52 seconds! Remember that staying in tune with Great Tampa Bay's Number One pays off!" And, into a record he went.

... That's one of those little life experiences we never really forget. Thanks for reminding me of it. Hope it didn't bore you and others ...

Jan. 19, 1993

... It's doubtful that more modern hardware would do something so spectacular as actually suffering a major explosion ... but one of the Tales of Radio Yore that I was first told was how, in 1947, the GM of WTSP in St. Petersburg "saved the station a lot of money" by buying what was represented as a Western Electric 302 (I may have mucked that model number up now after all these years) sight unseen from an ad in Broadcasting magazine.

... The station was at the point of going from 1 kW D/500 Watts night to 5 kW DAN (As were a lot just after WW II) and adding an FM. So, there was a nice spiffy new transmitter plant out on the edge of town with a large space that needed to be filled with transmitter. The GM, being a rather typical type for that era, had been an RCA salesman, so he was quite certain he could decide what was the right thing to buy. (That characteristic doesn't seem to have changed with later generations of GM's either, has it?)

... When the "Western Electric" transmitter arrived, it turned out to be someone's home-made copy of the WECo circuit! Built in a set of cabinets made out of plain flat boiler plate and the works, it had numerous quirks. One of the more curious ones was that if you blew cigarette smoke in through some of the vent holes punched in the boiler plate door of the exciter cabinet, the transmitter would declare a bias failure and shut down. Blow cigar or pipe smoke in there, and it was happy as a clam ... no problem.

... But, the final blow was that the thing had oil-filled plate and modulation transformers mounted on a concrete pad out back in a little fenced-in yard, and it seems that like so many things climatological, it probably had never had the heat of the Florida sun shining on those transformers in its prior home. One day, after it had been there for six months or so, when the Florida afternoon sun was parboiling everything in Creation, the plate transformer exploded and its oil caught on fire. Although the old 1 kW transmitter was also in place, it never got on the air. The station just was gone.

... Now, the studios were seven miles away in the Times Building in downtown St. Petersburg, which at six stories was one of the tallest in the city. When the air monitor went dead, and nobody answered the phone at the transmitter building (we're talking the era of all transmitters being attended, of course), people ran up to the roof and could see a pillar of black smoke from out there at the transmitter plant. Of course, they immediately called the fire department and the C.E. and several others sped out there.

... On arriving, they found the fire was isolated to the transformers, but the building air fan had sucked the building full of chokingly acrid black oil smoke, so they couldn't even get in for a while till the building cleared itself. The car of the transmitter operator was gone.

... Well, after the building cleared, they got the 1 kW on the air and resumed program while starting to clean up. But people were worried about the transmitter operator, who disappeared from the scene. Finally, someone went over to his house, and there his car was, and he was found in bed with the covers pulled up over his head. He never came back to collect his final paycheck, and opened up a radio repair shop. I won't publish his name, because a lot of St. Petersburg people would know it. He just got convinced from that experience that working with the heavyweight stuff was not for him.

... Oh, what did the ex-RCA salesman GM do about it? I bet you already figured it out. He just turned around and bought a brand-new RCA BTA-5F, the transmitter he should have bought in the first place.

Mar. 7, 1993


... AH, yessss ... .echoes of the glory days of Real Radio. It was exactly what you describe ... the romance of a sort of Delphic location called "The Transmitter" that sucked me into wanting to be a broadcasting engineer back in the `50's. A place peopled by seeming giants with some sort of secret knowledge possessed by few, I'd be downtown in the studio, running the board with network news on, cueing up some spots and getting things ready for the jock who would take over in a couple of minutes, when the "special" phone from The Transmitter would ring. When I picked up it up, one of those Voices From the Gods of Gandy Boulevard (that was the name of the highway leading out of town it was situated on) would say, "Well, Kid, the nimbus is building up pretty quick and it looks like Florida Power is gonna take a dump in a few minutes, so let's get over on the generator. Give me a few seconds during the station break and we'll get off FPC." Gee! My chance to interact with the Gods of Gandy Boulevard!

... Sitting in the chair, and holding the transcription with the recorded station ID on it slipping on the felt turntable, I'd hold it just a couple of seconds after the network end cue, and hear the little "s-c-h-r-u-m-p-p!" in the air monitor, then let the disc go, right back into regular program. Oh, if the public only knew what clever action was going on behind the sound stage they listened to! When the Chief Engineer, Bill Mangold, who was the only denizen of The Transmitter who ever came to town, cut-off shorts, worn-out sneakers, chewed cigar in the corner of his mouth and several days of beard ... .I mean, we're talking a real hippie appearance in the era before hippies here ... came into town to pick up the paychecks once a week ... came in and said to me, "Kid, you're pretty clever. Just get over to Tampa and pass that First Phone examination and we'll put you to work at The Transmitter." ... well, it was like being invited to mingle at Mount Olympus! What would the other kids at school say? Wow!

... So, you can guess what I did ... I got a Q&A manual, like they told me to ... learned all that good stuff, like how to calculate the mutual and self-impedance of a pair of radiators under specified conditions and all the stuff of the "art" And got that coveted piece of wallpaper ... and joined the Gods of Gandy Boulevard!

... It was a similar scene to what you describe, Florida-style. Built up off the ground in case the swamp would flood in a hurricane, glass block for windows to admit daylight, self-sufficient for power and such for several days at a time ... and populated with wondrous, huge, glowing machines that went "BOOM!" when something went wrong..not just "pop" or "click."

..And, oh what about the kids in school when I told them I worked at The Transmitter? They said, "Is that where the disk jockeys work? Can you take me to see the disk jockeys? I want to see the disk jockeys!" Oh, how little they understood ... I was hooked on a totally different orbit than they even understood ... .an ego one had to keep to oneself ... and now those adult "kids" want to tell me how to understand Star Trek ... heck, we were living out Star Trek in our own 1950's way, down there in the swamp in Florida!

July 1, 1993

... If you want more detail, I can provide it, reaching back into WTSP's newspaper ownership days, studios in the Times building, an FM transmitter that actually had a patent license signed by Howard Armstrong hanging on the wall next to it (how I wish I'd not let that document get lost!), and Nelson Poynter's smashed dream of a television station ... plus, of course, many vignettes to daily life in a radio station that was closely run by a personality that would make TV's "Lou Grant" look like a piker ... but that's not the sort of stuff to clog this echo with, except when a story is running along the lines of a thread ...

BTW, I presume you knew that N. Joe Rahall, Sr., died April 1 at age 80. He was born in Beckley, W. Va., and here is an excerpt from the obituary in the Beckley Register-Herald:

In 1947, Rahall and his brothers started three radio stations: WWNR in Beckley, WKAP in Allentown, Pa., and WNAR in Norristown, Pa.

Rahall Broadcasting purchased the WTSP radio station in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1956 and changed the call letters to WLCY. The company subsequently started WLCY-TV, of which Rahall was president.

Rahall was also president of WFBM AM-FM in Indianapolis.

Radio Station WQTY was purchased in 1962 by the Rahalls and was donated to Jones College of Jacksonville, Fla., in 1964.

... No, I didn't. Although we hardly ever saw Joe the Elder Rahall, we had several sorts of interplay with the other Rahall operations; things like going up to Jax to keep replacing the ground radials at WQTY (it needed them dearly at its location), due to the local denizens pulling them up to sell for scrap, and swapping/shipping stuff around (mostly OUT to Beckley or Norristown, as the Rahalls raped WTSP's plant when they bought it). or getting the darndest phone calls from their people (who never saw a Florida-sized lightning bolt, so always called us about what to do..). We'd get Executive Orders penned by Joe Rahall, on little letterheads in envelopes from Nick's Dress Shop in Beckley, WV ... and oh, not mentioned in Joe's obit was their Manchester, NH station (the callsign escapes me), as well as, I recall, the Beckley water company and bus company ... .The Rahalls we saw at St. Pete were Sam, who was the day-to-day tyrant, and Ferris, the easy-going investor brother of the crowd. They were a tight bunch ... in more ways than one! Sam was such a expletive deleted that when he finally ticked me off so much I got another job, he first tried to bluff me into saying I wouldn't leave him ... then the last day, he took me out on the back steps, looking out over the swamp, sat down on the concrete, put his arm around me and cried (real alligator tears) about how I was leaving him in the lurch. Gimme a break, Sam ... your new Cadillac with the big fins every year and St. Pete Yacht Club lunches every day!

I have some recall about WINZ from the Sixties when I was down in Ft. Lauderdale. It was owned by one Rex Reed, an ex-RCA broadcast salesman (many of them made some large bundles in that era), but it ran on a traded-in RCA BTA-50A ... the FIRST water-cooled 50 kW that RCA ever made ... best characterized as the Tyrannosaurus Rex of radio's Jurassic period!

Dec. 20, 1993

SET WAR_STORY.SYS /on /#27568

... St. Petersburg's WRBQ-AM (nee WLCY; nee WTSP) is a nice, relatively simple 5 kW DAN dating to 1947 or so. Old timers will remember such a simpler era in directional operations.

... The WTSP consulting engineer was Walter J. Holey, an early FCC retiree from Atlanta who knew lots of good tricks and limits to the rules, and he used some there. Seeing as WTSP was at 1380 and would suffer ground wave range compared to its prime competitor of the day, WSUN which was on a much more favorable 620 with 5 kW (at the time), Walter told them to build the 1947 WTSP with a 5/8 wave high tower for the daytime non-directional. No problem with the daytime and doing that, in 1947.

... However, when it came to the night operation, WTSP was required to keep its northerly radiation to a level that did not exceed its former 500 Watts toward 3 different northern stations, one each in Texas, Missouri and Pennsylvania (as I recall). He designed a three-tower in-line array using 1/4 wave towers on the ends, with the daytime 5/8 wave becoming the center radiator of the array. To get it in, he had to overcome some stink about the minor skywave lobe that a 5/8 wave puts out ... but then, no small part of Walter Holey's value was knowing people in the FCC ...

... The end result of this was while WTSP put out a really nice 5 kW non-DA in the day, that reached well beyond Clearwater to the north, at night, that got sucked back to 500 Watts effective in the Clearwater direction. Meantime, the excess bulged out toward the south like a dowager bulges up over her evening gown - some 13.5 kW effectively ... spilling down into Sarasota that was on the fringe of the daytime 5 kW.

... So, the common jock fun phrase at pattern change time was:
"It's (time), time to say, `Goodnight, Clearwater' ... "
<pattern change>
"Hello, Sarasota, this is WTSP, St. Petersburg!"

... And from what we heard from the audience, that was just about the way it worked, too!

Jan. 4, 1994

... Runs close parallel to the war story already told here about the DJ who thought it was clever to snap an old shellac 78 on mike, because he found out the click got through the old Collins 26W peak limiter and would cycle the AM transmitter down to low power -- after which, the transmitter engineer spent the rest of the morning cutting every mention the DJ made of his name for the rest of the morning. (Jeff Miller: I'll tell now that the DJ's name was Glen Dill; it was old WTSP in St. Petersburg, and I saw Jack Davis doing to Glen.)

Jan. 12, 1994

Yep. WPD was a low budget operation. And WDAE apparently spent enough back in the dark ages to get good towers.. which are apparently still up.

... Hmmm ... means those towers would be around 70+ years old these days. Guess they just don't make `em like they used to..

... So, WPD is gone, and the towers are still there? Wonder if it's some Florida real estate promoter who thinks they are worth a million bucks, ala a REAL funny story from good olde St. Petersburg:

... The original WTSP, circa 1937, was at the corner of Fourth Street North and 38th Avenue, with a nice little 1/4 wave self-supporter, 178 feet tall. Well, after a few Florida blows (don't recall what years hurricanes put some heavy winds there around 1940 or so), the joints of the tower got loose ... and over the years, they got looser and looser. Old timers told me that when it got to the point that a breeze would make scratchy noises on the air, the boss finally hired Clayton Ogles, the area's tower steeplejack, to have a man go up there with a small gas torch and weld the joints to make them electrically secure.

... According to the account, that guy was up on the little tower for days, and seemed to have done a great job. No more was thought of it ... .that is, until some years after WTSP built their DA plant out on Gandy Boulevard and sold the old place.

... A Florida real estate investor got the nice little old building, with its Art Deco rounded architecture and glass block windows ... .and that tower sitting out back. He must have been real proud of the property.

... However, he resold it sometime in the 1950's or so, and called Clayton to take the tower down and deliver it for storage to his ranch up north somewhere. The story went that he send orders through some underlings, and nobody knew what a tower was or had any interest in knowing details ... they just repeated a command from their boss to "take it down and store it at my ranch."

... So, Clayton sent men out with cutting torches because that little sucker had been made into one solid piece of iron by the joint-welding job. The "smart investor" paid a lot of money to get a tone or so of cut-up scrap iron delivered to his ranch!

Mar. 10, 1994

... Nothing unusual in that at all. Heck, we had a WECo 503B that liked to wander 2 mHz down the band and get on top of WDAE's FM, and never say a word about it - while everyone who knows the Hewlett-Packard FM freq mons of that era will tell you the darned things happily looped around back on-scale every 3 kHz or so, so you didn't know what you were within 3 kHz of unless you tuned yourself in on a receiver!

May 25, 1994

SET NOW_IT_CAN_BE_TOLD.SYS /on (i think)

... When WTSP was built out in the swamps on Gandy Blvd. around 1947, its station license described the classic 120-radial ground system. Well, we had to do some work there about 15 years after it was built, and found the nice bonded mats at the base of each tower, but there seemed to be only four radials ... and pulling on one would get you a piece of copper wire about 20 feet long that tapered off to a needle point in the salt water swamp. Puzzled, I called the CE who had built it, and he told me flat out that copper was so hard to get just after WW II, that they cheated just to get the station on the air. The consulting engineer was a retired FCC R.I. who knew his stuff plenty good, and said there was so much salt water swamp all around the place that the pattern would work without much in the way of radials, so long as they could get bonded to all that salt water. They really weren't short of money, just time, and fully intended to go back and do it right someday ... but it never became a problem, so it never got fixed. For all I know, it's still like that today, and the performance of that array over the years proved out that it worked like it was supposed to.

... Heck, what was that one up in Clearwater that you moved off the sand hill down to the swamp? Same idea, eh?

July 31, 1994

... Hahaha! That's akin to Jim Harriott in his earliest days working the overnights at WTSP, when they ran a show from a (semi) soundproof booth at a Tampa strip joint called the Club Carnival. (You could hear the boom-BA-DA-boom through the walls of the booth ... ) Anyhow, to give the guy in the booth a break (from what?), he was supposed to do a quarter hour from the control room every so often, with live spots. The music intro and bg for the spots was always "The South Rampart Street Parade," and the opening was always, "Girls - Girls - Girls! At the Club Carnival in downtown Tampa," with the music up and down from bg.

... Well, Jim always seemed to have some feminine fans in the control room, even at 3 AM, and he liked to impress them by swatting the badly-worn "Control Room Mic" switch right in the middle of the old Collins 212-B up to AUD and holler, "Girls - Girls-Girls!" mic to AUd "And ugly old broads!" <mic to PGM> ...

... You guessed it. That old switch just gave up the ghost and got itself jammed in PGM and its bat handle came off and flew across the room as he tried that trick one morning ... and, yes, the boss over at the Club Carnival listened to the whole program ... and, and, ... you know the rest of that sort of story!

Aug. 23, 1994

... Until Sam Rahall finally came to town to take over the WTSP they had killed with waltzes and polkas (I bet you don't even remember that, because the city just turned its dial elsewhere ... ). Anyhow, after a couple of disastrous years, Sam came to town, spent the cash, and robbed Roy Nilson and his cohorts away from WALT, and the rest you heard when WLCY took over that style ... and got up to utterly astounding numbers like 60's on Pulses and Hoopers for several years ...

Sept. 30, 1994

... Fortunately for all concerned, those were in FM's Darkest Days, so nobody was listening anyway. Near the end of WTSP-FM, for the year or so before they finally ordered pulling the switch and mailing the station license back in, we ran it only the mandatory 8 hours a day, from 3 to 11 PM. It went carrier off at 11 PM, no matter what was on the air, The boss got irate about spending one extra penny with Florida Power on that puppy. So, it didn't matter if it was the seventh game of the World Series, bottom of the ninth inning, tied score, bases loaded and the count on the batter 3 and 2 --- <click>. Nobody ever called to complain ...

Return to front page