History of WSAZ/WGNT/WRVC, Huntington

Pictures of WSAZ Radio and Television which I have uploaded to flickr are here. However, a much better collection of photos at flickr is here. Several sound files are here.

This history was provided by the station about 1989.

The Chase Electric Shop (Glen E. Chase, Owner) of Pomeroy, Ohio was granted a license to operate a new broadcast station on 1160 kilocycles with 50 watts of power on October 16, 1923 by the Radio Division of the Bureau of Navigation, U. S. Department of Commerce. The sequentially assigned call letters WSAZ were issued to the station, which went on the air from Pomeroy, Ohio, on Tuesday, October 16, 1923.

In late 1924, WSAZ was authorized to use the 1230 kilocycle wavelength. At this time, the unofficial slogan of the Class A station, comprising its call letters, was "Worst Station from A to Z." In March 1927, WSAZ was acquired by the McKellar Electric Company (W. C. McKellar, owner), a retail radio and electric shop located in downtown Huntington, West Virginia. Glenn E. Chase leased his broadcasting equipment to the firm in February of 1927. By March, WSAZ was moved to Huntington, West Virginia; power was raised from 50 watts to 100 watts; and frequency was shifted to 1240 kilocycles. These changes were accomplished prior to the passage of new radio regulations and were unauthorized by the Government. In late 1927, the Federal Radio Commission permitted WSAZ to change frequency to 1200 kilocycles. By this time, the station was moved to 1143 Fourth Avenue, Huntington (now the site of a Goodyear store's parking lot).

In a major frequency reallocation plan imposed on United States broadcasters by the FRC effective Saturday, November 11, 1928, WSAZ was required to change frequency to 580 kilocycles and to begin sharing that dial position with WOBU, which was located at nearby Charleston, West Virginia. Power of the station was increased in December 1928 from 100 to 250 watts. By March of 1929, WSAZ's main studio was located in Huntington's Prichard Hotel, while transmitter and towers remained at 1143 Fourth Avenue.

In July of 1929, WSAZ was acquired by the Huntington Publishing Company (Col. Joe Long, Editor & Publisher), which formed a new subsidiary, WSAZ Inc., to operate the 250 watt station. W. C. McKeller continued with the station as its manager. Studios were relocated to the third floor of the Keith-Albee Theater building in the late half of 1929. Later, in April 1931, the station's transmitter was moved atop the Theater at 927.5 Fourth Avenue, adjoining the station's studio and office quarters.

The station's transmitter was moved in early 1932 from atop the WSAZ studio site to a new tract at Pleasant Heights, West Virginia; on the outskirts of Huntington. By mid-1932, the sharetime station operated daily from 6:00 am to 9:00 am; from noon to 2:00 pm; and from 4:00 pm to 8:30 pm (Sundays, WSAZ broadcast from 7:30 am continuously until 12:00 midnight). Ownership interlocked with the Huntington Advertiser and the Herald-Dispatch newspapers. Daytime power was raised from 250 to 500 watts in February 1933 while nighttime power remained at its former 250 watt level.

On March 21, 1933, WSAZ was granted special authorization to change frequency from 580 to 1190 kilocycles (from sharing time with Charleston's WOBU to limited time on WOAI, San Antonio's frequency) and to raise daytime power to 1,000 watts, increasing nighttime power to 500 watts. These changes were placed into effect four days later on March 25th. WSAZ continued to broadcast from its antenna site at Pleasant Heights. On February 13, 1934, WSAZ was granted a construction permit by the FRC to raise night power from 500 to 1,000 watts, making the station a fulltime 1,000 watt facility. It continued to operate "Limited hours" on WOAI's clear channel. Power rose to 1,000 watts during all of the station's hours of operation later in 1934.

Station director of WSAZ by 1935 was W. C. McKellar, while the station's founder, Glenn F. Chase became engineer. By 1936, studios of WSAZ were on the fourth floor of the Keith Albee Theater Building. In early 1937, WSAZ installed a new Blaw-Knox shunt-fed 204 foot self-supported vertical radiator at the Pleasant Heights transmitting site. By mid-1938, the station was in daily operation from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. W. C. McKellar was both president and station manager by this time; it continued to be owned by the Huntington Publishing Company. John A. Kennedy acquired a part ownership interest in WSAZ Inc. in 1939 and succeeded Mr. McKellar as president. Edward S. Klein in that year was appointed station manager. Also in 1939, WSAZ joined the regional West Virginia Radio Network, controlled by Mr. Kennedy's WCHS (the former WOBU), Charleston.

In 1940, Mike Layman was named WSAZ's general manager, replacing Mr. Klein. In late August 1940 the station was granted authorization from the FCC to change frequency from 1190 kilocycles to fulltime occupancy of 900 kilocycles; install a new multi-tower directional antenna system for two-pattern operation; and to relocate its transmitter to a new site. 900 kilocycles became 930 kilocycles pursuant to the nationwide NARBA Treaty frequency reallocations taking place Saturday, March 29, 1941.

At this time, the station switched from its old dial position—1190— to 930 kilocycles.

Becoming general manager of WSAZ in 1942 was Flem Evans. WSAZ joined the nationwide Blue Network in 1943 while retaining its West Virginia Network liaison. On June 3, 1943, WSAZ received an FCC construction permit to move its transmitter and to install a new directional antenna system for nighttime use. In the early forties, John A. Kennedy, president of the station's licensee, left the station for duty with the U. S. Navy. Marshall L. Rosene succeeded F. J. Evans as general manager of the station in 1944. On June 15, 1943, the Blue Network Company, with which WSAZ was affiliated, changed its name to the American Broadcasting Company network. In 1943, Commander Kennedy rejoined WSAZ as its president.

Technical improvements, delayed by wartime conditions, made their debut in mid-1946. Daytime power of the station was raised in that year from 1,000 to 5,000 watts and a new nighttime directional antenna system inaugurated at the station's new transmitting site, 28th Street and Park, at the C & O Railroad. Studios of the station were moved in late 1946 to new two-story quarters at 912 1/2 Third Avenue (now housing "Mack & Dave's Store").

In 1948, the station dropped its regional affiliation with the West Virginia Network. Col. J. H. Long was named president of WSAZ Inc. in late 1949. He was principal owner of the Herald-Dispatch and Advertiser newspapers of Huntington. Capt. John Kennedy continued as vice president and minority owner of the station's licensee. Walker Long was secretary of WSAZ Inc. by 1950. Lawrence H. Rogers II was named WSAZ general manager, to succeed Marshall Rosene, in 1951. Tom Garten became station manager in 1952. In 1953, 11 percent interest in WSAZ Inc. was acquired from John A. Kennedy by Mrs. Eugene Katz. In August 1952, Mr. Rogers rose to vice president and general manager. Studios were moved a block from their former location—to a former warehouse converted for duty as radio-television studios Ninth Street, downtown Huntington, in 1953. Transmitter and nighttime directional array remained on 28th Street and Park.

WSAZ by 1954 was operating from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm daily as an affiliate of ABC. On May 1, 1955, an affiliation with the National Broadcasting Company network was added. Lawrence H. Rogers II was named President of WSAZ Inc. in 1956 with C. Tom Garten concurrently named general manager. Also in 1956, George R. Andrick assumed the post of station manager. In 1957, the station's ABC liaison was dropped with WSAZ continuing as an NBC affiliate. William D. Birke was appointed president of WSAZ Inc. in 1959. WSAZ was granted voluntary assignment of license from the Huntington Publishing Company (Col. J. H. Long, President), publishers of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch and Advertiser: to WJR, The Goodwill Station Inc., owned by the George A. Richards estate and others, on March 29, 1961. WSAZ (and WSAZ-TV channel 3) were purchased for $5,471,862. The WJR interests also acquired 11 percent minority interest in WSAZ Inc. held by Mrs. Eugene Katz, who received $673,750 from the new owners, who assumed control on April 28, 1961. Worth Kramer then became president of WSAZ Inc. succeeding Mr. Birke. George R. Andrick and C. Thomas Garten traded positions in the spring of 1961 with Mr. Garten becoming general manager of WSAZ; he had earlier been general manager of WSAZ-TV. George Andrick became general manager of WSAZ-TV.

Three years later—new interests acquired WSAZ. Capital Cities Broadcasting Corporation (Thomas S. Murphy, executive vice president et al) bought the Huntington stations in a multiple station deal from the Goodwill Stations (George A. Richards estate 22.88% et al) for fifteen million dollars plus (including other radio and TV properties as well) on September 9, 1964. FCC approval came on July 29th. Effective October 7, 1964, Thomas S. Murphy became president of Capital Cities. Also in late 1964, Jack W. Lee was named vice president and general manager of WSAZ, with Tom Garten reassigned duties as assistant manager. In 1965, Robert O. Franklin became WSAZ general manager. At this time, WSAZ was operating daily from 5:30 am to 12:00 midnight. Thomas S. Murphy was elected CapCities Board Chairman in August 1966. In September 1966, Robert O. Franklin rose to vice president and general manager of the Huntington station.

Thomas S. Stoner's Stoner Broadcasting System Inc. acquired WSAZ from CapCities for $900,000 in an FCC action coming on May 20, 1970. On June 1, 1970, Stoner took control, changing call letters on that date from WSAZ to WGNT. In late 1970, studios of the "Adult MOR"-formatted station were moved from 201 Ninth Street to 824 Fifth Avenue, Huntington. John B. Frankhouse Jr. was named by President Thomas Stoner to become WGNT's new general manager in mid-March 1971 to succeed the resigning R. O. Franklin. Gary Voss became vice president and general manager of WGNT in 1973. In 1974, the station adopted a new "middle-of-the road." Toufie L. Kassab in that year became general manager of WGNT. In April 1976, Mr. Stoner was elected Chairman of the Board of WGNT's licensee corporation while Glenn K. Bell became president. Mr. Bell was executive vice president and general manager of Stoner's KSO at Des Moines, Iowa, headquarters of the firm.

Studios were relocated from 824 Fifth Avenue in 1981 to Suite 200 in the Coal Exchange Building, which was located at 401 Eleventh Street. The station's MOR music format was replaced by a new "Country Music" format in 1983. Also in that year, the station switched affiliations from NBC to the ABC Entertainment Radio Network. Richard T. Wilson was named as corporate vice president of the Stoner Broadcasting System Inc. in 1983. He departed that position in April, 1985.

Today, WGNT has changed call letters, is now WRVC, operates on 930 khz with 5,000 watts days and 1,000 watts nights (directional nighttime hours only) from studios at 401 Eleventh Street (Suite 200-Coal Exchange Building), Huntington, and is believed to be West Virginia's oldest continuously licensed AM broadcast Station. Continuing as an ABC Entertainment Network affiliate, WRVC is licensed to Fifth Avenue Broadcasting System Inc.; Tom Wolf, chief owner, being sold by Stoner Broadcasting in early 1988. With that sale, Joe Johnston became general manager, coming over from WKEE Radio, where he was sales manager. Format is adult contemporary, operating 24 hours a day. Both the AM and FM call letters are now WRVC.

2018 Update

This information was contributed by Paul Urbahns on Dec. 26, 2018.

Today, WRVC, operates on 930 khz with 5,000 watts days and 1,000 watts nights (directional nighttime hours only) from 555 5th Ave feeding the syndicated ESPN Sports Network and is believed to be West Virginia's oldest continuously licensed AM broadcast Station. WRVC is licensed to Kindred Communications Inc.

WRVC-AM also simulcasts on 94.1 (FM) using a 250 watt translator under the license of W231BS.

The AM transmitter remains at 2800 Park Avenue in West Huntington, whereas the FM translator is on a tower adjacent to station offices at 555 5th Avenue, Huntington.

Radio Station War Is Waged in Public

WOBU Charges Huntington Unit is Trying to “Hog” Air Channel for Self

This article appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on Mar. 28, 1930.

The wavelength fight of WSAZ, Huntington radio station, and WOBU, Charleston station, came into the open with a statement issued Friday by Walter Fredericks, owner and operator of WOBU, in which it is charged that the Huntington station is endeavoring to force WOBU out of existence in order to obtain its wavelength of 580 kilocycles.

Three endeavors, Mr. Fredericks says in his statement, have been made to force him to relinquish the wavelength.

His statement follows, in part:

“...In view of the fact that we are now forced to defend the interests of Charleston radio listeners and the possible continuation of public service the following exact statement of facts are released for the information of the public.

“Early in January, 1930, the manager of station WSAZ, Huntington, W. Va., approached station WOBU asking that the facilities of WOBU be sold and conveyed to WSAZ, with the statement that they wished to acquire control of our frequency of 580 kilocycles and to operate full time, either closing down WOBU or operating it an hour or two a day at such times when they did not wish to broadcast in Huntington. In other words, any time that Huntington did not want would be given to operation of WOBU Charleston. The management of WOBU point blank refused....

“The Huntington management then came back a second time seeking to lease the station or compel us by intimidation to sell to them.

“They came back a third time, and stated that if we would not sell out nor lease the station, they were going to use ‘rough shod’ methods and leave no stone unturned to force us off the air, fair means or foul.

“...they endeavored to discredit Charleston and its radio station.

“They applied for higher power and a different wave length, all of which has been refused by the federal radio commission.

“Station WSAZ, Huntington, now seeks to force WOBU off the air and appropriate the 580 kilocycle frequency, without regard or fairness to the city of Charleston....

“Many radio receivers in Charleston are unable to even hear WSAZ on the air, others cannot hear them with any satisfaction or quality, so that particularly during the spring and summer months WOBU is the only station which can be heard and enjoyed free form disturbances and static in this region.

“The time has now come for the citizens of Charleston to protect their own interests, to assert themselves and not permit the capital city of the state to be deprived of its radio facilities, afforded morning, afternoon and evening each day. There is no reason why there cannot continue the division of time on the 580 kilocycle frequency, without either station desiring to ‘hog’ the air. With radio frequencies and facilities at a premium throughout the United States, Charleston will never again be afforded a local station if Huntington is permitted to arbitrarily force the capital city off the air.

“Station WOBU, which for nearly three years has been serving in all matters of civic, religious, educational as well as entertainment purposes, affording regular and efficient service, and which has just recently spent some thousands of dollars in modern transmission improvements, employs a force of six employees regularly and over 100 staff artists each week, with holdings of over $25,000.00 in the community, the loss of which would prove a distinct loss to the city and state.”

WSAZ Stays on the Air To Guide Huntington
Through the Crisis

WSAZ, Huntington, W. Va.

This article appeared in Broadcasting on Feb. 15, 1937.

Dedication of its entire facilities to the public welfare with a staff mobilized from volunteers and welded into an efficient working unit in but a few hours was the contribution of WSAZ during the Ohio River flood crisis. One-hundred- and-eighty-two hours of continuous broadcasting was credited with saving thousands of lives, minimizing property damage and averting panic.

In retrospect the accomplishment was nothing short of miraculous. It was made possible only by the unstinted cooperation of all those who could visualize the power and capabilities of radio. These workers and institutions saw their trust amply repaid and their visions fully realized. W. C. McKellar, president of WSAZ, and his entire staff are looked upon today as public benefactors by all who had even the remotest connection with the giant undertaking. More than 15,000 expressions of appreciation have been received by mail and telegraph.

Off to an Early Start

Early in the week of Jan. 18, WSAZ began hourly broadcasts of flood news, the stage of the Ohio river and its tributaries and the predictions of the Weather Bureau. On Jan. 22, the station received permission from the FCC in Washington to broadcast continuously. Ordinarily WSAZ goes off the air at sunset CST to make way for WOAI, San Antonio, which shares the same wavelength of 1190 kc. With this change in operation WSAZ began the gruelling task which lasted nine days until 8:00 o'clock the following Sunday night, Jan. 31, when the station's regular schedule was resumed.

The studios and offices in the Keith-Albee Theatre Bldg. in the heart of Huntington's business section soon became a beehive of activity. Arrangements were quickly made for direct telephonic communication with the city's general relief headquarters in the City hall, with Red Cross, the Naval Reserve, the American Legion, the Coast Guard, the police and fire departments. Messages of inquiry concerning the safety of friends and relatives, warnings of gasoline-covered waters ever rising, appeals for help from marooned victims, orders to relief agencies and workers began pouring in to the cramped studios and were as quickly sent out over the air lanes.

As the messages steadily mounted, the need for more and more workers grew. Into WSAZ they came, to be assigned to telephone, typewriter or microphone. The volunteers ranged from unemployed stenographers and typists to preachers; professors and poets. Soon the surging waters threatened to drown out telephone cables and in one hour's time the entire staff was removed to temporary quarters in the telephone company's building some four blocks away and on higher ground. There the staff of 200 workers was divided into three eight-hour shifts under the supervision of the radio station's regular personnel functioning with little or no sleep. The telephone company's generator room was utilized for some 25 tables, each bearing telephone and typewriter. A temporary studio was hurriedly established in a service observation room, with draperies quickly garnered to improve acoustics as much as possible. That was the heart of the service which radiated into practically every state of the Union from the WSAZ transmitter located atop a hill three miles from the center of Huntington and thus safe from the waters.

Hardly an Interruption

All material to be broadcast was censored with the speed and precision of a metropolitan newspaper's city room, for it was necessary and urgent that panic be averted. Lives had to be saved and duplication of effort would have meant ruin. Codes were created and functioned smoothly. Warnings were made specific without exaggeration and appeals for help were routed through with judgment and forethought. About 5,100 messages were broadcast every 24 hours and 7,500 telephone calls were handled in each similar period. There were 20 telephones available for incoming calls from those who wanted help and six instruments in direct communication with those supervising relief activities. The telephone company made all equipment required during the emergency ready for use at a moment's notice.

The station discarded all commercial copy and abandoned all advertising activities during the nine-day crisis. It lent its facilities to all of the utilities and communications systems without stint. Electric, gas and water companies were given every opportunity to warn and advise their customers. Inquiries about relatives were broadcast for the telegraph companies, even to reading of long lists of names to whom it was impossible to deliver telegrams. Railroads and bus companies were given every help in announcing emergency transportation arrangements.

The power company maintained service for the station throughout the period, it being necessary for WSAZ to be off the air only twice for short times while service was being transferred to emergency lines.

Reaching its crest of 69.03 feet on Wednesday night, Jan. 27, the Ohio River did not begin receding until the following day. Calls continued to pour into the radio station, relatives from distant states making frantic requests for information about their kin. The waters had flowed into the city's better residential sections and the outside world knew not who were safe. The previous disaster of 1913 had been exceeded by almost two-and-a-half [...].

Origin of the Call Letters WSAZ and WGNT

The call letters WSAZ were assigned by the Department of Commerce in an alphabetical sequence just after WSAX Chicago and WSAY Port Chester, New York. However, the myth persists the calls stand for "Worst Station A to Z." This letter to the editor from Mike Layman was printed in the Huntington Herald-Advertiser in 1941 and was reprinted in Broadcasting magazine on Feb. 24, 1941:
Editor, The Herald-Advertiser:

In an article published in your paper regarding WSAZ, you made the following comment: "We have been asked frequently what the letters WSAZ mean or stand for. We know of nothing specific; we know only that they were assigned to us — etc!"

The call letters WSAZ stands for “Worst station from A to Z.”

The story behind it goes something like this: About 17 years ago a fellow by the name of Glen Chase applied to the Secretary of Commerce for a license to operate a small radio station in Pomeroy, O. In the application he stated that "as he was making most of the equipment himself, it would probably be the worst station from A to Z" and asked that appropriate call letters be assigned. His request was promptly granted and the call letters WSAZ was given to him meaning — Worst station A-Z."

In a 2007 email, Paul Urbahns wrote:
The slogan “Worst station from A to Z” was used around town, but never on the air. As you say it was a myth. It was more of a joke since the call actually had no meaning. When Stoner could not keep WSAZ, they requested WGNT, short for “The Friendly GiaNT,” which was a phrase used on the air and in jingles. At that time (late 60s) it was the only 24 hour, full time station in the Tri-State area. As midnight shift DJ I actually received QSL letters form all over the Eastern USA. We had a directional tower system at night so our signal normally went to the North East towards New York City. If the signal was going toward Tijuana Mexico then the tower array was screwed. Yes it did happen at least once and the full time engineer had to be called out in the middle of the night.

From the FCC microfiche files, November 10, 1994.


10/16/23 Date first licensed. The licensee was Chase Electric Shop (Glenn
E. Chase). Granted License No. 1243 for 1160kc with 50 watts,
unlimited. The transmitter was located at Pomeroy, Ohio. The
first listed call letters were WSAZ.

11/26/24 Granted 1230kc with 50 watts, unlimited.

3/31/27 Sworn Statement states that station was purchased from Chase
Electric Shop, (Glenn E. Chase) by McKellar Electric Co. (W.C.
McKellar, Prop) in December, 1926, apparatus was moved to
Huntington, West Virginia. Application for license requested, but
no action taken by the Division.

4/4/27 Application made for station license filed in the name of McKellar
Electric Co. (W.C. McKellar, Prop) requesting 1230kc with 100
watts and transmitter location of Huntington, West Virginia.

4/21/27 Vol. assign. of lic. to McKellar Electric Co. (W.C. McKellar,
Prop). Also granted a T.P. for 1230kc with 100 watts and a change
of transmitter location to Huntington, WV.

6/21/27 Granted a license for 1240kc (correct) with 100 watts.

11/16/27 Granted 1200kc with 100 watts, unlimited.

11/1/28 Granted 580kc, 100 watts, shared with WOBU.

11/11/28 Reallocated to 580kc with 250 watts, shared with WOBU.

1/10/29 Vol. assign. of lic. to W.C. McKellar.

7/30/29 Vol. assign. of lic. to WSAZ Inc.

9/11/31 Granted 500 watts LS on an experimental basis.

7/12/32 Granted 580kc, 250 watts, 500 watts LS, shared with WOBU.

3/21/33 Granted 1190kc, 500 watts, 1kw-experimentally, Limited Time-WOAI.

2/13/34 Granted 1190kc, 1kw, Limited Time-WOAI.

9/4/40 Granted a C.P. to change to 900kc, 1kw, DA-1, unlimited.

3/24/41 Under NARBA, they were granted 930kc, 250 watts, 1kw LS, Limited

9/12/41 Granted Special Authority to operate on 930kc with 1kw-D, 100
watts night, unlimited time.

6/2/43 Granted a lic. for 930kc, 1kw, DA-N.

5/16/46 Granted a C.P. for 930kc, 5kw-D, 1kw DA-N. License to cover the
C.P. granted 12/9/46.

5/25/61 Vol. assign. of lic. to WJR, The Goodwill Station, Inc., eff.

6/19/61 Vol. mod. of lic. to change the name of the licensee to The
Goodwill Stations, Inc.

7/29/64 Vol. assign. of lic. to Capital Cities Broadcasting Corp., eff.

5/20/70 Vol. assign. of lic. to Stoner Broadcasting System, Inc., eff.

6/28/70 Call letters changed to WGNT.

12/11/79 Vol. transfer of cont. of lic. corp. from The Thomas H. Stoner
Trust and the Ruth Hamilton Stoner Trust to Thomas H. Stoner.

‘Call Letters’ For WSAZ Radio Become WHWV

This article appeared in a Huntington newspaper in 1970.

The Federal Communications Commission has given final approval for the sale of Radio Station WSAZ in Huntington to Stoner Broadcasting Co. of Des Moines, Ia.

Glenn Bell, general manager of Stoner Broadcasting, said the sale price is $900,000. He said the call letters of WSAZ will be changed to WHWV.

James Stowe, sales manager of Radio Station KSO in Des Moines since 1967, has been named general manager of WSAZ and will move to Huntington by June 1. KSO is also owned by Stoner Broadcasting.

Stowe said no changes will be made in personnel, format or services,

Stowe, 32, is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb. He has spent 17 years in radio working for stations in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa.

The June 1, 1970, Broadcasting magazine reported the request for the WHWV call (although it is misspelled there as WHMV). The call WHWV was actually never used; instead WSAZ became WGNT. In 2013 Paul Urbahns posted on the West Virginia Broadcasting History Facebook group:

My all night shift was eliminated as a cost-saving measure so the last few weeks I was at the station I was part time (instead of full time). I kept the same schedule so on Saturday night I came in and we were still working as WSAZ. I signed the station off the air about 1 AM as WSAZ. I went home took a nap, and returned to the station in the morning to sign the station on at 6 AM as WGNT. So I was the last announcer on air at historic WSAZ Radio and the first on air for the new WGNT. It was the same building, same music, same people, but a whole new name. Later that day, they posted throughout the station comical signs reminding staff of the name change, but I did not have that benefit, on that first morning. It was rough doing IDs that morning.

Marshall Sports on the Air

This article was taken from the herdzone.com web site. It apparently is no longer available on that site.

Almost from the inception of broadcasting in Huntington, Marshall sports have been on the air. Radio station WSAZ (now WRVC and still Marshall's flagship station) which had moved to Huntington from its initial home in Pomeroy, Ohio, began a regular schedule of broadcast programs in April of 1927. That fall, while the famed New York Yankees' Murderers Row was sweeping Pittsburgh in the World Series, the Big Green hit the airwaves.

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Marshall athletic director Roy "Legs" Hawley announced an agreement with Huntington businessman W.O. McKellar and the McKellar Electric Company to broadcast Marshall's home football, basketball and baseball games on its infant station. That Saturday's game between Marshall and Concord College became the first college athletic event featuring two teams from the state of West Virginia to be broadcast. WSAZ chief announcer Beckley Smith and former Marshall player Harold "Pat" Patterson were at the microphone for the initial broadcast, and their audience (the signal in those days could be heard as far away as Maine and Florida) listened to the action as Marshall beat Concord 18-16.

Patterson became WSAZ's sports specialist and manned the microphone for the station's sporadic schedule of sports broadcasts over the next five years. By 1932, however, WSAZ officials saw that their sports programming was popular enough to warrant a daily "Sports Revue" program, and they hired Fred Burns - a recent Marshall graduate and former Herd football manager as well as a sometimes sportswriter for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch - as the station's first full-time sports commentator. Burns remained at the Marshall microphone for the next eight years.

While home broadcasts became commonplace at that point, WSAZ still couldn't broadcast road games. Keeping up with the most important contests, however, was sometimes possible in Huntington. Beginning with a football game at Miami of Ohio in October of 1933, the Huntington Publishing Company constructed a "grid-board" outside its offices at Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street.

The newspaper leased a telegraph wire from Miami Field and a Herald- Dispatch reporter used it to tap out a running account of the game back to Huntington. Publisher H.R. Pinckard then announced the play-by-play description of the action over a public address system, and the position of the ball was tracked on the grid-board. Huntington police roped off Fifth Avenue for the crowd of 2000 that watched and listened to the action.

Cam Henderson's unbeaten 1937 team led to the first actual broadcast of a Marshall road game. The Herd's Nov. 20 game at the University of Dayton, whose Flyers were also undefeated, would decide the Buckeye Conference championship. Called by the major news services the most important game in the midwest that week, the game garnered national attention. Burns and engineer Glenn Chase made the trip to Dayton to do the broadcast - and were just one of four stations (two from Dayton and one from Columbus) to call the game.

All who listened were treated to Marshall's only Buckeye title, as sophomore fullback Bob Adkins (who was a late arrival at the stadium because he had missed the team bus) ran 80 yards for the only touchdown of the game in a 7-0 Marshall victory.

Burns returned to the newspaper side of things in 1940 with the Huntington Advertiser and was replaced on the air by Gene Kelly, a former minor league baseball pitcher from Brooklyn who ended up in school at Marshall. Kelly had been the sports editor of The Parthenon in 1939 and at times jumped in to assist Burns with the broadcasts. In 1940 he took over as the lead announcer and called the action through 1942, when he entered the service in World War II. Kelly later became an announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds (alongside Waite Hoyt) and called football action for the St. Louis Cardinals. Kelly is a member of the Marshall journalism hall of fame.

Jack Bradley, the new sports director at WSAZ, took over as the voice of Marshall sports, a position he would hold for some ten years. Throughout the 1940s the broadcasts of road games remained sporadic, with Bradley or others occasionally going on the road or with the station arranging at other times (e.g. the 1947 NAIB basketball tournament and 1948 Tangerine Bowl) for broadcasters in the host city to call the action for WSAZ. Another method used was to re-create the events in the Huntington studio as Bradley would receive the basic information (such as who carried the ball for what distance and who made the tackle) via a wire service ticker and then fill in the blanks with his imagination to entertain his listeners. By 1948 all games, home and away, were typically broadcast either live or by re-creation.

Television didn't hit Huntington until late in 1949, but fans in the region were afforded regular opportunities to watch the Herd on film as early as the 1920s. It was commonplace for entrepreneurs to film Marshall's road games and then play 10-15 minute highlight reels in Huntington theatres as a prelude to the feature films. Home games would also be filmed and then shown to theatre patrons in other parts of the region.

On October 15, 1949, WSAZ television was born when a simple test pattern became the first TV broadcast in the region. The station's official opening day came on November 15 and just nine days later - on Thanksgiving Day - local viewers saw their first sports telecast as WSAZ aired the game between Marshall and Xavier. In Cam Henderson's last game as the football coach, the Musketeers downed Marshall 13-7 with a defensive stand that stopped the Herd inches from the goal line. Jack Bradley's radio call of the game was added to the pictures to create the telecast. The first basketball telecast came less than two weeks later as WSAZ again added pictures of the action in Radio Center on Dec. 3 to Bradley's play-by-play and fans watched and listened as the Herd beat Concord College 84-45.

In 1954 Jim Thacker replaced Bradley as the WSAZ sports director and Marshall announcer. Thacker, who would later gain fame as a long-time Atlantic Coast Conference television announcer, held the primary Marshall radio announcing duties until 1967. Bob Bowen, another WSAZ sportscaster, worked with Thacker on the broadcasts in the 60s, and replaced him as the lead announcer for the 1967-68 campaign.

At that point the Marshall athletic department decided to take control of its own radio operation, and in 1968 veteran Beckley, W.Va., broadcaster Gene Morehouse (who had called the action for Woodrow Wilson High School when Bob Pruett played for the Flying Eagles in the early 1960s) was hired by Marshall to serve as the school's sports information director and also as the radio play-by-play voice of the Herd. Morehouse was among the 75 people killed when the Marshall football team charter crashed on November 14, 1970. Bob Bowen returned to the microphone for the basketball season that year.

Bob Wagner, general manager of Portsmouth, Ohio, radio station WNXT and a former voice of the Ohio State Buckeyes, was then tabbed to call the action and did so for four years. When Wagner retired Bob Bowen again took over the microphone for one season, the third separate time he served as the voice of the Herd, and then local broadcast personality Ron Kwozolla held the post for one year before Marshall again made the move to run its broadcast operation from within the athletic department and hired Frank Giardinia to do so in 1977. Giardinia, who currently is the director of marketing and promotions and a broadcaster at Penn State, called the Marshall action until 1986.

Stan Howell and Bill Roth (now the radio voice at Virginia Tech) each called the action for one season, and were followed by Charleston radio personality Don Cook, who served as Marshall's voice until 1991 when the Marshall athletic department formed the Thundering Herd Network.

Growing from four radio affiliates in 1990 to its present-day total of more than 35 stations, the network has enjoyed unprecedented success with Wes Durham (1991-92 and now the voice of Georgia Tech sports), Stan Cotten (1992-96 and now the voice of Wake Forest University) and Steve Cotton (1996-present) at the radio microphone. Marshall also took over its television operation in 1990, with Dave Weekley (1991-95) and Keith Morehouse (1996-present), the son of former Marshall voice Gene Morehouse, calling the action.

Walter Otis “Pete” Stenger

Prepared by Paul Urbahns

Probably from Williamsport, MD where he was buried following his death on June 30, 1981 in Boynton Beach Florida.

The 1930 US Federal Census shows him as 17 years old living in the home of his parents in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. He was employed as a laborer at Leathers Tannery.

In 1937 when he was living in Hagerstown, Maryland. The Daily Mail newspaper of Hagerstown, Maryland has Walter “Pete” Stenger is listed as a player on the 1938 Williamsport High School Wildcats baseball team.

The Sep 8th 1950 issue of Billboard magazine, finds Stenger as Program Director of WAKI Macomb IL which had just added 15 min live show of singing by Faye and Pete Stenger.

The Stengers made public appearances and sang on radio for more than 50 years according to Fay Marie (Myers) Stenger’s obituary, published in Sep 1998.

Not sure what year he came to WSAZ in Huntington but I have found him listed in the 1956 Huntington City Directory as a radio announcer at the station.

A 1959 advertisement credited Stenger's WSAZ morning show as “Wake Up And Sing,” a name he retained throughout his tenure at the station, though in later years he did not actually sing.

An article in SPONSOR Magazine, A Weekly magazine for Radio and Television advertisers, issued of 25 Feb 1963. The magazine reported Pete Stenger was a DJ working at WSAZ got a special surprise, and by the way, tribute to his popularity on his birthday. After completing his show for the day, he left the studio to find a Baltimore and Ohio engine waiting for him at the door. (B&O tracks paralleled the station's studio) Stenger accepted an engineer's cap with which to greeted well wishers along the four mile railroad ride to his home.

Just prior to this Randy Scott was Pete’s competition at WKEE. Randy wrote: “WKEE is a ‘daytime’ station, meaning that in the winter I could not sign on until 7:30 or 7:45, and of course we signed off at sunset. Primary competitor WSAZ is a ‘full time’ station. Their morning guy, who I competed with for ratings, was Pete Stenger, who called his show ‘Wake up and Sing.’ Pete was always number one in the morning except for one, glorious ‘Hooper’ rating book where I actually beat him.” (See WHTN/WKEE History page)

Stenger was definitely from the old school announcers, and did a show much like Arthur Godfrey from a period where the announcer was more important than most of the music they played. He read his commercials live, most of the time, and sponsores wanted it that way. One sponsor was Fetter Furniture Company. He promoted the phrase, answer your telephone, “You always do better at Fetter.” And you win. Otherwise if he called you and you answer “Hello”, your chances go. Needless to say it was a great promotion because thousands of people in town answered with the Fetter line in the mornings while his show was on the air.

I remember meeting him once at a church function, where he and his wife performed old standards. As I recall she played piano.

I am not sure what year Stenger left WSAZ but he moved to Florida to retire. Eventually he returned briefly about 1967 to WWHY, broadcasting from the Penthouse of the Frederick Hotel, and did the same type of morning show for a few months, then went back to Florida.

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