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History of college radio at the
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WHUStory 101: 80 Years of UConn Radio
(This WHUS History course was originally developed by Professor Mark Roy and appeared originally in Advance: The UConn Online Weekly. I have added my unsolicited comments and some photos for your historical edification and viewing pleasure).
From Noble To Neagle: The First 40 Years
In the Oct. 24, 1939, issue of the Connecticut Campus, there is an article that signals the future of radio broadcasting. It was a development that would change radio, yet it would not be used on the UConn campus for nearly 20 years.
The Campus story is about a special program to be broadcast on WDRC, the nation's first FM radio station. FM had been developed in 1925, and it intrigued Daniel E. Noble, a Naugatuck native who attended Connecticut Agricultural College, as the University of Connecticut was once called. It was Noble who, as a student, designed and built the college's first radio station, WABL, in 1922.
Dan Noble (2nd from left), with other Engineering faculty members in 1932.
Noble, later an instructor in engineering, also designed and supervised the construction of the WDRC-FM station on Meriden Mountain, and developed a statewide FM two-way radio system for the Connecticut State Police. The item in the Campus reported that Noble was giving a demonstration of "his new development" on WDRC.
The station Noble built on campus in 1922 was a 100-watt AM station. One of the first college stations in the nation, it signed on the air just two years after the first commercial radio stations began in the United States. The studio for WABL - (no, the call letters did not stand for We Are Broadcasting Littlethatyoulike, but for Agricultural Broadcasting Leader, since it was one of the first radio stations in the country located in a rural area)- was on the top floor of the Mechanic Arts Building, which now houses Institutional Research, near the Storrs Congregational Church. Two 103-foot steel towers were the station's antennae.
The early broadcast schedule, one hour three times a week beginning at 7:15 pm, included weather reports, agricultural news and information for farmers, college sports scores, and concerts on campus. When the power supply was increased from 100 to 500 watts in 1925, the call letters were changed to WCAC (which had been used originally by a station in Fort Smith, Arkansas that had surrendered their license), for Connecticut Agricultural College, and the broadcast hours were increased.
Local farmer Charlie Farquahrson did the agricultural news and farm reports on WCAC for five years.
UConn Radio's first morning team, John Reisen and Carol Schein, hosted The Reisen-Schein Morning Program from? to?. Photo of our second (and last) morning team
By 1931, the station was broadcasting eight hours per week. But the station license was voluntarily surrendered on April 30, 1936 due to frustrations over constant frequency and power changes mandated by the U.S. Commerce Department.
Why the College surrendered the WCAC license in?. From A Tower In Babel by Erik Barnouw, 1966
For a while, the only broadcast facility on campus was a short-wave station. In the aftermath of the September 1938 hurricane, which caused widespread damage throughout southern New England, it was this short-wave station that students jerry-rigged to get messages to Hartford area newspapers and students' families.
Professor Noble received a license for W1XCS, a 250 watt FM station on 39.5 MHz in?. It was a purely experimental transmitter that also used 139.5 and 300-400 MHz for research.
In April 1940, students were back on the air with a low-powered AM station, known as the "Husky Network," offering one hour and 15 minutes of programming three times a week from a studio in the Community House of the Storrs Congregational Church. But the station was short-lived, disbanded nearly two years later as the United States entered World War II and its equipment dispersed for use in the war effort.
A student radio station was revived in the fall of 1946, again called the "Husky Network," and broadcasting at 640 AM began early in 1947. A student contest selected new call letters: WHUS, short for HUSky Network, and not for "World's Handsomest Undergraduate Staff", or this either:
Wall Hung Urinal Stall available in white and colors
Announcement of the new call letters and a WHUS program schedule from the February 18, 1947 Connecticut Campus
1953: The second floor of the new Student Union Building housed student government, the Daily Campus student newspaper, radio station WHUS studios, and the Nutmeg yearbook. By the early 1970s, WHUS occupied the entire floor of the wing, as the other organizations relocated.
The station went off the air from 1954 to 1956, owing to technical difficulties in complying with Federal Communications Commission restrictions on signal strength. But broadcasts continued - heard only in the Student Union - three to five days per week from noon to 6 p.m. Broadcasting on the FM side of the radio band began around 1956, with a 10-watt transmitter at 90.5 FM.
Marv Weinberg was the General Manager in 1959
By 1960, WHUS AM programming began at 2:00pm and sign off was at 3:30 am. The sign off time was changed to 1:00 am in 1961.
From Neagle To The New Century: The Last 40 Years
Until the late 1960s, broadcasts at 670AM were dominant - playing "Favorite 40" music, sports and news that reached the students.
1962 program shedules in the Daily Campus student newspaper
But FM, with enhancements by Dan Noble and others, began to grow in usage and popularity, owing to its "static-free" signal. WHUS-FM moved to 91.7 in 1966, and there was a power increase in 1968 to 1,250 watts.
By the early 1970s FM had taken over and it was rocking- it was the place to be for aspiring DJs and for the burgeoning album-oriented record industry. Separate broadcasts continued on the AM carrier system that reached into dormitories and buildings on the Storrs campus only and was used only for training new staff. The carrier system was abandoned in the late 1970s, when all energies were put into the FM system. The station went to 3,200 watts in 1974, and stereo broadcasting came in 1977.
For its entire history, the station had shut down during school breaks and summer because of a lack of staff. In 1977, student managers decided to operate the station 24 hours a day, so the station began accepting non-student volunteers to produce programs on the air. WHUS became a "community" station.
In 1999, the station replaced the 1960s 212-foot broadcast tower with a 330-foot antenna that extends its service area by about 30 percent. The new antenna also made it possible for WHUS to be heard by thousands of people who previously could not gain access to the student- and community-operated station. Located behind the North Campus residence hall complex, the new antenna is also a boon to the state police, other area emergency services, students and others.
John Murphy, station manager, says WHUS was able to lease access to the new tower to cell phone companies and a variety of other commercial enterprises, enabling the station to continue its 24-hour format, live coverage of UConn men's and women's athletic events, and other public service programming, without increasing costs either to students through fee increases or to the state's taxpayers. The station also raises money through on-air fund drives.
"I think our location saved us," said Murphy, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, referring to the hilly landscape surrounding UConn that makes it difficult for radio and television waves to reach their customers while, at the same time, providing a high elevation for WHUS to erect their antenna. The landscape also creates problems for local ambulance crews, state and local police who now are able to enhance their communications abilities by using the WHUS tower.
For the near future, says Murphy; the station is planning to overhaul its aging equipment, making a major change to digital audio. That change comes as plans are progressing through UConn 2000 to remodel the Student Union Building. In April 2002, the studios and offices for WHUS Radio moved into the old farmhouse building that had been home to Parking and Transportation Services, making way for the renovation of the north wing of the Student Union.
WHUS: The Rock of UConn
The Rock” – aka “North Campus Rock,” “Signal Rock,” “North Campus Bulletin Board” – was first painted in the 1940s and became a coveted tradition at UConn among students. The original rock was a much larger piece that lived on North Eagleville Road, where the Life Sciences building sits today. In the late 1950’s, when the Life Sciences building was constructed, the rock had to be removed. A smaller piece of the rock was relocated to the corner of North Eagleville Road and North Hillside Road. For 40 years, this piece of rock was painted by student organizations, accumulating approximately 1,200 layers of paint! With new construction during the UCONN 2000 project, the rock was removed yet again and disappeared from the Storrs campus. It was recovered, cleaned up and installed – permanently – in its new home at the corner of Alumni Drive and North Hillside Road in 2008.
Final Exam: How many students have taken this course since 11/5/08?
Correct. You get an A.
Here is some supplemental reading material for you: