Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The First radio of Alabama

In 1922 WSY brought radio to Alabama. It provided a variety of programs, including live music played by employees. (that's exactly as hokey as you think it is) Normally these early licensed stations are founded by newspapers, hotels and retail stores as advertising outlets. In this case it was uniquely founded by the Alabama Power Company, a public utility provider.

Only a year later WSY moved to new digs that year in the Radio Department of Loveman's Department Store. The broadcasting room was touted to have the finest acoustics in the world. But the power company wasn't so good at managing a radio staiton. In 1925 they conceeded that WSY was a financial failure and donated all hardware to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute [now Auburn University].

Auburn U. used it to start their own radio station WMAV, who is still on the air today under the calls WAPI. The studio was located in Broun Hall, and the antenna was located on an old 100 foot tower donated by Miller Reese Hutchinson, who had been associated for many years with Thomas A. Edison. Great pics here:

WAPI prospered without major upheval until 1929 when George Denny, President of the University of Alabama approached the FRC seeking a license for a radio station in Tuscaloosa. This was a conflict with WAPI. A decision was reached to split the ownership of WAPI between the three institutions. . .
39% for Alabama Polytechnic Institute
39% for the University of Alabama
22% for Alabama College for Women
In 1931 the City of Birmingham withdrew its financial support from the WAPI operations. The gravy train was over. They coudn't meet payroll. technical improvements came to a halt and permits expired, unused. The tightening of the belt forced them to lease WAPI to private individuals. The first agreement was made with a local realtor, W.O. Pape. in 1933 Mr. Pape pulled some slick crap, and sold his interest to Bascomb H. Hopson who in turn made the staiton into a time-share with KVOO. The time share lasted into the 1952, as did the 3-way ownership. This trifecta ended in 1961 when the Newhouse Broadcasting Corporation coughed up the necessasary $340,000 and bought out all parties.

Check out http://www.birminghamrewound.com/radio-tv.htm
for Alabama radio history