Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Gerry Wilkinson

I got a nice email from Gerry at Broadcast Pioneers about a post from 2013 I wrote on WRTI. Since Gerry is the main man behind the esteemed Broadcast Pioneers website I asked if I could post his letter and he agreed...

Hi Jose: Read about WRTI on your site [LINK].  Great to see that Temple News. Jerry Klein (who is the Broadcast Pioneers President) and I are members of the Temple Alumni. We met 48 years ago at WRTI. Thatcher Hall was renamed Thomas Hall on December 7, 1947. The station's opening ceremony was on January 22, 1948 after much delay.

Part of the problem was that for decades WRTI-AM (and later WRTI-FM) signed off the air just before finals. So the station would have gone off air just before the Thanksgiving break. It wouldn't return to the air until after the January semester started. It was still like that when we went to college in the late sixties.
From what I can find from my research, the date got too close to finals and they elected to start broadcasting in the spring semester. The ceremony was broadcast live over WFIL (since funding came from Walter Annenberg who owned WFIL at the time). We actually have a recording of 2 minutes of that opening ceremony. It's on our website at: [ LINK]

First broadcast on WRTI would be March 15, 1948. Here's part of what is on our website: By the way, the first WRTI-AM broadcast took place on Monday, March 15, 1948 at 4 pm. It was a test broadcast and was fed to Alpha Sigma Alpha, Delta Sigma Upsilon, Theta Sigma Upsilon, Williams Hall, Thomas Hall and the Radio, Speech and Theater office at 1951 North Broad Street. The transmitter's output power was 40 watts. That was the very first time the transmitter was ever on line. The station was on the air from 1 pm to 8 pm, according to John B. Roberts, former Broadcast Pioneers President and former Temple University Professor. The Swarthmore wired wireless station was on the air before WRTI with the University of Pennsylvania station coming a little while later. These three universities formed a network with each station providing a part of the program schedule, said Roberts.

However, if you accept as a "broadcast," audio being fed from Thomas Hall to Mitten Hall's East Alcove via wire (with no transmitter), then the first regular broadcast was March 1, 1948. During the dedication of the studios on January 22, 1948, similar wired feeds took place. At 4:30 pm, a transcribed organ recital was "beamed" to the Thomas Hall Auditorium, the main sanctuary of the old church. The auditorium was one floor above the WRTI studios, which were in the basement of the building.

John Roberts was a former President and former Chairman of the Board of this organization. He is mentioned in that article. He was our "Person of the Year" in 1987. Annenberg received the same honor in 1983. We also have an one hour, 37 minute recording of John Roberts talking about his life and the beginning of WRTI. In that first group of students on WRTI in 1948 was a young guy by the name of Norman Feld. You may remember him from the Ropers after he changed the D to another L. Just thought you would like to know. Keep up the good work.

All the Best,
Gerry Wilkinson
Chairman of the Board, Broadcast Pioneers