Thursday, July 24, 2014

Six Years of WCMA

Not every radio station makes the cut. Most often the license is sold and the station changes form and format. But sometimes, like a shoe-string produce stand in the bad part of town... it just quietly goes away one night. This is less common now, excepting unprofitable Small-market AMs. But back in the 1930s the FRC frequency re-shuffling of the AM band bore many casualties. Take for example the short life of 1160 WCMA-AM. More here.

The station signed on in march of 1925. The 1926 Radio Service Bulletin indicates the original calls were 1350 WHBH but this changed to WCMA a year later.  Built by major George Eisenhard at Culver Academy. He had built a 75 foot antenna tower and had been demonstrating radio at least as early as 1910. It's 150 long wire was erected atop the campus Rec building and it's second floor balcony served as a makeshift studio. In the early 1930s it moved to the Johnson apartments on Lake Shore Drive. A 1926 issue of the South Bend News-Times marked the official debut of WCMA:
"WCMA is the new Culver Military Academy broadcasting station, which was formally opened and gave its first program on the evening of Nov. 29. So many artists have been engaged, and the public seemed so clamorous for encores, through telephone and telegraph messages received, that the program extended from 8:30 o'clock that evening until 2 o'clock the next morning. Thousands of fans listened to the program that evening, and hundreds of congratulatory messages received at the station on the following day. It is the best broadcasting station in northern Indiana, and sends on a wavelength of 258.5 meters."
In the 1930s it was sold to the General Broadcasting Company. As a day share it broadcast every afternoon from 1:15 PM to 5:00PM, a mere 4 hour slot. It's SM was Carl B. Watson. The aired a mix of news, commentary and musical programs. A local newspaper, "The Culver Citizen" produced a regular program on local news.  But despite the promising start, things went awry. The News-Sentinel covered the story of it's closing in November of 1932. More here.
"Culver, Ind. - WCMA, Culver’s radio station, was discontinued this week after operating for six years. The station has been sold along with Station WKBF at Indianapolis, to a Chicago firm which will combine the time at the two stations. The Culver station was established by Culver Military Academy and maintained by it for four years. It was then sold to the Curtis company of Indianapolis, which moved the equipment from the academy to the Johnson apartment building in the north part of Culver. Louis Lohr has been manager and engineer of the station."
The radio station equipment was donated to their state radio police system. The towers atop the rec building at Culver acedemy weren't taken down until 1947, several years after the passing of Maj. Eisenhard. Today the call letters live on at 1600 AM in Bayamon Puerto Rico.