Tuesday, February 06, 2024

WAAT-AM in 1922


There are two gentlemen pictured here, C.J. Ingram and Frank Bremer and this is a Prohibition joke. It appears in a 1923 issue of Radio News. First the gag: In 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment passed in 1919 and was ratified by 46 out of 48 states. The Volestead act was then ratified, and the commercial sale of alcohol was banned in the U.S. based on WWI-ear anti-German sentiments, and Christian radicalism. 

Private ownership and consumption of booze were not banned, but some states were more restrictive. Home wine-making became very popular, with some wineries even producing a grape jelly product called "Vine-Glo" and another which was basically a grape brick. [LINK] In these cases as was with a pile of raisins, amateurs could make their own wine. So C.J. and Frank here are soliciting recipes, and apparently following some home fermenting difficulties.

Frank V. Bremer was the founder of WAAT. He appears in the book Airwaves of New York which states that Frank started tinkering with wireless as early as 1910. That year he also organized the Jersey City Wireless Club. He was born in 1894, so he would have been all of 16 years old. But we do have documentation that goes back almost that far, so this is a completely reputable claim. More here.

But I find the written record to be somewhat convoluted. 2IA, first appears in a July 1913 issue of the Department of Commerce Radio Stations report [SOURCE]. But at that time, it was owned by Royce A. Winfred located at 1329 49th street, in Brooklyn, NY and operating at 500 watts. The July 1914 issue is the same. That 1913 issue is literally issue #1 so I don't think we have an authoritative source that goes back further. Some websites claim that in 1914 Frank received both amateur and commercial radio operator's licenses. I've not been able to confirm that, but it fits the time line. More here.

In the July 1915 issue both Bremer and Winfred appear, but Frank is operating 2ARN, a different amateur station. (Starting in 1920 the annual Commerce Department station lists were split into two publications, separating the the Amateur stations.)  In the June 1920 issue of Amateur Radio stations of the United States, 2ARN, is now operated by George A. Bennett, on 40 Argyle place, Arlington, NJ at 18 watts. This is the same in the June 1922 issue. In the June 1923 issue George has moved to Twilight Ave in Keansburg, NJ. Bremer's first appearance with 2IA is in the June 1923 issue. The 1923 the Citizens Call book puts 2IA at 3613 Boulevard in Jersey City, operated by F. V. Bremer, a matching entry.

The station we know as WAAT was originally known was 2IA. Different sources put it's start in 1922, or as late as 1926.  The argument is mostly based in semantics, it goes back much earlier. Airwaves uses the 1926 date for the start of WAAT, but in 1926 Frank was operating a radio shop at 210 Jackson Avenue under the call sign 2IA, his amateur station. The August 1926 Bulletin refers to this station as WKBD in a list of "additions" to the June 1925 list. By September he got the call sign changed to WAAT.

One note on 2IA, The Jersey Review paid to broadcast from Bremer's facilities as early as 1920. There have been claims that this paid program was meets the definition of the first commercial radio program ever. It's plausible. You can easily find references to Bremer's radio operations like the below 1921 issue of Radio News:

The Jersey Review is where we meet C.J. Ingram. The Jersey Review was in publication from 1920 to 1941 when it became the "Jersey Guide." Even the authoritative Directory of New Jersey Newspapers 1765 - 1970 only has question marks for the end of the Jersey Guide. [SOURCE] A 1922 issue of the Radio Dealer names Frank Bremer as the "Radio Editor" of the Jersey Guide.  Mr. C. J. Ingram, was managing editor of the Jersey Review. [SOURCE] Ingram was also the vice president of the Radio Broadcasting Society of America. Though in 1923 they're described as "...thirteen or more small broadcasters." Members included WHN and WAAT at the very least. [The treasurer was C.B. Cooper, executive secretary George Schobel,  and President was John E. O'Connor]

In his autobiography I Have a Lady in the Balcony, George Ansbro puts C.J. Ingram at the Jersey
Journal as the radio Editor around 1932. His column was called the "One Dialer" still hosting a 30 minute Sunday afternoon program on WAAT. In 1935, the book Before The Mike by Ted Husing confirms the same. The November 1933 issue of the Crosley Broadcaster records the name of the program as "Stardust" airing from 12:30 to 1:00 PM. He continued to write the column through at least 1936.

Bremer continued to operate WAAT-AM for decades. They opened a studio in Manhattan in 1927 at 34 W. 28th Street. The station moved to the Douglas Hotel on Hill Street in 1941. Then in 1947, they got into FM radio and 94.7 WAAT began broadcasting. Bremer continued to run the show until 1958 when eh sold the AM and Fm stocks to the National Telefilm Associates. The big mystery in all of this, is the line "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN" below that comic that started all this. Both Bremer and Ingram were still very much alike, and even still on air in 1923. Prohibition lasted until 1933. I'm not sure what was gone by 1923. Maybe just 2IA being replaced by WAAT.

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