WTIC Alumni Site
In Memory of and Designed by Bill Clede
WTIC Radio to Remember
This was the title on a book published by the station in 1985, and many people remember the "old" WTIC even today. The story of the station reads like a history of broadcasting because WTIC dates from February 10, 1925. WTIC signed on that evening at 7:45. The Traveler's Walter Cowles gave an opening speech:
" ... This service has been installed purely and simply as a new means of publicity. It is a method by which we are able to come into close personal relationship with the public... The hope and constant aim of this station will be to earn the goodwill, friendship and confidence of those who hear us."
A male quartet from the Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York sang several selections. Mrs., Gertrude McAuliffe, gave a recital accompanied by pianist Mrs. Burton Yaw. Clayton Randall, Chief Engineer, assembled a mobile unit, parked it in an alley behind the Hotel Bond, and brought listeners the music of the Emil Heimberger Trip performing inside. It was WTIC's first remote broadcast. The opening night program lasted until 10:24. Herman Taylor was Assistant Engineer.
The first transmitting site were twin 150-foot towers on the Grove Street building supporting a T-shaped, center-fed antenna. Walter Johnson became the first regular announcer in 1925. By the late 50s, he became President and General Manager.
The Early Days
Early music programming was almost entirely live, recorded music was considered of such poor quality. Local groups provided it but WTIC soon began hiring musicians. Laura Gaudet was hired as staff pianist in 1925. The Travelers Jongleurs, a string quartet conducted by Norman Cloutier was the first significant musical group. Later in 1929, Cloutier lead the WTIC dance band, The Merry Madcaps, to national fame with a half-hour noontime network broadcast. WTIC announcer George Bowe introduced the band.With the addition of the Traveler's Symphonic Ensemble in 1926, WTIC built a large reserve of musicians and announcers.
The 500-watt Western Electric transmitter served for four years. In 1928, WTIC acquired the Talcott Mountain site, bought the first RCA 50,000-watt transmitter, affectionately know as "Old Number One", and put it on the air in 1929.
That's the year Paul W. Morency (at right) joined the station. He was acutely aware that WTIC had already developed its own personality. It had become far more than just a publicity vehicle for Travelers. WTIC issued its first rate card in 1930. He was also aware what competitors were doing. He became WTIC's first President.
Leonard J. Patricelli (at left) also joined the staff in1929, as a scriptwriter. He became the first full time continuity writer in New England. He became program manager in 1943, vice president of television programming in 1957, vice president and general manager in 1963, executive vice president in 1966. He became president of Broadcast Plaza Inc. in 1967, a title he carried over to the Ten Eighty Corporation. In 1978 he was named chairman of the board, holding that position until his death in 1982.
The "Golden Age of Radio" was during the 1930s when people couldn't afford going out. Movies were inexpensive but you could stay home and listen to a drama with sound effects that became the "theater in your mind". You remember Little Orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong, Lone Ranger, The Shadow, I Love a Mystery, Inner Sanctum, Lux Radio Theater, and others. With vocal characterization and sound effects, your mind could imagine far more dramatic scenery than television could ever show.
WTIC produced its own radio dramas. The WTIC Playhouse went on the air on September 23, 1931 under the direction of Guy Hedlund with his repertory company of such actors as Ed Begley, Edie (Michael) O'Shea, Gertrude Warner, Louie Nye, and Jan Miner.
"The Wrightville Daily Clarion" was written and produced by Paul Lucas, who played Elisha Wright. Announcer Fred Wade played Cousin Zeke and other roles. Eunice Greenwood was Sister Janey. The show ran from May 1933 to March 1939. It was revived briefly in 1949 as "Wrightville Folks."
Although news, sports, and weather were broadcast regularly as early as1927, there was no local news staff. Announcers read news from the Hartford Courant and The Hartford Times. By June1935, the station subscribed to Transradio News Service, replaced by Yankee Network in 1936, and developed its own Central Connecticut Bureau of Transradio News in 1938.
The flood of 1936 and hurricane of 1938 set the pattern for WTIC's further development -- accurate, responsible and community-oriented reporting. The Connecticut River inundated Hartford in 1936 and WTIC became the focal point for disaster information. It served the role again in1938 when a hurricane swelled rivers all over the state. WTIC was the only station able to remain in constant operation. Ben Hawthorne and program manager Tom McCray used a makeshift shortwave setup to report live from atop the Travelers Tower.
When Ben Hawthorne, host of the popular "Morning Watch" program enlisted in the Army in 1942, Ben's wife, Travilla, played Rosie the Riveter, that is, she took over her husband's duties. Some months later, in March 1943, Bob Steele (at left) was given a chance to audition for the morning time slot. Bob had introduced "Strictly Sports" in 1939. His lively wit and wisdom established him as one of the station's unique personalities. The "Morning Watch" eventually became the "Bob Steele Show".
"Quiz of Two Cities" wasn't the first quiz program on the station. WTIC invented the format in 1927 with a show called "Jack Says: Ask Me Another." But "Quiz of Two Cities" became an instant hit when it first aired on October 6, 1940. George Bowe was emcee for Hartford and Fred Wade handled the broadcasts from Springfield.
The War Years
With the approach of World War II, Paul Morency strengthened his resolve to report accurately. He was less interested in getting the story first than he was in getting it right. To coordinate all news operations He hired N. Thomas Eaton in October 1941.
WTIC geared up for the war effort. Sales manager Irwin Cowper suggested the Morse code letter "V" (dit, dit, dit, dah) for Victory be used as the hourly time tone. Patricelli refined it to the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth, and it went on the air on July 4, 1943. The station originated the "United States Coast Guard on Parade" program. The emcee was the youngest announcer on NBC, Bob Tyrol (at right).Tyrol became so enamored he enlisted several months later. After the war, Tyrol came home to WTIC.
The station helped to raise more than $1,000,000 in war bonds. Then $l,132,000 to fight polio. Chief Announcer Bernard Mullins (at right) directed the project.
On July 6, 1944, spectators were enjoying the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Baily Circus when the main tent suddenly burst into flames. Announcers George Bowe and Bernie Mullins rushed to the scene and found uncontrolled panic. Regular programming was cancelled and the station turned its attention to Red Cross, fire, and police officials to help quell rapidly swelling rumors.
"Cinderella Weekend"was one of the first audience participation shows. It premiered on August 4, 1947 and remained in the program lineup until May 1,1953, 289 Cinderellas later. The show originated from the Orchid Room at Ryan's Restaurant on Pearl Street. It became such a hit that announcers Floyd Richards (at left) and Bob Tyrol adapted it for the stage and took it on the road around the state.
The station continued to present live music into the 1950s, the audience clamored for the latest recordings. Ross Miller (at left) became WTIC's first true disk jockey in the late 1940s when he brought "Juke Box Jingles" to his afternoon drive time show. Ross became known as "Ross, the Musical Miller". Bob Downes (at right) was engineer for "Juke Box Jingles." He later became Bob Steele's engineer.
WTIC consistently featured shows for women. Jean Colbert joined the station in1947 and became hostess of "Radio Bazaar", later changed to the "Jean Colbert Show." Six days a week, the audience heard her opening at 8:30 am, "Good morning, everybody."
Allen Ludden was hired in the late 1940s as a continuity writer and eventually helped develop the concept for "Mind Your Manners", a program for teenagers. The show was picked up by NBC and won many awards for youth programming. On May 5, 1951 the show taped an interview with a 16-year-old drug addict in prison. It aired on NBC and became the focus of a campaign to fight teenage drug addiction. "Mind Your Manners" continued on both NBC radio and a local New York television station. Ludden went on to become the host of the popular CBS TV game show, "Password".
"Your neighbor down the road" was the unforgettable Frank Atwood (at left). He launched "Connecticut Farm Forum" in 1939 as a Saturday morning feature. He joined the staff full time as Farm Director in 1946.The Frank Atwood Show aired daily from 5:30 to 6:45. He developed the WTIC Farm Youth Program involving youngsters in breeding and raising purebred dairy and beef calves. Atwood retired in 1970 and Don Tuttle stepped in to host the farm show. But the state's farm population dwindled. Later, Bill Clede became host of the 5 to 6 am "WTIC Outdoors".
By the end of the decade WTIC upgraded its technology replacing the original RCA 50,000-watt transmitter with a more modern 50,000-watt Westinghouse transmitter. It went on the air in July 1947. WTIC engineers hand-built a 1 kilowatt FM transmitter and put it on the air on February 5, 1940, as W1XSO. By December the station became permanent as W-53-H picking up most of its programming from the AM station. It officially became WTIC FM in November 1943.
With its broad audience, WTIC musical programming covered everything from jazz to opera. George Malcolm-Smith, editor of The Travelers Beacon, was the resident jazz expert. His "Gems of American Jazz" ran from1942 to1951. Robert E.Smith (at right) was the station's classical music maven. His "Your Box at the Opera" premiered in 1945 and ran for 25 years.
Then one day in 1973, the news hit the station like an atomic bomb, "The stations are being sold off by Travelers." When Ross Miller hired Bill Clede as Outdoor and Environmental Director, he tried to explain the job benefits and got confused. Clede said, "Just pay me money, Ross, and I'll take care of myself." The day the news of the sale broke, Ross passed Clede in the hallway and said, "What was that you said about job benefits?"
The Washington Post made a deal for TV3 and Kathryn Graham came to town to cement it. Patricelli and Tyrol joined with David Chase to buy the AM FM Radio side and moved it to Chase's Gold Building on Main Street. That day marked the end of an era that was not likely to ever be rebuilt under then FCC Rules.