I thought I would tell about some things that happened at WPKO and later with the addition of WIBO on the FM radio airwaves.
A directional station by FCC rules, at that time, required a First Class engineer to be on duty all the time the station would be on the air. In addition, transmitter readings, and readings from the phase monitor, had to be taken every 30 minutes. Also, in the case of WPKO, three monitor points would have to be checked one time every week.
I came in June 1970 as chief engineer and also did an air shift. I also had to be there when we would have a DJ (radio disc jockey) without a First Class license.
We did have two people who went to schools that were in operation to basically teach students to memorize various questions they would probably have on the First Class FCC test. I think these schools would take about two or three weeks. I remember Phil Griso telling me he got the exact same test that he had been studying and deliberately missed a few questions because he was afraid they might call him up and ask him some more questions. He claimed he didn’t even know how to change a fuse. Actually I think he did have to (change a fuse) one time while I was gone.
With the FM, the DJs had to have a Third Class license with Element 9. Eventually the rules changed to paying a small fee and get a license to be on the air. Now there is no longer a required license. The half hour rule went to three hours and now no longer required. To me — the sad thing — our First Class license that was required to be renewed every five years for a fee was downgraded to Second and made a permanent license. A lot of the rules came about from the early years when transmitters were not stable and could even drift on frequency.
A few days ago while getting an ATU (antenna tuning unit) set up for a new AM station in Parkersburg, WV I was swapping stories with one of the owners, and he was telling me about while on the air at a 4 tower directional stations in Pittsburgh around 7 a.m. suddenly the signal in his headphones went crazy. Vandals had cut the guy wires on two towers, dropping them.
So I had to tell about the Saturday, Dave Eshleman, manager, and myself was out of town. Arrangement was made to get a first class engineer from Jackson to come in at 11 when our First class engineer, Tom Taylor, was getting off and was scheduled to be best man at a wedding a little later in the day. In walks, the dreaded FCC inspector right behind the engineer from Jackson that had never been in the station. The inspector insisted Tom take him around to the three monitor points, and of course, the engineer from Jackson had no idea where they were. Legally, the FCC inspector couldn’t have required that but who is going to argue.
While I am on FCC inspectors, I might as well tell about the other FCC visit a few years later. Of all days, the remote control for the FCC failed and in walks the FCC, and I am thinking is he going to believe me that it just failed. My redeeming, shall I say saving grace, is he had a failure with his equipment trying to measure the frequency of our STL transmitter. No fines.
While on FCC inspectors I guess I will share a few more stories, although they were not at Waverly. The late Chuck Maillet, owner of WIOI at the time, offered a FCC inspector a cup of coffee. The inspector jumped down his throat, accusing Chuck of trying to bribe him, so I guess there was some nasty ones out there. My run-ins have always been friendly.
In fact after taking two inspectors from the Maryland office around to the monitor points at a station in Point Pleasant, WV, we went for dinner together and had a pleasant visit. Another time I had been at the Flemingburg, KY stations and was just about to Maysville on my way home. They called me wanting me to come back, as a lady FCC inspector was there. I though they were pulling my leg, and it took a while to convince me they were serious. It urned out she was checking on EAS stuff primarily, and nothing on the technical side. In fact, that was her sole job, and I could tell she new nothing about technical aspects.
Getting back to WPKO, not long before I came they had to replace the ground system, and because of that, a required proof of the antenna system was required. This amounted to taking field strength readings ever tenth of a mile from the antenna for two miles, and then several more out for 10 miles in eight directions both in non-directional mode and directional mode. Needless to say I saw a lot of Pike County, and some of Scioto, Jackson and Vinton Counties. The two miles was no pleasure. It took two of us using a rope to mark off the tenth mile distances.
One of the radials ran along the Scioto River going south. Some would fall on the west side and some on the east side. One was reached by turning right off U.S. 23 by what is now Ricer Equipment and driving past where the current road ends, eventually going over an old iron bridge that probably led to the one time ferry. Had to do it twice and worried about it falling in each time. Jim Henry has done a story in the past about the ferry at Wakefield. I can’t find it in my papers, but I had a story about an accident with the ferry causing a wagon load of sewing machines being dumped in the river.
My life almost ended at WPKO, in either 1975 or 1976, but for God’s grace. I was working alone on the AM transmitter with the back off and the transmitter was on. To this day, I do not know what happened. I found myself falling into the transmitter thinking, 'I will never get out of this.' When I regained my senses, I was on the floor, thinking my arm was out, but instead pulled up to me and I had burns on some fingers. The transmitter was off because a fuse or beaker had tripped.
All shook up and afraid I might collapse, while putting it back together I called the Sheriff's office. I knew often times at night a deputy would check if the door was locked and would leave a note that he had done so. I asked if he would check on me, and they said they would send an ambulance and I didn’t argue. I hung up the phone and looking down saw a hole in the knee of my pants where my knee had hit the register on the wood floor. On further look, one could put three or four dimes in the hole it had burned in my knee. After getting checked out at the hospital, I had to call my wife to come get me and go back to put the transmitter back together.
I guess I got off track and will have to do an additional story, but here I am at WIBO that was located across from the post office. The picture was taken by the newspaper back in the 1970s. Left hand is on the remote control of the transmitter. Right hand on the modulation monitors. For the young generation, those are tape recorders in the left rack.