"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.
Wavescan, December 1, 2013
Welcome to the new WRMI: 88 Years of Radio History
In our program today, we present a sweeping panorama of 88 years of radio history, all in the story of one international shortwave station, all the way through from its earliest beginnings in 1925 down to our own present day, Sunday, December 1, 2013. This what happened.
It was in mid year 1925 that the 58 year old immigrant from Luxembourg, Hugo Gernsback, received a permit to operate a portable shortwave station at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City, under the experimental callsign 2XAL.
Then two years later, he received a Construction Permit to install the shortwave station just across the Hudson River on Hudson Terrace, Coytesville, New Jersey. The rebuilt 2XAL, now operating at .5 kW on the shortwave channel 9700 kHz under the same callsign 2XAL, was co-sited with the mediumwave transmitter for WRNY, New York. Both stations, shortwave 2XAL and mediumwave WRNY, carried the same programming from studios in the Roosevelt Hotel just across the river in New York City.
It was on October 1, 1928, that the experimental callsign 2XAL was modified, along with all other similarly identified stations in the United States, to W2XAL. The initial letter W was allocated to the United States in a recent international radio convention over in Berlin, Germany.
In 1929, Hugo Gernsback was declared bankrupt and the station was sold off to the Aviation Radio Company with another radio entrepreneur, Walter Lemmon, as its manager. However, two years later, Lemmon formed his own company and bought the station for his own operation.
Very soon afterwards, W2XAL was transferred from Coytesville, New Jersey and re-installed with TV experimenter Hollis Baird's experimental TV stations at 70 Brookline Avenue in Boston. The transmitter was re-engineered to 5 kW, and the callsign W2XAL was modified at its new location to W1XAL.
During the eight year period in Boston, the programming as heard over Walter Lemmon's shortwave station W1XAL was produced at first in a set of studios located in the Harvard University Club at 374 Commonwealth Avenue. The studio location was transferred in 1938 into a brownstone building on the same Commonwealth Avenue, at number 133.
The independent programming was usually of an educational nature and it proved to be very popular with a multitude of widespread listeners in many different countries. During the mid 1930s, it was estimated that a half million listeners were tuned in to the educational programming from shortwave W1XAL.
In 1935, the 5 kW W1XAL was re-engineered to 10 kW; then in 1939, a second transmitter was constructed by station staff and inaugurated temporarily at suburban Norwood under the call W1XAR. However, the entire shortwave station in Boston was shut down on July 21, 1939, and both transmitters, W1XAL and W1XAR, went silent for a period of nearly 5 weeks.
During this time period, a little over a month, the entire facility was moved from Boston to a new location at Hatherly Beach near Scituate in coastal Massachusetts. The two transmitters, now upgraded to 20 kW each, were installed into what had been a power plant building for the army during World War 1.
When the station was reactivated at its new location on August 25, two new callsigns became effective, and W1XAL was now WSLA and W1XAR was now WSLR. The new callsigns honored the station's driving figure, Walter S. Lemmon.
However, the station's board of directors disapproved the new callsigns, and so a new set of calls was introduced on September 7, just two weeks later, and W1XAL-WSLA became the now more familiar WRUL, and W1XAR-WSLR became the now more familiar WRUW. The primary call, WRUL, was painted in large black letters on the chimney stack, and this became a monumental identifying icon for many years.
In 1942, the 5 kW shortwave transmitter from WDJM in Miami, Florida was re-engineered and installed at Hatherly Beach where it was activated under the callsign WRUS. At this stage, all three transmitters carried the same programming in parallel. This temporary low powered transmitter was in use for just a little over a year and it was replaced by two 50 kW transmitters under the callsigns WRUA and again WRUS. The first WRUS was then re-engineered again and reactivated under a new callsign, WRUX.
In November 1942, station WRUL was taken over by the government, along with all other shortwave broadcasting stations in the United States, and all programming was produced and broadcast under the direction of OWI, the Office of War Information. The newly organized shortwave network became the now familiar Voice of America.
Service with the Voice of America ended in mid 1953, and by this time there were five transmitters on the air at WRUL. The station changed hands a few times, and then the callsign was changed to WNYW, Radio New York Worldwide.
Family Radio entered the shortwave scene at Hatherly Beach, Scituate in Massachusetts on October 20, 1973, and then came their very familiar new callsign, WYFR. A new station was built a little north of Lake Okeechobee in lower central Florida in 1977. Some of the Hatherly Beach transmitters were re-installed at the new location, and Hatherly Beach was closed two years later, forever to remain silent. Programming now came from a set of Family Radio studios in Oakland, California.
The new Florida station was built up over a period of time, until it contained 14 transmitters, mostly at 100 kW, and 23 antennas, curtains and rhombics. Shortwave station WYFR was heard with its Gospel programming in almost every country upon planet Earth.
With the passing of time, compounded with changing circumstances, shortwave station WYFR was eventually closed earlier this year, on July 1, 2013. But this time, that was not the end. In a set of fortuitous circumstances, Radio Miami International WRMI has stepped in, and from today onwards, WYFR is now the new WRMI.
We will have lots more information about these interesting events in coming editions of our DX program, Wavescan.