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"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 N299, November 16, 2014

Tribute to Shortwave WYFR-13: A Historic Era Comes to an End

In our continuing series of progressive topics on the long and illustrious history of one of America's earliest and largest shortwave stations, we pick up the story again at a time of change in ownership. The station that was on the air consecutively under the primary callsigns W2XAL, W1XAL, WSLA, WRUL and WNYW now becomes the very familiar WYFR, and that was in the year 1973.

This is what happened. Back in the year 1959, Harold Camping, together with two other colleagues, purchased an FM station in San Francisco, California whose history dated back to 1947. This station was originally inaugurated by Warner Bros. of motion picture fame, and it was listed under the original callsign KWBR on 97.3 MHz.

During the twelve intervening years, this station underwent several changes in ownership and callsign, and when it was procured by Harold Camping and his partners in 1959, it was known as KOBY-FM with a listed 82 kW, and still on the same channel 97.3 MHz. The station was taken over under its new owners, Family Stations, Inc., on February 4, 1959 and given a new callsign, KEAR.

Subsequently, the number of radio and TV stations owned by Family Radio grew over a period of time into a network of more than one hundred stations, including translators, that is, low power relay transmitters. In addition, their programming was also distributed via several satellite channels.

In an endeavor to increase the coverage area of their radio programming worldwide, Family Radio began to look towards the possibility of broadcasting on shortwave. Initially, they took out a program relay over shortwave station WNYW, with studios in New York and transmitters at Hatherly Beach, Scituate in Massachusetts.

The new schedule of programming over shortwave WNYW was implemented on January 22, 1972 for three program hours daily. At the time, station WNYW was on the air with three or four transmitters in parallel. This scheduling gave Family Radio some sixteen hours of transmitter time each day, which provided very broad coverage of the Americas, Europe and Africa.

At the same time, Family Radio was also negotiating with Bonneville International in Salt Lake City, Utah, the then owners of WNYW, to purchase this historic and well known shortwave station near Scituate in Massachusetts. Thus it was that Family Radio announced on Friday October 19, 1973 that they were acquiring this east coast shortwave station; and the very next day, Saturday October 20, station WNYW began a new broadcast day under a new callsign, WYFR.

In reminiscing about these events, WYFR Engineering Manager Dan Elyea recalls that the previous staff with WNYW gave the new staff with WYFR just one hour on the Friday evening to become familiar with the operations of all of the electronic equipment at this large shortwave station. On the first day of operation as WYFR, just two transmitters were employed with twin programing services in English and in Spanish to Europe and to Latin America.

The first printed transmission schedule was issued by the new WYFR a few weeks later during the following month, November, and it shows that they were on the air now for a little over nine hours daily, with similar programming beamed to Europe and Latin America, in English and in Spanish. Four transmitters were on the air and they were heard on all of the international shortwave bands ranging from 5 MHz up to 21 MHz, according to propagation conditions. A total of nine rhombic antennas were in use, four of which were reversible.

At the time of the 1973 transfer of ownership, WNYW-WYFR was on the air with a complement of four shortwave transmitters and callsigns:

At this stage in 1973, there was no transmitter identified as WNYW1. It would appear that transmitter WNYW1 was an earlier 20 kW auxiliary unit that had been removed from service.

During the following year (1974), an additional 100 kW transmitter, Continental Model 418D, was installed. This unit was already planned and licensed under WNYW ownership and it was installed somewhat nearby to the two (Harris) Gates 100 kW transmitters, though at right angles to them.

We might mention also that the 50 kW (Harris) Gates unit at WNYW was originally intended (in 1967) for installation at ELWA near Monrovia in Liberia, where Dan Elyea began service three years later. However, after the disastrous fire at WNYW in 1967, this unit was taken over for WNYW and another was subsequently provided for the African shortwave station.

Soon after Family Radio took over the WNYW facility at Hatherly Beach, they began planning for a new shortwave station which was ultimately established at Okeechobee in Florida.

When the huge new facility in Florida was readied, the transmitters at Hatherly Beach were removed, one by one, and taken to Okeechobee where they were reinstalled. For a period of two years, shortwave station WYFR was on the air at the two different locations, Massachusetts and Florida.

The first transmitter at Hatherly Beach to be removed and reinstalled at Okeechobee was the new 100 kW Continental 418D which had been recently installed under WYFR. That was at the end of the year 1977. Then, each of the remaining Hatherly Beach units was removed from service in turn and reinstalled at Okeechobee.

The final broadcast from WYFR Hatherly Beach ended at 2052 UTC on November 17, 1979. That broadcast was beamed to Africa over a 50 kW transmitter on 21525 kHz. When that transmitter was removed, the Hatherly Beach Scituate transmitter station was silenced forever, at the end of its sixty years of illustrious service.

A visitor to the historic site in 1993 described it as abandoned and covered with overgrowth, though it is now in use as an upscale housing area.

Shortwave WYFR has always been a reliable verifier of reception reports from listeners, and this was true right from the beginning at Hatherly Beach, though the office at Oakland, California was the location from which the QSL cards were issued.

At least three different QSL cards verifying WYFR at Hatherly Beach are known. Two different printings are known of the card showing microphones and the station callsign in large red lettering. A third card is similar in design, though instead of microphones, the silhouette of tall buildings is shown.