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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 459, October 19, 2003

Thirty Years with Family Radio Shortwave

At the present time, Family Radio WYFR on shortwave in Florida is broadcasting a lengthy series of special programs in honor of their 30th anniversary.  It was on October 20, 1973 that Family Radio took over the large and historic shortwave station situated at Scituate in Massachusetts and began to feed it with their Gospel programming.

The story of their station goes back a long way, almost to the very beginning of shortwave broadcasting.  The early origins of this station can be traced back to New York City in 1927 when Walter Lemmon obtained a shortwave licence for a station with the callsign W2XAL.  At the time, this shortwave station took a tandem relay from the mediumwave station WRNY.

In the following year, the shortwave outlet was sold to a commercial company, Aviation Radio.  However, three years later, Walter Lemmon was again granted the license for this station and he transferred it to Boston where the callsign was changed from W2XAL to W1XAL.

Five years later, in the year 1936, Walter Lemmon purchased a large property at Hatherly Beach, near Scituate, for the purpose of installing a large international shortwave station.  His first transmitter at this new location was a 20 kw unit under the same callsign, W1XAL.  A second unit, W1XAR, was added shortly afterwards.

In 1939, the callsigns at Hatherly Beach were regularized, first to WSLA and WSLR, and then to WRUL and WRUW.  Soon after a spate of government service with VOA programming for Europe, Africa and Latin America, the station was sold a couple of times, with one callsign change, and finally Family Radio took over on October 20, 1973 with the callsign WYFR.

Over the years several additional transmitters were installed at WRUL, including WDJM from Miami and WBOS from Hull.  After a disastrous fire in 1967, the station was rebuilt with five new transmitters.

Four years after Family Radio procured the station, they began to transfer the transmitters from Hatherly Beach to their new property near Lake Okeechobee in Florida.  The first transmitter at the new location was activated on November 23, 1977; and subsequently a total of 14 transmitters were installed at this very large facility.  The final broadcast from WYFR at the Scituate location ended at 2052 UTC on November 16, 1979.

These days, Family Radio is on the air worldwide with 24 hours of programming in eleven languages from their 14 transmitters in Florida as well as from a series of relay transmitters in Europe, the Middle East and Taiwan.  They also operate a home service network of FM and AM stations across the United States totalling somewhere around one hundred stations.

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we honor Family Radio on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of their shortwave broadcasting which began in 1973 from a now historic radio site on the eastern shore of the North American continent.

Radio Anniversary in Western Australia

It was on October 19, 1939 that the first test transmissions went on the air from the new ABC shortwave station at Wanneroo in Western Australia, just 64 years ago today.  The station is long since gone, but the story is still very interesting

The Waneroo station was established out in a country area some 15 miles north west of the state capital, Perth, and it was originally designed for use as a large mediumwave facility.  The first transmitter at this new site was a 5 kw. unit for mediumwave 6WF in Perth, and this was installed in 1932.

Then, in 1939, another ABC station, 6WN, was transferred from its city location atop the GPO building and installed as a 2 kw. unit at Wanneroo.  Simultaneously, another 2 kw. transmitter was also installed at Waneroo for coverage of outback areas in Western Australia, and this was the shortwave unit VLW.

The first test broadcasts from the new shortwave transmitter went on the air with a relay from the two mediumwave stations on October 19, 1939, and the first test broadcasts to Africa with programming from the new ìAustralia Callingî went on the air a few weeks later, on January 24.  However, the new service to Africa was terminated just one year later due to the fact that it was difficult to obtain an experienced announcer in the Afrikaans language, and also because of unreliable coverage in Africa from the low powered 2 kw. transmitter.

In October, test transmissions were run for coverage into Indonesia, but these also suffered from interference and unreliable coverage. 

In 1959, the entire station was rebuilt and three shortwave transmitters were installed, two at 10 kw. and one at 50 kw.  These three units were on the air under the two callsigns VLW and VLX, and at times the programming from Radio Australia in Melbourne was relayed by all three of these transmitters for coverage into Africa and Asia.  Ten years later, the VLX callsign was amalgamated into VLW due to the fact that all three shortwave transmitters were at times on the air simultaneously with the same ABC  programming.

Towards the end of 1993, the ABC announced that they planned on closing the VLW shortwave service.  The equipment was now very old, housing estates were encroaching on the Wanneroo site, and the number of listeners in the outback areas had dwindled due to alternative methods of radio and TV delivery.

The first closure date was announced for December 14, 1993.  However, several hundred listeners in the north west objected to the closure of their only ABC radio coverage, and the date was extended for a few more weeks so that alternative radio coverage could be explored.  The final closure date was January 21, 1994 at 2200 UTC.  And that was the end of VLW, the ABC shortwave service for the outback areas of Western Australia.