HeardTell: The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

Where Research is a Delight!

Wonderful Western North Carolina: WWNC

WWNC Stamp.jpg

I’m rarely surprised by items I find in my online searches. I thought: What an odd postage stamp. Why does it have the call letters of Asheville’s oldest continually operating radio station? I placed my bid and waited. When the stamp was mine (for the time being), I knew there was research in my future.

In the early days of radio listening to a broadcast from a faraway station was a big deal—imagine someone in Black Mountain or Marion hearing a show on WBT from Charlotte. The lure of faraway broadcasts had listeners glued to their sets, straining to catch the call letters of distant stations.

According to a December 2010 story by Andy Lanset on station WNYC “…In the 1920s and early 1930s, collecting radio verification stamps was a big fad. Broadcasters rewarded listeners for sending in reception reports by mailing them a stamp with the station’s call letters on it.”

The Ekko Company in Chicago sold albums for the stamps along with a supply of “proof of reception cards”. On these cards you would write the date, time, and what you heard on the radio station, and mail it off. Once your report was confirmed, you’d receive a card in the mail along with a “beautifully engraved (stamp) in different colors” incorporating the station’s call letters. The albums contained an “alphabetical list of official names and other interesting features of call stations.”

EKKO-Stamp-ad575.jpg

On February 21, 1927 radio station WWNC—”570 on your ay-em dial”—made its first broadcast from the three-year-old George Vanderbilt hotel. And yes, the phrase “wonderful western North Carolina” was the inspiration for the call letters.  This year it celebrated its 90th anniversary of broadcasting in western North Carolina. Here are a few interesting features you may or may not know about one of our first radio stations.

It’s first home was in the Flatiron Building downtown. Note the antennae atop this Asheville landmark.

flatiron antenna.jpg

AD939

WWNC broadcast a variety of national and local programming. According to an accounting found in a 1932 edition of  The Asheville Citizen-Times, the NBC affiliate broadcast a surprising 14,720 programs . This included 309 hours of religious programming, 1100 of classic music, 1700 of popular music, 721 of educational content, and a mere 54 hours of political programs.

Country legend Bill Monroe played live on WWNC in 1939.  Around the same time J. E. Mainer’s Crazy Mountaineers broadcast at twelve noon 5 days a week. And on Saturday nights they were broadcast on Charlotte’s WBT radio.  Their sponsor for the Saturday night program was the Crazy Water Crystals Company in Charlotte, which was an offshoot of the Mineral Wells, Texas spa and water company.  According to the website drinkcrazywater.com “During the Great Depression the Crazy Water Company concentrates its energies into promoting the Crazy Water Crystals, which are found in drug stores nationwide. With a teaspoon of the Crazy Crystals and a glass of tap water, people enjoy the healthful benefits of the Crazy Water in their own homes.”

Crazy Co WWNC.jpg

AD132

During the 1940 Rhododendron Festival in June, WWNC produced live broadcasts for 119 stations in the CBS network.  At 11:35 pm they broadcast “a description of the Brigade of Guards in the new Asheville Auditorium.”  They also broadcast the coronation of the King and Queen live; photo here on the steps of the Battery Park Hotel.

Rhododendron festilval 1940.jpg

AD132

In 1939 WWNC moved its broadcast offices into the brand-new Asheville Citizen and Asheville Times building designed by Anthony Lord of Six Associates. Note the presence of the call letters on the building, as well as the two local papers before their consolidation.

citizen bldg wwnc.jpg

I001-11

And here’s a photo of a small orchestra preparing for a live broadcast in the new building.

Orchestra.jpg

WWNC moved its broadcasting offices and transmission antennas in the mid to late 1940’s to Johnston Road. The new offices were also designed by Anthony Lord at Six Associates.

SA1523

When I moved to Asheville in the early 1960’s, WWNC was best known for playing country western music and informing anxious school children if there was going to be a snow day from school.  Surprisingly–given the music it broadcast regularly–the station  provided the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday Matinee programs from 1933 until about 1969.

On November 23, 1963 The Asheville Citizen reported that WWNC cancelled commercials and entertainment “until further notice” for news and public service broadcasts only.  That date marked the long November weekend after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

In 2002 the station was rebranded as News Radio 570 WWNC featuring a slate of talking heads: Rush Limbaugh, The Sean Hannity Show, and Glenn Beck. In addition it broadcasts some sport chat, religious programing on Sunday, and other news. Like most radio stations today, it broadcasts over the air and online.

Click below to read more about WWNC from a previous post on G.O. Shepherd who renamed the station WWNC.

https://packlibraryncroom.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/g-o-shepherd-sr-mover-and-shaker/

Post by Terry Taylor, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member

4 comments on “Wonderful Western North Carolina: WWNC

  1. Bob Benites
    May 30, 2017

    Terry, a terrific post! Loved the history and photos, especially the photo from the coronation!

  2. Dan Huger
    June 1, 2017

    With all due respect, for shame!

    “It’s first home was in the Flatiron Building downtown.”

    “WWNC moved it’s broadcasting offices and transmission antennas…”

    “He, she, it; his, hers, its; he’s, she’s, it’s…”

    Dan

    In other respects, an interesting post. Back in the late 80s, a magazine, I think it was Esquire, did a feature on country music, including a listing of 100 assorted facts, no doubt thought to be wondrous and strange to the intended — non-country — audience, about the Nashville phenomenon. No. 100 was a comment on WWNC, which for some astounding number of years had been the ratings leader in ITS home market. That was before ClearChannel, of course.

    On 5/30/2017 10:26 AM, HeardTell: The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library wrote: > WordPress.com > packnc posted: ” I’m rarely surprised by items I find in my online > searches. I thought: What an odd postage stamp. Why does it have the > call letters of Asheville’s oldest continually operating radio > station? I placed my bid and waited. When the stamp was mine (for the” >

  3. Mary Jo Brezny
    June 3, 2017

    Thanks for posting this – very interesting – enjoy seeing the old pictures.

  4. Mike Hamrck
    June 10, 2017

    The NC Room at Pack Library also has the original construction photos of the “Transmitter House”, towers and broadcast equipment, which were made by the station’s (new) Chief Broadcast Engineer, W.H. “Bill” Hamrick, an Asheville Native, after his discharge from the US Navy, where he served aboard several ships as Radio Officer.
    The station’s General Manager was William “Bill” Melia and the announcers Reid Wilson and Scotty Rhoadometer (sp) established the station’s familiar voice throughout WNC.
    The RCA AM transmitter pushed out 5,000 watts of broadcast power, reducing this to 1,000 watts, after 6 PM, to comply with it’s FCC Broadcast License Transmitter operations were managed at the Transmitter House, by six, licensed Broadcast Transmitter Operators, who were on-duty, in two shifts, during broadcast hours, from 5:30AM to midnight.
    The station was an affiliate of CBS, carrying nation-wide
    programming from New York, which it received via dedicated telephone line.
    Station competition for listeners was strong and the competitor stations in Asheville were WLOS and WISE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

HeardTell Stats

  • 279,312 views
%d bloggers like this: