Now, transmitting 50,000 watts from three massive towers at Rutherford, Radio WOR started with less power than a microwave 100 years ago.
For the first few months the WOR relied on a tiny transmitter with a power of 250 watts. Its broadcast center was a dark corner of the sporting goods section of the Newark department store.
WOR was just a novelty.
“It was a group of the first radio stations to air retailers,” said Rich Phoenix, a former radio operator and current president of the New Jersey Radio Museum. “They saw the potential and benefits of radio for sale.”
In the case of WOR retailing was Bamberger’s. The store’s owner, Louis Bamberger, has embraced the new technology in front of his rich turntables. He and Walter Moler, his director of public relations, had a plan to profit from the then-open AM bandwidth, Phoenix said.
“WOR was unusual in that Bamberger sought to make his radio station attractive to both the Philadelphia and New York radio markets,” Phoenix said.
To begin with, Bamberger commissioned his new radio salesman, Jacob Popel, to set up the station.
Ash, who built his first wireless radio as a teenager, was something of a radio prodigy. He served in World War I as a radio technician and almost single-handedly launched WOR from a wire stretched between two poles that he propped up on the roof of a department store. Within months, they were replaced by a 200-foot-wide antenna array and massive WOR advertising. Eight months later, WOR became the first American station to be heard in London.
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“In the early days, the bandwidth was wide open and the signals were almost limitless. At one point, they had a night show for China,” Phoenix said. “They also had a leg because they were set up and serviced by one of the largest department stores.”
WOR was not the first station to broadcast in the region. The WABC hit the airways nine months before the WOR debut on February 22, 1922. However, at Christmas 1922, WOR was the only radio station to broadcast in the United States. In the station’s oral history, which is housed at Columbia University, Popelle believes that this broadcast helped WOR survive in the fight against executives who wanted to demolish the station before it made a profit.
Within two years WOR will set up its first studio in Manhattan. More will be built later to accommodate original dramas such as “Nick Carter, Private Detective,” “Shadow,” and “True Detective Secrets.” The station also received celebrations from military officials after the station’s operators helped lead the U.S. Navy’s Shenandoah airship when it escaped from Lakehurst port on January 16, 1924.
In the early years, WOR was known for innovation, both technically and programmatically, Phoenix said. Live music from New York hotels was played at the station. He also broadcast gym classes and bedtime stories, and thanks to an early radio star and WOR holding company president Alfred McCosker, he enshrined a ubiquitous guest.
For the fifth year of work WOR has taken root in the region, according to newspaper reports of that era. To retain its territory and expand coverage, station officials have devised a plan to increase transmission capacity tenfold. In September 1927, WOR became the first New York station to broadcast Columbia Broadcasting System programs. Representatives of the station also achieved their goal by installing a 5,000-watt antenna array in Kearney.
However, Poppele and his team were focused on progress. The next step they will take will be groundbreaking, Phoenix said.
At 35 acres near Arthur Kiel in Carteret, WOR has created a 385-foot-tall directional mask with three antennas and about 40 miles of underground copper wire. Operating to the current standard of 50,000 watts, it was designed to create two broadcast zones in the form of light bulbs covering New York and Philadelphia. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt remotely turned on the transmitter at about 3:30 p.m., March 4, 1935. The broadcast reached the north of New England and South Florida.
The transmitter will remain in operation until 1968. However, WOR would leave North Jersey until 1941, when it launched an FM station.
For most of the 20th century, WOR has often competed with the WABC station, which is in the top 40, at the top of New York AM radio ratings. He specialized in identifying local talent, Phoenix said.
The station became famous thanks to the morning show, which over time was led by three generations of the Gambling family: “Rambling with Gambling”, starting in 1925, and then “The John Gambling Show”, – said Alan Sniffen, a retired dentist from New York. York, which deals with radio. stories online. That’s where Joan Hamburg, a member of the Radio Hall of Fame, started, he added. In the 1990s, Joan Rivers hosted an evening talk show.
In the early days. WOR captured Roosevelt’s famous speeches, the first commercial for “The Adventures of Superman” and the sinking of the cruiser Indianapolis in 1945. Other memorable broadcasts ranged from the announcement of the latest news of the attack on Pearl Harbor to the “American Queen of Opera” Beverly Thresholds singing an ad for Rinso laundry soap, records show.
Gene Shepherd, who wrote the semi-autobiographical film “Christmas Story”, is also known at the station. In the 1950s, Shepard conducted a nightly broadcast from Manhattan. There he told his famous Depression-era tales of growth in a metropolitan city outside of Chicago.
Sniffen said the station’s resilience for more than five decades has been its strength. Listeners were loyal, and the station remained powerful until the 1980s. Although in the 1970s there were more full-time reporters on the TV channel than in the WCBS, which dealt mainly with news rather than news or music. He also had one of two city helicopters, a library at the station and a staff forecaster.
“You can’t believe how great it was,” he said. “But they made a lot of money. These radio stations in those days, because they were very popular and so well established, made a lot of money because it was liked by advertisers.”
When other options appeared, namely FM radio, AM began to decline.
“It was huge, but not now,” he said. “The problem was not in the content. It doesn’t sound very good.”
Poor quality has forced listeners to look elsewhere for content, Sniffen said. Today, AM listeners are usually old enough to remember the heyday of commercial radio, he added. Most people are looking for alternatives with better sound quality, from FM radio to digital podcasts, he said.
In 1968, WOR launched a new triangular array in Lindhurst. It was there, on October 11, 2002, that WOR became the first AM station in New York to go digital. The towers fell in 2007 to make way for a golf course. A modern system appeared in Rutherford last year. This transmission section from the New Jersey Highway is now active among the Berry Creek Swamps.
The WOR now operates as part of the iHeartRadio Clear Channel network as the only FCC-approved station in New York that stores a three-letter call sign. With presenters like Clay Travis and Sean Hannity, he is considered a conservative talk station. Sniffen said many AM talk stations have been such a trend in recent years as the format is more appealing to listeners and therefore advertisers.
This year, on February 22, the station’s programmers plan to show historical clips, as well as interview former presenters and invite listeners to share their stories.
“The station, which has been broadcasting for more than a century, is truly incredible,” said Tom Cady, the radio station’s program director. “710 WOR has a strong connection with the communities we serve, and … it’s nice to see that our reach continues to grow as WOR listeners receive streaming on smart devices and in the iHeartRadio app.”
David Timer is a local NorthJersey.com reporter. To get unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.