October 10-17, 2002
Johnstown and Gloversville, N.Y.
markets just stay the same, year after year - same old studio
buildings, same old towers, and not much reason to pull the NERW-mobile
off the highway for a repeat visit once we've seen most of the
sites the place has to offer.
Then there are places like Johnstown and Gloversville, a pair
of adjacent communities an hour or so west of Albany and just
north of the Thruway. We spent a night there in 1998 on the way
to New England, and the next morning caught everything in the
market on film and tape.
All done? Not hardly! Four years later, not one thing that
we saw remains the same, which is why we've been back in town
recently to catch up with everything that's new.
Take, for instance, the lowest spot on the Johnstown-Gloversville
dial, WIZR (930) in Johnstown. When we visited in 1998, it was
locally owned, in tandem with WSRD (104.9 Johnstown), operating
from a rather blue house at 178 E. State Street, just east of
the intersection of routes 67 and 30A. The AM side did standards,
mostly off the satellite but with a morning show hosted by the
station's owner. (When we taped it, he was rambling at great
length about his daughter and playing very little music!)
tower was just south of the studio building on 30A (the main
route north from the Thruway into Johnstown and Gloversville),
set back in an open field next to a car dealership.
WSRD (which stood for "Wizard" and used to be WIZR-FM;
the AM spent some time as WMYL in the eighties) was also on the
satellite, even in mornings, playing oldies and breaking only
to relay newscasts from Albany's WTEN (Channel 10). We found
its transmitter up in the hills a couple of miles west of Johnstown,
near the corner of North Bush and Egan roads - and behind a bunch
of trees and a big rock painted with "FM105."
One reason we planned that visit in 1998 was that we knew
there would be changes coming at WIZR/WSRD. Owner Joseph Caruso
had already filed for (and been granted) a move on the FM side
from Johnstown to Altamont, which would (combined with a transmitter
site change to Helderberg Mountain, home of so many Albany FM
and TV transmitters) turn 104.9 into an Albany-market signal.
(Some Albany listeners already knew 104.9 as the longtime
home of Mets broadcasts, which were otherwise unavailable in
the market for many seasons; the signal from Johnstown was, while
not incredible, at least usable.)
Not long after our visit, Caruso sold the stations to Albany
Broadcasting, and the next spring 104.9 said goodbye to Johnstown
and took up residence in the Capital District, changing calls
to (very briefly, and never on air) WAAP, then WZMR and flipping
to modern AC as "The Point." That turned out to be
a trademarked name, so the station then became "Z 104.9,"
flipping again before the end of 1999 to smooth jazz, the format
it still uses today.
we're interested in Johnstown and Gloversville this week, not
Albany, so let's instead follow the story of AM 930, shall we?
Albany Broadcasting tried to sell the station to a company
called IZ Communications, but the deal was never consummated
and the station remained in Albany's hands.
It ended up moving out of the blue house on State Street into
a building across Route 30A from the tower and changing format
to oldies, and that's what it's doing even now, with a renewed
local presence and visibility.
The old blue house is now painted gray, and the neighborhood
has changed so much since 1998 that when we passed by in early
2002, we thought that even the 930 tower had relocated since
our last visit! As for the old FM transmitter site, we haven't
been back up there to see if the tower is still standing; we
don't recall seeing any tenants there beside WSRD.
Moving north to Gloversville, things don't look as
though they've changed much since 1998, and they certainly don't
sound as though they've changed much. For more than 50 years,
there's been one AM station in Gloversville: WENT (1340), and
what an AM station it is. From that little yellow building on
Harrison Street Extension, WENT does everything a little community
station should do, from lost dog reports to noontime obituaries,
all wrapped around a nice blend of AC, oldies and more.
Looks can be deceiving,
though: last winter, a nasty storm took down most of the old
Truscon tower behind the WENT studios, briefly knocking the station
off the air and keeping it at reduced power for a while until
a new tower could be built.
The new stick, seen at left in a photo taken in late September,
was built on the same base as the old one.
Yes, it's OK that it's painted completely orange - it's so
short that there are no FAA painting or lighting requirements
for it. And yes, WENT keeps on doing what it does best, providing
a real community service for an area that gets very little coverage
from the big Albany TV stations. It's always a pleasure to tune
in 1340 as we drive through the area, and we highly recommend
it if you find yourself between exits 27 and 29 on the Thruway.
Gloversville may watch its network programming out of Albany,
but there was a local TV station on our hotel-room set: W49BA,
which was doing home shopping by the time we checked into the
Holiday Inn, but which programmed some local shows as well earlier
in the evening. (We even saw a big sign on a building in downtown
Gloversville advertising the W49BA studios!)
It's still on the
air, as far as we know, but it changed calls, too, becoming WFNY-LP
a year or so after our visit. And it's getting some company:
a couple of years after we passed through, WFNY-LP's owner, Michael
Sleezer applied for and was granted a new AM station in Gloversville.
With 800 watts day, 500 watts night on 1440, and directional
at that, the new station won't be a major flamethrower, but we're
sure any new local signal will be welcome in the Glove City -
and it won't be long before it's on the air.
Granted the calls WFNY (surprised?) in summer 2002, the station
soon began to put its towers up next to a trucking company's
yard on South Boulevard, just off Harrison Street less than a
mile from WENT. We stopped by in late September, drawn by a report
that the station had already been testing.
There were no signs of 1440 on the air, but the towers were
certainly up. We had a nice long chance to stare at them; pulling
back out to the road to head home, we heard a nasty "thump-thump-thump"
and discovered we had a flat tire! It was soon fixed and we were
back on the way, pausing only to drive through downtown Gloversville
to see if the sign still said "W49BA" (It did.)
Once WFNY starts doing regular programming, we'll have to
head back to this little market again for a listen...stay tuned!
Like our recent WTIC picture? It's
one of the more than a dozen Tower Site images featured in the
2003 Tower Site Calendar, coming this fall from Tower Site of
the Week and fybush.com.
If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality
images (in addition to Avon Mountain, this year's edition includes
Providence's WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN;
KOMA in Oklahoma City; the legendary WSM, Nashville; Brookmans
Park, England; WPAT, Paterson; Four Times Square, New York; WIBC
in Indianapolis and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient
hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall
on the right days!
This year's calendar will go to press in late October, and
if you order now, you'll have yours in hand by mid-November,
in plenty of time for the holidays. And this year, you can order
with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express by using
the handy link below!
Better yet, here's an incentive to make your 2003 NERW/Site
of the Week subscription pledge a little early: support NERW/fybush.com
at the $60 level or higher, and you'll get this lovely calendar
for free! How can you go wrong? (Click here
to visit our Support page, where you can make your NERW contribution
with a major credit card...)
You can also order by mail; just send a check for $16
per calendar (NYS residents add 8% sales tax), shipping included,
to Scott Fybush, 92 Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester
Thanks for your support!