November 28 - December 5, 2002
WOWO, Fort Wayne, Indiana
A couple of weeks ago, the Indianapolis Star ran a
article about the Tower Site Calendar - and in the process
exposed to the world the sad truth that, yes, your humble editor's
bachelor party took place at, yes, a transmitter site.
And so, as we spend this Thanksgiving holiday back in Fort
Wayne, Indiana, where said wedding happened, we decided it was
time to share the pictures with the world. No strippers, no drunken
frivolity, but hey, we've got pretty tubes!
most of the groom's party (and a few other wedding guests) in
the picture at right, as we arrived at the transmitter site in
question on that May afternoon in 1996.
The site, along US 24 some 20 miles southwest of Fort Wayne
in Roanoke, Indiana, is of course that of the legendary WOWO
(1190), which was still cranking out 50 kilowatts day and night
when we visited.
And the big blue beast in the picture above is the very transmitter
over which many of us first heard WOWO and learned all about
the World-Famous WOWO Fire Escape and the city of Fort Wayne.
The engineers at WOWO call that transmitter "George"
(it is, after all, a Westinghouse!), and at least when we visited,
it was still able to be fired up for auxiliary use. Look at those
tubes glow...and at the nice work a local auto-body place did
on the metal panels along the front of the transmitter.
(Seeing "George" in the, um, flesh was a particular
thrill for one member of the party; Peter George, seen in the
blue baseball cap in the photo below, was a particular fan of
WOWO. In fact, he was one of the founders of the "WOWO Listeners
Guild," the ill-fated attempt to save WOWO's class A status
and 50 kW night signal from the deal that cut it down to 9800
watts and gave New York's WLIB night power on 1190.)
Paul Phillips standing at the left in the picture of the transmitter
room; he was WOWO's afternoon talk host then, and graciously
arranged this Saturday-afternoon transmitter visit.
Behind him is the processing rack, with an Optimod processor
(yes, WOWO was running AM stereo back then) and the receive gear
for the very long microwave STL path back to Fort Wayne.
At the rear of the room is the phasor to generate WOWO's night
pattern, which then protected only KEX in Portland, Oregon, and
at the right side of the picture is WOWO's Harris MW50 transmitter.
Out to the field out back we go, then: WOWO had three towers
then and still has three towers now; after cutting back to 9800
watts in 1998, WOWO has applied to power back up to 15 kW at
night. (In the meantime, of course, other stations on 1190 have
joined WOWO and WLIB in reconfiguring this particular spot on
the dial, including applications from the 1190 in Kansas City
to modify its night power and pattern.)
50 kilowatts of nondirectional day power do just fine in northeastern
Indiana and adjacent parts of Michigan and Ohio; the ground conductivity
in this part of the country is right at the middle of the spectrum,
so WOWO has never been a powerhouse daytime signal in places
like Indianapolis, Chicago or Detroit, though it can be heard
decently in all but Chicago, where WLXX on 1200 gets in the way.
(Fort Wayne, with no locals at the low end of the AM dial, gets
nice daytime signals from stations like WLW, WGN, WJR and CKLW
all year round.)
night pattern back then was a fairly simple kidney-bean shape:
one null towards Portland and a big lobe to just about everywhere
else. With nothing much else on 1190 in the northeast, WOWO was
a regular down in Georgia (where WGKA Atlanta signed off 1190
at sunset), Florida, and up the East Coast into New England.
(That's a closeup, at left, of the map at right being photographed
by Blaine Thompson, who would later make a name for himself as
editor of the Indiana Radio Watch.)
The new 9800-watt night pattern uses the same three towers,
forming a sort of north-south footprint pattern, with the "heel"
covering most of the state of Indiana and the "toes"
shooting north over Michigan and into Canada. With the site being
so far out from Fort Wayne (and with Fort Wayne's suburban sprawl
moving west and north, away from the transmitter), there was
a great deal of worry among radio buffs that the new WOWO night
pattern wouldn't serve the entire market.
The reality has been less dire; WOWO is still the best AM
signal in town, and it still does fairly well after dark all
the way to the Ohio state line, a good 40 miles from here.
in any event, by the time we took these pictures the local nighttime
music programming on WOWO was gone, replaced by satellite talk
with little of the local flair that had distinguished WOWO for
listeners after dark around the country.)
One more note before we go: Back in 1996, memories were still
fresh of WOWO-FM, just down US 24 from here. It was on 103.1
and then on 102.9, a little class A signal licensed to Huntington.
(It had earlier been WHLT-FM and WHUZ before being bought by
WOWO's then-owner, Price Communications, in the eighties.)
When AM 1190 was sold to Federated Media, the FM went to Robert
Taylor, owner of WXKE (103.9), who renamed it WEXI and programmed
it first as a WXKE simulcast and later with dance music. The
tower's still there, and now 102.9 is itself carrying the WXKE
calls, simulcasting modern rock from WXTW (102.3 Auburn).
And that's a little look at a big station that's been through
some big changes. Admit it - you wouldn't have minded having
a bachelor party there either, would you?
Want to see more neat sticks all year
round? Nashville's WSM (at left) is 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 WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's
WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma
City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson;
Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling,
W.V.; WGN Chicago 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 very soon, and if you
order now, you'll have yours in hand by late 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
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!