Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s the end of summer as we write this week’s installment (and thanks for your patience during our brief summer hiatus as we were out collecting lots of great photos and stories to share with you in the months to come). Here on this week’s Site of the Week, it’s a frigid midwinter day as we recap a little February visit to the Mohawk Valley, traveling along the Thruway between Utica and Albany.
We start this week with some quick stops in Amsterdam, just 30 miles or so outside Albany. It’s a quick jaunt northward from the Amsterdam Thruway exit across the big bridge into the city’s downtown, where some questionable urban renewal in the 1970s plopped an enclosed shopping center, the Riverfront Center, on the east side of downtown. Much of the mall is vacant now, but a few tenants remain, including the headquarters of the Cranesville Block Company and the radio stations it owns. Peer through that storefront window and you’ll see WCSS (1490 Amsterdam), as well as studio facilities for sister stations WIZR (930 Johnstown), WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville) and WYVS (96.5 Speculator).
Go the other way off the Thruway exit, south on NY 30 into the hills, and you’ll see Amsterdam’s other AM station. WVTL (1570) and its translator on 104.7 are part of the Roser cluster whose Utica studios we saw a few installments ago, and with the retirement of morning man Bob Cudmore there’s no local programming left at this small facility.
What’s lacking in local over there can be found in abundance just a few miles to the northwest, where WENT (1340 Gloversville) is live and local all day long from its studio/transmitter facility on Harrison Street Extension, right off the NY 30A bypass that connects Gloversville and its sister city, Johnstown.
WENT signed on in 1944, one of those rare stations that managed to get equipment together to launch during World War II. (Founder George F. Bissell later applied his own initials up north to one of his Plattsburgh stations, WGFB, now WBTZ 99.9) It’s made its transmitter home out here east of downtown from the beginning, moving its studios to the Harrison Street site in the mid-1960s.
Under owner Jack Scott, whose Whitney Broadcasting has owned the station since the late 1980s, WENT has remained a classic small-town operation. These are simple but very functional studios: turn left down the hallway when you walk in and you’ll find the big main air studio on the right, where we find John Markiewicz doing the midday shift. (He’s been here since the mid-1970s!)
There’s no computer or automation here at all, just carts and 45s and live voices. The main air studio looks into the production studio at the end of the hall, which looks back into the newsroom/news studio that’s across the hall from the air studio. News director Tom Roehl not only does morning and afternoon news, he’s also the main voice of WENT’s sports play-by-play.
Out back, a short catwalk connects the office side of the 1960s building to the little 1944-vintage transmitter shack out back. That vintage Collins rig still works, though the Nautel to the right now handles daily on-air duties for AM 1340. WENT also added a translator on 105.1 a few years back, which is also located on the tower here. The original 1944 tower came down in a tornado in 2002, and this is a newer replacement.
(You can see the original tower in this 2002 Site of the Week installment.)
Thanks to WENT’s Jack Scott for the tour!
THE RADIO HISTORIAN’S CALENDAR IS OUT!
This is a special year for radio, and The Radio Historian is celebrating its 100-odd-year history in the 2022 calendar The calendar features images originating from original black-and-white photographs, digitally remastered and colorized to replicate the original scenes as accurately as possible. You can order it from us here.
And when you buy the Radio Historian calendar, don’t forget to buy the Tower Site Calendar — perfect in any room. We’re marking the 20th anniversary of the Tower Site Calendar, and we’re also celebrating the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. Our calendar showcases the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations. It’s nearly off the press and will ship in time for Christmas. Order yours here.
And check out our other great merchandise!
And don’t miss a big batch of IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Hamilton, Ontario