Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
The US 6 corridor across northwestern Pennsylvania isn’t the sort of place you’re likely to randomly happen across. I-80, an hour or so to the south, is a much more direct east-west route across the Keystone State for travelers in a hurry.
But if you’re in the mood for pretty scenery, small towns and some interesting radio stops, come along for a ride on the old road and see what we saw on a lazy autumn afternoon late last year.
Kane, Pennsylvania isn’t a huge place – just 3500 people! – but it’s an important commercial center near the junction of east/west US 6 and US 219, the north-south corridor that connects Buffalo and New York’s Southern Tier to western Pennsylvania.
For many years, there was a commercial station here, a daytimer on 960. Originally WADP in 1954, it was long known as WKZA, then briefly as WQLE before falling silent for good in 1992. An FM competitor, WLMI on 103.9, came along in the 1980s, but was eventually moved northeast out of town toward the Olean/Smethport area;hea it’s now Family Life’s WCOP in Eldred, PA. Public radio came to town a few years later via a relay of Penn State’s WPSU from State College; WPSX (90.1 Kane) has a big class B signal from a site just south of Kane.
And there’s once again local radio here in the form of a fun little low-power FM. WXZY-LP (101.7) hit the air in 2014, using the old WLMI studios right behind the main commercial strip in downtown Kane.
As for the old WKZA calls, they stayed in the greater Route 6 corridor: head northwest on 6 from Kane up toward Warren (you’ll pass a tiny little FM along the way, K-Love’s WJKB 105.1 on a rooftop in Sheffield) and you’ll soon come into listening range of the current WKZA, on 106.9 licensed to Lakewood, NY.
That’s an adjacent community to the larger Jamestown market, and these days “Kiss” is part of the Jamestown-based Media One cluster, but the transmitter site is on an old microwave tower on the Pennsylvania side of the line, on Lanning Hill in Lander, off Route 957 northeast of Warren.
A former sister station is also up here on the tower: WLKW-FM (95.3 Celoron NY) started as a talk station under the previous ownership, but it’s now part of EMF’s K-Love network from that two-bay antenna on the side of one of the tower’s legs.
Warren itself is a bigger commercial center along Route 6, and we showed you the local stations there in last week’s installment of Site of the Week.
Keep going south of Warren on US 62 and you’ll find yourself on a very remote, very scenic drive down the narrow valley the Allegheny River cuts on its way down to Oil City and eventually to Pittsburgh.
You don’t hear much radio down here as you drive through the little towns of Tidioute and Tionesta, but we were headed down this way to capture a transitional moment here. The regional Family Life network has a commercial-band class A signal down this way, on 106.1 licensed to Farmington Township and serving Oil City and Clarion. It had the WCOP calls when we visited in 2020, but it’s since swapped those calls out to become WCGH, still transmitting from a tower on a farm across the river to the southeast of Tionesta.
A year ago, this wasn’t the only Family Life signal on this tower. Those three bays lower down were WCGT, then on 89.1 licensed to Tionesta. Family Life acquired this signal (then known as WGIP) from Calvary Chapel of Russell earlier in 2020 and began moving it out of town, first from the middle of Tionesta to the 106.1 tower – and then continuing to shift it south.
Not long after we took these pictures, WCGT was on the move again, relicensing to 88.7 in Clintonville and moving south toward I-80 near Knox, with another move in the works to get it closer to Franklin and Grove City. (Family Life maintained “first local service” to Tionesta by relicensing its station in Jamestown, New York, WCOT 90.9, to Tionesta.)
With daylight waning, we headed back north up 62 into Warren, and then westward along the US 6 corridor to a few more stops before sunset.
There’s one more Family Life signal up here, literally right on the New York-Pennsylvania state line almost within sight of New York’s southwest corner.
WCGM (102.7 Wattsburg) rimshots Erie from its little tower on the New York side of State Line Road, and it also provides a good Family Life signal into Corry, just a few miles south of the state line along US 6.
With 6600 people, Corry is just big enough to support its own little local station. WWCB (1370) started back in 1955 as a 500-watt daytimer, WOTR, eventually growing to 1000 watts by day and 500 watts at night from two towers just north of town right off Route 6.
WWCB was in a state of transition when we drove through in late 2020, past the towers and its Main Street studio. Now that it has a translator on 94.1, it’s dropping down to a single tower and reducing night power to just 14 watts – and it’s in the process of being sold to LECOM, the Erie-based medical college that owns WMCE (88.5) in Erie.
There’s a local LPFM here, WHYP-LP (98.9), and on a future trip when there’s more daylight we’ll have to get back and get a better look at its site south of Corry, as well as at two more LPFMs just to the west where US 6 meets state route 8, WWUC-LP (96.7) in Union City and WUUK-LP (105.7) in Canadohta Lake.
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 Northwest PA IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Boston’s WBZ Turns 100