History Page 2
WLTI/WJUL/WUML Station History
The musical program was pretty much run by the DJ’s themselves. Also the news was being done on a regular basis around 5:00 PM and consisted of paraphrasing the Lowell Sun. On-campus affairs were rarely broadcast because nothing much was going on. But in 1963 the station started to broadcast basketball games live from Costello Gym. As Carlton told me, “They only did a few home games and they were fairly popular, but it was awful hard to find people to do the broadcasting.”
In 1963, WLTI was “restored.”
That consisted of painting, putting in new glass, washing the floor, creating new shelves and putting an automatic timer for the clock. The remodernization of equipment was basically to calibrate (tune) the transmitter.
WLTI’s managers also planned two proposals to expand the station: to extend the broadcasting to Lowell State College and to file an application for an FM educational broadcast license. Both plans failed. The first plan failed because the Administration would not pay for the installment of the telephone loopline. The other plan, also involving the Administration, failed as well. Because in order to broadcast in FM, WLTI would have to purchase and antenna and a more powerful transmitter. As Carlton pointed out, ‘Richard Ivers, who was the Dean of Students, wasn’t interested in expanding the station anymore than the room-and-a-half.” The Administration told Carlton that there was a liability factor concerning the location of the antenna. The antenna was going to be located on top of Eames Hall. Ivers felt that it was just too risky, but Carlton believed that the Administration just didn’t want WLTI to expand any further than it already was.
An award was created by Carlton Griffin which he felt “should recognize outstanding service to the station.” This award, WLTI Outstanding Service Award, was given by the WLTI General Council. Its first recipient, Charles Cordeau, a Plastics Engineer, was Treasurer and Station Manager in 1963, who also became President in 1964. Charles was chosen because as Carlton pointed out, he exemplified what WLTI was all about. Charles contributions towards recruiting, funding, organizing, and overall direction of WLTI was above and beyond what was expected from its members. “Contributions,” Carlton said, “that shouldn’t go unnoticed.” This award has been given out annually to a member who exemplifies outstanding services to WLTI similar to the contributions made by those like Charles Cordeau.
In the spring of 1963, a proposal put out by the Audio-Visual Society developed a proposal entitled “Educational Radio at Lowell Technical Institute” to discuss the possibility of creating an educational radio station. The proposal basically called for a 250-watt transmitter with a new studio to be located either in a new facility or in the basement of Cumunock Hall. *
*The proposal is located in the basement of the Lydon Library, 1 University Avenue, Lowell, MA. Inside the WJUL Business Office.*
The A.V.S. was created in 1959 to provide free movies to the students. In the fall of 1963, WLTI was taken under the wing of the A.V.S. The reason according to Joseph Kopycinski, librarian and advisor to the A.V.S., was that the station was almost bankrupt, and it was taken over by the A.V.S. which was funded by the administration.
In contrast, Carlton Griffin remembered that he left the station in a pretty good financial position.
The report was never accepted, but WLTI and the Audio-Visual Society were incorporated into one club. In the A.V.S. Constitution of 1964, the club was divided into three branches: **
**A.V.S. Constitution is located in the basement of the Lydon Library, 1 University Ave., Lowell, MA in the WJUL business office**
AUDIO-VISUAL SERVICES: Which was responsible for presenting audio-visual programs for the education and entertainment of LTI students and faculty.
BROADCAST SERICES: Responsible for the operation of radio station WLTI.
TECHNICAL SERICES: Responsible for the establishment and maintenance of all technical equipment of or in the care of the A.V.S.
All were funded by the Administration. The umbrella of the A.V.S. provided WLTI with many advantages. The station no longer needed the commercials, and more time and energy could be devoted to the programming. The radio station became an educational station but not FM. And finally, WLTI could now attract more students to the station because the members of the A.V.S. would interchange within all three branches.
In the years after the merger of WLTI and A.V.S. (1964-67), the station went through some changes to achieve a more professional atmosphere. For example, in 1965, an Electrical Engineering student, Fred Bates (class of 1965) put out a “WLTI Handbook.” This handbook gave a brief description of the technical side of the station and how the Western Electric Console operated. It also included how to patchcord different parts of the station into different studios. *
*The handbook is located in the WJUL Business Office, which is located in the basement of the Lydon Library*
The programming didn’t change much. The station was still doing live broadcasts of the basketball games. In November of 1967, Professor Paul Gay of the Music Department at Lowell State College (LCS) had introduced the idea of starting an FM station. He organized two committees; one for technical problems; the other for finances. The committees hired an engineering consulting firm, Jansky and Baily of Washington DC, which notified LSC that there was one local educational broadcast band left open. Gay hoped to offer two communication courses as electives. He also hoped for a higher quality FM station than the one on Lowell Tech. Unfortunately, the plan fell through due to a lack of building space. Originally, the plan was to build the station on top of the fourth floor of the new LSC Science-Dining Hall building. However, due to a budget cut, the top floor of the building was eliminated so that the space was no longer available. Also in 1969, a commission began to discuss the merger of LTI and LSC. Therefore, Gay decided not to pursue the feasibility of the station until the commission reported its findings to the Massachusetts State Legislature. If the merger was accepted, another station would not be necessary.
The station realized its own dreams when it became an educational FM station on November 26, 1967, at 4:00 PM.
The years from 1967-71 are reconstructed from the memories of Stephen Goldberg, an Electrical Engineering student, who was with WLTI when it moved from the basement of Eames Hall to its present location in the basement of the Lydon Library. As Steve recalled, he got his start with the radio station in 1967. He had some interest in audio-visuals and joined the A.V.S. Many people with the A.V.S. were also station members. Steve commented: “The staff of WLTI was really made up of technicians and very few people who were interested in broadcasting either as a career or even as an art form. This was a problem that hampered the station’s growth.”
One of the big problems, as Steve recalled, was the station itself. As the diagram on the next page shows, the station was divided into two rooms, which were subdivided into a record library, announcer’s booth, and a main control room. In the main room were two relay racks full of equipment. The first piece of equipment was the Ampex tape recorded and as Steve fondly remembered “was our pride and joy, it was the best piece of equipment we had.” Later, WLTI inherited a Magnacorder which stretched the tape so if you had a 40 minute show and a 30 minute tape, the Magnacorder would stretch that tape so you could fit the extra 10 minutes on it. Another piece of equipment was two Gates Cartridges which made a clunking sound when you started the machine. As Steve recalled: “Ordinarily this would not present any major problems, but because the station lacked members, the DJ usually had to broadcast and engineer his own show. So if you were live on-air the sound would be broadcasted over the air.” As Steve re-emphasized, WLTI tolerated a lot of technical problems, because they were carrier current.
WLTI now had a transmitter (10 watts) and an antenna, which broadcasted over the entire campus. At that time the entire campus consisted of Eames, Smith, Cumnock, Southwick, Leitch, and Bourgeois Hall. In addition to the campus community, the station now had a five-mile radius which for the first time encompassed legitimately the community of Lowell. The transmitter and antenna were both located in Southwick Hall. The transmitter was a 19″ low relay-rack, while the antenna was a circular pattern and as Steve recalled: “Did a pretty good job of covering the area.”
The programming was not formatted. WLTI broadcast the top 40 in the morning and folk and rock in the afternoon. Steve pointed out that the person on-air did his own show. But finding someone to do their own show was difficult. As Steve said: “The first priority was finding someone to do the show regularly, dependability and programming was considered secondary.” Because WLTI had a community responsibility, the station members had not realized that they had an audience out there that needed public affairs, sports, and campus news to be broadcast in a professional manner. In the beginning, Steve said: “It was a joke because anything anybody sent us would be played.” As an example, the Air Force marching band would send the tapes to be played. They would play the tape once, then erase it and use it again. As Steve remarked, “It was a good source of free tapes.”
The pride and joy of the programming was the sports coverage. The station had a permanent loopline placed into the Costello Gymnasium and had the telephone company install temporary looplines for the away basketball games, sometimes as far away as Connecticut. And as Steve remembered, the games ran very well, they had a crew taping the game, but it was rather difficult to find enough people to do the games.
The radio station was fortunate enough to be included in the design of the new Lydon Library through the efforts of the A.V.S. advisor, Joe Kopycinski. As Steve recalled: The Administration had a very difficult time accepting the proposal and at one point things got a little shaky.” But as it turned out the Administration accepted Joe’s proposal. The construction started in 1969, and the work done was very extensive. Steve remembered the rubber padding being put under the concrete floors for soundproofing, and thick, concrete walls. The cost of the construction was around a quarter of a million dollars. The importance and success of this new station would depend on the emphasis placed on the equipment specifications. This part of the project was handled by Dick Lynch who, as Steve mentioned, inherited the project. Dick Lynch was Chief Engineer and made sure that only the best technical equipment would be used for the new station. For example, the station bought McCurdy consoles and QRK turntables and also Sparta cartridges, which were the best money could buy.
Steve took a leading role in the project, even though he wasn’t a senior, but class rank meant nothing. It was the amount of time you put into the station. And Steve got the title of Engineering Technician and that job entitled screwing consoles into place and wiring and a lot of other interesting things.
There were delays in the construction and some people who had a hand in the project never saw the entire station finished. One of those people was Larry Artz. Larry had worked at WLTI, and upon graduation he found a job working at CBS in New York. One day WLTI received a spool of copper wiring six feet in diameter, compliments of CBS and Larry Artz. “Naturally,” Steve said, “We guarded it like gold!” There was enough wire to do the entire station, and it came in handy. Other people who were involved in the construction were Ken Verge and Ted Duziack.
Some of the problems encountered with the construction were logistical. For example, Steve said WLTI had a problem with some of the bids. “Some of the specifications were changed so when the bid packages went out it allowed them to bid for a lower package, but it was discovered and the specifications reinstated.” The only technical problems were what were called “cross-talks” and “ground-loops.” The problems happened because Dick Lynch insisted that a system of patch panels be installed into the station. Patch panels would allow any equipment in the station to be patched into any studio. Of course, the presented a major technical problem because patching would involve a tremendous amount of wiring. That “gift of gold” by Artz, as Steve mentioned, went to good use.
It took an entire summer of hard work to get the patch panels and equipment all wired up. When it was time to throw the big switch, Steve remembered, “We heard a Hummmm, in every wire. We forgot that the gains from the amplifiers were so great that they produced a Hummmm.” And they also didn’t realize that ground loops that have 40-50 wires have different grounds. So, Steve said that they solved the technical problems by “calling some of our friends in the industry.” They chased all the ground wires down and tied them all into one ground. This ended up being the biggest “technical challenge” Steve ever experienced.
The next technical challenge was a structural error in the building: The ceiling that they built for the transmitter room was six inches too short. The radio station had already purchased a 10,000-watt transmitter from WNAC Boston which sat in the tunnel while construction was being done. Once the work was finished, they wheeled the transmitter into the room and immediately noticed that it wasn’t going to fit standing up. The best that they could do was to stand it on its side. The first thing was to check the specifications for the ceiling height for that particular transmitter and indeed the ceiling was too low. Next they tried to look up the costs of modifying the ceiling of a poured concrete building; they found it was strictly prohibited. Steve commented: “We had a newly constructed station but unfortunately no transmitter.
Joe Kopycinski suggested a new transmitter. Transmitters were being built smaller but with the same power. The radio station staff decided to buy a 1000-watt transmitter for $4000 and it is still used by the station today. The other transmitter was dismantled and sold for parts.
As if the transmitter problem wasn’t bad enough, the antenna pattern gave the station even more to worry about. The antenna was located on top of the Lydon Library, but that did not pose a problem. The problem had to do with the construction permit to broadcast at a higher power. WLTI was broadcasting at 91.5mhz and next to them on the FM band was the station WPAA at Andover Academy which was a small 10 watt station broadcasting on 91.7mhz. When WLTI applied for its license for a 10,000-watt transmitter, WPAA protested by saying WLTI would blow them right off the airwaves. WLTI offered to buy WPAA a new frequency either up or down the dial, but they refused.
The solution to this problem was to set up an antenna pattern that would reduce the power heading out towards Andover Academy. So the station hired Phelps Dodge as a contractor to design a new pattern. As Steve explained, instead of being circular like most FM antennas, this one was going to be highly directional. Phelps Dodge had a terrible time trying to produce an acceptable pattern to satisfy everyone. As a result, WLTI only transmits 200 watts of power towards the Andover station area. What was the station doing while the construction was going on? Broadcasting, of course. As Steve pointed out, the station never went off the air and continued to operate in the basement of Eames Hall.
When the station went on air in its new facilities in 1971, the station made two changes: in programming and in staff. In 1971, Steve Goldberg became the General Manager and his roommate Pat Carlone became Program Director. Richard Lynch had resigned his post as President of the A.V.S. in February 1970, but he stayed on as a technical and general advisor for the station.
He later proved to be a valuable Alumni-station member. Because the station had a much more powerful signal, the programming had to be geared to the college area, but Steve realized that “the station had a responsibility to the community also.”
The live broadcasting of the basketball games continued and, with the acquisition of the United Press International newswire on October 30, 1970, WLTI broadcast national as well as local news, sports, and weather. This brought to the programming two big newsbreaks during the day and shorter news spots on the hour.
Other programming involved community interest programs. The radio station did a live remote from the Bon Marche Department Store located in downtown Lowell to encourage people to contribute toys, clothing, etc., to be redistributed by the charitable agencies in Lowell. This “Christmas Kindness Campaign” was promoted with the distribution of blue and white buttons which read “Try A Little Kindness.” The buttons were donated by the Clairol Corporation to promote their new hair treatment Kindness. The campaign became a yearly event, but when the station first committed itself it had no remote console, and no money in its budget to go out and purchase one. So through his own initiative, Steve went down to the new station and built a console himself. He used a drill press and a bunch of amplifier modules and just built it. He also went out to Radio Shack and bought some cue amplifiers. And when it was done: “It wasn’t the most elegant, but it worked and that’s all that counted.”
Steve also remembers doing some very special Halloween shows and in particular a show done in 1971. Here’s how Steve recalled that eerie moment:
I was General Manager of WLTI and I sent my Program Director Pat Carlone and Bill Kinton out to find a place where we could hold a séance. Well, they found a place. There was a very old private hospital in Lowell owned by a Dr. Shaw. The hospital, from the outside, looked like a medieval castle and it was connected by a tunnel. We went to Dr. Shaw to ask for his permission to use the place for our broadcast. When we appeared in his driveway we saw what appeared to be an Ark, similar to the Biblical description of Noah’s Ark, being built in his driveway. What completed the picture was that Dr. Shaw looked just like Noah himself.
Dr. Shaw said that the hospital was not being used anymore and that it was used in the very early part of this century. And if we found that we liked it we could use it for our broadcast. What we found was amazing. The inside looked like a castle, just as it did on the outside, all stone faced. The operating rooms had dry blood on the floors. There was an operating table positioned below a skylight that had cobwebs on it. And there was a manual elevator shaft used to pull patients up to the operating room. Well, needless to say this suited our purposes just fine.
The next thing we needed was to find somebody who knew how to perform a séance. I don’t know how he found one, but Bill Kinton found a witch. This was a real witch, from a witches clan in New Jersey, who agreed to do the seance for us. So now that we had the hospital and a witch, all we needed was people. So we invited a small number of about twenty people to attend the seance. But one thing we agreed upon with Dr. Shaw was to keep the whereabouts of the hospital a secret. So we had the members meet us at the station and we subsequently blindfolded each member. We then escorted them to Dr. Shaw’s house, brought them inside, and had them remove their blindfolds.
The members were escorted upstairs inside the operating room with the skylight and the full moon shining in. We had a telephone repairman install a temporary loopline to allow us to broadcast the séance. Amazing things began to happen, the witch began to feel things in the air. She didn’t know that this was a hospital. She started talking about abortions and babies being killed. She also started to talk about an underground passageway. So we decided to explore the hospital and allow the witch to lead the way. We got some flashlights out and started walking through the hospital. She led us to a secret passageway that lead into the basement of the hospital where she found a bloody doll. I think everybody at that point ran upstairs. There was absolute utter panic so we decided to terminate the broadcast, got everyone out of there, and never went back again. The event was captured on tape and was used for about two years as part of a special Halloween Eve production.
In addition to broadcasting Christmas and Halloween events, Steve also mentioned broadcasting live, the Annual Lowell Banana Eating Contest. WLTI also had participants in the contest as well.
WLTI publicized itself to the campus and community. For example, the station got some book covers which carried advertisement funded by the advertiser, Caesar Pizza in Lowell. The pizza parlor owner picked “an awful muddy-lime green.” They had 5000 book covers printed, but only a handful were distributed. And Steve jokingly remembered, “Ceasar Pizza could never figure out why so few of them were ever seen on books.”
The relationship with the Administration remained mutually cooperative. The station never got really caught-up in the controversies that were going on over the Vietnam War or the compulsory ROTC in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. As Steve remembered, that at Lowell Tech: “There was no time for protesting or controversy, it was hard enough just to keep your grades going.” The “editorial policy” of the station was to broadcast both sides, never taking one. Although personal opinions about Administrative problems could be aired, the material had to be reviewed before it was read on-air.
The relationship between Leo King, who became the new Dean of Students in 1969, and the editorial policy worked well. The first real test was the demonstrations for female housing on-campus in 1971. Dean King recalled that the station presented a fair opinion on controversial issues, but in 1972 the educational programming was only about 5%.
Steve graduated in 1972, due to the fact that he received a 0.75 cum average in one of his semester sessions. As Steve commented, “I had to find out what my priorities were.” This was a constant problem for many of the dedicated people at WLTI. Most of them like Steve agreed that although running the station hurt their grades, it was a very rewarding experience.