This weekend I’ll be immersing myself in college radio history during some special events honoring the 90th anniversary of student radio at Haverford College (see the full alumni weekend schedule here). I’m hopeful that many alumni will attend, as I’m looking forward to learning even more about the storied past of the many stations at Haverford.
Students built commercial AM radio station WABQ in 1923 and its first test broadcasts were in December of that year. Within a few years it grew to be one of the most powerful AM stations in the Philadelphia area, yet many Haverford alumni are completely unaware of the story of WABQ. By 1927 the station was sold off and broadcasting didn’t resume on campus until the early 1940s. Campus-only carrier current broadcasting revitalized the Haverford Radio Club and students began experimenting with dorm-based stations around 1941.
Soon after, a carrier current station, dubbed WHAV, was built in the cramped attic of the Union building where it remained until the early 1970s. Its call letters were changed to WHRC in the late 1940s. From the 70s to the 90s radio was a popular campus activity, with students now broadcasting from a larger space in the basement of the dining center. Radio petered out on campus beginning in the late 1990s, was revived again with the launch of an Internet station in the early 2000s, died again, and was again reborn within the past couple of years.
Through all the ups and downs, Haverford’s radio stations were an important campus activity for many students. In the course of my correspondence with alumni from the 1940s through 2000s, I’ve been struck by all of the vivid and fond memories that have been shared with me. I can’t wait to meet many of these former college radio participants this weekend and look forward to their tales.
If you are in the Philadelphia area, please stop by to see an exhibit documenting Haverford radio history in the Magill Library (maybe we’ll get to see this vintage stamp!). There will be an opening reception for the exhibit on Saturday beginning at 3:30pm. Midway through the reception, we’ll take a walking tour of some old Haverford College radio haunts, pointing out all of the places where radio has taken place over the years. We’ll also peek into some former and current WHRC spaces to reminisce and see how radio is being done in 2014. On Sunday, there will be a panel discussion from 9am-11am, featuring WHRC alumni from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and present-day. I’m also hopeful that many other radio alumni in the audience will contribute to the discussion.
As I’ve researched Haverford’s radio history, I feel like I’ve become closer not only to my college, but also to fellow alumni. It’s pretty incredible to connect with people based on the shared experience of college radio, especially when it happened at the same station during different eras.
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