Sunday, April 05, 2009
Radio Station WSMD
Before WBOC, WICO and WJDY there was WSMD. Radio Station WSMD was the first AM radio station in Salisbury, Maryland. It was started in 1928 and operated on 1130KC and had a power of 1000 watts. It operated very close to Atlantic City’s Radio Station WPG (at 5000 watts and on 1100 KC). In May of 1928 the Salisbury-Wicomico Chamber of Commerce started a drive to raise $1,000 to buy and install equipment for the station. In turn so many hours of local air time would be provided by the operator of the station. The work was done by Thomas F. Little, General Manager of the Radio Corporation of Virginia, who installed and operated the station. T. F. Little purchased the equipment of WBES ("Bliss Electrical School") that was located in Takoma Park, MD, (In turn WBES equipment had originally been purchased from Woodward and Lothrop when the department store discontinued operation of WIAY). Little installed the equipment in the Wicomico Hotel. WSMD was the only radio station in Maryland outside of Baltimore and Salisbury had it. I can only assume the call letters WSMD had some reference to Salisbury MD.
WSMD had as competition, in 1928, WJZ, WABC, and WCBS New York, WBAL Baltimore, WOO and WCAU Philadelphia, WRC Washington and WPG Atlantic City. Arrangements were made to tie into WJZ programming, as WJZ featured "popular airs, dance music and lectures”. It was an RCA station that became NBC. WSMD was heard as far away as Connecticut.
At that time the Federal Radio Commission, the equivalent of today’s FCC, stressed having live music instead of playing records. WSMD had such local talent and locally produced shows such as; Charles and Clarence Hitch with their Fiddle and banjo Music, Jimmy Perry and his Honey Boys consisting of Howard Riggin, Paul Taylor, William Booth, and Eddie Davis, and W. O. Dolan and his Bathnite Syncopators consisting of; Jack Lake, W. Arthur Kennerly, Fletcher White, Miss Ruth Truitt and Davido Cortez. Naturally Sunday entertainment consisted of church services.
A look at a 1928 WSMD Saturday program of local talent looked like this;
12:00 to 1:00 PM – Luncheon Music featuring Miss Jane Truitt, pianist.
6:30 PM to 6:40 PM Mike Delan, King of the Ivories
6:40 PM to 6:50 PM News Flashes, Base Ball Scores, Market and Weather reports by the Salisbury Times
7:00 PM Correct Time by Fishers
7:00 PM to 7:30 PM Orthophonic Request program
11:00 PM Mike Dolan and his Bathnite Syncopators.
I assume in the air times not shown was when they switched back to WJZ programming.
I do not know when WSMD went out of business and turned in their license, no doubt by the early 1930’s. It was followed by WSAL that operated on 1200 KC with 250 watts of power. It was on WSAL in 1939 that Delmar Mayor L. T. Lockerman gave his history of Delmar on the segment called “Know Your Town”. It was transcribed to the Bi-State Weekly February 10, 1939 edition and is used to this day as a reference on Delmar. Joe Long at one time emailed me saying his self and other baseball players would stop by the station and talk on air about the games they played. Willis Conover worked at WSAL in 1939 as a part-time radio announcer. He was attending the State Teacher's College at Salisbury, Md at the time. Willis Conover was one of the most famous American Jazz announcers in the world but was virtually unknown in America. He did a Jazz show on Voice of America Radio for forty years, and was known to millions of people around the world but since Voice of America was forbidden to broadcast in the U.S., it was only the rest of the world who knew him. WSAL, Salisbury, Md. Broadcast License of licensee belonging to Frank M. Sterns was revoked, effective March 31, 1940.
In addition there was a radio station WMVD Salisbury, Md. The Licensee (Delmarva Broadcast Co.) voluntarily surrendered their construction permit On May 21. 1940. I have no knowledge of their operation.
In 1940 WBOC AM Radio was founded and operated in the beginning on 960 KC and so now you know a little about radio history in Salisbury, Maryland.
Actually, most smaller, community radio stations were assigned call letters which in many cases were initials for their town or nearby city.(ie: WAMD, Aberdeen, MD./ WBAL, Baltimore / WDOV, Dover, DE) In Seaford, DE.. there was WSUX (for Sussex County).. Can you imagine, someone actually requested that... W-sucks..
The reason for the town identification; back in the 20's & 30's, we didn't have the electronic technology, that we obviously have today.
Airplanes had to use radio station signals to navigate. So, the pilots had to listen for those call letters to triangulate their coordinates, or they could then beam in on the signal. Back then all radio stations were required to identify themselves, within 2 minutes of the top and bottom of each hour. Today, the actual call letters have to be broadcast a min. of once an hour, somewhere in the proximity of the top of the hour.
So, there ya' go!
Thanks for the radio history. Broadcasting has always fasinated me, growing up with WWTR's tower visible from my backyard. Cool station back when the Conner family owned it.