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The History of WIDR: April, 1949 - December 1985
By Laurie A. Cerny, CAS 385

WIDR-FM beagan as WIDR-AM and was first brought into being as a student council proposal on April 14, 1949 as 7:30 PM. An excerpt from that evening's meeting states:

"A plan for a radio station for the students to broad - cast to the dormitories was brought forth by Bill Cook. Among his plans were an NBC affiliation amd $5 commercials for business men. The begining expenses should be $300 or $400."

WIDR was still only in a discussion stage until February 15, 1952 when it began to re-broadcast Western's WMCR-FM (now WMUK) to Draper-Siedschlag Halls. Until this time a Radio Committee had been appointed by the Student Council to examine the possibilities of a student run radio station. When WMCR went on the air January 12, 1951, because most students did not have FM receivers, student engineers Glen Bishop (WIDR's current Chief Engineer) and Milliard Elsner built a small transmitter for re-broadcasting. Their idea was to re-broadcast WMCR through the power lines into Draper-Siedsclag Halls. It was decided that the radio station be called WMC and that a Radio Board (now called the Executive Board) consisting of three faculty members and three students of above freshman classification be the authority for the operation of the station. This board had the status of a sub-committee of the Student Activities Committee.

In May of 1952 the scope of WIDR's broadcasting was expanded to include Burnham Halls with the re-broadcasting of shows from both WMCR and WJMD (Kalamazoo College radio). There is no apparent record of why the station's name was changed to WIDR; only that it stood for 'interdorm radio'. It was also announced that WIDR would begin broadcasting its own programs once a location for its studios was established. WIDR had been broadcasting from a small building along the side of Arcadia - Brook Cafeteria.

With the new school Year of 1952, WIDR announced its new location; the former caddyshack for a golf course, rat laboratory etc. where Read Fieldhouse now sits. WIDR also announced that it would begin creating its own programming including "hit songs", live programs of student talent, football and other sports, and dances. The station also began to offer announcement time for campus activities and social news. WIDR's broadcast range had also been increased to include East Campus; Walwood, Spindler, and Vandercook Halls.

WIDR continued to be an AM carrier current station for the next twenty-three years with many changes in format, station organization and location. In the early fifties, WIDR was broadcasting 74 hours per week; 23 hours of which were the re-broadcasting of classical, semi-classical shows of WMCR. Some of WIDR's own programming included the "Three D Show", Disks, Debbie and Doug; "Sunday Symphony Time," two hours of both modern and old standby-music with Pat Barden; "The Sportsman," a 15 minute sports show, and news coverage of current news and campus government.

In 1954 WIDR became a member of the College Radio Corporation. During this period the station broadcast form 4pm to 12am seven days a week. Some of the programming included "Friday and Saturday Hight Review;" Request shows from 7pm to 1am. During 1956 the Student Council and the Residence Hall Association (RHA) began to struggle for the control of WIDR. Eventually RHA won out. They signed a contract with WIDR June 1, 1956, and the agreement went into effect July 1, 1956. The contract sated that RHA would assume direct responsibility for WIDR and funding for the station would come from a 25 cent fee charged to each RHA member per semester. WIDR also held a 60-hour marathon (Jazz Concert) to help raise $500 for ten children to go to the Pretty Lake Camp. At the end of the marathon WIDR went off the air for a semester to prepare for its move to the student center.

WIDR assumed broadcast in the new school year of 1956 from the Food Services Building. In September of 1957, WIDR conducted its first remote program in the University snack bar with disc jockeys interviewing the WMC students there. WIDR also began featuring plays and interviews in its format and also changed its musical format to include "Rock-n-Roll Review" aired Saturdays form 3-6:30pm.

WIDR really began striving for what it called "a new sound" in the June 5, 1959 issue of the Western Herald. This sound included the current hits as well as the classical/semi-classical, and dinner music that they already used in their format. Sometime during this period WIDR leased the services of the UPI wire for their news department. It was also estimated at this time that WIDR was reaching about 4,000 students.

In the early sixties WIDR was best known for its Top 40 format. WIDR was probably the most popular radio station for young people at this time because it was the only all day Top 40 station. WIDR had began broadcasting through the heating pipes rather than the telephone wire to help reduce interference. In the early seventies the eight transmitters across campus began to deteriorate; thus taking more watts to broadcast. With the increase of other Top 40 stations in the market as well as students moving off campus and increasing ownership of FM receivers, WIDR began to lose listeners. Station management began looking at the possibility of becoming an FM station in 1972. they spent most of that year negotiating with the University to assure the station's management that it would not lose control of WIDR if the change to FM was made. WIDR management presented the proposal to the University as being two-fold; to improve the signal and that a 10 watt license Would increase WIDR's power just enough to reach the students who lived off campus. WIDR's format also began to change at this time to a more progressive, new music orgin in efforts to increase its listenership.

On July 2, 1974 WIDR made application to the Federal Communications Commission requesting a construction permit. The FCC received it on July 8, 1974 and acknowledged it July 22, 1974. The construction permit was issued November 8, 1974 for construction of a 10 watt studio in the Faunce Student Services Building. Construction began November 18, 1974 and was completed June 16, 1975. Glen Bishop was responsible for the installation and Ray Winters installed the studios.

WIDR broadcast its first FM show July 7, 1975 and received its license from the FCC August 20, 1975. John McGuigan was the jock of the first FM show. Total cost for the project $27, 401.50.

The FCC had granted the call letters W-I-D-R January 7, 1975. It was assigned channel #206 with the power of .0399KW located at 89.1 on the FM dial. WIDR'a antenna was located on top of Maybee Hall at 158.5 feet above the average terrain (WMUK's old tower). WIDR was broadcasting with a McMartin B910T transmitter (this is now a standby; on February 2, 1984 a QEI Exciter was purchased which feeds a 100 watt amplifier). At this time WIDR was classified as a Class D FM (meant 10 watt station. WIDR's current classification is Class A, which means your tower is under 300 ft.). WIDR's on air hours were 8 am-3am during this period. The AM station was being used in the early FM days to train staff for FM spots. The AM began to deteriorate because of old transmitters and quality staff for both the AM and FM.

In 1978-79 all 10 watt stations were granted the option by the FCC to either increase power to 100 watts or operate on secondary or unprotected status. WIDR made application for a 100 watt construction permit on December 17, 1979. The FCC required WIDR to do a assertainment in the city of Portage to be submitted to them including exhibits with the application. The FCC issued the construction permit March 18, 1981 with costs estimated, including the first year's operating costs, at $34,280. March 18, 1982-August 18, 1982 was spent modifying the construction permit. On August 16, 1982 WIDR started testing, operating under Special Temporary Authority (STA). WIDR made application for license August 13, 1982 and was granted a 100 watt license August 12, 1983.

WIDR currently operates 24-hours a day with grave yard shifts from 2 am-6 am. A list of the current programming [1985 ed.] has been included in this report as well as a list of the station's directors at the time compilation. During 1985 WIDR purchased a new FM board and various other pieces of operating equipment. Money was raised by holding a WIDR week early in 1985. It was declared WIDR week in the city of Kalamazoo with events ranging from a bottle and can drive to a 23-hour marathon. WIDR week, including a 48-hour broadcast marathon is scheduled for January 26, 1986-February 2, 1986. Special programming for the marathon will include live bands, in-depth news shows, specialty shows, interviews and many other special programs .

Other events that WIDR has sponsored in the 8Os include Friday Freebies, Kite-Flites 1981-84, Barking Tuna Festival 1985 and probably 1986 (replaces Kite Flite), WIDR STRIDR, as well as sponsoring many concerts at the State Theatre, movie nights, bar nights at Club Soda and other bars, and bowling nights.

Besides past WIDR General Managers who may have gone on in the business, other Widerites have become sucessful in the business: Suzanne Geha Merpi and Rick Merpi both with WOOD TV, Channel 8, Mike Murphy WOTV, John McNeill, WKZO radio, and most recently, Jim Gentry who is with a large Detroit advertising firm.

Past WIDR advisors have included Dr. Radford Kuykendall 1952 to the late 1970's, Ron Tonander, Al Labobitz, and Barry Sherman; all advising several years each in the late seventies into the early eighties. Dr. Jules Rossman (the current advisor) began his term in 1981.

Information for this report was obtained from:

1949-1960: WIDR scrapbooks consisting of Western Herald articles etc.
1960-1980's: John McNeill, past WIDR Director
FCC: Glen Bishop WIDR Chief Engineer
Advisors: Charlie Stroup Advisor of Office of Student Activities
Additional & Current Info: Dr. Jules Rossman; current WIDR advisor, current and past WIDR General managers and directors.

WIDR Programming as of December, 1985

If you have material that you would like to contribute (tapes, photos, video, etc), please contact the WIDR Alumni Society.