Radio Station in Jamaica Plain
Well, not exactly like the other stations on the dial, but there was a broadcasting transmitter from my bedroom at 590 Centre Street in the late-1940’s that reached a small neighborhood audience, and far beyond as we shall see!
I built a phono-oscillator transmitter, connected a microphone and a 78 rpm turntable into an amplifier, strung the wire outside my bedroom window, and climbed a tree at Parley Avenue to attach it. I called it “WBIM” for “The World’s Best In Music” at 900 on the AM dial. The dial position of 900AM seemed to be clear enough, so I was really “in like Flynn” (a familiar Boston expression at the time.)
The “phono-oscillator” was a technical radio invention that transmitted the recorded music from a record player turntable in one room to a regular radio receiver in, say, the living room without a wire connection. In fact, every radio in the house tuned to the AM frequency of the phono-oscillator could receive the same “broadcast.” It was legitimately designed for a limited range signal, maybe only a few hundred feet.
There were people in a nearby apartment complex who could hear the broadcast, and my best friend, Kirk Seward, could hear it clearly on Goldsmith Place and he was several blocks away. I also learned to my complete surprise that there were listeners to my WBIM broadcasts in Nashua, NH…almost 50 miles away!! They complained to the FCC of my interference with their own station, WOTW at the same 900AM in Nashua. That long wire on to the tree top made a big difference, of course the amplifier gave the broadcast a good boost as well … but a 50 mile “signal skip” from Boston to Nashua was totally unexpected.
I found out that by being on the air only intermittently for almost ten months, the FCC monitoring equipment at The Customs House tower in downtown Boston could not easily locate my “pirate” transmitter. I’d come home from school and “sign on” for a few minutes or a half- hour before dinner and homework, and then again sometimes on Saturdays to play a few 78 rpm records.
One Saturday morning, however, the Feds rang my apartment doorbell at 590 Centre Street, my Dad met them, heard them say that “having an illegal transmitter would be cause for imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine” … or, they could just take the equipment. Dad wisely said, “Take it!” and the G-Men then came into my bedroom unannounced, of course. I didn’t even say “Goodbye” to my vast listening audience, but I remember the final song playing on the turntable was “The Song Is Ended (But The Melody Lingers On)” which, I guess, is an appropriate farewell for WBIM.
I really don’t know how many people actually listened to WBIM. I drove my Dad’s 1949 Buick around, over Parley Avenue, down Parley Vale with the car radio tuned to 900AM while my friend, Alain DeVergie played the records, and I could clearly hear the broadcast. It faded when I drove around Jamaica Pond and over to Perkins Street. But, if you remember hearing WBIM, I’d like to hear from you.
This early experiment led to a 40+ year career in the broadcasting business, a legitimate career, of course.
Russ and his best friend, Kirk Seward, are shown in this 1949 photo. Russ is speaking into the microphone while Kirk listens with a headset. The boys are broadcasting from 78 rpm disks like the one held by Kirk.
A rack of 78s can be seen to the right of Russ and an electric clock with a sweep second hand. Notice the speaker on the shelf and the phono oscillator transmitter with two tubes. Behind the curtain was the bedroom window through which the antenna wire ran out to a tree top.
Photograph provided courtesy of William Kirkwood Seward. After graduating from high school in 1953, Kirk worked for the Boston Public Library in Copley Square until he sadly became disabled with Multiple Sclerosis when he was in his early thirties.
Russ volunteered after high school classes in 1952 when WGBH-FM, Boston first began on the air with studios in Symphony Hall. Then off to a Summer announcing job at Radio Vermont, WDEV in Waterbury until his military service and Armed Forces Radio. In 1955, Russ had a live, variety television show on Sunday nights for a year on WTAO-TV 56, the first UHF television station in Boston. It was just black and white TV back then and done with only one camera from the studio’s transmitter building on top of Mt. Zion.
While attending Northwestern University, he was an NBC Page at the Merchandise Mart studios in Chicago, then he joined several stations; WNMP and WEAW in Evanston, WEBH in the Edgewater Beach Hotel, and he was with an investor group who put a new Chicago FM station, WFMQ on the air.
He moved to do West Coast sales, marketing and promotion with Crowell-Collier’s KEWB in San Francisco and KGY in Olympia, WA in the 1960’s. He relocated back East in the 1970’s for sales and marketing positions with WEZF in Burlington, VT and hosted Ella, Frank and Friends on Vermont Public Radio for ten years. He was also the Development Director for Vermont Public Television. While with The Knight Quality Stations, he represented a network of New England radio stations for four years. He designed multi-media marketing concepts promoting Quebec tourism while living in Montreal as their Canadian Marketing Director.
In 1991, Russ moved to Newport, RI where he had a jazz show on WOTB-FM “Cool FM” and a Home Shopping radio show on WADK. In 1994, he relocated to Southern California and entertained thousands of retired seniors by presenting a program he created of reminiscing therapy with old time radio, interactive trivia and nostalgia music.
You may contact Russ at: firstname.lastname@example.org