|It’s time for Beaver county memories, presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. In today’s edition, we take a look at, or rather, a listen to, Beaver County’s first radio station, the one you are tuned in to right now, WBVP, which aired its first broadcast right about this time of the year in 1948.
Following World War II, life in Beaver County began to return to normal, and as it was with the rest of the world, local residents were enjoying the new technology of radio, which brought outside information and entertainment into their homes on a daily basis. Radio receivers had become consumer friendly, easy to operate and attractive enough to keep in the living room. This was radio’s “Golden Era”, but there was one problem. There were no radio stations in Beaver County, and thus, there were no outlets for local programming and news, but that was about to change. In 1947, according to radiodiscussions dot com, two applications were filed simultaneously for a future 250 watt A.M. radio station to be awarded at 1230 kilohertz in western Pennsylvania. One of the interested parties was Eagle Printing of Butler, PA, publishers of the Butler Eagle newspaper. The other was Frank Smith, then president and General Manager at WWSW in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, the Federal Communications Commission awarded the new license to Smith along with his partners, Tom Price and Charles Onderka, supposedly because Butler already had a radio station, WISR at 680 A.M. that had been on the air since September of 1941. Smith’s proposal was to put the station in Beaver Falls, and since Beaver Falls didn’t have a radio station yet, that steered the FCC’s decision to give the station to his group. Eagle Printing, however, would get into the broadcasting business in Butler very shortly, and their foray into the radio business would involve the other competing, and second radio station to get on the air in Beaver County. In 1949, an organization in Rochester put a 250 watt class D – A.M. radio station on the air at 1050 kilohertz. Their stations’ call letters were WRYO, and it was headquartered in Rochester Township on Cleveland Street, near the current site of the Rochester Township Fireman’s Club. Around 1950, records indicate that Eagle Printing had already purchased the struggling station and had plans to move it to Butler. Eventually WRYO was moved to Butler and the call letters were changed to WBUT, where it is still on the air today.
After about a year of preparation, WBVP aired its first broadcast on May 25, 1948. Chuck Wilson, who had already been in on the air for a few years on WKST in New Castle at that stage of the game, joined the upstart team that WBVP had put together and spoke the first words ever broadcast in Beaver County at around six that evening.
The original studio and offices for WBVP were in the third floor above the Rio Grill in the 1200 block on 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls. The line up back then included George Allen, Arnold Felcher, Ernie Kline, Chuck Wilson, Bruce Davis, Jerry Goff, Alan Boal, Gert Trobe, Eugene DeSimone William Day, Syl Sergi and Don Kennedy, among others. The original company was incorporated as W.B.V.P., Inc.
Many of the announcers who worked at WBVP in those early days went on to achieve great things. When he wasn’t on the air, Ernie Kline started his political career by winning a seat on Beaver Falls City Council and eventually became Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Don Kennedy formed his own production company and distributed radio music programming, including the popular show “Big Band Jump”, to radio stations all over the United States from his headquarters in Atlanta. William Day is still impacting the lives of thousands of local residents as the C.E.O. and President of St. Barnabas Health System, which operates many facilities and programs in Western Pennsylvania, including Beaver Meadows in Brighton Township.