70th Anniversary Moments – Chuck Wilson

This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of when Beaver County’s first radio station, WBVP, was heard over the airwaves for the the first time on May 25, 1948.  To mark the historical event, each week, another “70th Anniversary Moment” will be showcased on the airwaves and published on the station’s online feeds.

May 25th could very well be known as “Chuck Wilson Day” in Beaver County, as he was the announcer on staff at WBVP that spoke the first words on that day in 1948, after the station officially signed on the air at around six in the evening.  Chuck Wilson became forever linked to the birth of radio in Beaver County with his pioneering greeting that broadcast throughout the area at 1230 kilohertz.  Chuck Wilson then solidified his place in the history of radio be then embarking on a stellar career at WBVP that saw him became one of the most popular, recognizable personalities to be heard on the Beaver Falls Radio station.

Chuck Wilson inside the production room at the original studio location of WBVP at 1216 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls, PA. Photo courtesy of Bobbie Wilson-Tkacik.

The following is an excerpt  from the recently published book,  Behind The Microphone – The History Of Radio In Beaver County, PA:  “Charles Harmon Wilson was born on March 3, 1921 in Steubenville, Ohio and began his career in 1942 at WKST in New Castle shortly after graduating from Steubenville High School.   Ken Britten reported in an earlier publication, created for a Beaver County History book published in 1990, that during his tenure at WKST, Chuck enlisted and served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman first class. Upon returning to WKST, Chuck became program and sports director for the New Castle station.  It was in 1948, that Frank Smith, Tom Price and Charles Onderka recruited Wilson to come and join the team being formed in Beaver Falls. This would begin a twenty seven year career at WBVP that would see Chuck Wilson become “The Voice” of local high school and Geneva College sports, and arguably reach the highest celebrity status of any announcer to sit behind a broadcast console in Beaver County.  Chuck, like many of the announcers of the earlier days of radio became a superstar in his hometown.  WBVP, like all radio stations at that stage of the game, played a much more prominent role in the the daily lives of everybody in the community because it was one of the only sources for daily information. Radio was king, and Chuck Wilson was royalty in Beaver County.  It wasn’t unheard of, matter of fact it happened quite frequently, that when WBVP announcers went out and about, they experienced celebrity status and had a paparazzi of sorts following them around town as they went about their daily activities. One of Chuck Wilson’s daughters, Becky Wilson-Atkinson, had this to say about her father in an interview aired on WBVP on May 25, 2017: ‘We would be, say in the grocery store on any random night and people would come up to him and talk to him, and they would talk back and forth like the best of friends and I would say who was that, and he would say, I have know idea.  They know me from listening to the radio.  I can’t see who’s listening to me.’   Chuck’s other daughter, Bobbie Wilson-Tkacik also realized at a rather young age that theirs was not just another father.  Often times, going to school activities, was a little different for her than other kids because of her famous dad.  ‘I  was somewhere with him once, and somebody came up and asked for an autograph of my dad  and I was probably quite young, and I thought my gosh, he must be somebody pretty famous. The man never met a stranger, That’s a definite. It took a while to appreciate how many things he was involved with.’  Chuck’s popularity and knack for caring about his town earned him the distinction of being chosen as The Upper Beaver Valley Jaycees “Young Man Of The Year” in 1955.

It all started for Chuck, and for WBVP on May 25, 1948.  After a year of so of getting everything set up and tested,  and receiving the final green light from the Federal Communications Commission, the time was finally right to go live on the air, and it was Chuck Wilson who leaned close to the  ribbon microphone affixed to a giant boom in the control studio and welcomed the audience with an announcement something to the effect of , “Good evening Beaver County, WBVP is on the air.”  While it might be true that he was in the right place at the right time, Chuck went on to flourish and become very popular by hosting shows on WBVP, including an afternoon music show entitled “Wilson’s Wax Works”, along with “Chuck’s Choice” and the “Top Ten Countdown”.  Another earlier staff member from the 50’s, William Day, affectionately referred to Chuck Wilson by the nickname of “Waxy”, because of Chuck’s association with the popular radio show. Chuck also anchored the news at noon, “Stardust Revue” and was the first talk show host on WBVP.  An article that appeared in the Beaver County Times in 1978, stated that “Chuck Wilson was given a free reign in developing local sports broadcasts and the popular Teleforum talk show, which is still a big feature today.”

Chuck Wilson interviews Geneva College player Adam Karcis in 1949. To the left is Jimmie Pietro. Behind Chuck is Bill Edwards. Off in the distance in street clothes is head coach Walter West. Picture courtesy of Chuck’s daughter, Bobbie Wilson – Tkacik. Names and research courtesy of Kae Kirkwood and Charles O’Data.

For many years the door to the press box at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College was labeled as “The Chuck Wilson Press Box”.  In those days, it seemed as though Chuck Wilson and Geneva College athletics were always mentioned together. According to records on file in the McCartney Library at Geneva College,  upon winning a state championship in April of 1953, The Geneva College men’s basketball team, and “Coach Of The Year”, Cliff Aultman, were honored during a special chapel service on campus where Chuck Wilson served as Master of Ceremonies.   He was also the first recipient of an Honorary Letterman Award given by Geneva College in 1966. After his untimely passing in a plane crash near Harrisburg along with Pendot Secretary William Sherlock, on February 24, 1977, Geneva College honored Chuck by dedicating the 1977-1978 football and basketball guides to him.

Chuck Wilson was inducted posthumously into the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of 1981 for his contributions to local Beaver County sports broadcasting.  He was the first of four announcers that called games on WBVP and WMBA that would receive such an honor. Chris Shovlin, Bob Pompeani and Bob Barrickman have also now joined Chuck in the Beaver County Sports Hall Of Fame.  They all have plaques prominently displayed in the Athletic and Events Center on the Campus of The Community College Of Beaver County.”

“70th Anniversary Moments” is presented by  Abbey Carpet and Floor,  Albert’s Heating, Cooling and Plumbing,  Aliquippa Giant Eagle, The Beaver Falls Municipal Authority, Beaver Valley Auto Mall, Beaver Valley Sheet Metal, Castlebrook Development, The Community College Of Beaver County,  Farmers Building and Savings Bank, Freedom United Federal Credit Union, Hank’s Frozen Custard and Mexican food, The Health Huts, Kitchen City, Laughlin Insurance Agency,  Rochester Manor and Villa and Young’s Jewelry and Coins.