WFHR celebrates 80 years on air
By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – On Nov. 12, Wisconsin Rapids’ WFHR marked 80 years on the air with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The station began broadcasting on Nov. 5, 1940, during the Presidential Election.
The beginning of programming culminated after nearly 10 years of work for owner, William F Huffman, Sr.
In the early 1930s, Huffman looked to purchase an existing station, which were few in numbers at that time. Not finding a feasible purchase, Huffman looked to start his own.
In May 1937, an application for a regional station operation license was denied.
Still believing in his cause to bring an additional medium to the Wisconsin Rapids area, Huffman renewed his application, requesting a station of limited power.
This time, his request was approved. On May 8, 1940, Huffman was granted a license for WFHR – AM Radio; the acronym WFHR for William F Huffman Radio.
Still issues challenged his dedication to the project, as engineers struggled to find soil conditions capable of handling the transmitter tower and sending equipment. However, a parcel of property on County Road F proved to be suitable for the project.
“The marvelous acceptance of Radio Station WFHR by the public in the Wisconsin Rapids community and throughout central Wisconsin as evidenced by the hundreds upon hundreds of wires, telephone calls, and cards is the most gratifying to me and to the fine staff of the station,” Huffman said in a statement.
“It has long been my ambition to offer this second medium of service to this wide community. Now it is a reality. In realization, we all find it far more interesting than we ever thought it could be when we were anticipation the granting of the permit and later the construction of the station.
“After all, the public acceptance merely confirms our ideals of public service, because the station is not mine, and it is not the station of the staff. It is the station of the people of the area. Many are volunteering services and talents, happy in the opportunity to furnish information and entertainment to their fellow citizens.”
The new station management visited 50 stations to collaborate on the vision for the offices, equipment, and studios.
WFHR found its first home in the Nash Hardware Building, 141 West Grand Avenue, in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.
The station started with a crew of 11 staff members, including: station manager, George T. Frechette; program director/announcer, Ernie Smith; commercial manager, Bruce G. Beichl; chief engineer, Garth N. Bowker; director of the women’s hour, Virginia Lee; engineer/operator, Victor Nickel; announcer/salesman, Bert Mulroy; staff dramatist, Kay Nordin; staff organist/pianist, Gertrude Kellogg; talent director/staff musician, Red Blanchard; and secretary/receptionist, Vern Jensen.
Continued next week