Battle Creek Enquirer and News, November 22, 1940, Page 23:
WELL WAS ONE OF PIONEERS IN RADIO INDUSTRY
First Broadcast Went on in 1925
"At Least a Dozen" Persons Heard Program, Newspaper Story Announced.
PROGRESSED WITH YEARS
ALTHOUGH WELL now has a new transmitter the organization itself is no youngster. To the contrary, the station is one ot the older members of a comparatively young industry.
It was a little more than 15 years ago, Oct. 16, 1925, to be exact, that the first Enquirer and News radio transmitter came to life, sending a weak and wobbly signal from the second floor of the Elks temple.
The occasion was the 1925 radio show sponsored by the newspaper. There had been radio shows before, but they largely consisted of receiving equipment displays. In 1925 the newspaper decided to add to the interest of the show by also having a radio transmitter in operation. The transmitter was built by W. S. Martin, who then operated a Battle Creek radio firm. Some years ago Mr. Martin moved from Battle Creek to Detroit.
That 1925 radio show didn't open until October 19, when the first official broadcast was made, but three days earlier, on the 16th, it was completed and went on the air for tests. An orchestra played several numbers along with a great many "hello folks" announcements.
Next day the Enquirer and News carried a story about the broadcast and revealing the astounding fact that "at least a dozen" persons heard the program and telephoned requests to the orchestra.
This first Enquirer and News radio station operated under the call letters WJBM on 246 meters (that would be about 1220 kilocycles the way those things are figured today). The newspaper advised listeners to find the station by dialing around the vicinity of WREO, a Lansing station of the day.
When the first official broadcast was given at the opening of the radio show October 19 It was opened by Tom Giddings, now superintendent of maintenance in Calhoun county for the state highway department. Mr. Giddings was then employed in the Enquirer and News advertising department and was active in promotion of the radio station idea. He was Battle Creek's first radio announcer.
Mr. Giddings introduced John I. Gibson, secretary of the Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Gibson gave a six-minute address, described as a "booster speech for Battle Creek. The title was: "Battle Creek Builds, the World Benefits."
WJBM was rather short lived and after the radio show no one thought much about it for several months. When the 1926 radio show rolled around, however, the newspaper had another transmitter in operation, this time under the call letters WKBP. This time the show was held in the Montgomery Motor Sales garage and the radio station Idea caught the popular fancy In a big way.
After the show was over the transmitter was moved to the Enquirer and News offices, which were then located In the Marjorie building, where the Central National bank now stands.
It was then that Battle Creek began having its first regular broadcasts, most of them strictly Informal affairs with purely local talent. Radio was far less an exact science in those days. When WKBP wanted to broadcast from a remote point, such as a dance, the operators didn't just use a telephone wire from the dance hall to the radio transmitter as would be done today. They took the radio transmitter to the dance.
Earl Stone, now a WELL engineer, recalls one broadcast from the Montgomery garage. WKBP's microphone consisted of a regular telephone carbon transmitter with a megaphone taped to the mouthpiece to pick up more volume.
Many men still living in Battle Creek were connected with the early development of local broadcasting. Besides Mr. Martin and Mr. Giddings, who already have been mentioned, there were Leo C. Sheehan, Wayne Schaefer. who handled some of the technical work, Lewis Fay and others.
When the Enquirer and News moved to its present building on West State street the radio transmitter followed along. Soon afterward the station call letters were changed to WELL and it started its remarkable growth.
In 1931 the studios were moved from the Enquirer and News building to the Kellogg Inn and later to the Battle Creek Equipment Co. building, but the transmitter and control room remained in the newspaper building.
In 1932 WELL'S 50-watt transmitter was replaced with another one of the same power but more modern design. Then, as now, radio development was so rapid that nothing remained "modern" very long. Early in 1932 the station submitted plans for its new transmitter to the federal radio commission and they were approved, but six months later the original plans were discarded for another circuit embodying principles which had been developed in the meantime.
In July, 1935, the station, transmitter, studios and all, were moved from the Enquirer and News building to the second floor of the City National bank building, where the new station is now located. When the station was first moved to the bank building a new 100-watt transmitter was installed. It is this transmitter which has now been replaced with one of 250 watts.