WFEA (AM 1370,
5kw) has been broadcasting continuously since 9:00AM on March 1,
1932, making it New Hampshire's oldest station. It has always had
the same call letters.
Licensed to the
state's largest city, Manchester, the transmitter plant has always
been 5.8 miles away in Merrimack.
studios were located in the Carpenter Hotel in downtown Manchester.
The original licensee, New Hampshire Broadcasting Company, was headed
by Henry Pritchard Rines, owner of Congress Square Hotel in Portland,
Maine. Rines founded Portland radio station WCSH in June, 1925.
In those days
it was common for department stores and hotels to own radio stations.
Department stores could use stations to enhance the sale of radio
sets. Rines saw the obvious benefit of getting double use out of
the live performers he paid to entertain his guests.
WFEA's first frequency
was 1430 kilocycles.
on the second floor of the Carpenter, the studios comprise a
suite of three rooms, which have been converted into luxuriously
appointed broadcasting headquarters. Despite the attractiveness
of these headquarters, station officials say they are of merely
temporary character, and declare that later on they will be
expanded to fit every need of a modern broadcasting studio.
present the headquarters in The Carpenter consist of a central
business office, main studio, 20 by 25 feet square, and a studio
control room, where most of the mechanical equipment is located.
local programs, speaking and musical, will be broadcast from
the main studio, which is large enough to house an eight or
nine-piece orchestra. Programs calling for ensembles larger
than that will be put on the air from The Carpenter's main dining
room, where the acoustics, for broadcasting purposes, are nearly
perfect, according to station employees.
walls of the studio are soundproofed through means of a covering
of material so applied that a three-inch space is left between
the covering and the actual wall surface. Carpets cover the
floor. As a result, all extraneous noises are eliminated....
from an article in The Manchester Union, Wednesday, February 24,
WFEA was an
affiliate of the Boston-based Yankee Network from the beginning.
It was also an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network, although it
switched to NBC in March, 1937.
One of WFEA's
earliest, and most popular, local offerings was "The Little
Theatre of the Air." Every Wednesday evening the troupe of
local actors performed original dramas, several volumes of which
still exist. Most scripts were written by WFEA's assistant manager,
Donald G. Caswell. The regular players included Bernice Maiwald,
Alberta Bean, Celan Clark, Reg Cargill and sound effects man Warren
Click on the
photos for enlargements.
had Manchester's airwaves to itself through the 1930s. It struggled
to stay on the air during the great flood which cut the city in half
in March, 1936; telephone wires linking the downtown studios to the
Merrimack transmitter were wiped out when two huge oil storage tanks
washed down the Merrimack River.
photo for enlargement
Some of the
earliest stars on WFEA were so-called "cowboy singers."
The forerunners of today's country music artists, they were available
in abundance throughout New Hampshire. At left, Ken MacKenzie,
a Boston native who grew up in Concord. He was on WFEA from 1936-38
and met his wife Simone Labrie, a west side resident.
On the right
is the Granite State Mountaineers performing for a WFEA microphone
at The Liberal on Elm Street.
photo for enlargement
Do any of these
young faces look familiar?
on "The Magic Circle," WFEA's
Saturday morning show hosted
OF THE 1930s
"Chick" Evans, station manager
G. Caswell, assistant manager
While WFEA signed
on at 1430kc, it moved to 1340kc in 1933 and has been on 1370kc since
the North American Regional Broadcast Agreement (NARBA) took effect
March 29, 1941.
On March 1, 1937
WFEA dropped CBS and became affiliated with the National Broadcasting
Company; it maintained its Yankee Network affiliation. In late 1938
an affiliation with the Mutual Network was also secured.
On March 2, 1939,
Henry Pritchard Rines died at the age of 53. Later in the year his
role as president of New Hampshire Broadcasting Company was assumed
by his widow, Adeline B. Rines.
During its long
life, WFEA (the original call letters) has had 10 owners. Saga Communications
has operated WFEA since April, 1991. Saga also operates WZID
FM (95.7) and WMLL
FM (96.5) licensed to Manchester and Bedford, respectively.