Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Radio Days

The year 1922 saw the first Reader's Digest published, Babe Ruth signed a contract with the New York Yankees for $52,000, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in our nation's capital and in Douglasville, Georgia folks were crazy over some newfangled gadget called "the radio".

Various sources state that there were about 1,000 homemade radio receivers in the Atlanta area in 1922 even though there were no radio stations in the city, but what many didn't realize was the two major newspapers in town, the Atlanta Constitution and the Journal (both separate entities back then) were in a neck-and-neck race to see which media outlet could get the first radio station on air.

The Journal won by mere days and WSB was on the air in March, 1922 followed by The Atlanta Constitution's station, WGM.

WGM's broadcast was transmitted through the radio plant of the Georgia Railway & Power Company, and the paper devoted an entire page of the paper titled "The Atlanta Constitution Radio Department" where various people and shows that were offered  every day on WGM were discussed. Telegrams and letters the station received were printed to share what listeners were enjoying. There were also articles from time to time regarding the perils of becoming addicted to the radio.

If only those people could see us today glued to our smart phones.

Folks began to gather around the radio and often parties would  be given in homes where the main entertainment was to listen to a particular radio show.

The image below is the front page of The Atlanta Constitution announcing their new radio station:

WGM presented a radio show each week showcasing the musical students of one man, Signor E. Volpi who was described as "Atlanta's noted coach of opera and teacher of voice".

On the night of January 14, 1923, Volpi's program included Miss Charlotte Crumbley and Jimmy Finley who were both singers who were known to national radio audiences.

The program also included dramatic readings performed by Miss Louise Shamblin who hailed from Rome, Georgia but at that time was employed as a teacher of dramatic fine art and expression at Douglas County High School.

Also, The Atlanta Constitution article published on January 15, 1923 reported, "Last night's program was arranged for the particular pleasure of Miss Catherine Geer and radio party of Douglasville, Georgia. The party was arranged through the courtesy of Mrs. Floyd House whose radio apparatus received each of the numbers clearly.

Miss Shamblins' debut to radio fans was a distinct triumph and no more talented or accomplished reader has appeared at this station.

The appreciation of the party was expressed by long distance messages and in the following telegram received just as the program ended:

We are enjoying the program immensely, thanks!   Catherine Geer and party"

It should not escape our notice that Atlanta was a long distance call and a telegram was sent --something no longer needed today.

Catherine Geer was the daughter of M.E. Geer, an executive with the cotton mill. I've written about the Geer home on Strickland Street here.

At the helm of WGM's operations was Clark Howell, Sr., The Atlanta Constitution's owner. By March of 1923, Mr. Howell had allowed the broadcast license for WGM to expire, and the equipment including the transmitting tower was donated to Georgia Tech where Mr. Howell was a trustee. The station continued as WBBF. By 1925, the call letters had changed to WGST.

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