WIDB began not in 1970, but in the ’60s. At the time, being dissatisfied with existing radio choices and starting one’s own station was radical. Having an entirely student-administered, student-operated and student-staffed station was downright heretical in the ’60s as it was terribly threatening to then-existing power structures. Just having these ideas and seriously attempting to make them reality is quite amazing. Actually SUCCEEDING in the face of a horribly byzantine bureaucratic culture was nothing short of monumental.
This history is dedicated to Jerry Chabrian, a man who had a vision, saw the potential to activate multiple generations of students, and didn’t rest until he, along with others, made it happen. This history is also dedicated to all other “charter” and “pre-charter” members, without whose sacrifices and dedication WIDB would never have made it to sign-on. Lastly, this history is also dedicated to the special members over the years who have been obsessively fierce in their efforts to maintain and expand WIDB as a truly student-administered, student-staffed and student-operated service to the SIU/C’dale students and community.
The prospect of a radio station/organization such as WIDB represented a threat of change to almost all elements of the SIU landscape. Starting WIDB required either approval or cooperation from many interest groups in the university mosaic. This demanded very large amounts of skill, vision, energy, time, persistence, and consistency. A tremendous effort was required to make such a change in the culture. The general conditions, as will be described, are important, since these are what gave Jerry his opening.
If not for the draft, the riots, the major swelling of the adolescent population (and its resulting identity, power, and assertiveness), the breathtaking expansion of the university, the bumbling indifference to student needs by some faculty and administrators (and the sincere caring for students by others), the station might never have been born. As it was, opposing forces almost prevented WIDB from advertising, and has prevented WIDB from going open air in any (legal) form.
Some readers may have predisposed attitudes about certain historical events such as the Vietnam war, the draft and those who wished to avoid it, protests, agitation, violent protests, looting, police and soldiers tear gassing, beating, bayoneting and shooting unarmed protesters and curfew violators, etc. We do not now write this merely to disturb these attitudes. It can be painful to have formed an attitude only to be confronted with contrary evidence. Reports in this history of SIU events are based on documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts.
That said, if you too have eyewitness accounts and/or relevant documents of your own, please pass them along to us.
Otherwise this history will never be complete, and as well you’ll have to deal with your own predispositions.
This is a living, not dead, history. There is always new information to include. Please help us. Feel free to correct, amend, embellish. Tell us your stories about when you were in C’dale. Tell us how your experience in C’dale has impacted your life. Tell us about the unique characters you met and/or hung out with in C’dale. And, tell us about you and WIDB.
The entire nation and world endured dramatic change in the ’60s. SIU and C’dale experienced this as young adults and adolescents asserted themselves to demand more responsibility, power, and allocation of resources. The effort to create WIDB was part of this. WIDB was not about burning down buildings or exterminating the establishment. WIDB was about being independent, taking care of ourselves, finding our own identity, serving our brothers and sisters, and forming a positive and hopeful vision for the future. But WIDB, and those who made it happen, were not on an island. They were in the middle of a stormy environment fraught with continual change.
Just as adolescence is a time of great change for all of us, the 1960s was a time of great change for the United States. For the first time, the security and the credibility of even the President could not be taken for granted. Repeatedly, even routinely, the traditional ways of doing things were questioned and attacked.
By 1966, the proportion of the population under the age of 19 soared to the highest in US history. During the 50′s and 60′s, elementary and even high school students were subjected to repeated propaganda about the Bill of Rights, equal protection under the law, the Declaration of Independence, and the role of our courts in enforcing the laws. Some of us remember the televised images of the students who just wanted to attend a Little Rock high school only to find their way blocked by the Governor of Arkansas in the schoolhouse door, and the federal troops called in to clear the path. Or the picture of the civil rights marchers crossing the bridge in Selma, Alabama as the police and dogs attacked. And later, the films of battle in the faraway jungles of southeast Asia where the soldiers looked more and more like our classmates and friends every day.
From 1965-72, at least 50,000 men were drafted into the armed forces each year. Almost all of the draftees were sent to Vietnam. There, many soldiers in ground troops (“grunts”) suffered physical trauma, unspeakable emotional horrors, exposure to major drugs such as heroin (attractive in response to death and suffering), and generally used up their remaining adolescence and most of their adulthood. Sometimes, it was scary to see a veteran of Vietnam. Some found it hard to fit into anything. The government did little for them. The war was unpopular. After paying a large price, more than a few felt largely abandoned. For many, getting drafted and serving in Vietnam ruined their lives.
Suddenly, starting about 1965, there were some really good reasons for going to college. But many very draftable males could not afford college, and they came from families where no one had ever gone to college. Or, they were not “model students” in high school, and may have barely graduated. In short, they could never get into, let alone pay for, most colleges. That’s where Clyde Choate, Paul Powell, and Delyte W. Morris came in. Many of us know that Southern Illinois may still be Illinois, but it has more connection to “The South” than it does to Chicago. Through the 1960s, the South was known as “the Solid South” because politically, it was so fully and completely Democratic. This meant that from these areas, if one was elected to office as a Democrat, reelection (over and over) was a virtual certainty. In the state legislature, seniority (and being in the majority party) is power.
In the late ’50s and through the mid ’60s, Democrats were rising in power in Springfield. Clyde Choate, from Anna, had served in state House for years and became the majority leader. Almost no state money could be appropriated without his approval. Paul Powell (pronounced “Pawl Pal”) was essentially Secretary of State for life (he died in office in 1970, when investigators found his hundreds of shoeboxes packed with hundred dollar bills). Powell, from Vienna, had served in government for many years and had accumulated innumerable political favors. He also commanded a very large patronage army.
Illinois has always seen the push and pull between Chicago and “downstate” interests. Chicago seems to get the lion’s share by some accounts. Choate and Powell wanted to change that.
Meanwhile, things had been pretty sleepy in Southern Illinois since the tornado leveled Murphysboro in 1927. Other than the horrible coal miners’ strikes in the ’30s and the opening of the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge and lake in the ’40s, not much was going on.
In Carbondale, there was this little “Southern Illinois Normal College.” The “Normal” meant it was for teachers. The main purpose was to produce teachers for the area elementary and high schools. There were also agricultural and mining degrees offered. The school had existed since 1867, when its first permanent building, “Old Main,” was erected. Southern Illinois Normal College had never had more than 1-3 thousand students at any one time.
In 1948, Delyte W. Morris became “Dean” of the college. Later his title was changed to “Superintendent,” still later, “President.” By 1970, when he resigned under pressure, he had built an enormous empire that dwarfed anything southern Illinois had ever seen.
He had overseen the transformation of the little teachers’ college into Southern Illinois University, the largest employer in Southern Illinois. The student population had ballooned to almost TWENTY THOUSAND in 1968! Millions upon millions of state dollars poured into Carbondale as building after building (Thompson Point, Phase I, Morris Library, Ag, Pulliam, Woody Hall, University Center, Home Ec, Arena, Lawson, Life Science I, Comm, Triads, Neely, Thompson Point Phase II, Mae Smith & Schneider), shot towards the sky. Almost all of these were built after 1958, when Choate and Powell were at the peak of their power in Springfield.
Choate, Powell, and Morris had worked together to bring more money and power to Southern Illinois. They succeeded, but they got more than they bargained for.
In 1964, there were less than 4,000 students at SIU. The next year, there were almost 12,000. How and why were so many “students” drawn to Carbondale?
First, almost anybody who graduated high school could get in. You didn’t even have to take the ACT. Second, it was cheeeeep. Sixty bucks per quarter tuition, full time. That was equivalent to about twenty record albums at that time. No books to buy, because there was Textbook Rental (a service of the university), where you could rent all of your books for about 2-4 bucks per quarter. Third, it could be eeeeeeasy. There were hard courses if you looked for them, listened to any advisor, or you were unlucky, but most courses were “relaxed.” Fourth (and, for some, first) there was a fancy, expanding campus near state parks and a national forest.
Finally, 1965 was the first year of massive troop deployments in Vietnam, and the first year of major drafting to support this.
So if you were 18 in 1965, your choice was to either:
a. Come up with about $200, plus living expenses, go to “college” in C’dale,
have easy classes with plenty of time for partying; or
b. Get drafted and go to Vietnam.
Which one would you pick?
Neely Hall, with capacity for almost 1000 women, was ready for occupancy in Fall, 1965. The Triads (Allen, Boomer, & Wright), with capacity for almost 1,000 men, was also ready for occupancy in Fall, 1965. Mae Smith and Schneider (also 1,000 each) were ready one year later. Thus, about 4,000 new students moved in over a one-year period in this area alone.
Construction was also proceeding at Thompson Point, Southern Hills, and Evergreen Terrace. Eventually, all of these dorms would be able to hold over 7,000 students.
In the mid-’60s, the City of Carbondale had a population of about 12,000. Dial phones had just been introduced. There were certain establishments that had not been integrated. McDonald’s had just arrived, and was the only national chain represented. When the towers were under construction, locals would come to watch. Most had never seen a building of more than three or four stories. Carbondale was firmly entrenched as a backwater of Illinois, where not much had changed for decades. Suddenly, it was invaded by 12,000 rambunctious adolescents, most of them from Chicago! Carbondale would be forever changed.
So you’re 18, and a new student in Carbondale in 1966. Like most, you want some music. What are the choices? There was a lot of great music being released at that time, but could you get it in C’dale?
First, almost no one had “stereos” as we know them today. There were no “affordable” component systems (separate amp/receiver, turntable, speakers, tape deck). There were no CD’s, not even cassettes. There were reel-to-reel tape recorders and decks, but they were expensive and out of reach for 80-90% of students. “8-tracks” were just starting. These were tape cartridges (similar to radio station carts) that had 1/4″ audio tape inside, and ran at 3 3/4 IPS. Each tape had four stereo channels of audio, and you could listen to one at a time. 8 track players were largely in cars (and this was the first time anyone could play recorded music in cars–stereo too) but there were some home 8-track units. Most 8-tracks were pre-recorded versions of albums, distributed by record companies. A few people had 8-track recorders, but these were rare, especially in 1966. In fact, 8 tracks were pretty rare (and expensive) until the late 60′s. Even by 1970, less than half of the students in C’dale had 8-tracks. 8-tracks were not high quality audio (but they were stereo, and better than AM radio), and the 8 track tapes and cartridges often jammed or otherwise self- destructed.
Most students in 1966 had some records (45′s and albums) and a “phonograph” to play them. A phonograph was a turntable that had its own amp & speakers (or speaker–if mono). Many phonographs had a “changer” feature; you could “stack” 45′s or lp’s on the spindle and the phonograph would play them one at a time. This was not good for the records, but this allowed for a longer period of music that you could select yourself, without having to get up and interrupt your time with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
There are few pursuits more central to adolescent life than the search—the quest. This transcends all eras; no matter what year, students in C’dale were asearching and ahoping. However, in 1966, the local authorities stood between the searcher and searchee. Under the legal doctrine of “loco parentis,” (crazy parents), the university enacted and tried to enforce these rules:
- No Co-Ed dorms
- No members of the opposite sex in dorm rooms ever
- Curfew: all women must be insid their dorms before 10pm weeknights, 11:30 weekends. Men were 11p and 12:30a.
- “Visitation” was allowed in lounge areas with a supervisor present, until curfew
- Violation led to suspension (house arrest) or expulsion from the university
Keep in mind that for men, “expulsion from the university” could mean a loss of the treasured 2-S student deferment from the draft. The university was pleased to speedily inform the Selective Service System (draft administrators) that a student was expelled. Induction notices would promptly follow. From rule violation to expulsion and induction into the military could be 30 days or less!
So the choice was between following the sex drive and being sent to Vietnam, or following the rules and getting really REALLY frustrated.
One way to try to cope with the frustration was to listen to music, yet the same old records got tired pretty fast. Many students were accustomed to a full dial of quality radio choices, but in Carbondale, there were few stations and almost none targeted a student demographic.
Scanning the radio dial in C’dale in 1966, one would find meager offerings. First of all, most people had AM only. Almost all students had an alarm clock device, and most of these were analog AM clock radios. Car radios were almost all AM, even cars with 8-tracks. There were no boom boxes, no walkmen (or walk women) just “transistor” radios, which were all AM.
So, what was on the dial? Well, the local station was WCIL. It was owned by the McRoy family, as it had been for years. At 1020 AM, WCIL broadcast daytime hours only. It featured shows like “The Trading Post,” where locals could trade a ringer washing machine for a meat grinder or a cesspool pump. Another top WCIL program was “Coffee with Larry,” hosted by Larry Doyle, the Sales Manager. WCIL played music, occasionally. One would hear the Ray Coniff singers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Vaughn Monroe, Andy Williams, Doris Day, and maybe they would take a big risk and play some Johnny Mathis.
The major feature on WCIL, hour after hour, was commercials, and lots of them. Hearing more than 30 minutes per hour of commercials was not unusual. SIU sports, especially basketball, was also a big moneymaker for WCIL.
WCIL essentially had a local monopoly on commercial radio, and they milked it . By 1968 they also had an FM frequency at 101.5 mz. It was mono, and they used it to simulcast the AM. When the AM went off, so did the FM.
Also on the AM dial was WGGH, Marion. This was the local country station. You could also find WJPF, Herrin, WRAJ, Anna and WMCL, McCleansboro. Although some of the music was different than CIL, and there may have been local and network news distinctions, it was the same style of radio.
WSIU was available at 91.9 FM. Mono at the time, WSIU was the first local station that did not sound like WCIL. But there was no NPR at that time, and WSIU was on its own. Some R-T professors were pressed into service as radio hosts. One example was Dick Hildreth, who hosted a 1930′s music show for years. WSIU had a strong and wide-ranging signal, but most people did not have FM at this time.
This dearth of diversity encouraged listeners to reach out further. On the edge of the daytime range of AM were some St. Louis stations, and others. WKYX, Paducah, Kentucky, was available at 570 AM. KGMO, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, had an AM/FM. St. Louis offered KSD, 550 AM, KXOK, 630 AM, and KMOX at 1160 AM. KYX and KGMO eventually became top-40, but not until the early 70′s. KSD was “easy listening,” (called MOR then), with WCIL-type music but less commercials. KMOX was mostly news/talk, and they were the St. Louis Cardinals’ (baseball and football) flagship station.
KXOK was the only station playing close to a “top 40″ format. Yes, they did play the hits, but also lots of commercials with really bad production, and ancient, embarrassing jingles. Their jocks were very self-impressed and left much to be desired. Anyone who had grown up on Chicago radio could not take much of KXOK.
KXOK also had a poor signal into C’dale. In the daytime, it could be received in most cars and some dorm rooms, if you were high enough (i.e., if your room was on an upper floor–most students didn’t do that then) and if your window faced north or west. At night, the signal was weaker and almost impossible to receive.
At night, most local AM stations signed off or greatly reduced their power and this was the opportunity one did not get in Chicago– the chance to DX. This meant trying to receive faraway stations.
WLS, Chicago, was the main option. Clear channel, “The Big 89″ had a fairly dependable signal into C’dale starting about an hour after dark. The other 50,000 watt clear channel Chicago stations, WMAQ, WBBM, and WGN were also receivable in C’dale at night, but these stations did not play popular music. WLS and WCFL were competitors and both featured a “Top 40″ format. WCFL also had 50,000 watts, but at night, it was directional north and mostly east; not receivable in C’dale.
At that time, “Top 40″ included a great merging of diverse styles.
Recent top 10 hits included:
Psychotic Reaction – Count V
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
Mr. Tambourine Man – Byrds
Winchester Cathedral – New Vaudeville Band
We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet – Blues Magoos
Chain Of Fools – Aretha Franklin
Sunshine Superman – Donovan
The Crusher – Novas
Kicks – Paul Revere & The Raiders
King Of The Road – Roger Miller
Mother’s Little Helper – Rolling Stones
(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – Monkees
Scratch My Back – Slim Harpo
Groovy Kind Of Love – Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
Because there was such a mix, and the songs were short, this format attracted a large audience. Adolescents from the Chicago area had grown up on this type of radio, and it was a big letdown to arrive in C’dale and have no comparable radio service.
So, at night, large numbers of C’daleites tuned to WLS. And, that would be the end of this story. EXCEPT, WLS’s nighttime signal was not quite dependable enough to satisfy the needs of C’dale. It would drift, fade in and out, increase and decrease in volume. The audio would often distort. Sometimes, it did not come in at all. The general need remained unsatisfied.
So we have this open space, still in Illinois but essentially a foreign land, that suddenly experiences an enormous building boom and a huge influx of young adults–almost all from the Chicago area–who double the size of the town practically overnight. These “students” were attracted by loose admission and class requirements, new campus, cheap tuition, and a draft exemption. There was a lot of energy, leisure time, and a split feeling of invincibility and desperation.
18-20 year olds in 1966 were the beginning of the peak of the baby boomers. While growing up, they were repeatedly propagandized about the “Red Menace,” digging fallout shelters, and the glory of dying for our country in war. In 1966, the government propaganda tried to justify the vietnam war as a fight against the Red Menace, and that getting drafted for this was just as good as fighting Hitler. This was not well-received, especially in view of nightly news coverage of the war that contradicted the government. Many people, especially those of draft age, became uneasy, distrustful of authority, and angry.
Meanwhile, it had only been a few years (maybe since the mid-’50s), that an adolescent identity had been “allowed.” First, it was music, only for adolescents (rock & roll). Then it was movies (First, “Blackboard Jungle,” “Rebel without a Cause,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” later, Beatles’ movies). Then, special clothes. There was special language (Groovy. Uptight. Freakout.) Cigarettes, cars, cosmetics. Hairstyles. Special activities (“Skateboarding” was originally called “sidewalk surfing”). There were special TV shows like “The Monkees,” Shindig, and Hullabaloo. We may take this for granted now, but, prior to the mid-’60s there was very little “generation identity.” But now, added to the general feeling of invincibility adolescents always seem to have, there was a pervasive feeling, for the first time, that this generation was a TEAM, they had some power, they had their own way of doing things and MAYBE they were strong enough to avoid being pushed around.
In 1966, SIU had enough students to qualify as a major state university. Yet, in some ways, the school was run as the small college it had been just a few years ago. Springtime meant panty raids. Panty raids involved a crowd of males gathering in front of a female dorm. The females were supposed to “satisfy” the frenzied males by tossing panties out the windows. At some point, the males would leave with their panties and go home. From today’s point of view, it all sounds pretty tame.
In 1966, spring came early to C’dale and the sap was rising as the panty raiders were out in force. Yet they were too impatient to wait for their panties, so a few enterprising males invaded the dorm to find the panties themselves. The dorm matrons were outraged and they complained to the security police and the administration. The offenders were expelled, with no right of appeal. Since they were male, this meant they would be drafted, and likely be sent to the jungles of vietnam, in a matter of weeks.
Students were outraged. How could their comrades be “sentenced” without a hearing, and with no right of appeal? This was not the American way as they had been taught for years! What about constitutional rights?
Here we had the age-old conflict between abstract principle and practical application. The idea of constitutional rights to due process and to petition for redress of grievances versus keeping order in the face of “doing things not normally done.” In today’s world, the reaction would probably be individual, and one extreme or the other. Either the offenders would be afraid of “getting in trouble” (i.e., interfering with their future job prospects), afraid of “rocking the boat” (being branded as different), or just feel powerless and they would do nothing. Or, they would get a lawyer and sue. Either way, an individual response. In the late 70′s or early 80′s, getting expelled from SIU for being overly zealous at a panty raid would likely be worn as a badge of honor. It would not be perceived as restricting anyone’s future
But in 1966, most students were not concerned about future earning power. They were concerned about their chances of surviving until next year. Getting drafted lowered those chances substantially. And expulsion meant getting drafted.
The effect of the expulsions cut across students as a group. Almost all male students were subject to the draft if expelled. Almost all male students felt that panty raids were reasonable, necessary and proper, and most certainly not an expellable offense. If they were going to be arbitrarily expelled and drafted, they had nothing to lose.
So the panty raids increased. The crowds got larger. The administration and police were scared. Martial law was declared. A curfew was imposed.
There were meetings among faculty, administration and student representatives. The faculty and administration agreed that the students needed to be taught a lesson. As it turned out, the students did teach themselves a lesson. But, it was the faculty and administrators that were taught the big lesson.
In defiance of the curfew, larger and larger crowds gathered in front of the female dorms, A “police force” approached. It was comprised of SIU Security, C’dale police, Carbondale Volunteer Firemen, and Jackson County Deputy Sheriffs. They decided to arrest as many curfew violators as they could. There were more than a hundred arrested, so there was no way to transport them to a lockup except on foot. So the cops tried to march the group down to the police station, then located on Washington Street south of Main.
Once they arrived, the police realized that the lockup only had room for maybe a dozen. So they told the group to wait on the street until the cops figured out what to do. The offenders then decided to leave. En masse, they proceeded to Freeman and Illinois (where Spud-Nuts was then, east of where Quatro’s is now). They started rocking cars. The cars were turned over. Some were throwing rocks and breaking windows. The cars were burning. The police were powerless to stop the students, and this was obvious to everyone.
At the police station, network news crews were present when the police told the student “offenders” to wait on the street while the police figured out what to do with them. One of those students was Roger Strauss, then 19, a student from Chicago. Roger was shown on camera when he was across the street from the police station. In the picture, Roger was giving the police “the finger.” The story made the network news, at a time when “campus riot” stories were still unusual.
Imagine never hearing of Carbondale, Illinois before, never hearing of Southern Illinois University before, and seeing, on the network news, a shot of a student giving the “universal salute” to the police AT THE POLICE STATION! Remember, this was still 1966, when protesting was still new and unusual. Imagine being in Los Angeles (where Roger’s aunt was) and seeing him on KNBC.
Carbondale? That’s the place where the students give the police the finger! This is the first image many people had of C’dale and SIU. (If this happened today, the cameraman and crew might well be arrested and charged with “inciting a riot” or at least “disorderly conduct,” and the university could claim that the shot was “staged” and that “nothing happened.” The university might complain that NBC was portraying the university in a “false light” and threaten to sue. Never mind that this was caused by the university’s manic response to a panty raid; sentencing the violators to potential death or dismemberment in Vietnam.)
The faculty and administration still insisted on teaching the students a lesson. Meanwhile, the news was getting around. Responding to nationwide publicity, members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) visited C’dale, and conferred with local students at Spud-Nuts. The SDS members were interested in the national statement potential of events in C’dale. Up to that time, most protests were confined to the east (Columbia) and west (Berkeley) coasts. Carbondale was extremely middle-america, so if it could happen in C’dale, it could happen anywhere.
The protests escalated. Crowds continued to gather every night, in defiance of the curfew. Responding to this activity in 1966 was impossible for even a large police department such as Chicago’s. In C’dale no one had a clue what to do. All the offenders couldn’t even be arrested. Those that were could not be locked up; at the C’dale police lockup, there was room for maybe ten. At the Jackson County jail maybe 20 more. What about the other 2,000? There were at least 50 offenders for each officer. The police were scared. Martial law became a joke.
The administrators and faculty continued to insist that the students be taught a lesson. But how? Hire 1000 more police? Build a new prison? (This was eventually done, in Vienna, a few years later). Expel 2,000 students? Who would come to school there? The debate raged on among faculty, administration, and student representatives.
Rumors abounded among students: The protesters were burning down buildings. The police were murdering students. Students were burning police cars with police still in them. The campus was going to be turned into a concentration camp. The police were training vicious dogs to maim students. Anyone who went to class would be attacked. Police were working undercover, posing as students. The dorms were going to be tear gassed. The roads out of town were blockaded.
There was no medium to instantly communicate to students. Print was the only option, and it was cumbersome. It was slow, not pervasive, and ineffective in response to word-of-mouth rumors. The “word on the street” was considered by many to be the most reliable and credible information. And, once exciting events were happening, “word on the street” spread at lightning speed!
Slow to respond, the administration finally decided to create an “informational discussion” program on WSIU-FM. The program was designed to convey the impression that calm and serious discussions were happening among students, faculty, and administration. Since, at the time, probably less than 5% of students could listen to FM radio, let alone those who could find WSIU on the dial and were aware of the program, it had limited results.
Meanwhile, word-on-the-street was to gather at the president’s house. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, massed and began moving in that direction. By now, National Guard troops had been called in. The troops and police narrowed the crowd and a select group of students went to the president’s house.
President Delyte W. Morris met with the students, in the street. There were a total of 20 persons standing together. President Morris and three associates stepped towards the group of 5 students. He was cordial to the students. He said, “How can we get past this?”
The reply was, “Reinstate the students who were expelled for the panty raids and curfew violations.”
He said, “I can’t do that for the good of the university.”
The response: “Look down the street.”
Students were rocking an Army Jeep with a machine gun turrent. They were screaming, especially when it turned over. A police car was burning. Dozens of students were wearing “First Annual SIU Riots” T-shirts. The crowd chanted “The town’s going to fall,” over and over.
President Morris issued a memo reinstating the students. The students had learned a valuable lesson. But it took awhile for the administration and police to learn theirs.
The SDS was encouraged by the response of the students in C’dale. By the next school year, (66-67) there was a local SDS chapter. Rumors abounded that the Weathermen were also involved. It would be too tangentially lengthy to detail the development of the SDS and its sub/splinter group, the Weathermen. It shall suffice to say that both groups advocated great change in our systems. Both groups felt that at least some existing institutions must be dismantled and/or destroyed before improvement could start. The Weathermen splintered because they were more impatient than the main SDS group. The Weathermen, at least at times, advocated change through violence.
So we have the “First Annual SIU Riots” in spring, ’66, and then, a few months later, the creation of a local SDS chapter with rumors of Weathermen. At the time, the administration’s largest fear was the presence of “outside agitators.” This meant people coming to C’dale from parts unknown for the purpose of facilitating unrest.
To some extent, this fear was well-founded. There were sources of support and consultation outside of C’dale that assisted in organizing demonstrations, orchestrating events that pressured the administration, and teaching techniques of negotiation. But this potential led nowhere unless there were large numbers of locals who were motivated, angry, and competent. The administration was convinced that, except for these “outside agitators,” SIU students would remain preoccupied with good times, cars, and panty raids. The truth was that students were concerned and angry, especially about the draft, war, and related issues. This created the “gun powder,” and all that remained was for someone to light the fuse.
Many students, perhaps most students, did not actively participate in violent acts against persons or property. The same can probably be said about police and soldiers. Yet there was a significant and ever-fluctuating minority on each side that continued to support a hard line. All of the “fuse-lighting” events made tempers rise. The aggression was hard to keep in check. Both sides knew violent acts by their own group alienated “middle america” persons. Some did not care about what “middle america” thought, and believed it was more important to “send a message” by engaging in violent acts.
During the years 1964-72, there were buildings burned and/or bombed on many campuses all across the nation. Many in C’dale felt “it could never happen here.” Yet, in the spring of 1968, a bomb was detonated in the AG building, which extensively damaged the auditorium and other areas. Luckily, the explosion occurred when the building was unoccupied; the potential number of injuries was unthinkable. This event significantly raised the stakes, and all participants became very edgy.
Events leading up to June of 1969 are largely unknown to this author. Perhaps some readers can supply some information to fill the gaps. What happened that month in C’dale was an event that is usually mentioned only in whispers, even 30 years later. Although it affected everyone in C’dale at that time and for years to come, it is not allowed to be mentioned in the SIU Museum. The investigation was never closed, and never resolved.
There was a large building in the middle of the old campus. It was basically among old Davis Gym, Shryock Auditorium and Altgeld Hall. It was the oldest standing building on campus, about one hundred years old. It was the main classroom building. The English Department, among others, had its offices there. The building had a large clock tower. Its image was featured on the seal of the university, on brochures, etc. It was the central point of the campus. It was called “Old Main.”
At that time, SIU was on quarters, not semesters. Spring quarter began the last week in March, and exams were the second week in June. The day before the English exams were scheduled, the word on the street went out: “Old Main is burning.” The building was not only on fire, but engulfed in flames. Although it had a brick exterior, the interior featured many flammable materials.
Crowds gathered to watch it burn. Firemen were largely helpless. No one was killed or injured (as far as this author knows), but the building burnt to the ground. News of this traveled nationwide.
Meanwhile, in the mid-60′s, a special person was coming of age in Chicago’s far northwest suburbs. His father had an electrical contractor business. While still in high school, he got a part-time job at a nearby suburban FM station. He was independent-minded, strong-willed and very determined, traits that would later become the indispensable contribution to the ultimate goal. He graduated high school in 1967, and decided to attend SIU in the fall. The SIU he discovered was very much in flux.
The campus and community had not yet adjusted to SIU’s manic growth spurt. Housing for students was still in short supply. Trailer courts, makeshift temporary dorm space (accommodating as much as 3 or more in a regular room), administration buildings and temporary “barracks” were pressed into service for housing. The campus’ state seemed to be continually “under construction.” Buildings were always being built, sometimes in twos and threes. Despite all the construction, sidewalks and walkways ended up last in priority, so there was nowhere to walk except on the grass. Yet since the grass was perpetually torn up because of the construction, everyone had to walk on the dirt. Add to this mix that it seemed to rain A LOT in C’dale, which turned the dirt turned to mud very quickly, significant portions of campus regularly became quagmires.
Sometimes, wooden “snow fences” were laid on the mud to assist in walking through the mess. This worked out all right for the first 1,000 or so persons; not as well for the next 5,000. The construction of Schneider, Neely, Mae Smith, Allen, Boomer and Wright dorms, along with Trueblood and Grinnell Halls, created a significant “East Campus.” SIU was now split, with the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and US Route 51 right in the middle. Thus, students living at or visiting the east campus had to cross the tracks and Route 51 every time they wanted to get to the main campus area, to go to class, just about any university office, the University Center, the Arena, or Morris Library.
Now, there are walkway/bikeways/overpasses over the tracks and Route 51 that people use. In 1967 these were not there. In 1965, the university had approved construction of the overpass, and construction began that year. But construction was suspended in 1967 because proceeding with construction exceeded original cost estimates. Years passed, and students continued to fall victim to pedestrian/auto, and pedestrian/train collisions. The university bureaucracy still would not proceed with construction. Only after another major accident resulting in a student’s death in December 1969, along with vehement student demands for completion of construction, did the university finally move ahead.
In 1967, there were three main areas to cross. One was at Grand, where there were sidewalks, railroad crossing gates, and a traffic light at Route 51 (Illinois Avenue). That was pretty safe. Another was just west of Grinnell (where the first overpass was finally finished in October, ’70). This was where the most traffic (and the most danger) occurred. The third spot was between Wright and the Physical Plant (where an overpass was built in the late ‘80s). This one featured a hilly area that led down to (and up from) the tracks. When the “hilly areas” were barren (which was most of the time) and it rained (often) the hills became mudslides. When one noticed another student with a “muddy backside” there was a grunt of empathy because almost everyone had, at least once, attempted this route only to take a slide in the mud. In fact, this last crossing became known as the “Ho Chi Minh Trail,” named after the route in Vietnam that the insurgents traveled, famous for its “monsoons” and mud.
So it was clear to all who came there that SIU was a “work in progress.” The campus was evolving, and the many new and ongoing projects were threatening to certain administration and faculty personnel. Those who were unsettled by the changes were concerned about keeping the traditional priorities in order. Yet, there was continuing debate over just what those priorities were.
For years, some schools had been run as if serving student needs were afterthoughts. There was a rationale that what was good for administrators (and some senior faculty) was good for students. Concurrently, established protocols and procedures of decision-making and grievances, in place for years (even decades), were stubbornly defended by administrators and faculty. The old methods certainly offered administrative convenience to those in power. It also kept the defenders in control of most spending and personnel power.
The massive expansion of SIU was made possible by the support of, and promises of benefit to, unions, local and other contractors and vendors, certain politicians, and local businesses. All of these groups stood to enjoy financial and/or political gain from the massive influx of government dollars into C’dale. It was these interests (and not those related to higher education and the students who sought it) that coalesced to make the state commit the dollars to SIU, and it was these same interests that were represented on the SIU Board of Trustees. That being said, those in power were aware that state dollars would cease if there were no students. But, in the ‘60’s, there seemed to be an endless supply of students.
Attracted by the new campus, cheap tuition, and (for some) draft exemption, new students kept coming to SIU. Many never graduated, but they paid their tuition, spent money with local merchants, and fulfilled their purpose. So, as long as the students kept coming and spending, priorities were “in order;” but only as long as the students “behaved themselves.”
“Behaving” meant two things: (1) Not committing any crimes or violating criminal-like university rules; and (2) Not interfering with the established protocols and procedures of the university. If a student ran afoul of (1), he or she was branded a “criminal” by the administration; if a student breached (2) he or she was labeled a “troublemaker.” Time after time, there were examples of the University making decisions based on what was perceived to be in the interests of the faculty, businessmen, politicians, administrators, and university protocol and procedures, with almost no consideration for what students needed.
One example was the expulsion of the panty raiders in 1966 and the stubborn insistence that students “must be taught a lesson.” But this last-placed student priority was blatantly obvious in proposals that were exclusively for student benefit, with almost no perceived benefit for the “in-power” groups.
The stubborn refusal to complete the overpass construction for over three years while student after student were mowed down by speeding cars and trains is a pretty good example. Where was the benefit to the administrators and faculty (who rarely walked to East Campus)? It was a “small” (read: “cheap”) project, and there were so many other projects that could put dollars into local contractors’ and union and union members’ pockets; how could this be a priority? It is inferred that only after the perception that defending and settling lawsuits became more costly than completing the project did construction finally move forward (after a teamsters’ strike, major riots, and intense student pressure).
Keep in mind that money was not a problem (the way it is today) at SIU. There was a mindset that the university was expanding, the state was committed to fund this, and the state had the money. The university’s budget increased dramatically each year, including a hefty construction/capital improvement component.
There were other sources of money besides the state. The university created certain “funds” that were earmarked for particular purposes. These were where the “fees” that students paid every quarter (in addition to tuition) were deposited. One example was the infamous “SWRF” fee. The “Student Welfare & Recreation Fund” became one of the more controversial fees. This is how it worked: each quarter, after one registered, a “fee statement” would be rendered. On it, your tuition was listed, along with a few bucks (5-15) for “SWRF.” Other fees (such as the Athletic Fee) were also listed. Even if tuition was paid, one was not registered unless all fees were also paid.
The ostensible purpose of the SWRF fee was to erect a building containing recreation facilities for students. However, this fee was collected from almost all students, quarter after quarter, semester after semester, year after year, through the 60′s and into the 70′s, with still no new student recreation facilities. Students complained for years that they were paying for nothing. The now-infamous SWRF fund accumulated millions of dollars. Finally, in the mid 70′s, after years of controversy and pressure on the SIU Board of Trustees, they authorized construction of the co-rec center with these funds. It was eventually completed in 1976.
Some argue that the administration and Board might never have authorized construction but for the years of riots and student pressure to use the funds and build a recreational facility. The Board and administration seemed to resent the student pressure, year after year, to abolish the required fee payments or build something that addressed students’ needs. In a final rebuke to those who had made the co-rec center possible, the Board of Trustees, upon administration recommendation, voted to bar admission to the co-rec center to former students who had paid the SWRF fees and pressured the Board to build the building!
So we have this result—alumni who paid their hard-earned student dollars for years (and got nothing but empty promises in return) are now “barred” from the building they paid for–unless they pay “another” fee to get in. Meanwhile, current students pay much less–and get in free! If you ever visit C’dale and are so inclined, go to the co-rec building (north of Grinnell and east of the Blue Barracks) and hang around the front entrance. You might see and hear alumni walk by, point to the building and comment “I paid for this building, but they won’t let me in unless I pay again!” What great continuing PR for the university with its alumni! By the way, the reason the Board and administration gave for barring former students was that they might “overtax the facilities.” The day after this was announced Gus Bode said: “Too bad the trustees care about overtaxing the facilities. They never worry about overtaxing the students.” Experiences like this jaded some students and discouraged them from working within the system to access funds earmarked for student needs.
Fortunately, some student fees went into funds that were more liberally administered. One of these was the so-called “Activity Fee.” The “Activity Fee” was collected from each student every quarter they registered and paid tuition. This fee was designed to be spent each year to fund a variety of student activities. Even in the ‘60s, there was at least $100,000 collected and spent each year under this fund.
Procedures varied over the years that governed application and use of these funds, but generally speaking, the lion’s share of this money was approved by the student senate based on applications from student organizations that had met certain requirements to achieve official status. Thus, in order to be eligible to even apply for funding, a group must be properly “organized.” This meant there must be a proof of “need,” for the organization (which could be a list of interested students, some kind of “constitution” or governing document, election and/or appointment of a governing body and officers, and official approval of these documents and processes). Usually, official approval meant student government as well as (university) administration approval.
This process was made to seem daunting for a reason. Although there was a pool of funds available, increased competition for the funds made life hard for those who had to decide. Also, once the funds were allocated, there were many regulations to follow in usage of the money. Allocation to a “fringe” group usually meant lots of headaches for the ensuing fiscal year. Finally, there was the issue of empowering a group that would be “troublemakers,” ie, give the administration a hard time. It was easier to squelch a potentially threatening group by making the initial organization/recognition stage difficult, rather than suddenly refusing to fund an ongoing group.
In 1967, there were SDS groups on campus. While it is unknown if any of these groups applied for official recognition, these groups represented one end of the spectrum the administration perceived as “criminal.” The inference can be drawn that any new group that might be perceived as similar to the SDS groups were not ushered to the red carpet fast-track.
Some readers may be older and have developed significant administrative skills, so establishing a new student group at a university may seem, from today’s perspective, rather simple. But try to picture an 18-19 year old, with the impatience of youth, little bureaucratic experience, buffeted with the pressures of 5-6 classes, dorm living, as well as the party and opposite sex distractions that only C’dale can offer, and one may be able to conceptualize the challenge of the stiff learning curve and need for unlimited perseverance and discipline required to accomplish major bureaucratic tasks. Add these challenges to the goal of creating a new organization whose purpose was to serve students exclusively, in a specific area where the administration had tried and failed (but would not admit failure). Finally, this was an area perceived by administrators as threatening to the control of communications as well as university protocol, procedures, and powers. These were the “general conditions” faced by those trying to create a student radio station at SIU.
Because of the perception of danger from so many interested groups, there seemed to be infinite hoops to jump through, and new ones were created every day. From the administration/faculty point of view, five years to complete (or not complete) a project was not too long (as illustrated by the overpass and Co-Rec debacles). But to students, being able to sustain an effort towards a goal for five and more years was not realistic. A number of efforts to realize ANY major project to primarily benefit students ended in failure or abandonment. Many never got off the ground. Some died for lack of follow-up. A small portion became obsolete. A few demised for lack of interest. Factionalism was fatal to others.
The key to success seemed to be first, an unwavering vision by a creator who could remain both spiritually inspirational and bureaucratically skillful. Second, the passion and energy of a member-nucleus able to focus on a common goal. Third, the leader’s ability to shepherd and marshall internal (members), and external (bureaucracy and others) elements towards that goal. Finally, a goal-oriented “can do” relentlessness, tempered by reasonable morals.
By 1967, the first element was already present.
In the early 60′s, there was a main general decision-making body called the University Council. It contained representatives of faculty and others. There were sub-bodies of this, such as the Residence Halls Council, Student Council (Student Government), and Communications Council, which was essentially a committee whose purpose was to review campus and communications issues and make recommendations to the entire University Council.
After receiving the Lueck WCBQ carrier current station proposal in 1962, the Communications Council failed to act. In March 1963, President Morris issued a policy statement which charged the CC with the duty “to make recommendations to the University Council on all proposals for adding to or deleting from the University communications media.” Shortly thereafter, Richard Moore, then Student Body President-elect, requested the CC act on the Lueck proposal. In June, 1963, the CC did act. They recommended that the University Council approve it in principle, with the suggestion that “either the Residence Hall Council or Student Council submit a more specific proposal for review and approval” that would contain:
- Details of a student organization that would operate the station
- Programming goals and details about how the goals would be met
- A plan for University engineering assistance so FCC standards would be met
- A “Student Control Board” (with possible faculty participation) that would have authority to remove any individual from the station for cause
- Faculty “advice and counsel,” possibly from Broadcasting Service
- Control of advertising and revenue therefrom
In August, 1963, the University Council rejected this, sent the matter back to the CC, and told the CC to first get the proposal redrafted and then resubmit to the UC. In November, 1963, the CC instead decided that there should be an “Advisory Board for the Carbondale Campus Closed Circuit Radio Station,” comprised of:
- Three faculty advisors
- Student Body President
- Student Council President
- Residence Halls Council President
- Inter-Greek Council President
- Station Manager
and this board should prepare the revised proposal. This was only the CC’s recommendation; it could not proceed without UC approval.
In January, 1964, the UC rejected this. Instead, the UC instructed the CC to “investigate the alternatives for making the present FM programs (on WSIU-FM) available to the residence halls.” The UC felt that the student need could be addressed if students could just receive WSIU-FM. The idea of a student-run carrier current station was going backwards.
The CC then dutifully engaged Buren C. Robbins, Director, and Founder of the SIU Broadcasting Service, to prepare a report on the feasibility of making WSIU-FM available to all dorm residents, and how WSIU could address student needs. The CC also snuck in an additional item: Robbins should also evaluate how well a carrier current station would satisfy students’ needs.
Robbins’ report was issued in April, 1964. Its main purpose was a cost/benefit analysis of a university-funded installation of FM receivers in dorms so students could listen to WSIU-FM! The report enumerated these alternatives:
- Installing 1200 all-channel FM receivers (one in each then-existing dorm room) at a total cost of about $50,000
- Installation of the same receivers, but only in dorm lounges, at a total cost of about $12,000
- Installation of carrier-current AM transmitters in dorms to rebroadcast WSIU-FM, so WSIU would be made available to students on AM, at a total cost of about $7,000 plus $50/month for phone lines
- Same as 3, but the AM would have separate programming for an hour or so each day for “student announcements”
- Same as 4 but the AM could also be separated at any time for “announcements to students at any time”
- Same as 5 but separate the AM for more extensive original programs by and for students (but only with “strict control and supervision of the Broadcast Service”)
Robbins’ final conclusion was to recommend 4, based on cost and to “prevent the programs’ getting out of control were students to control all, or part, of that programming.” Robbins did say that if funds became available it might be OK to proceed with expanded student programming, but only “with great caution.”
After Robbins’ report became public, at least several students protested in letters. Students wanted the experience of managing and operating a radio station and making their own programming decisions. The members of the Communications Council seemed to understand this. While they reluctantly acknowledged that choice “d” was the best way for WSIU-FM to reach students, the CC members pointedly stated that this would not provide the experience students wanted. The CC then became defiant by insisting that their prior recommendations (to create an interim board and authorize a student station in principle) be reconsidered. Their April, 1964, report also said:
3. The Communications Council suggests that it might be in order for the University Council to recommend an overall review of WSIU-FM standards of programming in terms of both presentation and content.
The effort to create a student station was the victim of a “turf battle” between (on the one hand) administrators and faculty who wanted to facilitate student opportunities and (on the other hand) the broadcast service’s interest in controlling all campus media; as well other University Council members were concerned with “out of control” students making programming decisions. The CC did not seem to hold WSIU-FM in high favor. It appears that the University Council again refused to accept the CC recommendations.
By May, 1965, Fred Lueck, still at SIU, had found some help. Fred prepared a new proposal, but this time, he had lined up all the dorm presidents, Student Council, Student Body President, and all of them had endorsed the proposal. In fact, they had created a “Committee for Closed Circuit Radio,” of which Fred and Mike McDaniel were co-chairs.
This new proposal had these key features:
- Still no governing board
- Station would be funded by “amending the Broadcast Service’s budget”
- Had provisions for sales
- Some clumsy organization: Staff members appointed for one quarter only, Faculty Advisor appoints a “Manager,” and the advisor must approve all expenditures, appointments, etc.
- No engineering or programming details, not even how decisions would be made
This proposal was submitted to Dr. John Anderson, whose title was “Executive Director, Communications Media.” It appears that he was superior to the Director of the Broadcasting Service. He authorized a study on this matter by Ira McDaniel, Director of Broadcast Engineering at Oklahoma State University. McDaniel’s report was issued in August, 1965. His conclusion was remarkably astute and prophetic:
“The possibility of an open-air transmission system should be considered. Such a system would give full campus and off-campus coverage regardless of growth trends. The system would be central in nature and therefore require less material and manpower to operate it. The first costs would be lower for the open-air system. Problems with the FCC (about excessive radiation from carrier-current transmitters) would be all but eliminated. If an open-air station should happen to be commercial, the operators of the local station would be duly concerned, but that would be the case even with a current-carrier station. It should be decided which will be of the greatest concern…..the operator’s (university’s) interest, or the interests of the student body. The open-air system would seem to be the only sound system to merit consideration if a frequency is available and the author is sure there is.
“The author estimates that at the present rate in which FM channels are being filed upon in Oklahoma, there will be none left by 1969. The situation in Illinois is probably more acute. The possibility of a commercial FM for Carbondale, and both a commercial and non-commercial educational FM for Edwardsville should be considered. Once these frequencies are gone, it is probable that they will never again be available………… especially to educators.”
Sadly, this cogent and prescient analysis was obscured in an avalanche of discordant proposals, committee recommendations, and other reports. To his credit, Dr. Anderson tried to corral the issues by identifying many interested persons, rendering sets of copies of all relevant documents to them, and assembling them in an attempt to fashion some form of consensus. At this point, Dr. Anderson had assembled all the documents described so far. But there was a lot more.
In addition to their proposal to “amend the broadcasting service budget,” Lueck and McDaniel also submitted a document titled “Managerial Breakdown and Job Description of the Station Operating Policy of the Proposed Student Carrier-Current Radio Station.” A company called “H & R Broadcasting” submitted a proposal that they would operate the campus student station. John Kurtz and Buren C. Robbins presented a document entitled: “WINI–prepared for Carrier-Current.” There was a copy of a study from Michigan State University about their situation. There was a new (kind of half-baked) proposal for “Radio Thompson Point” that would feature, among other things, “announcements and music during meal times.”
Dr. Anderson was charged with the duty to render a report on this to Ralph Ruffner, Vice President for Student and Area Services. During a trip to Hawaii and Tokyo, Dr. Anderson wrote his report. While in Katmandu, Nepal, he wrote a letter “expressing his dismay” that the report had not been received yet. His report finally “turned up” in mid-November, 1966.
The long awaited conclusions were not surprises. The report stated:
- Students really wanted to manage, operate, and program their own station
- Buren C. Robbins really wanted the university to purchase equipment so that more students could listen to WSIU-FM
- The University Council really wanted any student programs to be controlled by the Broadcasting Service
- The students should have their own station, but not before the questions of who would own it (i.e. a non-university non-profit corporation) and how it would be funded were resolved (with no suggestion on how to resolve this – just that “legal counsel said it should be looked into”)
- That students, if motivated, should devise ways of funding the station
- No mention of an open-air station
No action recommended, except that Robbins’ idea (to make WSIU-FM available in dorms) should be funded, as it might “aid instruction,” and that WSIU do more to program to student needs. After five years of meetings, proposals, studies, reports, and analysis, the great organization and brainpower of the university responded to an obvious student need for a student radio station by suggesting further study, and spending money to obtain a student (possibly captive) audience for WSIU.
The WSIU-FM receivers-in-the-dorms idea never happened. It is unknown if there was any follow up by legal counsel to “look into” aspects of outside ownership and funding methods of a student station. Lueck and McDaniel eventually left SIU, possibly as graduates. There was some outraged reaction to Dr. Anderson’s report.
Some faculty stated the obvious—the university had failed the students. It had taken five years to accomplish nothing. The school was no closer to a student radio station and/or a radio service serving student needs than it had been in 1962, or, for that matter, 1862. Generations of students had arrived and departed C’dale and there was still no local radio for students, for service, for experience, for anything.
Supposedly structured for efficiency, the administration and bureaucracy had spun its wheels, passed the buck, ignored its own paid consultants, engendered territorial battles, and completely disregarded students’ needs. The administration and bureaucracy refused to prioritize students’ needs over administrative convenience. They ignored the efficiency of open-air broadcasting and procrastinated, stalled, and delayed. This is how they “served” their paying customers–the students.
When we assemble this story with what happened with the overpass, the riots of 1966, and the SWRF, a troubling pattern is confirmed. Far from isolated, this pattern of bureaucratic behavior to place student interests last continued. This is the landscape Jerry Chabrian “inherited” when he arrived as a freshman in September, 1967. He was not aware of all of this; and it’s probably a good thing. He might have been discouraged, but, knowing Jerry, he more likely would be mad, possibly mad enough to distract his focus.
Instead, Jerry merely saw a great need and proceeded to address it. The first thing he did was seek allies. He found George Bouros, a fellow resident of the “fourth floor zoo” in Wright II. Jerry perceived that, BEFORE decisions were made about a future station, he would ask for input. Those that participated would be likely to support the final plan even if all input did not appear in the final proposal. At least people would perceive that their opinions were considered.
Jerry’s plan was to seek as much student input as possible, as well as ask for administrative and faculty input and ASSISTANCE, but not PERMISSION, to proceed. This was smart because asking student opinion would activate students, create a hue and cry to proceed, and create a cutoff and defense against last-minute derailing counter proposals. Getting as many students on the bandwagon early also limited potential last-minute opposition. From the beginning, this was to be a STUDENT station.
The climate had changed at SIU, just in the three year period since the Robbins report had been issued. There was no longer a “Student Council;” now it was “Student Government” and “Student Senate.” There was even a grudging recognition that students at the college level were not the “children” they seemed to be in the early 60′s. Whether it was the draft, the war, increased political participation, the ’66 riots, or just the way the 18-20 year olds conducted themselves, there definitely was a difference. Jerry reports that there was an incredible vitality among SIU students at that time. “Everyone knew there were things to be done, so we just did them,” he said. The student population kept rising, the times were changing and there was an obvious gap between student needs and available resources.
One painfully obvious vacuum was in radio service. Jerry and George approached student senators. They found Senators Dale Boatright and Jerry Paluach willing to “pitch in” and help the cause. Dale and Jerry sponsored a bill introduced to the senate on January 17, 1968. This bill created a special committee to hold hearings on the creation of a student radio station, and a “Student Government Radio Division” to prepare a feasibility study and budget for the station. The bill passed, with the changes being that the Senate Internal Affairs Committee would conduct the hearings and Jerry Chabrian and George Bouros would prepare the proposed budget.
The hearing was held on February 15, 1968 from 2-4 pm at the University (now Student) Center. It was publicized in the Daily Egyptian. Administrators, faculty members, students, and others were personally invited to attend. Many did. About 40 attended the hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Paluach.
Jerry and George presented the “first draft” of their proposal, which included an equipment and construction budget. First up was the issue of the “build-out,” making soundproof rooms in the space the new station would occupy. Issues surfaced about whether union labor was required to erect the room partitions; if so, the build-out price could rise $20,000 or more, which would kill the project. This was a small issue within the greater agenda of the university. The unions were a major interest group in the expansion and administration of SIU. As a result of union support for SIU, the university became a union shop, unusual in Southern Illinois. As a union shop, part of the deal was that if certain work was done on campus and/or with certain university funds, the work had to be done by union personnel at union rates. Union contracts with SIU contained many requirements and exceptions, so there were lots of questions about this, which resurfaced later as a major hurdle. At this hearing, George offered that the head of Financial Assistance said student workers could be used at the student rate.
Dr. (then Mr.) John Kurtz attended, and asked some poignant questions. First he inquired about the transmitter costs and locations. He pointed out that Jerry’s estimates were low. Then they had this prophetic exchange:
There was a spirited discussion, led by Mr. Kurtz, about the station’s news and editorial policy. Jerry asked for suggestions. Mr. Kurtz pointed out that there should be an editorial policy that sets forth who had the final decision. Several in attendance felt strongly that the decisions must be 100% student.
George Bouros felt that the faculty and administration should have 50% of the control, because the station needed their cooperation to access university facilities. George stated a fear that he and Jerry kept in mind:
”I think anyone can come up with a radical idea, but if they don’t know how to take it tactfully to the University, I don’t see how you’re going to get your message across. Just by presentation, they (the Administration) will say good-bye.”
This led to a discussion on key points of station control. What positions will have what power? Will they be students? Who will select the persons for these positions? Should this be the Student Senate? Will they then control the station? These questions went unanswered, for a time.
After a discussion about programming, the meeting adjourned. This hearing showed the interest and sophistication of a diverse group that supported not only the concept of a 100% student station–but its practical success as well. Jerry and George made a trip to Champaign to check out WPGU in March. There was another hearing that month. George left SIU sometime in spring, and Jerry carried on. He revised the station proposal several times. Finally, it passed muster in the Senate Internal Affairs Committee– and was sent to the Senate Floor May 29, 1968.
The final draft of Jerry’s proposal employed this opening paragraph in the preface:
The early planning of a radio station involves consideration of the market to be served, site selected, station policies, personnel, the extent of programming, and, most important, the amount of capital available. This proposal takes into consideration all of the above ideas and forms them into a workable plan for the establishment of a Student oriented, student run AM radio station.
This is what appeared on the first page:
THE SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY STUDENT ORIENTED CAMPUS RADIO STATION PURPOSE: To provide Southern Illinois University students living in dormitories with a radio program service at present unavailable (sic) to them. To provide the student body and faculty a channel of communication for the discussion and review of student problems. To provide an activities outlet for the many students interested in broadcasting.
GOVERNANCE: The Southern Illinois University Campus Radio Station is to be governed by a Board of Directors, consisting of a Faculty Supervisor, two members of the Student Senate, the Station Manager, the Student Chief Engineer, and a representative of the SIU Broadcasting Service. This board is to be entrusted with the formulation of policies regarding all facets of the station’s operation.
Jerry had done his homework. He had reviewed all of the prior proposals and their treatments. In response, he had addressed many of the groups which had expressed objections or counter proposals in the past. The Broadcast Service would be represented. The faculty would be represented, by a “Faculty Supervisor” who would not only chair the board, vote on decisions, vote twice if there were ties, but also could refer board decisions to the Dean of Students, a member of the administration. The Student Senate would have two members, more than any other group. In theory, they would represent all students at large. Thus, Jerry had proposed a board of four students and two faculty/staff members, but he made it appear that there was still lots of faculty/staff control.
Another interesting section of the original final proposal in May, 1968, was the “Programming Policies.” The music was to be “…a moderate, yet upbeat sound, the ‘young sound.’” News promised “hourly reports with the headlines on the half-hour, and bulletins as the story breaks…to keep students abreast on both (campus and other) news fronts.” Public Affairs and Editorial policies emphasized “both views,” “equal time,” “seeking out great diversity of student and faculty opinion” and “balanced presentation of controversial subjects.”
The final paragraph of programming policies was entitled:
5. GOOD TASTE. It is the policy of the station to exclude from broadcast salacious and profane material, and material offensive to religious and socio- economic minorities. This policy does not apply to the expression of ideas; however it does apply to the use of language.
The proposal contained many pages of details of how carrier current transmission works, the buildings which would house transmitters, the station proposed budget, organization chart, equipment wiring diagrams, and related info. The proposal contemplated wiring Small Group Housing, Evergreen Terrace, and Southern Hills, which never happened, due to the need to have transmitters in every building. The proposal also took a position that advertising would be sold, and the main objectors to this would be the Daily Egyptian.
Jerry’s proposal passed the Student Senate May 29, 1968. Jerry had, in only one academic year, lined up more support and vaulted over more hurdles than all the others in seven years. But this was only the beginning. That night, Jerry was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital. His life was in danger.
Jerry’s injuries were severe. He endured a lengthy hospital stay. He was only 19. Yet he returned to SIU in the Fall of 1968 and persevered in his efforts to create a student radio station. In November, the effort’s senate supporters moved ahead to insure more student control in the future station.
Meanwhile, other frustrated students unaware (or unimpressed) with Jerry’s efforts decided to start their own radio stations! With advancing technology came a store called “Allied” (a predecessor to Radio Shack). Allied sold “modules” that were low power AM and FM radio transmitters, powered by household batteries! Normally, these devices had limited usage because of low power output, low antenna, and only a few receivers within range.
In C’dale, low power broadcasting could reach thousands of listeners because conditions were unusual. First, enterprising students figured out how to increase the transmitting power of the modules. Also, in at least one case, the transmitter was on an upper floor of Schneider Tower, so there was a high antenna. Most important of all, there were a huge number of receivers within range. Schneider had 500 rooms and about 1000 residents. Just about each and every room had some kind of AM radio.
Starting in the late 60′s, various residents had attempted some form of pirate broadcasting. (The term originated from offshore transmitters in ships, situated beyond territorial limits of England). In C’dale, some pirate stations were not much more than a “play” radio setup, an extension of the turntable/microphone/amp/speaker that many of us fantasized with as kids. The pirate stations usually had erratic hours, undependable signals, and poor quality audio. Music selection was limited to the records that the “station owner” had on hand. One never knew if a particular station would be back on after breaks between quarters. While this was true grass roots radio, it could be argued that listeners were attracted mainly due to the complete lack of competition.
At first, the pirate stations might serve a few dorm rooms, or a floor. Gradually, this extended to a whole building, even groups of buildings. Thompson Point, a West Campus residence area, had at least one station serving most of the area. On the East Campus, there was WBHR, in Boomer, which served Boomer I, II, and III, along with adjacent areas in the East Campus. There were others, too, (such as WSEX, somewhere in Schneider, or was it somewhere on Wall Street?) about which little info is available.
WBHR started in early 1969. Jan T. Pasek had a homemade (tube), almost one watt FM transmitter. Ray Breddemann reports that Boomer residents were frustrated with KXOK’s lack of quality signal and programming. Jan, Ray, and a few others decided to pool their equipment, meet in the 3rd floor end lounge in Boomer II and put an antenna in the window.
The next fall, (69) WBHR secured some funding for equipment from the University Park Residence Hall Council. Ray reports that they filled a tire with cement and put it on the roof. They used 105.1. There was substantial staff turnover, and a political science major, Bill Bodine, took over. He decided the call letters should be changed to WISR. Future WIDB members Bill Tingley, Jeff Esposito, Jim Sheriffs, and Ray remained at WISR, which continued until the Spring of 70.
Ray reports that some radio pirates received threatening letters from the FCC around this time. This may have provided additional impetus for the pirate members to throw in with the new effort for a university wide student station. WBHR/WISR was only one of at least several pirates operating at the end of the 60′s in Carbondale.
The largest and best-organized pirate was WLTH. It was located in Schneider, in a hair-drying room. The main leader of this station was Chuck White. Dan Mordini was a major member. Part of the WLTH nucleus were first and second-year students Howie Karlin, Tom Scheithe, and Jim Hoffman. Later, Dan Sheldon (and “His Voice”) came on the scene. WLTH operated from 7pm-1am weekdays, until 4 am weekends.
They were a top-40 format.
Tom Scheithe reports that, as a freshman Schneider resident, he encountered Chuck White at a dorm meeting. Chuck decided to start a pirate station in Schneider. He placed an ad in the Daily Egyptian. The initial meeting featured Chuck, Tom, Howie, Dan Mordini, Larry Rolewick, and Phil Phergilli, who worked at WLTH, Gary, In. This prompted the guys to take WLTH as their call letters; Phil gave them copies of WLTH ready-made jingles.
They secured the 9th floor “hair washing room” in Schneider. Everyone contributed equipment. Tom’s job was to regularly visit Dillinger’s Wire, Salt & Eggs (near the railroad tracks) to secure empty egg cartons. These were put up on the walls & ceilings of the hair drying room for soundproofing.
Howie, Tom, Chuck and Jim were weaned on major-market radio. Chuck, Tom, and Jim wanted to emulate WLS and WCFL. Howie was from New York and he liked WABC, but he also liked WCFL which he could pick up in New York at night. WABC came in to C’dale at night. They would listen to these stations constantly. It was not the R-T professors, but these stations and their personnel (such as Larry Lujack, Cousin Brucie, and Jimmy P. Stagg) that were the teachers.
WLTH followed these stations’ examples. They had jingles, playable on a reel-to-reel tape deck. They had a playlist, as well as a weekly “survey” of the top 20 hits.
The survey was distributed to listeners. The playlist went to record companies, who then sent free records. The station had a “request line,” which was a dorm room phone that rang off the hook on some nights. They did some advertising, and gave away prizes during contests. WLTH broadcast on AM (1150) and FM (91.5). They were consistent in signal and programming, they had found a niche and struck a chord. Students were listening.
WLTH continued its broadcast schedule through the end of the 68-69 academic year, June, 1969. Jerry took all of this in. He liked the idea of student-initiated and student-run pirate radio, but he realized that it was relatively easy to assemble a couple of turntables, a microphone, maybe a tape deck, amp, and transmitter with batteries, and play a few records. The hard part came in with the high price of “legitimizing.” There had to be a better quality of equipment, space, staff organization, signal distribution, and (toughest of all) institutional recognition and support. Only this could officially employ university recourses, provide a “real” professional training ground, the best possible service to students, and the greatest synergy of student energy and talent to serve the most students. Just at the right time, Jerry had encountered the staffs at WLTH and WBHR. Rather than fueling any fires of competition, Jerry made friends and conveyed the message that the new station was open to everyone.
Jerry persevered in his efforts to create a student radio station. In November, the effort’s senate supporters moved ahead to insure more student control in the future station.
The Student Senate amended Jerry’s original proposal to provide that:
- “Faculty Supervisor” shall be changed to “Faculty Advisor”
- “Two members of the Student Senate” shall be changed to “Three Students appointed by the Student Senate”
- The Student Body President shall appoint the Faculty Advisor
- The Chair of the Board shall be elected by the board, and shall have only one vote
- If the Faculty Advisor disagrees with a board decision he may appeal it to the Student Conduct Review Board
These changes, approved November 13, 1968, completely diluted almost all aspects of faculty power at the board. The faculty representative was now an “advisor,” not “supervisor,” not automatically chairman, and could only have one vote. Moreover, he or she would now be appointed by a student, and could appeal board decisions only to students. These changes were proposed and approved, it is surmised, only after it was perceived that more student control would not be fatal to the plan. It is also an indication of rising student power.
Jerry moved ahead to get board members appointed. He developed a reasonable business relationship with Dean of Students Wilbur Moulton, who authorized a $3,000 “startup fund” for the effort. To this day, Jerry reports that Dean Moulton’s personal sympathies were unclear. Did he really support the students, or was he simply one of the few bureaucrats who took his job description seriously when it said “facilitate student development?” As early as December, 1968, Dean Moulton expressed his hope (in a memo to Jerry) “that the station begin operation before the end of the academic year.” This buoyed Jerry’s spirits, but it was a tad optimistic.
The Board of Directors of the (yet unnamed) “Student Radio Station” met for the first time on May 5, 1969. It had taken about six months to get enough members appointed and confirmed. At the first meeting, a proposed budget and funding request for the 69-70 academic year was approved. This was later approved by the Student Senate. In those days, all of the Student Senate Activity Fee annual budget allocations had to be approved by the SIU Board of Trustees.
This is the first record of the Board considering any student radio matters. It was merely a single item in a long laundry list of student clubs’ annual allocations. Yet at least one of the trustees reacted to the line item “Student Radio Station—$8,000.00.” The trustee, Harris Allen of Carmi, was concerned that this would “duplicate existing service–WSIU–and be a waste of money.” He sought to delete funding, which would have killed the project instantly. Even worse, he made a motion to table, i.e., put it off, for more study.
It was the same old arguments from the University Council days. But it was too late. After all of the years of study and bureaucratic limbo, no other trustee was willing to support further delay. Allen’s separate motions to delete and to table funding for a student radio station both died for lack of a second. Jerry had made it through the final administrative hoop. The Board of Trustees had considered the new radio station, approved its existence, found it eligible for annual funding, and had approved a full year’s funding for school year 69-70.
Jerry had completed the goal of acceptance and authorization by the general university bureaucracy. But this merely gave him license to fight for a share of university benefits. A station needed a space, remodeling, equipment, access to restricted university areas, publicity, staff leaders, staff, training for both, not to mention program material (like records). University funding helped, but it couldn’t buy everything that was needed. Jerry’s work was just starting.
Although the bureaucratic battle for official recognition was Jerry’s priority in 68-69, he realized that the next effort would be to assemble the nucleus and staff of the new radio station. Jerry did not neglect this. As early as fall of ’68, Jerry visited the pirate stations. He painted a vision of a new station: one with real equipment purchased with student activity funds, its own studio and offices, a CAMPUS-WIDE station operated only by STUDENTS. Jerry invited all of the pirate broadcasters to join the effort for the new station.
More than any other pirate, WLTH provided a significant contribution to the future station’s nucleus. WLTH Program Director Howie Karlin became program director of the new station. WLTH engineer Dan Mordini became chief engineer of the new station. These two were appointed members of the initial Student Radio Station Board of Directors. From WLTH also came Jim Hoffman and Tom Scheithe, who (respectively) became Music and Operations Directors of the new station. Dan Sheldon’s voice became the signature of the new station.
Tom Scheithe reports that , starting in spring, ’69, there was a growing hope and expectation that the “new station” would be on by the fall of ’69. When WLTH signed off for the summer in June, ’69, there was a consensus that all efforts would be channeled into the new station by fall.
Students returned to SIU in late September ’69 (remember, SIU was on quarters then; fall quarter started last week of September) to find that a station had been funded and recognized, but it had no equipment, no space, no records, and no real staff. Even though WLTH was no more, other pirates, such as WBHR-Boomer, continued. It was now up to Jerry and the other “nuclear” members to marshall the available resources and make a station.
Shortly after school resumed, the board met and elected Jerry, Howie and Dan as an Executive Committee to make certain decisions. One decision was to select the call letters of the new station. What happened next has become perhaps the most enduring mystery of the radio station, which has never been resolved to this day.
One night around halloween, 1969, Jerry, Howie and Dan were hanging around in the 9th floor end lounge at Schneider (close to the former site of the WLTH studios). This was the “Executive Committee” chosen by the Student Radio Station Board of Directors. They had to decide the call letters of the new station. When Jerry had submitted his original proposal 18 months before, he stated the call letters of the new station would be “WLBH.” This was based on the initials of Jerry’s girlfriend at the time the proposal was authored.
For many years, no one knew the reason why these call letters were changed. As Jerry’s efforts wended their way through the bureaucratic bowels of the university, the project was always called “Student Radio Station.” That was the name that the university gave it. It persists, in some ways, to this day. That’s still the name on the account, that was the name on the ballot in 1972, that was the name on the “sign” the university erected to show where the “Student Radio Station” was located. Imagine for a moment if the station was never known by any other name. The station ID would say “You’re tuned to the Student Radio Station.” Think what the logo might look like. The stationery. The business cards. The T-shirts. What would it be like to call a record rep, or a news source, when they ask your station call letters, you say “Student Radio Station.” If they call back, the phone gets answered “Student Radio Station.” How about listing it high on your resume, for that first job out of SIU?
The point is that the university had an attitude about student efforts. WSIU was the “University Broadcasting Service.” But WLBH immediately became the “Student Radio Station.” Jerry wisely let this pass at the time, as he figured postponing the ultimate decision would end up involving future recruits and gain more support. He was right. Since the Board of Directors had empowered the “Executive Committee,” (Howie, Jerry and Dan) to determine the call letters, the three of them ended up in the end lounge in 9th floor Schneider. None of the pirate call letters (WLTH, WBHR, WSDR, WSEX) were considered. This was to be a new station; something consistent with the new image of a campus wide station. They chose WIDB. For years, there has been speculation of the origin of the call letters. Jerry, and Howie claimed that they “could not divulge” why WIDB was chosen. When WIDB was in the “lower level” of Wright I, the prevailing dogma was that it stood for “We’re In Da Basement.” In the 15th Anniversary Reunion Shirt, designed by Brian Colon, other variations were suggested, including “Wild Irresponsible Drunken Buffoons,” and “We’ve Inspired Dedicated Broadcasters,” not to mention, “When In Doubt, Bullshit.”
Despite Jerry and Howie maintaining secrecy all these years, Dan Mordini, the third member of the group finally broke the silence. Dan disclosed: “I’m going to be anti-climactic, but WIDB stood for nothing more than ‘Inter-Dorm Broadcasting.’ I suggested it, Howie nodded, said it was easy to say. Jerry basically shrugged and said OK.” By the November, 1969 Board meeting, the new call letters were official. Now the station had recognition, an identity (call letters) money, a board of directors, and an embryonic operating nucleus. It had taken two years.
After two solid years of intense effort, Jerry had seen his proposal reach 80% of its goal. He had won recognition and de facto exclusivity from the university. Funding was secured. A nucleus of enthusiastic, competent staff heads had joined. There was an air of expectation; something was really going to happen. And yet WIDB had never broadcast any programs, never purchased any equipment, and was not located anywhere. It only existed as a university organization account, and as a Board of Directors. But once that happened, it remained only to purchase and install equipment that would operate effectively. The participants felt this phase was more in their control. Again, unanticipated problems developed in areas assumed to be easy.
First came the location. Jerry had always envisioned WIDB in the University Center (later renamed “Student Center”). At the time, the University Center Director was the legendary “Doc” Dougherty , who ruled that the University Center had no space available for the only university radio station funded by students to serve students. This author thanked him personally, years later. So, no University Center. Jerry and the other nuclear members had long been east campus-centric. Yes, Thompson Point, Evergreen Terrace and Southern Hills were important, and they were in the plans, but almost 70% of dorm residents lived in East Campus. WLTH and WBSR (and WISR) had been East Campus stations. Jerry knew that WIDB must deliver on its promise to be campus-wide. Yet, it was not required to be done all at once.
While it would have been ideal to locate WIDB in the center of campus, this was not possible, at least at first. Faced with the choice of one side of campus of the other, east was the obvious choice. So, in the fall of 69, Jerry went to see our old friend, Sam Rinella, Emperor of University Housing. Jerry knew that certain rooms in each of the East Campus dorm buildings were earmarked for “Student Activities.” Jerry was interested in getting space in Neely, Mae Smith or Schneider but Sam refused. Instead, he offered Jerry room 14 (Student Activity room in basement) of Boomer I or III. At the October, 1969 WIDB Board meeting, Jerry announced that he had accepted Sam’s offer. At the same meeting, Dan Mordini announced that after research, he had chosen WIDB’s frequency–600kHz. Thus in a few moments, the new station had a frequency and a location–or did it?
WIDB was to move into room 14 of Boomer III in January, 1970. But the residents of Boomer III got wind of this and protested. They posted threatening notes on the door of the empty dark room that was to be WIDB. Jerry was concerned about equipment that was stored there, so he Jerry removed the audio board, turntables, and speakers to his trailer. Of course, he had to hook it up to see if it worked. Meanwhile, Boomer opposition to WIDB continued. Residents signed a petition to prevent WIDB from moving in. Sam Rinella responded by suggesting WIDB move to Wright. Charlie Muren (Public Relations Director) wanted to confront the Boomer petitioners by letter, in a meeting, and by knocking on the residents’ doors. But it was already February, and Jerry wanted to move ahead. Once a space was accepted, walls had to be built before windows, doors, equipment, and wiring could be installed. Dickering about a location could take months. The decision was made to accept room 14 in Wright I. There was a request to occupy room 11 (temporary) as well, which was denied at that time. But the station now had a location!
Room 14 in Wright I was a medium sized, mostly rectangular room, about 700 square feet. It had three incandescent bulbs with translucent glass globes in the ceiling. It had eight windows, no air conditioning, and a water fountain. There were no rooms, no doors (except the front door) and no walls. Jerry entered room 14, February, 1970. He looked around at the empty space. He saw walls, glass, studios, offices, telephones, equipment, UPI machine, bulletin boards, desks, people, and lots of activity. Could he have envisioned the next successful 17 years WIDB would enjoy there, until it moved in March, 1987? Probably not. Jerry, Howie, Dan, Tom, Charlie and an ever-increasing cast who now included Jim Hoffman (as Music Director) and Woody Mosgers (as just another curious guy who showed up) were more concerned with building a station and starting to air programs–quickly. Within 60 days of first entering room 14, WIDB officially signed on.
This ranks as another “monumental early achievement.”
Station construction had four phases:
(2) Installation of equipment (including telephones);
(3) Installation of transmitters in dorms; and
(4) Wiring it all together and making it work.
Obviously, (1) had to be done first.
Money had been appropriated for studio construction. But, before materials were purchased, it was discovered that putting in a purchase order for building materials would trigger an inquiry from Physical Plant about the union labor needed to install the materials. WIDB members wanted to perform the labor themselves. But university policy (and the contracts they had with unions) required union labor (at union rates) to install walls and windows. The ostensible purpose of this policy was high quality construction. From today’s perspective, it appears that the actual purpose of this policy was to get as much money as possible into union members’ hands, and to use student fee (here, activity fee) money for this purpose whenever possible. The effect of this policy, if literally enforced, would have been to prevent the birth of WIDB since WIDB had a very small total construction and no operating budget.
Heated discussions went on in the WIDB “Board” room, interrupted only when a bewildered Wright I resident came in for his laundry. The station had an allocation of $10,000 to get on the air. Using union labor to construct the station would cost over $20,000. Students were again the last priority, an afterthought. Even if students were eager and ready to work for free, the university policy required students to do nothing.
Only when and if the proper university account was paid the high union rate for labor were students officially allowed to pursue their projects, their dreams, the personal growth they sought by attending college. What is the purpose of college if not to encourage student initiative? From today’s perspective, it appears that, at SIU, student initiative was often discouraged by the administration. The WIDB’ers were bright, energetic, enthusiastic, and (mostly) competent. Yet the effect of this university policy, if fully enforced, would prevent students from acting.
Time and again, it seems obvious that facilitating student initiative was not even considered by university policy authors. It’s certainly reasonable to seek high quality buildings, and they cost a lot of money. At some point, the zeal for great structures must take a back seat to the prime goal of the university:
“facilitating student initiative”.
Jerry had torn out a page from a magazine. It had a quote from Robert Browning, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Jerry reports that this quote inspired him repeatedly when all seemed lost. Members surprised even themselves with what they could accomplish against adversity.
Jerry and the others knew they could not observe the policy. They sought the required funding for union labor, but all known potential sources of funding on short notice were exhausted. Even if obtained, the project would be delayed at least a year. They might lose the space in Wright I, and they would certainly lose the momentum they had built. The new station had been publicized. Jerry and Charlie had prepared welcoming letters for new staff members.
Ads seeking staff members appeared in the DE. Harvey Welstein found WIDB through one such ad. Auditions for on-air personnel continued. The station was publishing a music “survey” as if programming had started.
There was a full head of steam. Jerry and the others would not be denied. To give up was unthinkable. They had to find a way to build the station themselves, quickly–and they could not spend any university funds for materials. Members could not raise enough personal funds to pay for them. The materials had to be found free–and fast!
For some time, the Student Government and Student Activities offices had been slated for remodeling. Jerry knew of this but it was another project that was scheduled to begin in July, but would probably begin in November or March two years later. The remodeling actually occurred mainly during Christmas, 1969. Almost as an afterthought, Jerry arranged to have the old discarded partition walls and windows removed from the University Center and stored in the basement at Schneider. This was done with the cooperation of Housing Emperor Sam Rinella. He was somewhat bemused by Jerry’s attempt to make use of the unwanted, used materials.
At that time, Jerry was still expecting to construct new walls to build WIDB. When new construction was no longer an option, the used materials became very important. Jerry assembled the troops to get the materials over to the station. “We had to remove the items from where they were being temporarily stored within 24 hours. We used a pickup truck from motor pool to move them,” Jerry remembered.
Dan, Howie, Tom, Woody, Jerry, Charlie and others loaded the discarded partitions, frames, glass windows, and anything else in the area that looked discarded and potentially useful for the new WIDB. WIDB now had what it needed: materials for build out. It was time to start building. No one realized how fast it would have to be done.
One day in late February, 1970, Jerry received a tip from Sam Rinella that an inspector from physical plant was coming to WIDB the next morning. The purpose of the inspection was to determine the “existing condition” of room 11 (where WIDB was) so that any NEW construction (beyond the “existing condition”) would be pursuant to policy, at union rates. The point was that whatever was there (or could be built by the next morning) would be allowed to remain, and no money for university or union workers would have to be paid. Jerry found out in the late afternoon. He assessed the situation. If WIDB was to sign on by spring, buildout had to be completed almost immediately. For buildout to be completed immediately, the discarded materials had to be successfully used. If WIDB was going to use the old materials, they had to be installed by students. If they were going to be installed by students, work had to be completed in 16 hours, by 8 am the next day. It was time to spring into action. Jerry remembers, “We assembled as many helpers we could find. Even non-WIDB’ers, such as Art Tobias, Buzz Spector, (who were Senators) and Sylvia Redmond. Art was an art major, and he was the one who chose the mostly green and black colors. I never traveled anywhere without some tools, even at SIU. Many of us had some tools here and there and they were all pressed into service. The power drill used to drill the cement anchors for securing the walls is one I still use today. I conducted a “class” in how to mount and assemble these pieces. As we got the hang of it, that info was passed onto the next group. Some drilled holes, some measured and cut pieces, some put together. It was quite a beehive of activity all night long.”
Everyone knew that the walls had to be built fast, before anyone had time to stop them. Jerry set a realistic goal: “We originally figured that whatever we could get done in a night, we wouldn’t have to pay someone to put up. Turns out we got all the walls up that night!”
The enthusiastic support and energy of staff and nuclear members alike built the station in a matter of hours. The inspection the next day was uneventful. The premises had been fully cleaned about 6 am to erase any traces of new construction. The inspectors looked around, made some notes, and left. After they left, the crew continued the finishing out process over the next 3 days.
Why did Sam Rinella tip Jerry off in advance of the inspection? “I got the feeling that Sam expected us to self-destruct,” said Jerry. “He seemed kind of surprised that we had pulled it off. When he finally came down one day he was impressed with the construction. He always made fun of the ‘tractor green’ walls.”
This was the beginning of an important tradition that became a cornerstone of WIDB. The troops gathered when needed, when there was a crisis. And the crisis usually involved the University impeding the station from doing something important. Over a four day period in February, 1970, the troops gathered. It was now or never. Almost overnight, walls with windows appeared. There were metal frames/supports, plywood walls from ceiling to floor, and single pane large windows. Fans were installed in the walls for ventilation. Three rooms on the west side, one on the east, and a (relatively) large room in the middle. The three rooms were jock studio, news studio, and master control/engineering. The east room started as the record library, but later became production. The middle room was the “office.”
Meanwhile, activity was accelerating. The board was meeting every week. Howie submitted a typed multi-page programming policy, which the board approved.
The new WIDB HAD to have jingles, so Howie proposed a small budget to hire singers (he already had music tracks–more about this later). Jim Hoffman wanted money to distribute the “Together Six Campus Countdown.” Even though the station had not started, this would “legitimize” the station in the eyes of record companies. Records were already disappearing from the library. Of considerable focus was engineering. Equipment had to be purchased–this was a project in itself. From the day the WIDB Board approved a purchase of equipment, it could take weeks for even an order. The board approval to purchase the transmitters was granted on February 17, 1970. Spring quarter was scheduled to end in early June. Time was of the essence. With a full head of steam and an ever-expanding enthusiastic potential staff, it was critical to get the station rolling soon enough to establish itself before summer.
Some thought ordering the transmitters was the end of a long process. It was really just the beginning. Purchasing equipment was easy compared to installation. It all sounds so simple! Just hook it up, plug it in and make it work! That’s all the WIDB engineers had to do. Jerry and Dan, assisted by Bruce Whiteside and Lew Wright, had this task: Install three 20 watt AM transmitters in Schneider, Mae Smith, and Neely, and make them carry WIDB into every dorm room on 600 AM. Jerry had a strong background in engineering. His father was an electrical contractor. Jerry was a ham radio operator and had a real radio job in high school. He had worked with Richard Compton at Low Power Broadcasting to determine the nature and extent of transmitter and related equipment needed. Jerry also obtained access to blueprints from University Architects. Dan, Jerry, and Bruce were the engineering nucleus. The carrier-current transmitter worked by sending its output (WIDB at 600 AM) through the wall- socket power lines in each building. They had to find a room, or a place, to put each transmitter. It had to be secure and not subject to temperature extremes. They had to get access to these areas, make sure they had all necessary equipment, and then get it installed. They also had to make arrangements for telephone lines to each transmitter site to carry the WIDB audio to the transmitter. Then, they had to test each one to make sure that the antenna was properly “matched” i.e., hum was minimized, and they also had to make sure coverage was complete, and that the audio was clear. Then, they had to do this three more times with 4 watt transmitters in the triads.
Dan secured a copy of plans for each of the towers and triads. It was represented to Dan that these were then-current plans. Years later, it was discovered they were several versions obsolete. Dan was advised that the entry point for each of the power lines (“risers”) was the ninth floor in the towers, and that would be the best place to put the transmitters. The plan versions he had seemed to confirm this. Years later, it was learned that the power lines entered the towers in the basements where the transmitters should have been located. Based on the information he had, and being pressed for time, Dan decided to install on the ninth floors of the towers. The net effect was that WIDB was not very receivable above the 15th or below the 4th floors in each of the towers. Within two years, this problem was cured by installation of splitters, creating additional “antennas” on the 5th and 14th floors. By his own admission, Dan was smarter with the triads transmitter installation. Those transmitters probably worked the best.
Four-watt transmitters were also installed in Baldwin and Warren at Thompson Point. But Thompson Point presented a problem that was never solved. The “triads” were called that because they were three buildings (Allen I, II, and III, Boomer I, II, and III, Wright I, II and III). Since the three buildings were grouped together, one 4-watt transmitter placed in the center building could cover all three. Thus, the transmitter in the basement of Allen II made WIDB receivable at 600 am in 419 Allen I and Allen II and Allen III. This worked because all three buildings connected to the same electrical system, and there were no interrupting transformers. In other words, the hope was that a transmitter in Warren would also serve Smith and Kellogg. But it didn’t work. Each building had a separate system, with interrupting transformers. So a transmitter could only serve one building, and each building needed a transmitter. WIDB needed nine transmitters to serve the nine TP dorms. This not only meant purchasing six more transmitters, but also six more phone lines each month, six more outputs on the distribution amplifier, and six more transmitters for monthly maintenance. This was too much for the embryonic WIDB. The decision was made to install the two transmitters in Baldwin and Warren and then determine for sure if there was any hope for one transmitter covering more than only one dorm.
Thompson Point was never adequately covered by WIDB. There were some efforts to expand service there with installation of a third transmitter in Stegall. Unfortunately, it was installed in a room with steam pipes, and there was a leak.
Imagine a tube transmitter in a sauna. A replacement was eventually installed in another TP dorm. But WIDB’s coverage was never more than three TP dorms, max. If you knew someone who lived there, chances were that they could not receive WIDB. This was another reason that the station had always tended to be east-campus oriented. The staff was mostly from WLTH (Schneider) and WBHR/WISR (Boomer). The station was located in Wright. There were more residents living at east campus than TP. The kicker was when WIDB ended up covering at least 80% of east campus and only 20-33% of TP.
Dan, Bruce, Jerry, and the supporting cast had all of these problems and more to identify and overcome to install the transmitters. And, they had only days to finish. By the time that the engineering staff had access to the proposed transmitter locations, it was already the third week in March. The transmitters needed to be installed by the end of spring break. Spring quarter began the last week in March. Dan and the crew got all six transmitters installed in the East Campus dorms by the deadline. The transmitter installations became a permanent part of the university building plans.
The plans show the installation date as March 26, 1970. But the studio was not wired yet. Microphones to wall receptacles to patch board to mixing board to distribution amplifier to telephone lines to transmitters. There was a Volumax in there somewhere. Also, turntables, cart machines, reel-to-reel tape decks. And headphones, remote switches to start cart machines, turntables, and microphones. Each room needed telephones. The telephone system needed an intercom. Everything had to be completed, tested, ready, in days.
The engineering frenzy of activity had taken on a life of its own. As Spring Quarter began, Jerry, Bruce, and Dan had the expected “up-all-night-for-a-week” look. Wires, equipment, tubes, tools, food and drink remnants, were scattered everywhere. It looked like they’d never finish, and no one knew how long they could keep going. There were sporadic phone calls, transmitter testing, and then more wiring. No one dared to ask any of them if they were planning to attend their Spring Quarter classes.
Engineers weren’t the only ones in action over break. Jerry had arranged for design and production of the famous “WIDB kissing twins” color poster. This was not only WIDB’s first poster, but one of the most memorable. It was designed by Don Henke (then at University Graphics). The poster won an award from the 3M Corporation. The poster was placed in every possible strategic location in dorms, on campus & the strip. Upon return from break, the posters stimulated conversation about the new station.
Jerry said, “I spent my entire break week there at the station managing, guiding and assisting the construction of this station. I procured supplies, signed purchase orders, soldered and cut wires, (over a 6 foot distance between the board and the equipment rack, there was over a 1/4 mile of wiring) drilled holes in turntable to mount tone arms, etc. Bruce proved himself invaluable during this time.”
Meanwhile, Howie and Tom structured the programming of the new WIDB. There would be a daytime format until 11 pm. “Underground” was after 11. The daytime format required airing of records from certain playlisted cuts at certain times. Jingles, segues, and scripted “raps” were also required. News was scheduled every hour.
“Underground” was actually defined in Howie’s programming statement (see attached.) It was, essentially, freeform, especially compared to WIDB’s daytime format. But it was more focused than “freeform” sounds. Remember, in 1970, AM was still king and a very large number of adolescents and young adults listened to top-40 AM stations. But these stations had very limited playlists, and few played album cuts (non-singles).
There had been an explosion of prolific talented artistry in music that could not be channeled into hit records. The Grateful Dead was one example. There was a demand for this music, and top-40 AM did not meet this demand. So, in some markets, there were FM stations that went “underground.” In Chicago, there was WGLD, the Triad program on WXFM, and a commercialized version on WLS-FM/ WDAI. Ten Years After, Ars Nova, NRBQ, Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Cream, Hendrix, Doors, Phil Ochs, Mothers of Invention, Band, Bob Dylan, Vanilla Fudge, Electric Prunes and Flag, and Iron Butterfly might be heard on underground at that time. Many in WIDB’s target audience were used to having underground as an option. WIDB could only be one station. But, to serve the audience, it was important for underground to be featured.
Howie perceived underground as non-mainstream. But he did not seek to exclude it. So underground took a 11pm-1am slot, every day at first. By allowing underground an initial slot, Howie prophetically maintained an important future option. Within four years, what was underground in 1970 became the dominant influence on WIDB’s most successful programming period. If Howie had excluded this in 1970, this gradual transition would have been impossible without upheaval.
In 1970, there was some common ground between top-40 and underground. Many regularly listened to both formats at different times. One reason might be the lack of FM in many cars at that time. Some artists were played in both formats. At WIDB, some jock/DJ/air personalities hosted both top-40 and underground shows. Dan Mordini conceived the “Pillowtalk” show. On Friday and Saturday nights from 1-4am, Pillowtalk was to be background music for early morning activities. Also to be featured was “Anodyne,” a talk show with a guest, interview, and audience participation.
The date for the station to “officially” sign on was set: Sunday, April 12, 1970 at 1pm Carbondale time. Test programming continued through the first full week in April. Transmitter testing, equipment wiring, talent practice– all were proceeding at frenzied pace, simultaneously. The sign-on date was publicized.
There was a sharp air of expectation.
But what had been an attitude of impatience in February turned into near-panic in April. The sign-on deadline had been set, and featured in the Daily Egyptian. The Kissing Twins posters had everyone talking about the new WIDB. There was no turning back. Suddenly, everyone realized how unprepared and unorganized they were. Dan, Bruce, Lew and the rest of the engineers made hourly discoveries of items needed but never anticipated. Remote starts for cart machines and turntables. Links from the telephone into the board so calls could be aired. Remote on-off switches for mics. Relays. Wires. Since few of these items were anticipated in the budget, and it was far too late to seek supplemental funding and go through the purchasing process, Dan and the crew had to come up with the stuff themselves. They were determined to meet the deadline and make everything work.
Tom and Howie were attempting to establish a coherent format, recruit, train and schedule on-air personnel, and get them some practice. The schedule was patchwork. The station was to operate 7am-1am, later on weekends. There were irregular shifts. Some were two, three, four hours. Every “jock” had to have an “engineer” or board operator. Although this is a foreign concept today, almost no jocks “comboed.” The jock sat in a booth, with the “engineer” across the glass. The jock would cue the engineer to hit the jingle, spot, record, news, etc. The rationale for this was that it would be easier to teach jocking and board operation separately, that this was a more professional arrangement (the way it was done at major market hit stations) and would allow the engineer and jock to better concentrate on each of their own separate tasks without distraction. But this meant that there had to be two separate schedules; one for jocks and one for board operators.
Tom and Howie were training and scheduling jocks. Someone had to train and schedule the board operators. Some felt this should be an Engineering Department task. But Dan and the guys were a little busy. So, at first, the board operators were mainly off-duty jocks, or wanna-be jocks.
Programming and format didn’t mean much without music. There had to be a playlist. Where were the records? Jim Hoffman was music director. How was the record library going to be set up? Who would have access? There were already record disappearance problems. Jim’s suggestion that no one be allowed to bring their own records into the station (so no one would be legitimately carrying any records out) met with vehement protest from the “underground” jocks.
Any format needs production to back it up. Howie wanted jingles. He pirated some from the Drake-Chenault format (“Solid Gold Rock & Roll”). Howie was familiar with these from WOR, New York. He made up “personal” jingles (where the jingle says the name of the jock) using the opening psychedelic notes of the Supremes’ “Reflections.” Howie decided to continue a concept from the WLTH format; the top of the hour spoken (recorded) ID skillfully mixed by the engineer over the bridge of a top ten record (tight to the vocal–or else!)
The concept here was to subtly bond the record intro with the station ID, so when listeners encountered the same record elsewhere, they would “hear” the original station ID, bonded with the record. Sound ridiculous? Believe it or not, Howie stuck with this and really made it work–too well! The original “hip phrase” Howie used was: “WLTH, Carbondale, IS boss” By the spring of 1970, “boss” was a little passé, even for Howie. Besides, WIDB had already been designated as “Together Radio.” Jerry claimed he and Dave Hanke came up with the term while working on the original “Together Radio” poster. Jerry said it sprang from his characterization of the WIDB crew in general, “We felt a certain energy as a group, and this connected us. Thus the term, “Together Radio.” Our frequency, 600 kHz, was listed on many AM radios as just “6.” Thus, the slogan “Together Six.”” So, the new ID became: “W…I-D-B, Carbondale…IS…together” To make this work, the right voice was essential. The first version was done by Richard Rieman. This was usable, but lacked the dramatic depth later provided by Dan Sheldon. (audio file) This ID continued in use for over five years. Even today, when certain old hit songs come on, many of us clearly “hear” the ID bonded to the bridge of the song.
For many at WIDB, trying to use this ID correctly was the first introduction to the concept of “tightness.” The top of the hour ID, (used also at the bottom of the hour at times) and the on-duty person’s execution of it (or lack thereof) became a kind of focal point at the station. There was a healthy competition; who DID do it the best? Each hour, a hush would fall over the station when the ID started because everyone wanted to listen. There was a collective pride when the result was good: everyone felt good. The reverse was true for bad stuff. There was constant feedback unrestricted by departmental boundaries. Just because you were Music Director, for example, you still might have something to say about newscasts. The pride in the station ID was related to the preoccupation with jingles. Hit radio stations at that time ALL had jingles. Howie, Tom, Jerry, and all staff heads wanted WIDB to sound as professional as possible. Jerry emphasized, “We didn’t just want to be the best station in Carbondale. We wanted to measure ourselves against the best stations in the country. At the time, those were not even the Chicago stations, but the New York stations such as WABC.” A New York or Chicago standard meant fancy jingles, which usually cost big bucks. There were ways, creative ways, unusual ways, around this. More later. But for WIDB to be “good,” (and for staff experience), jingles were essential.
There was a lot of time and effort spent on producing, editing, carting, practicing, and explaining jingles. See attached for WIDB original jingle list. The station’s goal was to present a professional program service immediately upon official sign-on, and establish the station as a major campus fixture before Spring Quarter ended in June. While Howie and Tom were working on jocks, format, and jingles, Jim was working on records and playlists, Dan and the crew on wiring and equipment, Charlie Muren was seeking publicity, but there was another important area of programing–news. This area was one of the original motivators for WIDB, but in the frenzied panic of pre-sign on, it was relegated to secondary status. News would, almost immediately after sign on, present WIDB with its greatest opportunity and challenge.
Compared to the extensive audition and training process for jocks, there was little attention paid to newspeople. There was no active news director. Compared to the music format, the news format was vague. WIDB was supposed to have five minutes of news each hour. There was a UPI wire service machine, but no production studio to record or edit interviews. Sources for news copy included newspapers. As sign-on approached, it appeared doubtful Howie and Tom could fill the 112 newscasts each week. Howie announced that jocks would do the news themselves if the newsperson did not show up.
This was the overall picture in early April, 1970. Remember, just two months before, WIDB had just been kicked out of Boomer. 56 days later, WIDB was ready to officially sign on. On Sunday, April 12, 1970 interested persons assembled at the station. At 1 pm, that day, Jerry describes the scene: “As I watched the room was filled with people who built this station and their friends, some watching and waiting, others hurrying around with purpose to make sure last minute all things were go. As the clock was nearing the appointed hour, the air was saturated with the electricity of excitement, people were reporting our test tones received from distant locations, the records and carts were being cued. Discussion was made that I should make the first announcement on the station. I deferred that to honor our programming departments terrific effort. And then, sounds were coming out of the “Air” speaker. And WIDB was real.”
At 1 pm, Tom Scheithe, (using his air name of Tom Sutherland), with Dan Mordini at the board, played from the 2001 soundtrack, “Also Spach Zanthrustra,” followed by the station ID “WIDB, Carbondale IS together,” followed by “Vehicle,” by the Ides of March. WIDB was officially born.
This was the schedule April 12, 1970 on WIDB:
1pm Sign on
1pm-5pm Tom Sutherland (Scheithe)
5pm-8pm Jeffrey Thomas (Esposito)
8pm-10pm Charlie Howard (Muren)
10-11pm Howie Karlin hosting pgm. on musical “Hair”
11pm-1am Underground with Harvey Michaels (Welstein)
1am Sign off
Other jocks during the first few weeks of WIDB included David R. Eads, Eric Jay Toll, Tom “Woody’s World” Mosgers, Jim Hoffman, Bob Hubsch, Al Greenfield, Frank Mazzocco, and Nick Ciprianni. Newspersons included Ron Roeser, Al Phillips, and some jocks. There were a lot of engineers/board operators, such as Jeff Brodsky, Ralph Hanson, Tim Burgeson, Ira Saltzman, Irv Korey, and Mike Bass. There was an almost complete lack of women. No one planned this, and no one took pride in it. It started to change almost immediately. But, at the beginning, there were almost no female members.
The dream had been realized; WIDB was a reality! All of the administrative work by Jerry, the wiring work by Dan and Bruce, the construction efforts, the auditions, the equipment purchases, the setbacks and victories, led to the ultimate goal: when the mike was on, whatever was said could be heard in (almost) all dorm rooms on campus. This was a first at SIU!
One of the reasons the administration supported the concept of a “campus radio station” grew out of concerns about maintaining control amid an atmosphere of enthusiastic student activism. By the late 1960′s there were more students than ever at SIU. Many were assertive and ambitious about blazing new trails and rejecting old boundaries. There is a parallel between the macro group of students generally, who questioned university and national policies, and the micro group who saw unmet student needs and wanted broadcast experience. Both groups intimidated administrators and others. As discussed in earlier chapters, Buren C. Robbins and the Broadcast Service were intimidated by the early efforts to start a student station, and President Morris was intimidated by the 1966 efforts to protest student expulsions. The apparent arson of Old Main and the Ag Building bombing were intimidating. Compared to this extreme, the prospect of a radio station run by a guy like Jerry may have seemed more acceptable.
When assertive students sought change, the likelihood of success was greater hen students acted in groups. There was an inkling of this in 1966. While few student participants from the 1966 riots were still in Carbondale in April, 1970, administrators who were there in 1966, led by still-president Delyte Morris, were not only present but still in charge. It is doubtful that WIDB could have successfully started without President Morris’ approval. It is presumed that Morris was frustrated by the ineffective efforts to communicate with the students as a whole in 1966. At that time, there was only the Daily Egyptian and WSIU-FM. One reason that efforts to create a student radio station were discouraged was that it was understood that a student radio station could be very powerful when students acted in a group and the radio station transmitted a singular student voice. Who would control this, and for what purpose would this power be used?
To avoid valid student criticism, some administrators continued to deny that critics of the administration spoke for any number of students. The apparent official attitude was that almost all students WANTED the administrators and other officials to exercise all the power and make all the decisions. Only a few “lunatic fringe” students, joined with “outside agitators” were critical. If these could only be removed (and the end justified the means) then everyone would be happy. This attitude may have been partially true about certain issues and extreme actions. Believing it to be true about all dissent leads to a closed door against reasonable protests and demands. It became more difficult to maintain the attitude that only a small minority “lunatic fringe” of students were disgruntled, when hundreds of students took to the streets in 1966.
But after a few years, memories faded, and administrators began to believe their “own” propaganda. While the numbers of students in the streets in 1966 could not be denied, it was rationalized that large numbers of students were aroused not by acts of the administration, but were inflamed by misinformation propagated by the lunatic fringe/outside agitators. Under this rationalization, almost all students, in their “regular state,” either didn’t care or supported the administration. Thus, when Jerry told the administration in 1968 and 1969 that the new radio station would seek input from all sides, including the administration, the administration heard something that resonated with their rationalization. Also, to the administration, it appeared that there were several powerful student groups behind Jerry’s effort. Jerry knew that, as long as students maintained their will power, passion and energy, the students would remain in control. Administrators believed that Jerry’s efforts, if successful, would, at worst, supply a middle-of-the-road channel of communication to students to counter the efforts of the so-called lunatic fringe.
In some respects, the administration attitude in 1970 was far from reality. From the beginning, Jerry had devoted significant efforts to supporting a station goal of supplying information to students. Jerry knew that this was the key to serving an important student need. Yet organizational enthusiasm was generated more for music programming. It was important to attract staff members, as well as listeners. It was important to establish WIDB as an integral fixture of campus life in the short time between sign on (April 12) and the end of the quarter (early June). It was generally felt that music programming was most important in reaching this goal. News and information were important, but (it was felt by staff members) these would be developed on an ongoing basis; few students would be motivated to tune in WIDB to receive news and information. This attitude and the administration’s attitudes would prove very, very wrong before WIDB was one month old.
The priority on music programming led to little attention being paid to the development of a News Department before WIDB’s sign on. While “jocks” were selected only after a rigorous audition and training process, news people were just auditioned and not trained. Where there was an extensive program format on paper, almost nothing was codified for news. There was no equipment or production studio for news people to use, and no real leader of the news department. While Tony Noce was named the first News director, he graduated in 1969. When Nick Cipriani had agreed to replace Tony as news director, it was with the understanding that Nick’s time at the station would be limited.
In the first days of WIDB after sign on, news was called for by the format for five minutes each hour. Often no one would show up to do news. When this happened, the “jock” was supposed to do it himself. Generally this ranged from a disaster to a joke. The jock was not trained for news and usually did not have the skill to do it. The jock usually had his hands full trying to be a jock (remember, it WAS the first few days and many jocks had little experience); and the jock had little time to prepare for news. Stories were often read out of newspapers or stale UPI copy from somewhere else was read cold. The result was that news was embarrassing, and most staff members cringed when it was news time.
Except for the preoccupation with establishing the station through music programming, it seems unusual in hindsight that news was not an early priority. While there have always been segments of WIDB’s target audience uninterested in news and information programming, 1970 might have been a peak year for student interest in news. There was an extremely high interest by SIU students in world and national affairs in 1970. Students’ lives, and those of their friends, were directly impacted by the draft, draft lottery, and the war. Even as one chose to distance oneself from these ongoing events, it became increasingly difficult. These events were often lead stories on newscasts, and on the front page of newspapers. A number of one’s friends, classmates, acquaintances, even parents and professors might discuss these things every day.
This general arousal spread to other areas, such as environmental concerns. April, 1970 marked the first Earth Day. Based on a review of the Southern Illinoisians, Daily Egyptians, and other sources such as H. P. Kloplowicz’s book Carbondale After Dark, there were a number of activities, events, and student groups centered around discussion or protest of the war, draft, foreign policy, government abuses, changing the system. SIU Student Government funded Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Southern Illinois Peace Committee. Student Government itself had been active, aggressive, and relatively powerful. It demanded, and received, some expanded student rights from the administration. One was elimination of “women’s hours” in dorms. (Until then all women had to be in dorms after dark so they could be locked away from the temptations of the world). In January, 1970, Student Government brought Abbie Hoffman to speak on the war.
The University had received a federal grant to establish a “Vietnamese Studies Center.” The ostensible purpose was to educate personnel in techniques useful for advancing American interests in vietnam. Rumors abounded that these centered around techniques of torture, intimidation, and propaganda. Why was the University supporting this? The University also maintained an ROTC program at Wheeler Hall. This unquestioningly was to recruit students to participate in furthering the American military’s goals. Many students, professors, and other citizens opposed these goals. They questioned why the University was choosing to support activities regarded as immoral and harmful.
Because of the draft, those of student age were most directly affected by the war. Yet, for many reasons, the opposition to the war cut across many social and economic stratas. There was a great sense of moral outrage that bound religious groups with housewives, and Black Panthers and intellectuals, such as professors. Conservatives also opposed the war because they favored an all out effort to win, or nothing. Vietnam veterans against the war staged a memorable demonstration on the lawn of the White House, where they flung the medals they were awarded for “valor” in Vietnam at the White House in disgust.
Depending on your poll of choice, by 1970, at least half the country opposed the war, for various reasons. It was painfully obvious that the opposition was far more broad based than a mere isolated student lunatic fringe. The war had split the country, right down the middle. Attitudes began to emerge that those who did not actively oppose the war were supporters, and the only way to stop the war was to disable, or reorient supporting institutions such as the University. For example, if the University was forced to withdraw from the ROTC and Vietnamese Studies Center, it was thought that this would hasten the end of the war. More and more, there was an attitude that each person had a duty to stand up for what he or she believed.
Naturally, the University administration was slow to respond. There were significant financial consequences for withdrawing in mid-fiscal year from a grant program such as the Vietnamese Studies Center. Many administrators looked upon ROTC as a tradition of college life, hardly subject to arbitrary cancellation upon a few student’s whims. There were also some background considerations. Every year, the University had to get its budget approved by the legislature in Springfield. Many legislators were veterans. The legislature was more conservative than student interests. Legislators were far from being able to directly observe events at the front of opinion. Many agreed with the opinion that the antiwar movement was exaggerated, and punishing a few misbehaving students and a few others would solve the problem. The point is that the legislature’s general attitude was that the university should punish, not compromise with, protesting students. If University administrators were perceived as “weak” by working with student leaders, then the legislators might be displeased, and seek removal of the administrators along with reduction ofthe University’s budget and power. The battle lines had been drawn and WIDB, the new WIDB, would be at the focal point.
In January, February and April, there were demonstrations protesting ROTC and the Vietnamese Studies Center. Police made arrests. Student Government’s annual elections were set for April 29, 1970. Seven candidates were running for president. At least one advocated harsh treatment for students seeking to disrupt the university. Most of the votes supported candidates who were considered “radical,” which, at the time, roughly translated into being in favor of changes in institutions, such as the university, government and legal system, and more power to shift to the “have-nots,” such as minorities and students. Even though most voters supported radical candidates, a definitely non-radical candidate, Tom Scherschell, won with only 28% of the vote. The radicals had been shut out of student government, mainly because there too many radical candidates and the vote had split. Where student government had been an effective vehicle for radical energies, frustration, and aggression, there was now a bit of desperation.
On Friday, May 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon announced the escalation of the war and the invasion of Cambodia. A crowd gathered near Spud-Nuts, at Freeman and Illinois, blocked the street, started a fire, began drinking and smoking. State Police waded into the crowd, arrested 16, and broke it up. Nothing exciting happened over the weekend, but on Monday, May 4, at Kent State University in Ohio, a crowd of students congregated. Some were there to protest, some were there just to see what was happening, others were just there by accident. National Guard troops, some of whom were in the reserves to avoid the draft, were issued live ammunition and stationed on campus. Some objects were thrown at the soldiers. When the students failed to obey a poorly amplified order to disburse, the soldiers opened fire on the crowd of unarmed students. Four students were killed. Many others were struck by bullets and seriously injured. Dozens of others were injured in the resulting stampede. News traveled like lightning.
From today’s perspective, it is hard to imagine the voltage of the shock that hit so many of us at once and the tremendous effect. Half the country was against the war, so there was identification (to some extent) with protesting students. But this identification was far from monolithic, active support. At SIU, thousands of students had voted on Wednesday, April 29 for radical candidates, but only 150 came out to protest Nixon’s war escalation two days later. Martin Luther King Jr. turned sympathizers into active supporters when he demonstrated for voting rights in Selma, Alabama and the local sheriff attacked with fire hoses and guard dogs. Watching the demonstration and response on national TV news, viewers wondered “what did Dr. King and his group do to deserve such treatment?” The answer was that they marched for the right to vote. It was just not acceptable that people were attacked just because they peacefully marched for the right to vote.
What happened at Kent State pushed thousands over the edge. It was felt by many that a reasonable protest had led to an excessive and criminal response. Many who had sympathized, but not participated in the antiwar movement were now convinced that the government/establishment had lost the desire and/or ability to restrain and control its policing function, and was behaving more like a fascist state. Soldiers killed students merely because they were near a group that congregated to protest the war. Among the movements, there had always been debates about aggressive and passive resistance. It had been argued that Dr. King’s nonviolent tactics led to arrests and some injuries, but avoided the direct use of deadly force by authorities, and gained sympathy and support. Kent State broke this debate because mostly nonviolent protesters were shot and killed. No longer did nonviolence provide any guarantees. There was a major sense of outrage that dissenters had been shot as an official government action. It fanned the flames when conservative figures suggested that if the students had attended their classes and not looked for trouble, they would not have been shot.
The implied message (whether intended or not) was that students who attempted to participate in the democratic process were looking for trouble and deserved to be shot. All of this unified and galvanized huge numbers of previously fragmented student interests. Five days after the student government election where the winner had only 28% of the vote, on Monday, May 4, 1970, the Student Senate met in emergency session, and unanimously voted to join a national student strike in which every university in the country was to be shut down. Over 400 students attended the meeting.
In ten days this is what happened (based on DE and Southern Illinoisan reports):
Monday (5/4/70): Students shot at Kent State; SIU Student Senate votes unanamously to join national strike; Class boycott scheduled to start Wednesday (5/6).
Tuesday (5/5): 2,000 students gather at Morris Library, discuss response to Kent State shootings and Cambodian invasion; Peaceful protests and armed violence discussed; Administration announces official three-day “mourning period” (but classes were officially cancelled for only one day, Thursday).
Wednesday (5/6): Over 3,000 rally at noon at Morris Library, seek to extend official class suspension, crowd moves to Lawson, Wham, disrupting classes, pulling fire alarms, trying to get students out of class to join crowd; Crowd (2-3,000) moves to Woody Hall; many break windows, occupy offices, overturn files. Crowd moves to Wheeler Hall (where ROTC was), breaks windows, occupies offices, makes demands to shut down ROTC and Vietnamese Studies Center. Meanwhile, another 1,000 march downtown and back to Woody, still occupied by students. Police clear Woody and Wheeler; dozens are injured, including 28 police officers. State police and National Guard are called in.
Thursday (5/7): 6pm peaceful rally at Morris Library; Open mike discussion of peaceful protests vs. violence; Thousands move downtown; 150 occupy RR tracks; State police and army troops attack entire crowd with tear gas; Crowd breaks store windows, confronts troops; Some dorms tear gassed.
Friday (5/8): Martial law declared; Assembling in groups banned; No one allowed outside from 7:30 pm-6am: violators to be arrested; 700 troops arrive; 400 rally at Morris Library, broken up by police; Soldiers, in combat uniforms with rifles and bayonets, guard dorms, preventing students from joining any protests.
Saturday (5/9): Police, reportedly without warrant, remove badges and attack house at 508 Bridge Street; Occupants were watching TV, were tear gassed and beaten, charges against them dropped; Police trashed house.
Sunday/Monday (5/10-11): Groups of students form, police and troops attack with tear gas, in many dorm, campus, and C’dale areas.
Tuesday (5/12): Troops and state police withdrawn; 6pm, 1,000 gather at Morris Library, in defiance of martial law; 7 pm, crowd swells to 2,500; Marches to east campus; Swells to 5,000; Moves downtown; Moves to President Morris’ house; Some enter house.
Tuesday (12): President Morris 10 am: “Under no circumstances would the school be closed;” President Morris 11:30 pm: “The University is closed indefinitely.”
Wednesday (5/13): 12 am: Crowd moves downtown to celebrate. Huge street party; More than 5,000 people; Police ineffective; 12:30 am: Mayor closes bars; 4 am: Party over.
Thursday (5/14): Referendum held on whether university should remain closed; Turnout heavy; Closure prevails 2-1.
Friday (5/15): SIU Board of Trustees convenes in Edwardsville; Governor Richard B. Olgilvie attends record five-hour executive session; Decision to keep school closed; Dorms close that day; Classes end for quarter (four weeks early).
The basic summary is, as H. B. Koplowitz observes in his book “Carbondale After Dark:”
“Vietnam, neo-colonialism, the military-industrial complex, and all the rest of the rhetoric had been completely overshadowed by the more immediate issues of police violence and martial law.”
The hard-liners on the administration side had their way initially; they obtained more police and troops to punish student offenders (whose crimes were “unlawful assembly,” “violating curfew” or “disorderly conduct”) and force the students to obey the law. The hard-liners ignored the 1966 lessons; the results were much worse this time. Troops with weapons surrounded dorms, and gangs of police gassed dorms and attacked students. The actions of the police and troops became the more immediate “fuel” (but not the only fuel) for escalating defiance. More defiance led to more aggressive police action, and the cycle was on.
Many felt that generally reasonable conduct by students led to generally excessive and violent conduct by troops and police. Those who felt this way had little faith that the justice system would be interested in police excesses. As the cycle continued, people began to realize that anyone could be in physical danger by being in the wrong place at the right time. That’s what had happened at Kent State. At SIU, some students were gassed and beaten while they were trying to go to class, or just trying to go home. Tear gas canisters came crashing through windows into student’s dorm rooms in some cases. Some classes proceeded during daytime hours, and dangers surfaced towards nightfall. When a class would end no one knew what they would find outside the door. One might see a couple embracing under a shade tree on campus, and find clouds of tear gas a block away.
Ever practical, President Morris must have realized that the police conduct was the only part of the escalating cycle he could control. He also knew that as long as the police, troops, and students were locked together in that cycle, the university could not operate. So, at his order, the state police and troops were withdrawn. The next move was up to those who sought to disrupt the operation of the university. The protesting students persisted. It was painfully obvious that the protesters had the power to disrupt the university and the heavy presence of police and troops merely served to enhance the disruption. Either way, the university could not operate. The administration had to relent and negotiate with the protesters, who demanded the university close.
It is astounding to observe the parallels to 1966. The initial issue in 1966 was rescinding the student suspensions. When students protested, it was the extreme administration and police response (expulsion and mass arrests) that fueled the uprising that ended in army vehicles burning as a backdrop to the final confrontation at the president’s house. President Morris realized that the students had the power and continued efforts to punish them would be ineffective and only make things worse. He had to negotiate with the students. Less than four years later, the initial issue was an appropriate response to the war and Kent State. When the students protested in a nonviolent manner, it was the authoritarian effort to punish them (arrests, tear gas, beatings) that led to greater disruptions, culminating in the final confrontation at the president’s house. President Morris again realized that the students had the power and continued efforts to punish them would be ineffective and only make things worse. He had to negotiate.
Even 30 years later, this is heavy stuff. Though there were 5,000 or more participating in some of these events, there were 10-15,000 students who weren’t. They may have been sympathetic, but many just wanted to stay out of the line of fire and survive this difficult period. Others devoted efforts to serving students in a time of crisis. Some of those worked at WIDB.
Less than 23 days after WIDB signed on, the entire university was up for grabs. At sign-on, WIDB’s immediate goal was to integrate itself into SIU student culture before the end of Spring Quarter. The original concept was that students wanted music, entertainment, and some information. Now there was a most urgent need for information. Were classes canceled? Was it safe to try to walk to class? What should you do if you were tear gassed? Was the rumor true that police were shooting students? Is my roommate in jail? How can I bail him out? Is my roommate dead? What should I do if my dorm is tear gassed and the state police are waiting outside to arrest me for curfew violation if I come out? When is the next protest rally? Is the school closed? How will I be graded? Where are the police and troops massing now? Can I go visit my girlfriend? Students turned to the new WIDB for answers. It was a too-real crisis.
Many thought that the government might actually be overthrown. Some station members felt that WIDB’s duty was to take a stand for student interests, to support the disruptions as a protest against the war, Kent State and the police and military actions. But most staff heads felt the station should remain neutral. It could accomplish much as a credible information conduit. There was always the specter of a confrontation with the administration and the need for a solid defensive position for the embryonic WIDB. The students needed information that no one else could provide. It was WIDB’s job.
As the new WIDB operated during the first week in May, Jerry and others felt something was going to happen. One of the early popular songs on WIDB was “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Neuman. WIDB members began to gather at the station. The phones started ringing. Reports came in about a gathering, a rally, a thousand, no, three thousand, the crowd’s angry, and moving!
Jerry Chabrian had showed Dan Mordini how to patch cassette recorders into pay phones. Now, the station could air a taped interview or report direct from any pay phone! Suddenly, the shadowy, almost nonexistent news department became the most important part of the station. Yesterday’s DJ was sent out with a cassette recorder and a few dimes to cover the rally at Morris Library. This report was received by phone and aired on May 7:
“At least 2,000 students surrounded Woody Hall demanding that the Vietnamese Studies Center be moved off campus. This followed a noon rally in which District Attorney Richman and Chancellor MacVicar urged students to keep their cool. A strike has been called to protest the deaths of four students at southern’s sister school, Kent State in Ohio. This is Clyde Swanson, reporting on remote for WIDB.”
There were never enough cassette recorders. “The pace kept picking up,” said Jerry. “It was a time of innovation and improvisation.” A plan developed: someone would serve as “anchor” at the station, and the “roving reporters” would call in their stories. Frank Mazzocco was anchor when the students sat down on the railroad tracks and the police attacked. There was a report that McDonald’s (then located on Illinois Ave., across from Home Ec.) was filled with tear gas, which Frank aired. Lew Wright was anchor as troops circled the dorms.
“You could feel the presence of thousands of listeners glued to 600 on the AM dial,” remembers Jerry. “We told them what’s happening and what already happened. We told them where not to go. We told them how to keep safe. We entertained and soothed.” Buffalo Springfield’s “For what It’s Worth” was often played for its soothing message.
Woody Mosgers and Charlie Muren decided to wear shirts and ties as roving reporters. Woody cultivated sources among the police. One was State trooper Mel Kurston from Marion, who prevented police from attacking Charlie and Woody. Woody and Charlie were in the president’s house as the protesters invaded. DJ’s and students the week before, Woody and Charlie interviewed national guard troops who were coal miners and insurance salesmen the week before. Howie Karlin stood between the troops and police and the students near Grinell Hall. The police had billy clubs and tear gas; the soldiers had rifles and bayonets; the students had rocks and bottles; Howie had his cassette recorder and microphone. Howie stood his ground, dodged the rocks and bottles, endured the tear gas, and made his report.
Almost all station members worked news during this period. Some worked on a de facto network. WIDB was in regular contact with many other university stations at other schools. These events were being repeated at almost all campuses, and many high schools. University operators sympathized and allowed free calls to transmit and receive reports. At some points, WIDB issued, and received, hourly reports. In April, no one would show up to do news. In May, almost the entire station was news, and all members were newspersons.
People and events continued to draw WIDB to the focal points of activity. An Army reserve officer called Jerry Chabrian to advise him that troops were being stationed to guard various strategic locations on campus, such as the SIU Broadcasting Services and the Physical Plant, etc. “They suggested WIDB would need to be guarded also since there was a rumored takeover of WIDB. I made the statement that this is the student station and it did not need protection from students. If someone wanted to take it over, we would run the equipment and let them, along with everyone else say their piece. A takeover never came about.”
When the towers were teargassed, coughing students trapped in their dorm rooms called WIDB to ask what to do. While on the air, Jerry called a physician at University Health Service who advised that fresh air was the only remedy. Told that the windows in Schneider did not open, the good doctor said this was a life-threatening situation, so break the window with a chair. Immediately, dozens of chairs crashed through windows and landed on the sidewalks around Schneider. Apparently indifferent to the threat to student lives, the administration complained that WIDB advocated damaging university property.
WIDB was there when the protesters clashed with troops and police. WIDB reported on official actions, protest events, and dangers to students. WIDB kept SIU students informed about world events and protests on other campuses. WIDB was at Woody Hall, Wheeler Hall, the train tracks, McDonalds’, Grinnell Hall, Morris Library, and the President’s House. When the decision was made to close the school, WIDB aired it first. In a few short weeks, WIDB had become the student news authority. Students had a sudden intense need for news and WIDB had delivered.
WIDB members had risen to the occasion. Woody reports that he “learned more in those 10 days than the previous 2.5 years of college.” He viewed this period as an opportunity for WIDB and its members to step forward and show what they could do. “The station was full of leaders,” said Woody. “We were all geeks, but we were leaders, and WIDB attracted us.”
“We were all guided from within ourselves,” recalls Jerry. “We each knew what it would take to become professional broadcasters. We reached within and pulled that out of ourselves. We had just built and operated the physical plant of a broadcast station. Now we had the higher calling: to fill that physical plant with the highest professional broadcast spirit. We knew we could do it, and we did.”
There was an enormous feeling of accomplishment among the members. For some, it was the most significant event in their lives to that point. This feeling was shared by all, and had a dramatic galvanizing effect. WIDB was truly powerful, significant, served an important purpose, and members could take pride in this. How many student lives were saved by WIDB’s timely, accurate reporting? How many injuries were prevented? How much suffering from tear gas exposure was alleviated by WIDB’s health advice? No one knew for sure, but members had the conviction that they had helped their fellow students in a time of great need. WIDB had firmly established itself, not only as an integral part of student culture, but also on the map of SIU and Carbondale. Internally, WIDB had reached the critical mass of cohesion. Howie Karlin noted this in his memo to Jerry, almost as an epilogue to this chapter in mid-May, 1970. (See attached document).
WIDB signed off for Spring Quarter on May 15, 1970, only 33 days after it had signed on, and only 10 days after the disturbances began. Less than 100 days earlier, Jerry had faced the empty room in Wright I.
That’s how WIDB started.
After school closed six weeks early, first week in May 1970, an uneasy calm settled over SIU and C’dale. Normally, spring quarter lasted until mid-June.
Although it may appear that closing the school was a clear-cut solution in hindsight, there were significant residual problems. For those that were actually taking classes, there was a question if credit would be allowed, and what grade, if any, would be assigned. Some students’ degrees hung in the balance. Some were engaging in field experience or student teaching far away from the conflict on campus, but were forced to abort when school closed.
Perhaps as a punishment to students, the administration decreed a bizarre grade system for Spring 1970, only. Grades like “S” and “R” were entered on transcripts. Few understood what they meant. Many students had to come back for summer in order to graduate. There were even more than the usual problems with transfer credits.
More than a few professors believed that students learned far more by participating actively in a national policy debate than attending classes. Other universities apparently agreed by adopting an easier grade policy (i.e., pass-fail) than SIU. But the SIU administrators were apparently determined to punish the students for disputing “their” school.
That was the bad news students received over the extended summer of 1970. WIDB did not operate that summer, and members enjoyed a well-deserved rest. But the war went on, and the country’s preoccupation with it intensified. One of the most popular hits that summer was “War” by Edwin Starr, which sat at #1 for multiple weeks. A somewhat less popular anti-war hit was “Bring the Boys Home,” by Frieda Payne, a soul artist.
Events also continued away from the SIU campus. High schools, the “minor leagues” of SIU were very much affected by national events. Many high schools in 1970 experienced some type of demonstration, protest movement, walkout, or other response to the events of May. Just as at universities, many high school students tended to reject traditions and emphasize political issues. Students became more aware of the draft. Just as at universities, some of this heightened awareness was channeled in part to interest in broadcasting.
A few high schools actually had their own radio stations. At these stations, students had identified their interest in broadcasting and gained experience and skills. Many looked for a college that would further this. These high school stations were WIDB’s “minor leagues.”
Examples of Chicago area high school stations “feeding” WIDB were WLTL (Lyons Township), WNTH (New Trier West), and WMTH (Maine Township). Some high schools had aspirations of open air while running closed circuit, such as WEVN (Evanston). These would spit out fully activated radio people, often frustrated by the limitations of the high school station operation.
Picture the confluence. Age 18. Main interest: Radio & broadcasting. Have 1-3 years experience. Moving away from parental and high school authority towards all of Carbondale’s “stimulation.” Then, follow this up with contact with WIDB. For some it was a dream come true. The best part was that it was instant gratification–it was all set up, fully operational! There was no waiting list, no prerequisites, no departmental approval, and no entrance fee!
By Fall, 1970 the enthusiasm of the entering members could now be devoted directly and immediately to broadcasting, instead of construction, wiring, and administrative work.
Fall, 1970 began with fall quarter (remember, SIU was on quarters, not semesters. This was the last week in September, when WIDB resumed programming. WIDB had only broadcast less than 30 days in the spring before the riots closed the campus. Even though almost five months had passed, word had gotten around about WIDB, and many significant new members appeared.
Sam Glick had been Station Manager at WNTH. Dave Silver had been Chief Engineer at WEVN. Alan J. Friedman had been sports director there. Jim Rohr had worked at stations in Aurora. Mike Murphy and David R. Eads had worked at WLTL. Dave Schubert and Ron Kritzman had worked at WMTH. All of them, and many more, showed up at Wright I basement in late September, 1970.
“I found out about WIDB from an R-T Professor,” remembers Dave Silver. “He told the class that WIDB had nothing to do with “real broadcasting,” and we should all work at WSIU. I figured that I better check out WIDB. I also knew about WIDB partly because I lived in 217 Wright I.”
Jim Rohr was one of the few whose first encounter with WIDB was on the radio dial. “My parents had just dropped me off at Schneider to begin my first quarter at SIU. I got my stuff upstairs to the 13th floor, and the first thing I did was set up my stereo (which was an Allied phono/radio/speaker combo). I tuned the AM dial to find something appropriate for unpacking, and there weren’t many choices. But the strongest station was at 600 AM, and it had this peculiar hum that I had never heard on a radio station before.”
As Jim listened, he became more intrigued. “I heard hit music, jingles, and professional-sounding banter. I thought it was a tight-sounding, local station. As I listened further, the station’s location was recited as the Wright I basement. I had no idea where that was until I checked my campus map. When I found it, I made a beeline for the place. I left all of my stuff in boxes in my dorm room.”
While only 18 and a freshman, Jim had already worked at two commercial radio stations and one TV station. He was used to being on mike, doing news, and jocking. He thought WIDB was a local commercial station.
“I knew the station was on campus, but the idea of a student station never occurred to me. I figured that it was just a regular station that somehow was housed in Wright.”
So, within an hour after being dropped off by his parents, James Patrick Rohr walked through the door at WIDB. Twenty minutes later, he was on the air.
“The first guy I saw at the station was Woody Mosgers. He was the news director. Jim Hoffman (Jim Lewis on the air) was jocking. Woody and I talked radio, and I recited my experience. Woody said I would have an ‘on-air audition.’ No one else was there to do news, because it was the first few days of the quarter. News was up in ten minutes, and the UPI (news wire Teletype) machine was working, so there began ‘Rip’n’Read Rohr.’”
Jim ended up with a Saturday morning news shift. He recalls, after seeing WIDB for the first time, that it impressed him as an exciting, homemade vehicle towards adulthood. “It looked like a clubhouse for college kids and the students put it together themselves. There were record album posters, group photo posters, and a bulletin board with personal messages among staff members. It was only students, doing their own thing, just like being adults. I immediately felt at home there.”
Michael K. Murphy, then 18, was a two-year veteran DJ of the “WLTLivated Eleven” show on Lyons Township High School’s WLTL. But he never knew about WIDB until he encountered a Saturday morning charity basketball game (the WIDB DJs versus somebody) at the women’s gym. He met Jim Rohr and Robbie Davis and they encouraged Murf to check out the station.
“I had seen WGN, WMAQ, and WLS, and all of their equipment seemed old, large and clumsy,” said Murf. “At WLTL, we had hand-me-down ham radio stuff. By comparison, WIDB seemed big, clean and modern, especially the equipment. The people were energetic, enthusiastic, and optimistic. I knew I was going to enjoy working there.” Murf initially took a Saturday 9:45 pm 15-minute sports shift.
The broadcast year opened with Howie Karlin as PD, Tom Scheithe as Operations Director, and Jim Hoffman as Music Director. The station programmed from 7am- 1am everyday, until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights. From 10am-11pm, the crew was a DJ, newsman, and engineer. The jock chose records from a short list of single hits in categories. The Music Director created the list each week. Some weeks, only two or three selections changed.
The records were played each hour in accordance with a “pie clock” format (so named because it was displayed in a circular diagram cut into sections; like an analog clock, the category of record played and/or the jingle or news or weather presented depended on where the minute hand of the clock was) so that news was at :45, weather at :15, ID at :00 and :30.
This style of programming moved rather quickly. Most records were less than three minutes long. Often, breaks between records involved the jock talking on mike, a short promo, spot or two (on cart), a jingle (on cart), and then another record, which the jock would possibly talk over for a few seconds. As soon as he finished, it was time to select (and cue) the next record, decide what would be included in the break (jingle? ID? news? weather?) and set it up. When that was finished (if you were lucky), you might have up to a full minute before the current record ended. You could use that minute to answer the phone, update the logs, check the UPI machine, clear your throat, get a drink, and go to the bathroom.
This happened twelve to eighteen times an hour, 16 hours every day. It is easy to see why most jocks did not “combo.” This means they had someone else, an engineer, run the board for them. There was a separate control room, where the board, records, turntables, and cart machines were, and a separate “jock studio” where the jock sat.
The jock ran the program. He was in charge of selecting records (within the format). He cued the engineer for jingles, records, and promos. He signed the log. He was responsible for news if no one else showed. The jock turned on his own mike by a switch in the jock studio. He usually answered the request line. Often, he had to answer the other lines too.
The engineer ran the board. He set up the breaks and executed them. The best engineers anticipated what the jocks wanted. The best engineers were “tight.” Things flowed together smoothly, with no gaps, no beats missed, no “dead air,” and consistent levels.
The best engineer made almost any jock sound good. Although Sam Glick recalls that “There were only 2 cart machines and 2 turntables to do all this with.
Jocks could concentrate on programming (and schmoozing callers; marketing!) without being distracted with mechanics. Engineers could participate and contribute without needing extroverted voice skills.
Many became interested in production, or became jocks themselves. Almost all jocks eventually learned to run their own board, mainly because in most markets, stations required this. In the biggest markets such as Chicago, LA, and New York, however, jocks had separate engineers (often due in part to union contracts) and WIDB jocks wanted to “be like the big guys.”
From 11pm-1am, except Mondays, was “Underground.” It was free form. There was no format, no playlist, no jingles, no news. Usually, album selections were featured. Jocks were much more low-key. Programs styled like underground, were the forerunner of the “Album Oriented Rock” (AOR) style, which emerged two or three years later on the then-fledgling FM band.
In 1970, Underground and “Top 40,” (WIDB’s daytime format) represented the two major popular radio formats aimed at college-age people. Some at WIDB thought that WIDB should choose one over the other. But Howie, Jerry and others believed that, since WIDB was for ALL students, accommodating both formats made the station stronger, not weaker.
So in September, 1970, Howie and Tom had to come up with a schedule that filled five shifts (engineer & jock) plus underground, each day. That’s 35 shifts per week, plus six underground shifts (they had engineers too). So there were 82 person/shifts averaging three hours each week.
How did Tom and Howie fill these shifts before the university opened? All we know is that when Jim Rohr checked into Schneider, turned on his stereo and scanned the AM dial, there was WIDB, sounding attractive and even compelling to young James.
Meanwhile, it was Jim Hoffman’s job, as Music Director, to prepare the playlist. Still in existence are the first two playlists from Fall ’70.
The goal of the staff was to establish IDB as an integral part of campus life from the beginning of Fall Quarter. How well did they execute? Well, Jim Rohr found the station immediately on check in. A few weeks later, on October 21, 1970, a survey was performed: 5% of all dorm rooms were called between 3-4pm. WIDB had a 26.75 rating and a 75 share! At this point, WIDB had been on for only 30 days that quarter, and less than 30 days the previous spring.
WIDB staffers Woody Mosgers, Eric J. Toll, David R. Eads, Steve Berger, Mike Murphy and Roger Davis had compiled the survey. The survey also showed that almost 65% of the students interviewed said they “tuned to WIDB for campus and local news.” (In second place was “no station” at 15%, followed by WSIU at 6%). It came as somewhat of a surprise that WIDB was so respected as a news authority. But, not as surprising was the 26 rating and 65 share. WIDB staffers were hearing WIDB behind doors of rooms they walked past in the dorm corridors. When WIDB was mentioned in class or campus conversation, a portion of (but not all) students had heard of it. WIDB had accomplished its goals. It was established as an integral part of student life. People were listening, and they liked what they heard.
New members were attracted to the station. WIDB was meeting students’ needs in ways never done before at SIU. Students were depending more on WIDB than staffers realized.
A few weeks after the survey, in early November, the rising news department finished its in-depth documentary about the riots the previous spring. The one hour program “Seven Days in May–1970″ aired Sunday, November 8, 1970 at 10pm. Narrated by Jim Rohr, the program reviewed the sequence of events and the buildup to confrontation. Recorded actualities, featuring chanting crowds, tear gas grenades and sounds of violence prompted some listeners to respond as if the riots had resumed.
Although seven disclaimers were broadcast–that these were RECORDINGS of past riots, NOT live–they were not completely effective. Just as the 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast prompted panic despite disclaimers, some Thompson Point residents, in Baldwin, freaked out. ( Document #4–SI Article) One woman called her parents and told them to come and get her. The RC (Resident Counselor–one per dorm) claimed several students frantically sought shelter from tear gas. The RC, Joe Robinette, (apparently hired for his ability and training to handle such crises) determined that the problem was disturbing material that was being broadcast on WIDB. To solve the problem, Robinette ripped out the antenna cable from the WIDB transmitter!
Naturally, fallout ensued. Jerry Chabrian was outraged. No RC (or any other university official or person) was going to disable and/or damage a WIDB transmitter because they disliked the programming! It was more outrageous because it was informational programming, and controversial as well. Robinette was forced to explain, there was a flurry of letters via campus mail, and nothing ended up happening.
But two significant points had been made. One, the station would fiercely defend its right to broadcast free from censorship, and two, that WIDB’s power and influence over SIU students was far greater than most had expected. At this juncture, WIDB had broadcast less than one full quarter.
WIDB was flexing its interests in other ways that were threatening to the administration. Charlie Muren had a connection with booking agents for rock bands. The Rolling Stones were going on tour. They had an open date near C’dale. Charlie made a few calls. It was possible! WIDB could sponsor the Rolling Stones in C’dale. The only problem was the venue.
The SIU Arena was run by Dean Justice. He said that the university policy prohibited student-sponsored shows. He could not produce such a policy. Student Government weighed in. The policy did not exist. Justice said no shows could be booked without his approval. He would not approve student-sponsored shows. Students were too irresponsible.
WIDB and Student Government tried to appeal to selected administrators, but no one wanted to take on Dean Justice. Only the president or chancellor could overrule him, and even they were shy.
Through the years that the Arena existed, students had little voice in programming. Administrators would determine student programming needs. The ongoing administrative attitude seemed to be that student input was unnecessary and inefficient. They did not understand that music was a business. Dollars had to be watched. Because there was so much money flowing, administrators had to control that process. There was hardly enough money for administrators to control. There was little money for student activities. That was just for students.
By proposing that the station, not the university administrators, sponsor a show at the Arena, WIDB was threatening the existing system of money flowage. For that matter, just about any assertive behavior by professors or students was perceived as a threat to the existing system. Students attended SIU with the general goal of moving towards adulthood. Asserting one’s needs is part of that process. Doing so at SIU tended to make one the enemy of almost all administrators. Thus, SIU’s purpose: to encourage adult behavior was consciously disregarded by SIU administrators. Instead, adult behavior was punished. As students became more assertive, administrators acted more and more immaturely (attacking students, penalizing their grades, withholding funds from student activities, subjecting students to death and injuries, expelling and prosecuting students for “disorderly conduct” because gangs of police “legally” bashed in students’ heads, etc.)
The reason why a student radio station took so long to establish was that it represented students asserting their right to decide for themselves. Moreover, as an information conduit, WIDB was regularly communicating examples of student assertiveness. When students rioted, WIDB was there. When Student Government took a stand, WIDB reported it. When the Overpass opened on October, 1970, WIDB was there to point out that completion was delayed for three years by the administration because money could not be found to protect students from death and injury; it was just not important enough. Almost two-thirds of dorm residents relied on WIDB for campus news. Even a such a dysfunctional administration must have realized what a threat WIDB represented. Especially when you consider that instead of waiting a day to read news that was some felt was filtered thru faculty and administration, WIDB’s reporting was always live, immediate and most importantly, unedited.
Charlie’s idea to sponsor an arena show seemed so simple and direct, and the response was so obtuse, nonsensical, and frustrating. There was speculation of corrupt practices, but no one dared to imagine the full scope of the problem at that time. It was just the beginning of a long educational process.
Meanwhile, word had traveled around the state about WIDB. A group of high school seniors visited the station in mid-November. They were from Evanston, and WIDB was already a factor for them in choosing a college! Nine months before, WIDB had no space and did not exist. By mid-November, 1970 at least some high school students were visiting SIU to make a beeline for WIDB. “The first thing I looked for was the adults, the bosses, the professors, the “supervisors,” said Gary Goldblatt, then 16, one of the visitors. “Then I realized that there were no “university officials” looking over the shoulders of the staff. The students were the bosses.”
Gary was impressed with the professional demeanor and discipline. He observed Scott Barry (Mark Ferry) jocking and Allan J. Friedman doing news. “Each of them prepared themselves before opening the mike. There was a format to follow, and they respected it. After every break, there were comments and criticism. They were serious about broadcasting at WIDB. It made me wonder if I could measure up to that standard.”
At any student station, turnover is high because people graduate or otherwise move on. There is always the challenge to constantly have an influx of qualified new members, as the senior members have one foot out the door. Although WIDB had been broadcasting only a few months by late fall quarter, 1970, General Manager Jerry Chabrian, Chief Engineer Dan Mordini, and Program Director Howie Karlin were having their last weeks at the station. By February, Charlie Muren was GM. By March, Bob Huntington was Chief Engineer. By April, Tom Scheithe was serving as Program Director.
In December 1970, Jerry was somewhat frustrated that the breathtaking momentum of the past year had slowed. But Jerry was a man of action. Irritated that the new state-of-the-art (circa 1970) Gates “President” on-air mixing console had not been installed, Jerry ripped out wires from the old Studioette console before break. (That Studioette console, half the size of the President model, then became the nucleus of the Production Room for years to come.)
Jerry’s actions forced the engineers to install the new board. They didn’t like it, but it was a benefit to the entire station and listeners. As usual, Jerry did what was necessary to get the job done.
The specter of the war and draft continued to cast its shadow over WIDB. Prior to Christmas break, Jeff Esposito (Jeffrey Thomas) received his draft notice. Instead of being at SIU and WIDB Winter Quarter, he would be attending boot camp in the Army. He was regarded as one of WIDB’s best jocks, and there was a sense of loss at the station. It also drove home the point that the war and draft continued to affect everyone.
As an outgrowth of Jeff’s upcoming last show the staff got motivated to pitch in for a special programming effort. During exams, just before sign-off for break, WIDB would pull an “all-nighter.” Students stayed up all night to study for exams, so WIDB would provide a program service all night long. The centerpiece of this would be Jeffery Thomas’ last show. Sam Glick jocked the early evening, before Jeffrey.
Jim Sheriffs came on later. Other staffers participated. Jim Rohr impersonated celebrity voices in mock interviews. Pat Becker impersonated an oversexed movie star. One of the higher moments occurred as Jim Rohr, impersonating Jimmy Stewart (the actor) claimed that he could receive WIDB on his clock radio “right next to KABC.”
Although broadcasting 24 hours in one day seems tame by today’s perspective, it was a big deal for the staff at that time. Many staffers gathered at the station for the broadcast. It was a party. This was the end of WIDB’s first full quarter of broadcasting, and most staffers were feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Winter quarter began January 3, 1971. This was the first winter quarter for WIDB. There are certain cycles of the calendar at the university, and WIDB was encountering these for the first time. For example, March was the time to submit budget allocation requests for the next fiscal year. The budget and allocation process seemed to change every year, but it generally had elements of input from Student Government, Administration, Board of Trustees, and some media.
In the 1970′s, there was a Finance Committee of the Student Senate that took applications and held hearings on allocations. Prior to 1971, the allocation process had its share of rancor and heated debate, but it was a well-oiled machine compared to later years. By 1971-2, the process had turned into a circus. Some organizations made requests for 20 times what they really wanted, so they could scream louder and louder when cut. Other organizations packed the hearings with uniformed supporters, who raised their fists in a not-so-implied threat when cutting their budget was discussed. Charges of racism, sexism, favoritism, and nepotism were commonplace.
The funds in question were student funds. At the time each student paid tuition, certain mandatory “fees” were added. The “SWRF” fee was discussed in an earlier chapter. The concept was that each fee created a fund that was supposed to be used for a limited purpose. That “limited purpose” often got “re-interpreted” by the administration when desirable for them.
Fees could add up to 25% over tuition. For example, in 1971, a full time undergraduate would pay about $129 per quarter in tuition, but an additional $32 in fees. Out of that $32, about $3.50 was for a “Student Activity Fee.” There was over $370,000 in student activity fees expected in FY ’72, and Student Government was supposed to allocate that amount. The funds would be for the period ending June 30, 1972.
Yet the process began in March of ’71. This money was WIDB’s lifeblood, because the station could not operate without it. So the budget process was critical to the maintenance, improvement and expansion of the station.
The budget was drafted in March, passed by the WIDB Board in April, submitted to the finance committee of the senate in early May, hearings in late May, submitted to the Student Senate in June, sent to the university president in late July, sent back to organizations for revised budgets in August, submitted to the Board of Trustees in September.
The whole idea of this process is to have the allocated funds in the organizations’ accounts by July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Yet the process was not complete until well into fall. Part of the problem was student government, which was not able to finish its part until July. But the roots of that problem lie much deeper.
From the decision-makers’ standpoint, the allocation process was far from easy. It required long hours and inevitably made enemies. Yet students willing to deal with this kept (at least some of) the power with students. If students wouldn’t take the responsibility, the administration would step in (the theory went).
The decision-makers were essentially referees as organizations fought over the financial pie. It was a delicate task, and the decision-makers were trying to learn too. Once an equilibrium was reached, (and organizations were more trusting and less insecure about the process) things were far more efficient. Conversely, if the balance was disturbed, organizations stressed about survival increased aggression. Upsetting the equilibrium led to disputes, rancor and a more difficult and lengthy process.
In March, 1971, as Charlie and the staff prepared the first annual WIDB allocation request for a full year’s operations, they had no way of knowing that competition would double and the administration would throw its wrench into the works.
In FY 71, 34 organizations applied for and received funds. In FY 72, 65 groups applied. 61 received funds. So there were a lot more hungry mouths to feed, a lot of new hungry mouths. These new organizations had worthy purposes that cried for funding. There was the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (IPIRG), student and consumer activists. There was the Mirror, which published professor and course evaluations, and became an invaluable student tool. There was the Student Tenants’ Union, Zero Population Growth and Mobilization of Volunteer Effort (MOVE). These five new applicants received 12% of the total funds available. Four other applicants, Student Government, Student Government Activities Council (SGAC), the Daily Egyptian and Graduate Student Government soaked up another 38%. So WIDB was left to fight it out among the 56 applicants left for half of a rapidly shrinking pie ($185,000). It was no way to run a radio station.
If that wasn’t enough, apparently in response to the riots the previous spring, as well as decisions to fund organizations they didn’t like, the administration and Board of Trustees decided to give all student organizations and the entire allocation process a hard time. First, the administration decided that the Student Activity fee rate and collection formulas had to be changed. Although the fiscal year began July 1, this proposed change was announced in May but not submitted to the Board until August. This bombshell, which placed into doubt the dollar amount of the pie, completely blew away any equilibrium. It was launched after the allocation process began (timed suspiciously well to ensure disruption). Although announced a few months before, the administration delayed seeking Board approval of the new fee arrangement until the disrupted Student Government hammered out the 61 allocations. Then, to add the coup de grace, the Board decided to withhold 20% of all allocations because of confusion related to the new fee structure. So all organizations were reduced ANOTHER 20%!
The administration created confusion, purposefully delayed resolution of the confusion, and then used their own created confusion as an excuse to penalize and discourage students and their organizations. This was a new administrative hard line, which continued for several years. WIDB was “lucky” enough to be rearing its head just as this started. WIDB did not cause the riots, and, in 1971, was relatively low profile when it came to administration opponents. But because WIDB was a student organization, it was lumped into a category and process which involved WIDB’s lifeblood, and WIDB’s survival would soon be at stake. More about this later.
WIDB was facing new and important challenges from inside and out. As “old guard” staff heads departed, new ones were stepping up. Actually, it was a plus that transitions at important staff positions were happening in winter, because there was less external tumult at that time. A student named Rob White visited the station. He pointed out that WIDB had no programs aimed primarily at the needs of black students. Charlie delegated this to Howie, who was still Program Director. Howie delegated to Tom Scheithe. Tom could not argue that WIDB had any black-oriented programs. WIDB’s first black-oriented program (which never had any official name, but was referred to as the Soul Show) was hosted by Rob. He called himself “Rob ‘Ol’ Blood’ White”.
The concept of “oldies” has become blurred, but the term was very clear in 1971. “Oldies” were hits from the past. They were released as singles, had “charted,” and were no longer played as current. While top-40 stations had short playlists, and would play the same current records every three hours (or even more often), a paticular record would be played from a few days to a few months MAX. After that, it was an oldie.
Oldies were more attractive than current records. Hundreds of #1 or Top Ten songs were available; these were far more popular (in their day) than just about any current record. They were also familiar and easily recognized, because one had heard them 8 or 9 hundred times. They sounded fresher compared to current hits because oldies had not been played 67 times in the last two weeks. Oldies also took the listener somewhere; they triggered a package of memories associated with listening to the record dozens of times when it had been current. For this reason, oldies are often promenently used to this day in TV commercials. At WIDB, a large portion of (if not most) requests for songs were for oldies.
WIDB played oldies every other record on the weekends, and they began an oldies show on Sunday night. Hosted by Jim Hoffman (Jim Lewis) the concept was to record the phoned-in request and play the request on the air over the bridge of the record. It was a big success. Again, no other station in the area was playing oldies and airing requests like WIDB.
While oldies were popular, and were featured on a specialty show, the primary station programming was top-40. It occupied about 110 hours out of the 132 hours programmed each week. Yet, the three “specialty” programs, oldies, soul (black-oriented) and underground, relegated to “back-burner” status in 1971, were slated to become the major pillars of WIDB’s programming in the future.
There were other important specialty programs during the first year of WIDB. Dan Mordini started the “Pillowtalk” program. Running from 1-4am on Friday and Saturday nights, the concept was to play music appropriate for intimate activities. This was a popular show, and was taken over by Susie Myers (Stacy Brennan) and Kay Kessler (Jennifer) and later by Pat Becker. One of the best promos produced in 1971 was for “Pillowtalk”, featuring Kay, Sam Glick and Jim Rohr as the announcer.
Another important show was “Anodyne”, the interview/talk/call-in show on Monday evenings. Traditionally, the GM hosted it. It was live, and the impact of each show varied. Some were very significant. Anodyne was partly for experimentation; some shows worked, some didn’t.
In less than a year of existence, WIDB had become a focal point for communication access to students. This was reinforced every time a listener called with a request, a news question, or as a contestant in a prize giveaway, when campus groups asked for publicity, or when a WIDB newsman visibly covered campus events. It was also reinforced when students like Rob White showed up and demanded that WIDB do more to serve its audience.
It is hard from today’s perspective to understand WIDB’s obsession with jingles in the early years. Most of it came from the intense desire to present as professional a sound as possible. All staffers had listened to the “BIG” (major market) top-40 stations for years. The “big” stations (WLS, WCFL, WABC, KHJ) sounded big because they had fancy jingles, fancy production, and manly, professional and versatile production voices. But these things cost money, BIG money.
Howie and Tom were determined to bring all three to WIDB, for almost no cash. There was one major advantage. They could “pirate” (steal) just about any production (jingles, music, voices) they could get their hands on. Jingle and production companies made their money by selling the right to use their product in a particular market to a certain station. If a station used something without paying, it was easy for the company to find out for several reasons. One, the station was open air and it was easy to record evidence of unauthorized usage. Two, the jingle packages contained “slogans” (such as “the beat goes on” or “music radio”) which were attributed to the station in national directories and with ratings services. Three, there was enough $ at stake for the production companies to take legal action against a medium or major market station for unauthorized usage. In short, regular commercial stations were too public with too much $ at stake to get away with it.
Not so with WIDB. It was not open air. Carbondale was definitely a small market. WIDB sold no advertising, was not listed in any directory, and there was no ratings service involved. Who would know? Even if the production companies found out about unauthorized usage, what would they do? Sue WIDB for the 500 or so dollars that would be due? The jingle business moved so fast that anything WIDB could obtain and use was pretty much obsolete anyway. In short, there was no financial benefit to WIDB for pirating jingles; the goal was just to improve the program sound. Thus, there was no motivation for the jingle companies to consider legal action.
So it was open season to steal, edit, or otherwise use just about anything. Production companies often would send free demos on high quality tape that contained useful items. Some demos contained tones to defeat dubbing. Some copies of jingle packages were available through personal contacts. But almost all of the useful items were isolated and disjointed, and no amount of fancy (for the day) editing or re-mixing could create the cohesive, consistent jingle package so desperately yearned for. The problem was that the main purpose of almost all jingles was to ID the station. So, all jingles had call letters. Some also had city of location. None, zero, said “WIDB,” or “Carbondale,” and that’s exactly what was needed. The secondary purposes of jingles were to ID a station slogan and provide transitions during program breaks, before and after records. In a top-40 format, every station was playing almost the same records. It was the jingles that made stations different. That was their identity. It was a central pillar of programming.
Howie had favored jingles used by Drake-Chenault (a name for a certain style of Top-40 format, primarily acapella), created by legendary Top-40 programmer Bill Drake and jingles used in many markets nationwide, in New York by WOR, in L.A. by KHJ and other stations in the RKO Radio Group. (In fact, a variation on the D-C jingles is still in use today on Infinity’s L.A. oldies station KRTH-FM). The Drake-Chenault jingles were also used on Howie’s pirate WLTH. But the Drake style had never received exposure in Chicago, where most of WIDB’s listeners grew up. The big Chicago stations favored TM (WCFL) and Pams (WLS). There were also jingles produced by Pepper Tanner. TM had the most melodic, best produced package and that was what Tom lusted after. Tom was a skilled editor, and he had a plan to provide WIDB with most of a modern TM jingle package!
But before Tom could proceed, an unbelievable stroke of luck provided them with a monumental production opportunity.
The better jingle packages were arranged around a particular word and music theme. One example was the “Solid Rock” package from Pams In perhaps 12 different jingles, the singers might sing “solid rock” or “The rock of… (location)” and then a station’s call letters. Once the word and music themes were set, the music tracks were recorded. Separately, the singers would add the call letters and locations. This way the same music tracks could be used over and over for stations in different markets. WLS, Chicago, used the Solid Rock package in 1972. The singers sang “The rock of Chicago, WLS.” In 1973, KGMO, Cape Girardeau, used the Solid Rock package. The singers sang, “The rock of Missouri, KGMO.” In 1971, WCFL, Chicago, used TM’s Phase II package which was the Dallas-based company’s most popular. So did KILT, Houston. The production value to a station that had no jingle package (like WIDB) was in the music tracks, not someone else’s call letters. It was believed that if the music tracks only could be obtained, it would be easy to get singers to fill in the call letters. But the production companies jealously guarded their music tracks.
During the winter of 1970, Jeff Avon somehow secured a tape of the TM “Beat Goes On” package. This was one of the best packages ever made, and it had been used by WCFL only a year or two before. Almost all WIDB’ers were familiar with it. Even Howie had listened to the Beat Goes On package by DX’ing WCFL at night in New York. This jingle package shouted “major market radio” to them. But it was not a big deal to hear the jingles sing “WCFL” or “KILT.” The big deal was that Jeff had the music tracks, in the clear, without call letters.
Howie and Tom were ecstatic! They had to get a copy of those tracks! Jeff flatly refused. He had promised that he would not allow any dubs to be made. Howie and Tom came up with a plan. First they got Jim Hoffman to persuade Jeff to drive down to C’dale from Chicago with the tape. Then, they set up their reel-to-reel playback unit on the dresser in Howie’s bedroom. It had its own speakers. But it also had a line output, which Howie and Tom connected to another reel-to-reel machine hidden in the closet. That was the recording machine. It would record whatever was playing on the playback unit.
Jim had been Jeff’s buddy at Kendall College, in Evanston. In the late 60′s, they were involved in the radio station there. They developed relationships with Chicago radio personnel, most notably Lew Witz and Jim Lupus at WCFL. “That’s where Jeff got the tape,” said Jim. While Jim transferred to SIU for the 69-70 school year, Jeff remained at Kendall. Although Jim got Jeff to bring the tape down, Jim was not a dubbing co-conspirator. “I didn’t know that Howie and Tom had rigged up a system to record,” Jim claimed.
Jeff showed up and squeezed into Howie’s trailer bedroom with Howie, Tom, Jim and Howie’s girlfriend, Diana. The plan was when Howie coughed, Diana would start the closet machine on record. It worked perfectly. Jeff only allowed them to listen to the tape. They all listened, talked about it, listened to the tape again, and, all the while, the closet machine was recording. After Jeff left, (much to Jim’s surprise), Howie opened the closet, and they listened to the tracks again! The dub came out great, and Jeff had kept his promise, since he had not allowed any dubs to be made.
Howie was fully charged. His dream of a major market jingle package for WIDB was within reach! All he needed were the singers to fill in the call letters and a few other things. Howie contacted the SIU Glee Club. “They were thrilled to be involved, very enthusiastic,” Howie remembers. He played for them the music tracks and examples of the final product. “But when we got them into the studio, we found it was very difficult to achieve the sound like the production companies. The Glee Club singers had a style that was almost operatic, which was not appropriate for a hit music station,” Howie lamented. That effort, to use singers, had to be set aside. But the dream was still on the horizon.
Tom Scheithe, Operations Director, was in line to take over as Program Director, and he shared Howie’s vision of a major market jingle package for WIDB. In contrast to Howie, who relied on studio and mixing skills, Tom relied on his editing skills. He listened very carefully, over and over, to the WCFL version of the “Beat Goes On” package. He noticed that most of the jingles ran from 8 to 16 seconds long. They had instrumental openings. The closings were either instrumental or singers singing “The beat goes on.” Those jingles that had call letters in them had them in the middle. Significantly, the bars of the jingle that had the call letters often began and ended on the same beat or note.
Tom tried to edit out the call letters. The jingle instrumental intro, singers singng “and the beat goes on” and then instrumental finish. It worked! And, it sounded better than any jingles in the market, or even in St Louis. Tom forged ahead and produced about eight of these. His “Hatchet Man” moniker took on a more complementary meaning.
The pirated TM tracks were also useful not with singers, but an announcer. Dan Sheldon made himself (and his voice) available to record phrases that were usable over 5-9 second snappy tracks. Phrases like “And the hits just keep on coming,” or “Solid gold comes together on WIDB all weekend long,” with the tracks, also served as jingles.
Tom successfully used voices in the “most music” jingle. To boost morale, Tom created a specially produced “name ID” for each jock. (just like at the big stations) These were called “jock shouts” and used out of news.
Some of the music tracks became background for station promos. Certain tracks were patterned after old hit songs. The extremely popular song “Cherish,” (by the Association), became a jingle track that WIDB used for a Pillowtalk promo, featuring the voices of Kay Kessler, Sam Glick and Jim Rohr. Here is the Pillow Talk Promo Again.
By spring, 1971, morale was getting to be a problem for some at WIDB. Despite the activity in the programming department, engineering was approaching an early nadir. Dan Mordini had left and Bob Huntington was Chief Engineer. Jerry Chabrian, who had done much engineering work himself, was also gone. It had been expected that the eight transmitters would need lots of maintenance, especially in the first year. Some would have to be relocated, most would require re-tuning, and a few might need replacement tubes. Sure enough, by late winter, many transmitters had problems. More and more floors in the Towers could not pick up WIDB. Neely went out entirely. At Steagall, Thompson Point, a steam leak overheated the tramsmitter and it blew. In the Triads, the “background” hum was so loud on 600 AM that it drowned out WIDB’s music and programs. If these transmitter needs had been fully addressed promptly, the effect on the station would have been minimal.
But there were other problems, more significant problems. The station was out of money. It was still in its first year of operation, and its $15,000 allocation had been spent. Apparently, money originally earmarked for engineering maintenance and station operations had been spent for the new President Board. The board had been installed and it was great. But now it was March, transmitters needed repair, and there was no cash. Even worse, there was no money for the UPI machine, so it was disconnected. This was a devastating blow to the news department, especially with the ongoing war and draft and the specter of the riots recurring in spring. “Part of the problem was that nobody knew how to fix the transmitters,” recalled Jim Hoffman. “Were they still under warranty? Did they have to be pulled out to fix? Was the problem the florescent lights in the dorms (which created unlistenable hum)? Why did they work before and not now? These unanswered questions, plus lack of funds, prevented the transmitters from being fixed quickly.”
There had to be some money somewhere. Charlie applied for additional Student Activity Funds. None were available, but WIDB could get a “loan.” But the “loan” could only be obtained if WIDB would have a plan to pay back the loan from funds received before June. No student activity fees would be available until July, at the earliest. The loan was needed immediately. Help came from a most gratifying source.
East campus residents had been complaining that they could not receive WIDB. This was flattering because as the transmitter problems reduced coverage, WIDB was missed. Thompson Point residents were complaining that they, also, could not receive WIDB (for different reasons). Charlie and other staff heads took their cue and approached the East Campus and Thompson Point Residence Hall Councils for a financial handout. After all, WIDB’s purpose was to serve dorm residents, and WIDB was located in a dorm. Charlie was able to secure almost $1500, and most of the transmitter problems on East Campus were fixed by the end of spring quarter, and a plan was hatched to increase coverage at Thompson Point.
But the effects of reduced coverage and being broke continued through April and May. News was being read out of newspapers (when it was done at all). Jim Hoffman had begun a special oldies show with a novel concept. The show not only solicited requests, but it recorded the telephonic requests and played them on the air, over the bridge of the song. This show was perhaps the most popular one on WIDB. Winter quarter, there was an overwhelming number of telephonic requests. By April, the station’s reduced coverage was painfully apparent, as, suddenly, few requests were received during the oldies show.
Undaunted, the production engineer who recorded the telephonic requests, decided to “manufacture” them. He cajoled staff members who happened to be hanging around the station to call the request line from the office line, “pretend” to be listeners, and the engineer would record their “requests.” This may have sounded OK over the air, but it made staff members feel silly. Newsman Allan J. Friedman recorded his request for “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Three Dog Night, but, feeling silly, Al registered his protest in a creative way. First, he refused to use a phony name. Second, instead of requesting the record by title, he requested it by its serial number in the library. So, (if one could listen), one heard “Hi, this is Al, from Schneider, and I’d like to hear T-2-1 by Three Dog Night.”
The engineer cajoled another newsman into making a request, and it was getting to sound pretty lame. A voice claiming to be “Alfred” requested “Venus” by Shocking Blue. Jim could not control his on-air chuckling.
“Alfred” was actually a shy WIDB newsman, who didn’t do much at the station except show up for his shift every week and that was about it. Having joined WIDB in late winter, 1971, he became the most powerful and influential figure with respect to WIDB’s future, its role in the university and community, and with WIDB’s members. His name was Joel Preston.
Joel was a LaGrange native who worked at Lyons Township High School’s WLTL. He had been the enigmatic and elusive “Sgt. Preston” of the “Sgt. Preston and his Mounties” show on WLTL (from which no tapes have ever surfaced). Later, he served a very brief tenure as the “Virgin Jock” at WIDB (of which no recordings survived). He hosted a WSIU show where he played show tunes and MOR music, and no tapes ever surfaced from those, either. Fortunately, Joel’s administrative skills and accomplishments presented a far more lasting and impressive legacy.
There had been certain expectations in the air at WIDB as winter turned to spring. One, that the riots would return as the weather got warmer. Two, that WIDB would soon be selling commercials. Both seemed to be pretty safe bets in March, 1971. The war was still going on, (as was the draft), the anti-war groups on and off campus were as strong as ever, and nothing had really dented the great dislike (to put it mildly) most people had for the war, for differing reasons. Dean Moulton had assured Jerry in 1970 that, once WIDB had “established itself” (read: “students could run their own station”) for a year, then advertising would be allowed.
Both expectations turned out to be wrong. The indispensability of a galvanizing event was overlooked with respect to the riots. Remember, when Nixon authorized bombing and the Cambodian invasion one year before, only 150 demonstrators came out. Only after police shot dozens of students at Kent State, and local police attacked hundreds of SIU students did the army of five thousand plus students shut down SIU in 1970. There were no such galvanizing events in 1971. Things remained relatively quiet through spring quarter
In 1970, WIDB had barely been able to get its administrative act together. The staff had been preoccupied with securing and preparing a space, recruiting programming staff, getting transmitters installed and working, and promoting the new WIDB. The news department was barely functioning when the need for news became critical. As we know, the staff rose to the occasion, but at that juncture, there was no time or energy to push for the right to advertise. Even if granted, the station was ill-equipped to proceed in 1970. It was thought that the university, once committed to WIDB, would cause WIDB’s funding to be maintained, especially if there was no other revenue source. So, as of spring, 1970, it seemed to make sense not to push the advertising issue at that time.
A year later, things had changed. There was a critical need for money. The need was critical not for salaries, a jingle package or a fancy piece of production equipment, but to keep the transmitters on, to re-connect the news wire, for the station’s survival. The difficulty in obtaining even a few hundred dollars of emergency survival funds suggested the unpredictability of WIDB’s revenue stream. As WIDB proceeded further into the circus-like 71-2 annual student activity fee allocation process, this inherent instability was painfully obvious. Also obvious was that the months of hoopla, back-dooring, and hijinks indigenous to each allocation process would happen every year. It was almost like running for congress; even if you won, you had to, almost immediately, begin campaigning for the next election. Unlike other student activities, WIDB had more important things to do: serve students’ needs.
The station could either spend a lot of time and energy politicking and cultivating relationships with student government, planning and executing “dog & pony shows” for the fee allocation hearings, and fighting with the administration to release the damn funds months after the fiscal year started, or the station could channel that energy into doing what almost every other radio station did for money: sell time. Which choice was more consistent with WIDB’s purpose of supplying students with experience for a broadcast career? Which choice was more consistent with WIDB’s purpose of serving as a (financially) independent and objective source of information for students?
Charlie Muren and others at WIDB were beginning to mull this over in April of 1971. It seemed like no big deal. After all, Dean Moulton promised them a year ago that sales would be authorized after WIDB operated for a year. And, the year was up. As a courtesy, Charlie mentioned to Dean Moulton that WIDB was planning to sell time in the fall. His response began a chain of events that led to WIDB’s greatest challenge and triumph, and the university’s priority being exposed again as a mainly a dysfunctional economic handout to Southern Illinois, not an institution of learning.
Joel was showing up once a week for his news shift. He also had his shift at WSIU. Joel lived in Stevenson Arms, a freshman-approved off-campus dorm, so he could not listen to WIDB. “I saw a WIDB poster at Papa Ceasar’s,” Joel recalled. “I walked into WIDB and met Tom Scheithe and Woody Mosgers. I was expecting to see a real radio station. Instead, there were portable walls, a big board, and lots of people trying to put on a radio station.”
Joel noticed a difference from his experience at WSIU. “WIDB wasn’t such a big sterile atmosphere as WSIU was,” Joel thought. “It felt comfortable.” Within a few more weeks, Joel availed himself of an important tangential freshman benefit of WIDB: a party at a staff head’s off-campus apartment. In this instance it was Jim Hoffman hosting the blowout. “I remember coming in looking around, and I thought, ‘this is really cool’ and I looked forward to more parties.”
Joel also met Robbie Davis. Rob, who had been a jock at WIDB from the beginning, was interested in doing more at the station. He wanted to be WIDB’s first sales manager. Rob encouraged Charlie to do whatever was necessary so that sales could begin in the fall. It was expected that some prep work would be needed. Naively, Charlie and Rob figured that if they started getting ready in June, they could be ready in September.
Like many other projects, this was stumbled into sideways and backwards. Charlie was getting ready to graduate, so after the budget was assembled and submitted, and the courtesy call to Dean Moulton about advertising in the fall, Charlie must have been thinking he was pretty much done. But then an ominous call came from Dean Moulton: before WIDB could advertise, it must submit a written proposal which would set forth how WIDB operates, a description of its audience, how it is (and would be) financially supported, how the sales department would operate. So Charlie and Robbie pieced together the original WIDB sales proposal, dated May, 1971.