In In 1922, Professor Westhafer, the one and only physics professor at Wooster, had finished designing a radio transmitter. The department had decided to display it at an open house in April. The audience crowded into Severance Gym (which is now Ebert Art Center ) to listen to the broadcast but to everyone's chagrin, nothing happened. Try as they might, nothing could be done to fix it. Fortunately, Vic Andrews was attending Wooster in 1922. Vic was a genius in physics and went on to found the Andrew Corporation , which is still one of the largest suppliers of industrial and military communication equipment in the United States (Vic Andrew also invented coaxial cable). Vic helped design a new, fully functional transmitter for the physics department.
In 1926, radio at Wooster became official. It was called WABW and only remained on the air for a year. During that year only fine arts and sports were broadcast on WABW. WABW only used 50 Watts of power (as opposed to the 1050 Watts now used by WCWS). Interestingly enough, WABW could still be tuned in as far away as Minnesota or Massachusetts. This is because AM uses longer wavelengths which can be received at much greater distances. In any case, WABW went off the air after one year, and radio disappeared from Wooster for over 20 years.
In the fall of 1949, Bob Smith came to The College of Wooster as a freshman. Bob was the man destined to be the Chief Engineer at WCWS (then called WCW), but that is another story. He petitioned the administration for a campus radio station. Generously, they agreed and gave the new facility a start-up budget of $50. In 1949 that kind of money went a lot further than it can go today but it still was not much to start a radio station. It certainly was not enough money to buy an industrial transmitter of any kind. Bob's solution was a simple homemade AM carrier current. Carrier current couples the transmitter's signal to an existing power line to a building (rather than to an antenna). Many carrier current stations exist at colleges like ours. One of their advantages is that they don't need a tower to broadcast. In addition, they can only broadcast to a limited number of people, and as such, are not regulated by the FCC. The new Wooster carrier current station was called WCW. As you can imagine with a homemade transmitter, WCW struggled to stay on the air despite many technical problems. In the spring of 1950, the student senate allotted an annual budget of $200 for WCW.
But perhaps Bob is remembered less for his creation of the station and more for a stunt he pulled as a student. Bob Smith, like all people in radio, wanted more listeners. He devised a plan that would allow the entire community of Wooster to hear WCW. He coupled WCW's transmitter to the main power truck that linked all of Wooster. It worked perfectly until the administration received some long distance calls about a radical new station called WCW, which put a temporary shutdown. But radio at Wooster was here to stay.
The WCW staff grew in both size and experience over the next several years. In 1957, WCW was able to break away from the boundaries of being a carrier current station. Ted Evens, the general manager for WWST (a commercial station) offered WCW two hours a day of broadcasting time on his station. This, coupled with a donation of a dedicated telephone line from the WCW studios to WWST from the Ohio Central Telephone Company, allowed WCW to no longer rely on the carrier current system. For the next nine years, WCW staff produced 20 shows per week, including lectures, faculty recitals and cultural programming pre-recorded from British Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation . These programs were sent directly to WWST via the dedicated line.
In November of 1966 WWST broke off its agreement with WCW because of the profitability of FM. WCW was forced to look into other alternatives for broadcasting. The result was WCWS. In 1968 WCW became WCWS, broadcasting at 91.9 FM and utilizing 388 Watts. Like most other new endeavors the new WCWS ran into problems. For instance, it was discovered that it didn't broadcast as far as was intended. In fact, there were several places on campus where WCWS could not be picked up. This was because the antenna for the station was shorter than the surrounding trees and buildings and could not cover the intended area.
At first, broadcast only included fine arts and sports, but within the first year, two technologies arrived and greatly expanded the format. The first broadcasting of the New York Metropolitan Opera was in December of 1968; phone lines from New York carried this broadcast. The second was the addition of the UPI (United Press) service to WCWS. The UPI greatly enhanced the limited news department at the station.
For the next 15 years, things remained relatively stable at the station. As is true with any student-run organization, much of what happened at the station depended on the current philosophy and interest of the students involved. In 1984, Chief Engineer Herman Gibbs filed an application for a construction permit with the FCC to increase the wattage to 890 Watts. He also requested a new antenna tower measuring over 100 feet! In the fall of 1985 the tower was complete and WCWS was being received as far away as 20 miles. In that same year, Texaco announced that it would be giving WCWS a satellite dish from which we could receive the Metropolitan Opera . The new satellite allowed the station to receive the "Met" in stereo. So in January of 1985, Gibbs installed a stereo generator and WCWS was suddenly a stereo FM station.
Since 1985, there have been few major changes at WCWS. The first was a frequency change from 91.9 to 90.9 FM. This was done to allow for an output increase without bleeding into Kenyon's radio station, which was also broadcasting at 91.9. While the FCC approved this change in 1987, the station never achieved full output. What was soon discovered after the output increase was that WCWS was affecting experiments in the Physics Department . The transmitter was much too powerful to be located in Wishart Hall . Certain adjustments were made and the power was modified (as were broadcasting hours) to allow the Physics Department certain hours to conduct experiments.
In 1992, the station transmitter was moved to Back Orville Road , the location of the three hundred foot antenna. This solved the interference problem with the Physics Department, and due to the additional height and elevated location of the transmitter; WCWS can cover the Wooster area more thoroughly without using its full power potential.
In the Fall of 2004, a Texas Christian Radio group challenged WCWS during it's FCC license renewal. The student management, under then General Manager Andrew Darneille '05, responded by taking on the challenging task of improving the quality of the station. A new identity and logo were designed, and in January of 2005, WCWS became known in the community as WOO 91 - Wooster 's Sound Alternative. The new WOO 91 organized the daily scheduling of DJs to bring more continuity to its listeners, and worked with the DJs to create a more professional sound. These efforts paid off in May of 2005 when the FCC denied the challenge to the license renewal.
As a further step to prevent future challenges to the station's license, on August 1 st , 2005 , WCWS began broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week year round. This was done by becoming the first radio station in the country to utilize the Quebbe music system for broadcasting. This step has increased the station's music selection.
In the fall of 2013, WCWS moved out of Wishart Hall to Lowry Center, Wooster's student center. The Lowry Center studios have proven to be a more visible place for WOO 91, and will hopefully lead to an increase in student participation on the air.
\WCWS continues to bring the Wooster community it's only non-stop, commercial free station, 365 days a year that is focused on forward-thinkng college radio that enlightens, educates, and entertains our listeners. By tuning in to WOO 91, you're becoming a part of the story!