Editor's note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his "50 years at Fredonia." Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.
Radio was taken seriously in the '50s. The college had developed recording facilities as early as the 1930s.
In 1949 commercial radio came to Dunkirk-Fredonia as WFCB with studios in downtown Dunkirk. The radio station was very hungry for programming and asked the college to participate. (College participation was assured in their application.) Studios were built in Old Main and tapes and transcriptions were bicycled to the station.
Students, including the author at right, prepared for sign off from the radio station in the 1950s.
Keep in mind that "tape" was in its infancy. Before tape the college used disc cutters and in fact each student's voice was tested and recorded first in the freshman year and then the senior. This was, of course, a teacher's college and public speaking was required.
There was even national recognition for the radio program. In the early '50s Fredonia developed a series of instructional programs via radio. "The Radio Schoolhouse of Western New York." The programs were recognized by the oldest existing radio awards The Ohio State Awards. Also during that time a live music broadcast was carried on the Canadian Broadcasting System.
Locally, the college provided five hours of programming a week. There were dramas, news, political discussions, readings of great literature and sports.
As to origination from its own facilities WCVF used a system dubbed "wired wireless" that piggybacked a amplitude modulation signal on the electric lines of the dormitories. It didn't always work very well.
When I became "chief engineer" of WCVF I found the transmitter in the basement of Gregory had a defective timer and who knew how long it had not worked. It would not be until 1978 that WCVF obtained a frequency modulation (FM) license. It could have done this in 1964 but then President Oscar Lanford refused to sign the license application. He apparently was concerned about students broadcasting to the community. His successor, Dr. Dallas Beal had no such reservation.
In 1957 the Faculty Advisor to WCVF was Lloyd Kaiser a University of Michigan graduate. Mr. Kaiser had students from his classes serve as nightly producers on WCVF and they wrote critiques of the programs. A typical schedule started at 5 p.m. with "Campus Calendar" and continued until 9 or 10 p.m. Unlike today's radio stations, most of the schedule was live. You could place WCVF's record collection on a small bookcase.
Mr. Kaiser also advised a "TV Guild" which produced programs at commercial television stations in Erie and Buffalo. Its generic title was "Fredonia Folio" and it featured creative programs in music and the arts. This was at a time when local television actively searched for local programming rather than "ride the network."
Kaiser went on to found Rochester public television. (WXXI) and later moved to Hershey, Pa., where this operation was labeled a "Gee Whiz Station" for its big town efforts. One was a program with nationally known artists Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson working with Lloyd Kaiser's wife Barbara. (This was a romance made at Fredonia since Mrs. Kaiser, nee Barbara Wieand, was also on the speech faculty when they met.) Lloyd went on to head WQED in Pittsburgh the station originating "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" and the National Geographic Specials.
One of Lloyd's former students at Fredonia, Tom Skinner, became producer of the National Geographic Specials.
John Malcolm is a