I could not let Christmas or 2022 slip away without properly honoring the 70th anniversary of Logan Broadcasting Corporation, more properly known throughout the region as WVOW Radio. Frankly, there is much history in relation to the station that some radio listeners have for many years taken for granted. It is for that reason that I must ask the question, “How would you feel if the station suddenly did not exist?”
I am not in any way insinuating that WVOW radio is going to disappear anytime soon, if ever, but I beg the question because — just like The Logan Banner’s publication format that went from six days a week to one — change can be dramatic. And, as an avid supporter of radio and newspaper media, especially on the local level, I believe we all would really miss WVOW if it ceased to exist.
Although WVOW is not a news station per se, local, state, and national news can be heard daily on a regular basis via the station. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the radio station is far more valuable as a unique avenue for many local venues. And even though “Lum and Abner” shows are no longer being aired, there is likely not any radio station anywhere that offers its listeners the variation that WVOW does.
On my way home from work recently, I tuned into WVOW and listened to Santa Claus read letters from children telling the “fat man” what they desired for Christmas. It was then that I realized that after 70 years of existence the station remains an integral part of our community and its history.
Whether it’s the weekday programs of the “Hymn and Gospel Hour” or the “What’s Your Opinion” airing each morning to the “Trading Post” shows in afternoons, there’s broadcasting for just about anybody’s likes. “Deepest Sympathy” broadcasts, for instance, keeps listeners informed as to recent deaths and even reports funeral arrangements for the deceased, while the lunch break music airs from noon until 1 p.m., and even more music can be heard from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. on what is titled “The Afternoon Road Show.”
Perhaps one of the more unique broadcasts is aired Saturday mornings and has been regularly broadcast for as long as I can remember. The “Friendly Neighbor Show” was forever sponsored by Wallace Horn, longtime Chapmanville resident and television repairman, which depicts the age of the program itself. I mean, how many tv repairmen do you know nowadays?
Local talents performing country, gospel and bluegrass music make up that show, and it is a reminder to listeners of what true Appalachian music sounds like.
Sundays are filled with gospel music and live church services starting at 6 a.m. and running until 1:30 p.m. when ESPN sports programming takes over. Sports programming at WVOW on Saturdays includes weekend sports reports, high school football and basketball reports, and the special local morning program titled “The Hatcher Show.”
Of course, local basketball and football games are in-season regular live broadcasts, and some key high school baseball games are also aired. And, with WVU taking priority, both the Mountaineers and Marshall University football and basketball contests can be heard via WVOW radio. In addition, the station has carried Cincinnati Reds baseball games for over 50 years.
Another airing folks count upon from time to time is the live reports on election nights.
Even though WVOW first went on the air May 8, 1952, the station was not the first radio station in Logan. As some readers may know, WLOG was the initial radio station to broadcast, receiving its FCC license in 1940, operating from its Chestnut and Kanada Street location in Logan. The station remained on the air until April 18, 1997.
Ironically, the man most credited with raising WVOW radio to new heights by implementing live sports broadcasts, including Little League baseball, got his start in radio at WLOG as commercial manager. That gentleman, Bill Becker, who would become the general manager and president of Logan Broadcasting, came to Logan in 1950 from Bramwell in Mercer County and became the manager of the Holden movie theater, known as “The Pioneer.”
The names of Bill Becker, alongside that of his community minded wife, Martha Jane, are perhaps the most important names in WVOW’s colorful past. Becker and his wife joined the station in 1954, Bill as manager and his wife as a salesperson, Martha having previously served as The Logan Banner’s society editor.
As is the case in just about every Logan County endeavor, WVOW was born out of what could be termed political need. WLOG, owned by Logan Banner Publisher Clarence Frey and Clarence Greever, who was a payroll clerk for Merrill Coal Co., which then operated where Chief Logan State Park is located now, was, along with The Banner, considered a “Republican” source of information.
With political fighting in Logan County then being even worse than today, Chauncey Browning Jr., Grover Combs of Man, and Clarence Meadows of Oak Hill reportedly originated WVOW to be “a voice for the Democratic Party.” Browning would go on to become attorney general and justice of the Supreme Court of West Virginia. During his tenure as attorney general, Browning sued Pittston Coal Co. on behalf of West Virginia for $100 million following the Buffalo Creek flood of 1972.
Combs, at various times, served as sheriff, county commissioner, and chairman of the Logan County Democratic Executive Committee and was a popular Triadelphia area businessman, while Meadows was a former governor of West Virginia. Under their guidance, WVOW opened in its offices above the old Trailways bus terminal that functioned in the area where Wendy’s restaurant is now located on Water Street in Logan.
In December 1959 WVOW moved its business to its current location known as The Professional Building on Main Street. By 1969, WVOW was also operating as WVOW-FM and continues today with both AM and FM radio.
There have been numerous employees of the station; not all, of course, worked behind a microphone. Technicians, engineers, sales people, custodians, and others were usually in the background, essential, nonetheless. However, there are numerous people, some who used other names as opposed to their real names, who I can remember.
I was fortunate enough to know the Beckers, whose life stories alone would fill the entire page of this newspaper, especially Mrs. Becker’s involvement in community activities such as reviving the Aracoma Story and helping to create the PRIDE of Logan organization. The Beckers were the first and only husband-and-wife duo to be honored as West Virginia Distinguished Broadcasters.
The late Bob Weisner was a straight-laced news reporter and friend, who, along with Becker and then Larry “Speedy” Bivens, broadcast hundreds of high school athletic games and will always be remembered as wearing the headsets at Logan High School basketball games, especially during the coaching era of Willie Akers.
Bob’s long career started when he came from Pittsburgh and, according to him, he grew to like the small-town atmosphere and its people, while Speedy was home-grown, starting at WVOW in 1972 when he was a senior in high school. By 1981 he was named station manager and was later named president of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association. He ended his career in 2015, after 43 years in the business.
Other names that some readers might identify with are the late Jay Nunley, Bill Sheridan, Tommy Robinette, and a good friend, the late Jim Mitchell. Other former WVOW broadcasters include Bob Smith, who worked for WSAZ-TV; Ernie Gorgia (known as Ernie G), who still is in the broadcast business; and Chuck Bailey, former Man area resident who went on to radio in Huntington and became a professor of speech at Marshall University, where he also served as faculty adviser to WMUL-FM, Marshall’s campus radio station. One other person who moved on to green pastures was the always humorous Dave Allen.
One other person only a few of us will remember is Audie Albright, who was program director in the 1960s and had her own afternoon music show. Albright was the mother of local attorney George Partain.
Although back in the day when we used to “cruise the block” in Logan as teenagers, we mostly listened to the nighttime sounds of 50,000-watt stations like WLS of Chicago (the first American station to air a Beatles song) and WOWO of Fort Wayne, Indiana, I today especially appreciate WVOW radio for its uniqueness.
For it is this time of year I can reflect upon Martha Becker’s reading on the radio as “The Christmas Fairy.”
But wait, there is one other name that cannot be left out when it comes to WVOW radio — a name many will identify with, particularly with “The Trading Post” and as the “Christmas Fairy.” That name, of course, is Erin (Williamson) Miller.
Merry Christmas, everyone!!!!!
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.