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WYBG celebrates 55 years on air, 25 years under local ownership

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MASSENA - Radio station 1050 WYBG signed onto the air 55 years ago this year, and for the past 25 years has been under the local ownership and operation of Wade Communications, Inc.

Today, the station that started out as WSTS in the former Slavin’s building and played predominantly music for several years is located on Andrews Street and offers a talk radio format.

And, General Manager Curran Wade said, they’re still live and locally owned and operated.

“We keep people in our studio all the time,” he said.

Wade Communications, Inc. purchased the station in 1988 and kept the former music format for a while before deciding to make the switch.

“In ‘91 or ‘92 we decided we’d better do something different. Some (stations) were playing the same kind of music,” Mr. Wade said.

Listeners to 1050 WYBG today will find talk shows featuring Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Roger Hedgcock, as well as national, regional and local news coverage.

The station also features sports, including Syracuse University football and basketball and Major League Baseball, as well as live weather that comes 12 times a day from the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt..

There are also shows on history trivia, automobiles, computers, homes, pets, travel and health.

Mr. Wade said that, over the years, they’ve been heavily involved in promoting the area on their station.

“When we first bought the station we started a Massena High School report. We pick one high school kid from Massena every year. She or he comes over and does a two-minute report every Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. They talk about anything and everything, and sometimes they bring guests,” he said.

“Several of the kids have gone on to do really good things,” Mr. Wade said.

They started working with St. Lawrence Central School about three years ago, and one of their students went on to continue in the field, he said.

“Dan Frohm is now doing television news in Oswego. The kid had a great voice,” Mr. Wade said.

The station also hosted bridal fashion shows for two or three years.

“People came in and displayed cakes. We had tuxedos, a fashion show and caterers that displayed food. We had about 10 booths. Everybody came in. We did that for a few years,” Mr. Wade said.

A cooking show was also part of their programming. The former P&C supermarket provided gifts and another company supplied baked goods.

“People came in and did cooking. We had a whole bunch of ladies come in,” he said.

Mr. Wade said the station also held a kissing marathon on Valentine’s Day at the St. Lawrence Centre mall, awarding prizes to a couple that kissed the longest, and they were there for grand openings of businesses. They covered the Soap Box Derby and did special reports with a representative from the Massena Humane Society visiting to talk about dogs and cats.

There was also a home show that they took over from the station’s prior owners, something they continued for about 10 to 15 years “until it got so big we couldn’t do it anymore,” he said, and they did remotes during big shows at the Cornwall Civic Center.

Sports were and continue to be promoted on the station. Mr. Wade said they used to carry professional sports such as the Ottawa Rough Riders football games and local sports like Little League baseball in Massena and Louisville and high school basketball games.

“We ran into problems when we’d go to Canton and Potsdam (for basketball games),” he said. “We used to run phone lines up and down their halls and they took the phone lines out of their gyms.”

They still, however, carry Syracuse University basketball and football games, as well as Major League Baseball.

“This year we’re carrying professional baseball. Seven of them are Yankee games and the rest are coming from other places,” Mr. Wade said.

Listeners will also hear Social Security reports from the Ogdensburg Social Security office five days a week, as well as a two-minute show called Life View, featuring local pastors from the Greater Massena Ministerial Association. They can also check in on the weather phone 24 hours a day.

“They call and find out what the weather is. The last thing we do when we leave here is change the weather and the first thing we do in the morning is put the weather on,” Mr. Wade said, noting they also update as necessary during the day.

Mr. Wade said they also do surveys to gauge how viewers feel about their content. Last year, after they took off the Rush Limbaugh Show and replaced it with Dennis Prager, he said they received about 500 phone calls in almost two weeks.

“Surveys are very good,” he said.

Mr. Wade, an Alabama native, graduate of the University of Alabama and former mayor of Gouverneur, got his start in the media business when, as captain of a football team that went 28 games without a defeat in 1953, he was asked to take part in a sports show on the Montgomery, Ala. radio station WJJJ.

“They interviewed us. A lot of people heard us and said we had a personality for radio,” he said.

Later, a local newspaper called his football coach to see if Mr. Wade would be interested in doing high school sports reports.

They invited me down. I did it a few times,” he said.

Mr. Wade attended the University of Alabama to study communications and later took a job at an educational television state in Alabama.

“I worked my way up through the educational station and ended up operations manager,” directing about 26 shows a week, he said.

Following a stint in the Army, including doing sports, weather and a kid’s show for the American Forces Korea Network, Mr. Wade worked in Mobile, Ala. and a station outside of Chicago before taking a job at a television station in Jamestown. That station, however, was on the UHF dial and did not do well before shutting down.

Eventually Mr. Wade and his wife, Dorothy “Dotty,” who served as a producer and host at WYBG, found themselves in Gouverneur where he was advertising director for Kinney Drugs before starting his own advertising agency that had so many clients that a three-ring binder is filled with material.

And, when WYBG became available in 1988, the Wades decided to purchase it and haven’t looked back since.

Among their accolades is receiving the New York State Broadcaster Association Award in 2007 for an hour-long salute to veterans. It features 11 local veterans talking about their military experience in Korea, World War II and Vietnam. The show was named the best single public affairs program by the association.

“It’s the first time I know of that anybody has won north of Watertown,” Mr. Wade said.

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