WGAN History

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WGAN signed on the air on August 3rd, 1938.  According the Portland Sunday Telegram’s special supplement commemorating WGAN’s debut:

“The Federal Communications Comission granted the application of the Portland Broadcasting System, Inc. for a radio station in May, 1936.  Months of delay followed, owing to legal entanglements. The firm was granted use of the 640 kilocycle frequency….It is on record that permission to use the popular frequency was given WGAN because:  The applicant was legally, technically, financially and otherwise qualified to construct and maintain a station of the kind and class applied for; there was a need for the service as shown by population figures and importance of the area as a trading center; equipment proposed by the applicant complied with requirements of the FCC, and records disclosed sufficient local talent available for successful operation.
Station WGAN began regular broadcasting Aug. 3 and made its first pick-up (remote broadcast) at Old Orchard Beach a few days later, covering the first annual marathon.  It is being acclaimed by all Maine, by telegram, telephone, and mail, as functioning perfectly, from the listeners’ viewpoint, and as a definite progressive influence in the state.”

Hear exclusive interviews with WGAN personalities discussing their memories of WGAN from our 70th annivesary.

Mike Audet, WGAN News Anchor/Reporter, 1970s and 1990s to 2013

Kim Block, WGAN Anchor/Reporter, 1979-1980

Bud Sawyer, former WGAN Morning Host 1960’s-1970’s-Part 1

Bud Sawyer, former WGAN Morning Host 1960’s-1970’s-Part 2

Chuck Sanford, WGAN Morning Host, News Director, Program Director, and General Manager, 1950’s-1980’s

Hear Interviews from our 70th anniversary weekend in 2008.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 1ST

Ken and Mike talk with Mike Audet

Our longest-serving employee, John McDonald, calls in.

Former Morning co-host and weekend host Willy Ritch shares his memories.

It’s a reunion of morning men Don Kroah and Jim Crocker, co-hosts of Kroah & Crocker in the mid-90’s.

Former News Director, Program Director, and General Manager Chuck Sanford, with a special call-in from Kim Block.

WGAN’s morning sports anchor Chuck Igo, along with Chuck Sanford, reminisce.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 2ND

Former WGAN News Director Dennis Spellman calls in to talk with John McDonald.

Bud Sawyer, WGAN’s morning man from 1961-1975, talks about his memories.

Wally Brine, former WGAN personality who’s been a successful morning host at WROR in Boston for nearly 30 years, surprises Bud and John.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3RD

Current WGAN General Manager and former Program Director Cary Pahigian talks with John McDonald.

Former WGAN News Director and current anchor at WBZ in Boston Don Huff calls in.

Former WGAN afternoon drive personality Nick Seneca checks in from the west coast.

Former WGAN morning man Bruce Stevens joins John in-studio.

Senator Olympia Snowe extends 70th anniversary wishes to John.

Senator Susan Collins calls in with her greetings.

Congressman Tom Allen offers 70th anniversary congratulations.

Governor John Baldacci greets John on WGAN’s 70th anniversary.

Classic WGAN Jingles

It probably sounds odd to the average person, but there’s a whole legion of radio enthusiasts who collect old station jingles-the station’s call letters sung by a chorus, usually over music.  In their heyday they could be up to a minute long!  These are much shorter jingles WGAN employed in the 80’s:

Jingle #1                                    Jingle #2
Jingle #3                                    Jingle #4
Jingle #5                                    Jingle #6
Jingle #7                                    Jingle #8
Jingle #9                                    Jingle #10

Click on each headline for a supplement to the Portland Sunday Telegram, WGAN radio edition from August, 1938!

Note:  you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these links.
Click here to read about the original architect of the WGAN Studios, William Armitage.
(Also note the very brief editorial comment expressing misgivings about an untested new invention immediately below the article.)

Plus, read about one of the first WGAN announcers, who also sang. 
  (Thank goodness that’s no longer a requirement!)
  
 
WGAN’s studios were dedicated in a special ceremony on Sunday, August 28, 1938.  Speaking at special 2pm broadcast that day (clockwise from top right):  City Council Chairman Edward Berry, Reverend Harry Titus of the Maine Council on Religious Education, State Comissioner of Education Bertram Packard, Portland Chamber of Commerce President James Arthur Noon, and Senator Wallace White (center photo).

The orginial WGAN staff in 1938.  It’s safe to say that the dress code is much different in the office today.
A very early schedule for WGAN on Sunday afternoon.  WGAN was an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System, which provided a portion of the station’s programming weekly.  Our sister station, 970 WZAN, is currently an affiliate of CBS News today.
The photo and accompanying article serve to introduce WGAN’s first Chief Engineer, Roger Hodgkins (standing) and the rest of the technical staff.  Hodgkins’ job,  as described in the article, is “to supervise the smooth functioning of intricate sending apparatus.”  Operating the controls is Lewis Collins.  The two are standing at the window of Studio A at WGAN’s Columbia Hotel studios in 1938.
 
WGAN’s original transmitter, which our friends at WGME-TV tell us remained unused at their building until several years ago when it was finally recycled.  The original transmitter was only 500 watts on AM 640; when the station moved to 560 AM its power increased to 5000 watts, where it remains today.

Ground is broken at WGAN’s broadcast tower site on Lane Avenue, Winter 1938.  The station’s three towers remain at the site today, along with the original house that contained the station’s transmitter and engineering staff (who in those days were required to staff the site at all times).
Images of a crane constructing one of WGAN’s 350 foot towers, described in the Portland Press Herald as the towers “which scrape the Portland skies, and which will catapult this new station’s clever programming through the ether to your home.”
   
The completed towers and transmitter buildings.
The interior of one of WGAN’s broadcasting rooms.
An aerial view of just some of the land that WGAN’s transmitters covered when first launched.

Former WGAN air talent, program director, and General Manager Chuck Sanford, circa 1963.  Current WGAN GM Cary Pahigian and News Anchor Mike Audet are among Sanford’s hires during his time at the station.  Chuck passed away in 2011.
While the release of WGAN was certainly and exciting event to the people of Portland, all of America had a brand new invention to look forward to, the Philco “Mystery Control,” a magical device capable of tuning one’s Philco radio without any sort of wiring or connection necessary! Technology marches on!
It’s hard to imagine, but before a time when distractions ranged from phone calls to text messages, authorities were concerned with the safety of drivers changing the radio station while driving. How the times have changed!
An example of bumper stickers and buttons WGAN used to promote a contest in 1984 where the grand prize was a house. See the mailer in the PDF links above for more images of WGAN personalities at the time along with the prizes that were being offered.
A mic holder for press conferences and other important events!
 Wendy’s supporting WGAN!

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