WKOB and WMNB – Radio in North Adams

In the early summer months of 1947, North Adams’ first radio station, WKOB, went on the air. The idea was devised by three World War II veterans who arrived in this city during the winter of 1946. Their names were Everard Cureton, George W. Fisher and John T. Ward, Jr. It is unknown as to why they choose to come here and start a radio station, but come they did. They set up their studio in the Wellington Hotel’s ballroom and built their transmission facilities near the Hoosac River on Curran Highway. WKOB, known as We Know Our Business, could only broadcast during daylight hours with only 250 watts of power.

In the meantime, several men in North Adams were planning a radio station of their own. Robert Hardman, the business manager for the North Adams Transcript; Herbert B. Clark, president of the North Adams National Bank and J. Gordon Keyworth, an experienced radio engineer and manager, joined forces to successfully put WMNB (Western Massachusetts Northern Berkshire) on the air beginning on November 23, 1947. The WMNB transmitter was placed on the western summit of the Mohawk Trail and was licensed to use 1,000 watts of power. Advertisers knew that WMNB could reach more listeners than WKOB. The smaller station struggled on, but within the year, it closed permanently.

On July 18, 1947, ground was broken for a new one-story building on Curran Highway to become the new home of the Northern Berkshire Broadcasting Company now owned by James A. Hardman. When completed, WMNB became a full-time station and would have an additional WMNB-FM frequency which broadcasted six hours a day.

When WMNB first went on the air it offered seven daily programs and four on Sunday whose purpose was to broadcast the news of the Transcript. The news could be heard at 7:45AM, 9:00AM, 12:15 PM, 3:55 PM, 6:00PM, 8:55PM and 10:30 PM on the weekdays. On Sundays, the station’s programs were 4:00PM, 6:00PM, 8:55 PM and 10:30PM.

In 1960 Donald A Thurston became the general manager of the station and one of the first things he did was to upgrade all the equipment, from microphones to a new radio transmitter. Programing expanded to include disc jockeys, local discussion panels, in depth news, live coverage of political conventions and play-by-play of local sports events.

The radio station immersed itself in the community as well by employees who volunteered for public service including the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce as well as supporting Little League baseball, industrial development, church leadership and United Fund campaigns.

Radio personalities in the 1960’s and 1970’s included Norman Bailey, Al Nelson, Don Berry, Jack Sheridan, Tony Hall, “Bucky Bullett”, Dick Brown, Don Thurston and Dick O’Brien.

Programming remained “middle of the road” much of the time in the belief that that was where the average preferences of the listening audience laid. The radio station broadcasted 126 hours a week divided between news, sports, public service and special events. Two popular shows on the weekends were “Italian Melodies” with Frank Esposito and “Polish Varieties” with Frank Galuszka. How many of you remember these broadcasts? Can you name other shows you listened to?