Capital Region Scrapbook: Union College on the air

A look back at "Radio Union College," otherwise known as station WRUC, and the opportunities it affo
Ashton W. Hart prepares his voice for a news broadcast at Union College in 1948. Dave Zierk sits in the control room, ready to transmit the signal to campus listeners.
Ashton W. Hart prepares his voice for a news broadcast at Union College in 1948. Dave Zierk sits in the control room, ready to transmit the signal to campus listeners.

Categories: Life & Arts

During the late 1940s, students at Union College could sign up for courses such as script writing, radio production, speech and radio engineering.

They could hone new skills in Union’s electronic classroom — radio station WRUC.

Student radio at Union dated from 1910, according to the “Encyclopedia of Union College History.” That was the year two students began to set up a wireless telegraph station as part of their senior thesis work in electrical engineering. A radio club held its first meeting Oct. 29, 1915.

The college station, as 2ADD, claims it was first station to broadcast scheduled programming — on Oct. 14, 1920.

Other microphones were being turned on Sept. 22, 1941, when the Union Broadcasting System began business at 640 on the AM dial — a “wired wireless” system. In early 1947, a contest to choose new call letters was held, and the suggestion “Radio Union College” became WRUC.

During the spring of 1948, the college’s center for broadcast news and music was inside Washburn Hall. Station members worked in a control room, a large studio and a small announcer’s booth. Disc jockeys could pull selections from a growing catalog of classical and popular music.

Dual purpose

People couldn’t always click on WRUC. The station was only on the air from 7 until 9:15 a.m. and back again from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. All Union athletic events and special programs reached the airwaves.

Station programming was for campus consumption only. Only radios in dormitories, fraternity houses, lounges and faculty houses were able to tune in the “wired wireless” signals.

“WRUC is operated on a dual-purpose basis,” the Schenectady Gazette reported on May 20, 1948. “It is designed to provide educational experience in the operation of a model broadcast station and to provide for all the students the programs they wish to hear.”

That’s still true. WRUC, now at 89.7 on the FM band, is a 100-watt station. It also streams on the Internet at wruc.union.edu.

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