Seventy-Five Years Ago Today, Haverhill Radio Station WHAV First Went On the Air

WHAV interviewed many city leaders over the decades. At left is Haverhill Mayor Joseph Willett. Standing is WHAV announcer Ken Ash. The broadcast technician and other man seated are not identified. (WHAV archive photograph.)

(Additional photographs below.)

This is a milestone day in the history of local radio station WHAV.

On this day 75 years ago, the then-AM radio station first launched from temporary studios on the second floor of Merrimack Valley National Bank at 163 Merrimack St., in downtown Haverhill. Then, as right now, the radio signal beamed to households from the top of Silver Hill. General Manager John Taylor Russ gave listeners his vision for the station.

John T. Russ in his office at WHAV. (WHAV archive photograph.)

“WHAV is going to be your station — a station for the people of Haverhill and the people in our surrounding towns. What concerns you directly, your lives and businesses, your community betterment will always get first priority on the WHAV airwaves. The operator of a radio station has an immense responsibility to the public—a responsibility that must take precedence over everything else. He can never neglect this responsibility,” Russ said.

Five years ago today, formal dedication of today’s 97.9 WHAV took place with a live broadcast from downtown Haverhill. While the improved FM version of the station had launched the previous September, ceremonies were timed for the then-70th anniversary. Then-state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey recalled his early interactions with the radio station.

“We all have such fond memories of WHAV and we all have great memories of the past and we have great feelings about what’s happening today. I was driving over this evening and I was thinking about the first time I was on WHAV. It was 32 years ago, 1985, as a candidate for the Haverhill School Committee—the race that I was always grateful that I lost,” he joked.

One of WHAV’s earliest employees was Edwin V. Johnson. Although he trimmed his hours at the radio station to work as an English and public speaking instructor for generations of Haverhill High School students, Johnson would serve as an announcer and news director for 34 years.

Hear Edwin V. Johnson

In 2009, WHAV dedicated its newsroom in memory of Mr. Johnson.

Unlike 1947, WHAV is today Greater Haverhill’s only public radio station and nonprofit local news service. Help support the only Haverhill-based news source by becoming a member by clicking on membership.

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