This story updates an earlier Wavelengths account, noting WHAV’s return to the How Street studio that is adorned with its name in neon lights. A virtual Housewarming Party is the theme of nonprofit WHAV’s end of year appeal. Instead of pitching local information and entertainment to what were once throngs of downtown merchants, today’s nonprofit WHAV asks listeners give a housewarming gift. To give or learn more, click here.
Then, as now, the new radio station sent its signal from a transmitter site and building designed for that purpose atop Haverhill’s Silver Hill. Then, it was AM radio; now FM, but the principles driving each are the same. WHAV’s original General Manager John T. “Jack” Russ made that clear as WHAV effectively kicked off the 1947 Christmas season.
“The pride we have is not merely in putting up and equipping a modern broadcasting station. It is equally pride in the earnest and effective co-operative work by everybody who had anything to do with putting WHAV on the air. And it is pride in having used the opportunity to give this community a new medium for the transmission of information and entertainment,” Russ said at a Whittier Hotel ceremony Dec. 5, 1947. “This is the service of supplying the members of the community with the information they need for intelligent citizenship. This is the service of defending and advancing the interests of the community.”
In 1947, WHAV AM signed on March 16. In 2016, 97.9 WHAV FM signed on Sept. 21. In a sense, both were “soft” launches. In 1947, WHAV’s program offerings were limited while it was forced to operate from temporary studios on Merrimack Street. WHAV today has yet to release its full roster of community programs while scouring for money for the now-nonprofit station. It took nine months for WHAV to move into its new How Street building. It was the dedication of the new How Street studios that launched the Christmas season in 1947.
“WHAV Studio Is Opened At Impressive Ceremonies…Station Dedicated to High Standards,” roared the Haverhill Gazette’s headlines Saturday, Dec. 6, 1947. “State and City Government Officials Join in Tribute After Tour of How St. Building.” The Whittier Hotel, Washington Square, ceremony the night before between 8:30 and 9:30, was under the direction of William H. Heath, Haverhill Gazette editor. Heath praised Russ.
“He had the vision to see the opportunities in radio and the faith in Haverhill to believe they could be successfully developed in Haverhill.”
‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’
Earlier, baritone Vaughn Monroe, who sang “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and brought the recording to number one on the Billboard Best Sellers music chart in 1946, performed at WHAV’s new studios.
Although a national star, Monroe didn’t have far to travel to reach WHAV. In 1940, Monroe built The Meadows, a restaurant and nightclub on route 9, Framingham, and, in 1946, began hosting his “Camel Caravan” radio program from there.
His appearance—marked by “almost 300 screaming youngsters,” known as “bobby sockers,” at the 30 How St. lobby—seemed to foretell a snowstorm that night as the weather outside was indeed “frightful.”
Out-of-town guests for the formal opening found themselves delayed by horrid travel conditions as the “first real winter storm blanketed the area” with three to six inches of snow, The Gazette reported. One of those was Lt. Gov. Arthur W. Coolidge, a fourth cousin to President Calvin Coolidge and descendent of Gov. Bradford, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Bulfinch, designer of the Massachusetts State House. He offered greetings on behalf of Gov. Robert F. Bradford.
Haverhill Mayor Albert W. Glynn was among the first to address the crowd, extending official city greetings. Of Russ and Heath launching WHAV, Glynn said, “I feel certain they have made one of the greatest contributions ever made to our civic life.”
Yes, there was pride in the new radio station in 1947, but the owners knew it wouldn’t last if they couldn’t pay for it. Then, as now, onus was now on the sales team to deliver. The Gazette teased the effort with a photograph of part of the sales force, including James Toohey, copywriter; June Jordan, sales force worker; and Florence Migliori, bookkeeper.
Then, WHAV was on the air Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Today, it broadcasts 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
In time for Christmas, 1947, WHAV announced its line-up of dramatic programs. Among them was “The Magic Christmas Window,” airing Monday through Friday, from 5:15 to 5:30. Purchased from NBC, the show was described as, “Favorite fairy tales come to life when two typical youngsters discover the secret of walking into The Magic Christmas Window with living toys.”
WHAV could not attract a national network affiliation in 1947, but it was allowed to buy previously aired NBC programs. Besides “The Magic Christmas Window,” other NBC shows aired by WHAV were “The Haunting Hour,” featuring such well-known stars as Frank Lovejoy, Jackson Beck, Eve Arden and Betty Furness, and “A House in the Country,” a soap opera telling the story of Joan and Bruce and their trials and tribulations. The station also carried popular Canadian shows such as “The Happy Gang Program,” with singer-accordionist Eddie Allen and trumpeter Bobby Gimby, and “Reflections,” featuring musical director Samuel Hersenhoren.
A Housewarming Party for WHAV
As 97.9 WHAV moves back to its 1947 home, Russ’ succinct statement of the time is difficult to improve upon. He said, “This is the service of supplying the members of the community with the information they need for intelligent citizenship. This is the service of defending and advancing the interests of the community.”
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30 How St.
Haverhill, MA 01830-6131