When you first walk into the WPAX & WTUF station in downtown Thomasville, you may not notice the brass plate on the front door that simply states "Established 1922". What you will notice as you enter the lobby, are the pictures covering the walls. These pictures at first seem obviously older black and whites and display a quiet and modest history. If you examine these pictures a little closer, you start to notice some famous people like Barry Goldwater shaking hands with Hoyt Wimpy the founder, and President Jimmy Carter sitting behind a WPAX microphone. The one picture that really caught my eye was of this same building I was standing in, back in 1934. That was a long time ago !
The more I learned, the more interesting it became. WPAX is the 20th oldest radio station in the United States and the 3rd oldest station in Georgia. It's still on the air, still in the same building, and still playing some of the same beautiful songs. Although it is now run by it's fourth owner, who also DJ's on a daily basis. WPAX broadcasts it's warm and mellow theme of "The Music of your Life". It's a nice mixture of everything from Adult Contemporary, and Jazz, to Big Band Era, Blues, and the Classics like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Striesand, and Ella Fitzgerald. Some artists you may have never heard before. Some will be bring back a terrific memory and a little smile. Between the music and the photos you can't help but feel like you're back in the good ole days.
The following is what I would call some of the more "interesting" moments during WPAX's history. Since most of the early days of radio were never recorded, especially the smaller radio stations, no one can say for certain what was actually broadcast, but I'm sure the majority of the following events were first heard in Thomasville, Georgia over the air waves of WPAX
No matter what age you are, we hope this page will bring back a happy memory for you.
Prior to the start of WPAX
Wireless (as it was then called) was mainly used to converse with ships at sea. The U.S. Government starts transmitting "Daily Time Signals" from Naval shore stations to synchronize the ships clocks.
Amateur radioers located near New York listen to the disastrous sinking of the Titanic.
Amateur radioers are forced to shut down due to War time restrictions. That's "WWI" in case your not paying attention.
Following the end of WWI, "War time restrictions" are lifted on amateur radioers. To help restore the interest in listening, the "Navy Department" (now know as the Defense Department) started a nightly broadcast of various interest from a Naval station in New York.
Department of Commerce starts issuing a "Broadcast Service" license for broadcasting of "news, concerts, lectures, and like matter". The development of the vacuum-tube ( remember these ? ) greatly improves the radio transmitters and receivers. July 2, RCA broadcast the Heavyweight Boxing Championship with Jack Dempsey beating Georges Carpentier. Amateur radioers setup their equipment in halls and charged admission, starting the radio boom of 1922.
Department of Commerce prohibits broadcasting on amateur license. Variety headlines of Mar - 10 read "Radio Sweeping Country - 1,000,000 sets in Use". President Harding makes speech at the dedication of the Francis Scott Key Memorial, which becomes the first live presidential radio broadcast.
The start of WPAX
Dec. 27, Hoyt Wimpy, a Thomasville businessman sells receivers (radios). At this time there wasn't much on the air and the reception of distant radio stations was terrible. If you were a smart business person, what would you do? Well, Mr. Wimpy obtains a license from the Department of Commerce and starts a one-man station out of a garage with the call letters WPAX. Operating with 10 watts of power ( fewer restrictions and other signals to interfere back then ) he becomes the 20th licensed station in the United States and 3rd licensed station in Georgia. Now the signal has been heard as far away as Australia.
The above picture is the actual broadcasting system used by WPAX in 1922.
On close examination, you can see that it was powered by "Red Seal" batteries
on the lower shelf. There is also a monitor ( the horn shaped device )
equivalent to a speaker, and a "Victrola" to the far right which was used
to play phonograph records.
President Coolidge addressing Congress is heard by a million people over the radio and the EverReady Hour presented Wendell Hall playing "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo No Mo" with his ukulele.
Coolidge is first President to broadcast from the White House.
"The Grand Ole Opry" formally know as the "WSM Barn Dance" made it's inaugural broadcast.
Typical 1920's Radio
The Chicago broadcasters have abandoned the voluntary 'silent night' started about four years ago. The stations had a 'gentlemen's agreement,' to stay off the air on Monday evenings for the long distance ham radios. Broadcasting has now resumed every night of the week for fear the local wave lengths would be permanently assigned on Monday nights to other stations.
One of the original Soap Opera's "Amos 'n' Andy," gained national popularity.
William Gillette is the first Sherlock Holmes in the hit mystery drama.
Mr. Wimpy's little garage radio station now fills the dead air on local radios and both the Radio sales and WPAX are doing well. Sometime during the early 1930's ( not sure of exactly when ) Mr. Wimpy, being a pretty smart gentleman, moves WPAX from the garage into downtown Thomasville. He increases the power 10 times and now broadcast at a whopping 100 watts ( about the same power as a common light bulb ). Besides playing phonograph records on his Victrola placed next to the microphone, the daily broadcasts also include the local news, and the talents of the local citizens.
Mid 1930's Philco table Radio
The Metropolitan Opera starts a weekly Saturday Afternoon Broadcast.
Jack Benny's first radio Show is aired.
President Roosevelt's first Inaugural address "the only thing to fear, is fear itself", and later that same year delivers his first "Fireside Chat".
William James Basie takes over as the Leader of the band "Blue Devils" . The crowds of the Kansas City nightlife decides since there is already a "Earl Hines" and a "Duke Ellington" why not a "Count Basie". With a hardy "Hi Ho Silver", One of the best-known fictional characters of all time "The Lone Ranger" hits the air waves.
Hoyt Wimpy relocates WPAX to it's current location at 117 Remington and puts up a 210 foot self supporting broadcast tower, which is not only still standing, but is also a community landmark to this day. Mr. Wimpy also made one final improvement, which was to up the signal to 250 watts.
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra open at the Palomar Ballroom in LA; this is where he will earn the nick name "The King of Swing".
Sept - 2, Bing Crosby makes his solo radio debut on CBS
Fred Allen starts one of the longest running fueds in radio history when he makes a series of jokes about comedian named Jack Benny. Catholic religious authorities flood the networks with complaints about a sketch called the "Garden of Eden" where the infamous Mae West delivers the line "Why Don't You Come Play In My --- Woodpile".
Benny Goodman plays at Carnegie Hall, tickets reach an unheard of cost at $2.75 per seat.
Filling in for the Fred Allen show Abbott and Costello become big hits with a routine called "Who's on First?". Later that year Orson Well's "War of the Worlds" is broadcast.
Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra record nearly 30 songs together. Glenn Miller records "Tuxedo Junction". CBS in conjunction with the BBC start airing "London after Dark" making the bombing attacks on London real to the American public.
Dec - 7
Americans learn by radio of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Glenn Miller inducted into the Army
Count Basie recordings sell 3 million in one year
Glenn Miller's Plane in route to Paris disappears.
June - 6, D-Day, Charles Collingwood of CBS broadcasts his way to a Normandy beach
CBS interrupts Wilderness Road
NBC interrupts Front Page Farrell
ABC interrupts Captain Midnight
Mutual interrupts Tom Mix
To announce the death of President Roosevelt
Aug - 14
CBS is the first to flash the news "Japan Surrenders"
Arthur Godfrey starts his first of 27 years broadcasting on the CBS network.
"The rest of the Story" is added to the Paul Harvey daily newscast, and continues today here on WPAX.
Globe trotter Lowell Thomas returns to CBS hosting the evening news with his familiar sign-on "Good evening, everybody" and his sign-off "So long, until tomorrow".
An Army radio station broadcasted as a gag today a "battle" between American soldiers and a "twenty-foot sea monster" in the streets of Tokyo. The description was so vivid that General Douglas MacArthur was reported to have been fooled
Bing Crosby starts annual "Christmas Sing with Bing"
One of the top songs of the year was "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino, and in the news North Korea attacks South Korea.
One of the top songs of the year was "Sixty Minute Man" by Fats Dominoe
One of the top songs of the year was "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price
1953One of the top songs of the year was "Money Honey" by the Drifters, featuring Clyde McPhatter
Mid 1950's Silvertone Radio
One of the top songs of the year was "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets
One of the top songs of the year was "Tutti - Frutti" by Little Richard
Eisenhower deploys Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the South Vietnam Army.
One of the top songs of the year was "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
Count Basie's album "One O'clock Jump" is released. May 1st, a Miami DJ suddenly quits, the 23 year old sweeping the floors gets a big break and fills in for the DJ. The floor sweepers name was Lawrence Harvey Zeiger, more well known today as "Larry King". One of the top songs of the year was "Jail House Rock" by Elvis Presley.
A 15-year-old working at WPAX reads commercials from a file book live over the air. He's read them so many times, to this day he can still recite some of them. Find out who that 15 year old boy is when you get to Oct. 1, 1985.
One of the top songs of the year was "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry
The Recording Industry Association of America announces it's first gold album with Perry Como's hit single, "Catch a Falling Star".
Frank Sinatra wins a Grammy Award for his album "Come Dance with Me" and One of the top songs of the year was "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles
One of the top songs of the year was "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles
The early 60's also brought the Transistor Radios, commonly furnished with leather cases and ear phones.
Mr. Wimpy retires and WPAX was sold to Frank Hazelton and Hurley Rudd of Tallahassee, Florida. Operating under the business name Radio Thomasville Inc., Don Price, president.
Millions of people follow the first American manned space flight of Alan Shepard from portable radios. One of the top songs of the year was "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King
Seven radio stations assisting the Voice of America in reaching listeners in Cuba. Using imagination in broadcasting to catch the Castro regime off guard. Some of the most powerful stations in the East and South have scrapped their regular evening schedules and relayed the Voice of America's Spanish-language broadcast to Cuba. The importance of using the standard radio stations is that their signal reaches loudly and clearly into Havana and can be tuned in on regular radios getting the most extensive use carrying Spanish-language programs designed by refugee groups to combat Castro arguments.
Henry Mancini produces two instrumentals singles for the films "Hatari" ("Baby Elephant Walk") and "The Pink Panther" ("The Pink Panther Theme").
Andy Williams recording of "Moon River" is used in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Moon River wins an Oscar and quickly becomes Andy's theme song.
Count Basie records two albums, "Ella - Basie" and "Sinatra - Basie". Arguably Ella Fitzgerald's and Frank Sinatra's best albums.
Listeners around the world are shocked as the phrase "The President has been Shot" is suddenly broadcast from their radios. People stop whatever they are doing and listen closer to hear the details of President John F. Kennedy's assination.
One of the top songs of the year was "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen
Louis Armstrong records his biggest selling record - "Hello Dolly". One of the top songs of the year was "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers
WPAX is sold to it's third owner George Oliva Jr., who owns several stations in Ohio, Florida and Georgia.
Frank Sinatra wins a Grammy Award for his album "September of My Years"
Frank Sinatra wins a Grammy Award for his album "A Man and His Music". He also records "At the Sands with Count Basie"
Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35 -10 in Super Bowl 1
January 27 - Apollo 1: US astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee are killed when fire erupts in their Apollo spacecraft during a test on the launch pad.
January 21 - US B-52 Stratofortress crashes in Greenland and in the process discharges four nuclear bombs.
Man leaves his footprint on the surface of the Moon. Almost everyone around the world is listening to Neil Armstrong as he announces over the radio waves from the Moons surface, "That's one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind."
The NPR is founded
An employee at the National Emergency Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain, confused, put on the wire to the country's radio and television stations, a punched tape that are prepared in advance, with a message saying that the President had declared a national emergency and that normal broadcasting was to cease "immediately." Causing turmoil and further confusion, a number of stations around the country went off the air after telling listeners of the "emergency." Others quickly checked and found that the transmission was an error and continued normal broadcasting.
WPAX celebrates it's 50th Birthday!
Billed as The Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
American folk singer Jim Croce dies in a plane crash.
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) sells the New York Yankees for $10 million to a 12-person syndicate led by George Steinbrenner.
OPEC nations end a five-month oil embargo against the United States, Europe and Japan.
April 3 - The Super Outbreak, the largest series of tornadoes in history, hits 13 U.S. states and one Canadian province. By the time the last of 148 tornadoes hit early the following morning, 315 died and over 5,000 were injured in a single 24 hour period.
April 8 - Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves brakes Babe Ruth's home run record by hitting his 715th home-run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing at the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
August 9 - Richard Nixon becomes the first President of the United States to resign from office
October 30 - The "Rumble in the Jungle", Ali knocks down an exhausted Foreman after eight rounds
Fugitive Patricia Hearst is captured.
President Gerald Ford survives a second assassination attempt by Sara Jane Moore
It's Red, White, and Blue every where.
The United States celebrates it's 200th Birthday!
Say welcome to Stacey Scoggin, the First Female DJ to hit the air waves in Thomasville. ( Listen closely, you can still hear her commercials today ).
A Nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, releases radiation .
The first user net experiments were conducted by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis of Duke University.
March 30 - President Ronald Reagan is shot by John Hinckley, Jr.,
Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapsed in Kansas City, Missouri killing 114 people.
June 12 - Major League Baseball goes on strike
July 29 - Fairytale Wedding as Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales
One of the top songs of the year was "Down Under" by Men At Work
April 26th, Count Basie dies at the age of 78
One of the top songs of the year was "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" by Yes
1985Oct - 1st, Radio license awarded to LenRob Enterprises, The new, current, and only the 4th owner of WPAX, and yes, back in 1957 Len Robinson was reading live commercials at the age of 15.
Benny Goodman dies at the age of 77
Len Robinson, the new owner of WPAX updates the station to AM STEREO
Benny Goodman was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame
One of the top songs of the year was "So Emotional" by Whitney Houston
WPAX is on the move with a new sister station, LenRob enterprises annouces the opening of WTUF FM106.3 and hits the radio waves from Boston Georgia.
Benny Kubelsky otherwise know as "Jack Benny" was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame
A 1,000 foot diameter Near-Earth asteroid misses the Earth by 400,000 miles.
The oil tanker Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska's Prince William Sound after running aground.
Leslie Townes, also know as "Bob Hope" was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame
Sadam Hussein invades Kuwait
January 17 - Operation Desert Storm begins.
The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers flood large portions of the American Midwest.
April 22 : Former American President Richard Nixon dies.
The U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp honoring the Dorsey's for contributions to American music
WPAX celebrates it's 75th Birthday!
President Bill Clinton is impeached by the House of Representatives.