remembers his time at WACY.
"I worked there in late 1970 thru 1972 as my first radio station. I was fresh out of high school, living in Kissimmee where my family had moved in 1959 and had a friend (Randy Ingersoll) who had gotten a job at
WACY. The station was owned by two Kissimmee men - Bob Marlowe and Sam Gilkey. At that time the station was located on Altman Street (off Neptune Road) near Lake Tohopekaliga, east of the Kissimmee city limits...actually on the edge of a swamp, but great for the tower ground array! We were broadcasting with 1,000 Watts daytime only at that time. I was hired for minimum wage: $1.60 an hour...by the way, in 2 years I never got a raise, nor even asked for one, I loved radio so much.
I can recall trying to take wire copy off the AP machine and having a terrible time with RF causing shocks due to the proximity of the teletype to the transmitter...since the "disk jockey" was in reality the only individual working most of the time, we had to pull copy for news, sports and weather regularly-one got pretty good at minimizing contact with the metal teletype case after a few shocks.
We did have one live program which I can recall - "The Peeler Family", a group of evangelical preachers/singers who would come in live once a week and do a religious program of about an hour in length interspersed with gospel music. There was one fairly large room which was used for a studio and the members of the Peelers would set up instruments, amplifiers and all. Nothing as professional as patching the instruments into the board...No, we'd just stick an Electrovoice mic in front of the amps and let
'em rip. Talk about distortion! It was probably good that AM had such limited fidelity or else the poor audio quality would really be apparent. We had an old Gates BC-1 transmitter (I
think it dated from the mid-50's or so) which took the large # 833 RF tubes - this poor old transmitter had seen better days, but somehow they kept it running...most of the time, and fairly close to 1KW output. Being next to a lake and having a 200 ft. lightning rod, we'd get hit in the summer storms so often that everybody working there got fairly good at replacing them and having the transmitter warming up again in about 2 minutes - and that's with the interlocks on the rear door to open and get the door lifted off. (NOTE: More on the interlocks later...) I remember we had a pair of
bar-b-q mitts we'd use to keep from burning ourselves when pulling the hot tubes.
For some reason I don't recall, we relocated the station to an area north of Kissimmee in a large field where the current Florida Hospital, Kissimmee is built. Back in 1971 or so there really wasn't anything substantial around there and drainage was poor- basically another swamp. They bought one of those 10 X 50 foot
un-partitioned construction trailers, added a couple of walls for the control room and production room and hit the air. The on-air staff at
WACY consisted of the following individuals throughout the time I was there: Sam Gilkey,
Bob Marlowe, Jim Ludlam, Randy Ingersoll, Pete Simonson, Bill Gephart & Tim Jericho. One of the original owners,
Bob Marlowe sold his
share around 1970 and moved to North Carolina (he later died in an auto crash somewhere around '72-73) so
Sam Gilkey managed to find an interested individual - Pat Yaturo, an engineer (with a 1st class ticket) from Brevard County who wanted to become a co-owner. I think Pat worked for
NASA or one of the related companies, but it served him in good stead, since the old Gates needed a lot of attention by this time-Pat was working on that transmitter so frequently that he soon he tired of having to undo the door interlocks so he disconnect them and left the door off the back! (Probably not only a FCC violation, but in conflict of basic electrical codes too.) Hey, we didn't worry - it made changing
the tubes easier. I managed to get one of my friends who was interested in radio a part-time job around 1972. His name is
Bill Gephart-he managed to remain employed longer than anyone else in the field, moving to
WDBO-AM 580 in Orlando several years later and staying there probably 15 years there working the overnight shift. Somehow
Sam Gilkey managed to request and be granted a pre-sunrise authorization to operate at reduced power-65 watts! Now remember, AM radio was really the only radio on the air back in the early 70's and although there were FM stations, you didn't have anything but AM in most cars (it was that or the 8-track, guys), so being on the air early, even with 65 watts
was good. Pat Yaturo was able to get that Gates to work on 65 watts, although it became somewhat less dependable, especially when you were trying to get it turned on in the mornings...sometimes it would take you 2 or 3 tries before it would stay on. I don't think we were able to get out more than 5 miles with a decent signal, but nobody really worried about it.
One morning Bill Gephart was working the early (pre-sunrise) shift and I came in with some coffee and cinnamon buns. The coffee was hot, but one of us (I really don't know which of us came up with such as stupid idea!) put two and two together and thought - "Hey, here we are with cold cinnamon buns and over there is a nice warm transmitter - let's warm them up
by setting them on the transformers". Believe it or not, it worked and in just minutes the entire trailer had the aroma of cinnamon buns wafting through it. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and who should arrive but...Pat Yaturo, part-owner and chief engineer. He really enjoyed the thought of cinnamon buns until we walked him around to the back of the Gates and pointed out our makeshift "oven" with the cinnamon buns merrily heating away on the transformer - you should have seen his face drain of color! Bill and I immediately received our first real lecture on how an AM transmitter works - Mr. Electricity goes in the transformers, is boosted to several thousand volts, and then
goes into the RF tubes (very basic description, I know) to make radio waves, etc - yes, those nice fat un-insulated wires you see going to the tubes were mere inches away from that cheap aluminum pan holding our cinnamon buns and no cheap cloth
bbq gloves were going to save our bacon if we had brushed against them! Needless to say we didn't try that again.