A number of legendary radio stations this spring are noting their 90th anniversaries, recalling a boom period in licensing in the year 1922.
Among them is WSB(AM). Radio in Atlanta, the South’s regional railroad hub, was known mostly to ham operators at the time. But Maj. John Cohen, editor and publisher of The Atlanta Journal, had heard of the rapidly developing medium. Walter Tison, a young veteran who had been a wireless operator in the Navy during the recent world war, was looking for a job and met with a subordinate of Cohen’s, John Paschall, at the paper. Tison shared his idea of building a radio station. Paschall became excited and recommended to Cohen that the newspaper build the south’s first radio station.
Henry Ford, seated, inspects WSB equipment at the Atlanta Journal building in 1922. Station founder Maj. John S. Cohen is at far right. The others from left are Montgomery Haynes, Ford district manager; Mercer Lee, secretary to Atlanta Mayor James L. Key; and L.W. (Chip) Robert, architect and civic leader. Courtesy Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
Meanwhile, Tison, needing a job, signed on as a radio operator on a merchant ship. A few months later Cohen heard that the Journal’s competition, the Atlanta Constitution, was planning to put a radio station on the air. In 1922 he ordered equipment and requested a license from the Commerce Department.
Using a transmitter hurriedly purchased from a ham operator, WSB signed on March 15, 1922, with 100 watts of power. The Commerce Department authorized the station to use radio call letters W S B and broadcast weather reports at 485 meters. It required them to hire a second class or higher licensed radio operator. Tison finally got the job for which he had applied a year before.
WSB was hailed as a “giant” then and has never looked back. Even today on the crowded Atlanta radio dial, WSB, a Cox Radio station, consistently is on or near the top of audience ratings. For more, visit www.wsbhistory.com.
John Long is retired after nearly 50 years in radio. He is co-founder and president of the Georgia Radio Museum and Hall of Fame. Visit www.grhof.com.
Photos courtesy of The Georgia Radio Museum and Hall of Fame
This sketch is believed to be from the Atlanta Journal in 1922. The newspaper promoted the station heavily. Courtesy Georgia Radio Museum and Hall of Fame
A listeners’ club was called the WSB Radio Owls.