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Photo of the Week: A Cold Day in Geneseo

A college radio station get its first broadcast tower and antenna

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Michael Saffran, the faculty director for WGSU(FM) sends us these two photos of the installation in 1963 of the tower and antenna for WGSU, State University of New York at Geneseo, N.Y. This, mind you, was only a few months after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He provided us with a recounting of the day from an undergrad of the time, Tad Thompson. “As you can tell by the snow and clothing, it was a frigid day when the tower was erected … It was too darn cold to stand outside for very long to watch it … I seem to recall that they kept the station’s studios [in Blake Hall, only a few feet away] empty as a safety precaution — in case the lifting got out of control and the tower crashed into the building! This whole lifting of the tower was an involved process and it was not easy to do. The typical gusty winds around Blake didn’t help any, either. It took several hours to attach the antenna to the tower, rig the rope around the tower so the crane could lift it, swing it and position it over the platform, line up the bolts and then tighten the whole thing down.” Thompson adds: “The guy up on the tower unhooking a rope between the tower and the crane is Ernie Fox.” Fox was a SUNY Geneseo Instructional Resources Center staff member and later WGSU chief engineer, Saffran explains.

Thompson continues: “Why, you might wonder, was Ernie up there rather than a construction worker? He was untying the special rope sling they had to rig up to lift the tower into place … Fred Ambrose [station engineer], John Mandelbaum [another staff member] and Ernie were very worried that the construction guys might inadvertently damage the antenna when they took the role sling off the tower, so Ernie got the call to scramble up the tower to do the job.”

The photos were taken by Roger Smith.

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