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The WLS Tower: Radio History in the Moonlight

Retired engineer Ed Glab dropped us a line

“I am told you like to publish photos of radio towers,” writes Ed Glab.

“Here is a photo of the WLS tower in Tinley Park, Ill. It is my first try with my new iPhone 15 Pro. I think it turned out rather nice with the moon through the clouds.”

Ed took the photo at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday Sept. 26 during a meeting of the Chicago SBE chapter at the transmitter site. We wrote back to ask him for details about his own involvement with the iconic AM station.

“I retired from WLS 10 years ago,” he told us. “I had worked there in the summers of 1968 and 1969 when I was working on my BS at Northwestern. Later I worked at WKKD in Aurora and WEEF in Highland Park, doing both on-air and engineering work.”

Ed rejoined WLS in 1973. He worked as a board op and did production.

“When Carl Nelson retired I became studio supervisor and did maintenance. I spent most of my time at the studio, but I was no stranger to the transmitter site. During my tour we rebuilt the studio facility twice. In 1990 we moved from 360 North Michigan Avenue to 190 North State Street to be with our sister TV station.”

[Related: “Radio High Above New York’s Rooftops“]

Ed designed and built the WLS studios for that move, and those facilities served for 25 years. He also worked remote broadcasts from all over the world including the first program-length broadcast from a ship at sea. 

He put in 40 years before retiring in 2013 but was called back to decommission the 190 North State Street facility — “I knew where all the bodies were buried.” 

In retirement he has built a 32-rank theater organ and recently started building a model railroad.

Wikipedia has a nice history of WLS, a 50 kW clear-channel station on 890 kHz that is owned these days by Cumulus Media. 

But that tower goes back well before the current ownership.

“The tower was erected in 1938. The station was owned by The Prairie Farmer Magazine at that time. The location was selected because Burridge Butler, president of Prairie Farmer, was not willing to pay Cook County taxes. The northern property line is right on the county line. The tower is 585 feet, series-fed. The guys and lighting were replaced in the early 1990s, and I have the original beacon in my garage.”

Thanks, Ed, for sharing your memories and that great photo. We may stop by sometime and ask you to fire up that beacon.

[Related: “A Study in Antenna Patterns“]