WNBZ went on the air for the first time on September 11, 1927; at the time, there were fewer than 100 radio stations in the US. 1 Originally broadcasting at 1290, it changed to 1320 in 1940, due to an international treaty, to 1450 in 1946, due to a power increase, and finally to 1240, in 1956, under the requirements of the CONELRAD system.
In 1946, it moved from the Masonic Temple at 70 Broadway to the Berkeley Hotel, at Broadway and Main Street, where its studio looked out over the center of the village. It is now located in its own building at 159 Santanoni Avenue (post-911 address).
- Tissot, Caperton, History between the lines : women's lives and Saranac Lake customs, Jay, New York : Graphics North, 2007, pp. 50-51. ISBN 978-0-9643542-9-4.
From the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 10, 1957
Station WNBZ 9 Years Past Its Voting Age
Station WNBZ, Saranac Lake will celebrate its 30th birthday Wednesday.
The station went on the air for the first time on Sept 11, 1927 when there were fewer than 100 stations in the country. It had a ten watt "peanut whistle" transmitter. This wattage was later increased to 50 and in 1930, increased to 100. It was increased to its present 250 figure in 1946.
The station was built by Earl Smith and William Mace and had its first studios at 107 Broadway, with an original frequency of 1320 (now 1240) and call letter WNBZ assigned by the old Federal Radio commission.
Like all other radio stations, WNBZ began selling time to support itself. Early programs were mostly recorded music, but occasional "live" programs were supplied by artists of the ASCAP group, many of whom were recovering from tuberculosis in this then-famous health center.
During its early life, the station had many studio sites, including the St. Regis hotel; Guild House, at 100 Main street; the building at 18 Main street and at the Masonic building where the transmitter consisted of a clothes-line type stretched from the Troy Laundry chimney on Sumner lane to the Alpine hotel on Broadway. It moved to its present site in the Berkeley Building in 1946.
In 1939, station WNBZ became affiliated with the National Broadcasting Company's Blue Network, new the American Broadcasting Network. The station has a 250-watt transmitter and vertical radiator tower located off Lake Flower. It operates daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a full musical transcription service, a record library of more than 10,000 numbers, full Associated Press radio news service and a staff of eight in addition to its network affiliation.
Among the many celebrities who have passed before the station's microphones have been Carlos Romula, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S.; Somerset Maugham, author; singers Kate Smith and the late Grace Moore; Madam Litvinoff, wife of the former Soviet Ambassador; such radio and TV personalities as Art Linkletter, Don McNeill, Johnny Desmond, Dick Noel, Betty Johnson and Fran Allison.
The station is planning an unusual celebration to mark the 30th anniversary event. It will play hit tunes from the year 1927 on all locally-originated programs beginning at 6 in the morning and continuing through 10 p.m. A vast collection of recordings made by the popular bands and vocalists of that era has been made available to the station from the personal collection of Station President Jacques DeMattos.
Broadcast Station Will Be Installed Here This Month
Authority Received from Federal Radio Commission to Establish Station WNBZ at 107 Broadway, Radio Store of Smith and Mace; Will Send Daily Programs from 9 A.M. to 1 P.M., Filling Important Local Need
Saranac Lake is to have its own broadcasting station, it was definitely assured today by the receipt of authorization from the Federal Radio commission for the erection of the necessary sending apparatus at the radio store at 107 Broadway.
Earl J. Smith and William M. Mace, proprietors of this shop, will have charge of the new station, which will assure Saranac Lake radio listeners of programs during the morning hours, now a relatively silent period in this locality.
The authority received from the radio commission assigned . . . call number WNBZ to the Saranac Lake station. Permission was granted on account of unusual conditions prevailing in this village, and is declared to be the result of a demand on the part of health seekers here for morning radio programs. Hours of broadcasting from this station will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. under the authority received.
The sending apparatus is being installed under the supervision of H. L. Ross of the Robertson-Cataract Electric company of Syracuse, and will [be] calibrated at station Wsyr [sic - WSYR], Syracuse. James H. Savage, of the Syracuse concern, was here today completing arrangements for the installation.
Broadcasting is to be started within the next month, depending on how soon the apparatus can be installed, inspected, and receive the approval of the radio commission.
It is too early to make any announcement concerning the programs, the owners of the Broadway store said this morning. Two rooms in the same building will be used as a studio, and tentative arrangements already under way will, it is believed, assure a continuous daily program that will be both entertaining and instructive.
The station will not seek [to] enter the national broadcasting filed, the purpose being to fill a local need.
Ticonderoga Sentinel, March 25, 1948
Wallace Ads At Saranac Anger Radio Listeners
SARANAC — A running battle between the Henry Wallace camp and irate listeners is being aired over radio station WNBZ.
There is talk in this Adirondack village of court action aimed at getting Wallace advertisements off the air, the station manager said Tuesday night.
John F. Grimes, president and manager, said WNBZ had been carrying paid pro-Wallace announcements since last Friday, and, as a result, paid anti-Wallace talks.
Tuesday night the station broadcast a transcript of a Wallace speech. Half an hour later, the three local speakers went on, offering rebuttal.
Grimes explained that a woman visiting this health resort had purchased spots and furnished copy for a series of 60-word advertisements. These urge the defeat of military training and draft legislation and call upon listeners to tune in, Wallace speeches.
The Adirondack Observer, a weekly newspaper, immediately bought time on which to urge the contrary and veterans and other residents are lining up with the Observer, Grimes said.
Grimes said "it is the policy of this station to take political advertising, and there's no reason why we shouldn't take all kinds."
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 3, 2007
WNBZ: An Ad'k tradition
By Andy Flynn
This week in history. Timeline: March 1, 1956. WNBZ radio in Saranac Lake switches numbers on the AM dial.
The day before, Feb. 29, was a leap year day that comes every four years. So does the presidential election. On Feb. 29, 1956. President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared he would seek a second term in office. Listeners may have heard the news on WNBZ 1450-AM on that very day. Or they may have heard it the next day, March 1, on WNBZ 1240-AM. That's where you find it today on the AM dial.
WNBZ is an institution in Saranac Lake. It's been around since 1927, two years before the stock market crash and the Great Depression gripped the U.S. Over the years, we've heard our favorite music on this station, heard the local and national news and sports, heard the day's happy birthday list. Oh, and by the way, when Sept. 11 comes around, wish WNBZ a happy birthday. It turns 80 years old this year.
The Adirondack Museum owns a ceramic WNBZ ashtray that dates to the 1950s. It is artifact No. 2006.34.1 in the museum's collection (currently in storage). It was acquired through appraiser and former museum curator Ted Comstock, of Saranac Lake, in 2006.
It doesn't seem that long ago, but times have certainly changed in the past 50 years. Radio stations probably don't give away promotional ashtrays anymore as our society has banished smokers from indoor office spaces, such as the radio control room and newsroom, and sent them outside to get their nicotine fix. Travel mugs, ball caps, T-shirts and computer mousepads are more the norm today for promotional items.
Personal use aside, this piece of pottery speaks volumes about Saranac Lake's history, from its roots in treating tuberculosis (TB) patients to its community media. D. Mott Chapin made this ashtray at the Pot Shop on Main Street.
Chapin was born on March 19, 1909 in Niagara Falls. In junior high school, he was diagnosed with TB, according to a story about his death in the March 25. 1986 issue of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. On the same page was a reprint of the paper's Nov. 26, 1962 article by columnist Arthur Slatterly, who took notes at a Rotary Club meeting where Chapin was the guest speaker. As a sick teenager, Chapin was sent to Saranac Lake to be treated for TB "and put in a bed and kept there." he said. That was 1926. "I never really finally got out of bed 'til 10 years later."
In 1935, Chapin began working for a new organization, the Saranac Lake Study and Craft Guild, where he spent time visiting TB patients at the local hospitals and cure cottages and taught them crafts such as leather work, modeling in clay and woodcarving. He also met his future wife, Elise Kalb, of Catonsville, Md. She also moved to Saranac Lake for her health, and she loved pottery. They married in 1942.
"After 10 years of wheel-throwing, I realized that I loved these mountains and this area and that I would never be happy anywhere else," D. Mott Chapin said at Rotary.
One summer, the Chapins took a pottery course together at the New York State School of Clay-working and Ceramics at Alfred University. Around 1950, the couple opened the Pot Shop and sold their original pottery until 1959, when they moved to Philadelphia, Pa. to teach pottery for a few years, "but we weren't happy away from here," D. Mott Chapin said, "and missed the out-of-doors and the fishing and boating and hunting. So, back we came."
Back to Saranac Lake by 1962, where WNBZ would soon enter another important chapter in its life as the community radio station.
WNBZ had humble beginnings with a 10-watt transmitter and a studio at 107 Broadway (the pre-911 address). Over the years, it grew in power and moved around town, to places such as the St. Regis Hotel, the Berkeley Hotel and the Masonic Temple. It is now located at 159 Santanoni Ave. (post-911 address) near North Country Community College.
Ownership was varied, according to WNBZ engineer Christopher Brescia's "A History of WNBZ," a paper he wrote for the Radio-Television 201 course at St. Lawrence University in 1969. Earl Smith and William Mace founded the radio station. John Grimes bought it in 1941. After he passed away in 1951, Jacques DeMattos bought it and ran it under the Upstate Broadcasting Corporation (his son, Jacques DeMattos, currently publishes the Meet the Town community series under the same business name). In 1963, the elder DeMattos sold WNBZ to James Rogers III, who operated it under WNBZ, Inc. for the next 35 years. In 1989, WNBZ got a sister station, WSLK 100.9-FM. Rogers sold the stations to Saranac Lake Radio in April 1998. After the new owner acquired three other local stations, the company transformed to its current state under Mountain Communications, LLC. In addition to the flagship station. WNBZ 1240-AM, the company operates WIRD 920-AM out of Lake Placid; WYZY 106.3-FM (the former WSLK); and ROCK 105, a simulcast on WLPW 105.5-FM in Lake Placid and WRGR 102.3-FM in Tupper Lake.
Learn more about Adirondack history and the "Adirondack Attic" column and books by logging on to the following Web sites: www.adkmuseum.com and www.hungrybearpublishing.com.
Andy Flynn lives in Saranac Lake. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
1. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 25, 1977, p. 4
2. It is presently owned by Mountain Communications, 159 Santanoni Avenue, Saranac Lake (owned by Ann and Ted Morgan.)