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January of 1998 marked the 50th anniversary of WISL radio. By this time the station was owned by Charles “Mick” Haggerty and was suffering the effects of a faltering local economy. Within a couple of years Morning Man and WISL cornerstone Tom Kutza would leave the station and move on as Northumberland County Tourism Director and the stations (AM and FM) would be sold and the AM taken dark.
While tough times lay ahead, WISL was celebrating 50 years and looking ahead with high hopes. To mark the occasion, News Item Staff Writer Mark Gilger put together a nice write up of the station for their January 16th issue. We feature this article in today’s post.
SHAMOKIN – WISL Radio in Shamokin, which has delighted thousands of listeners through the years with its wide assortment of programming, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The 24-hour, seven-day-a-week station, which is co-owned by Mick and JoAnne Hagerty of Palmerton, is planning several promotions and live broadcasts from various locations during the up coming year. Mr. and Mrs. Hagerty, who serve as officers for MJR Media Inc., purchased WISL
Radio AM and FM stations on Sept. 4, 1997, after leasing both stations since May 1996. The AM station was purchased from Laurel Broadcasting while the FM station was bought from Northeast Broadcasting of Northumberland Inc.
WISL Radio was founded on Jan. 25, 1948, by Henry Lark at its current location at the corner of Rock and Sunbury streets, which is known as the Lark Building. The first station manager was Charles Petrie, Dick Owens succeeded Petrie as station manager. Other managers through the years have included Bernie “Saks” Friedman, Art Sherman and John Berry.
Tom Kutza, popular longtime radio personality, has worked at the station for 37 of the 50 years it has been in existence. The dedicated disc jockey has witnessed a lot of changes in radio through the years and has many fond memories of his radio work “We’ve carried it all through the years including basketball and football games, heart-a-thons, library Christmas tree projects, the Stanley Coveleskie monument project, numerous live remotes from different locations celebrating special events, live broadcasts in the studio using the old boom microphones, religious shows, news talk shows, sports talk shows with Bernie Romanoski Sr. and many other programs,” Kutza said. Kutza, who has interviewed hundreds of celebrities over the years, added, “My favorite program of all time has been the ‘Letters to Santa’ show. I really love that program.” Kutza, 55, whose name has be come synonymous with WISL Radio, started working at the station after graduating from high school. The “station historian” has many photographs and other keepsakes pertaining to the station. The disc jockey, who resides in Elysburg, said the biggest changes in radio today include more talk shows and updated equipment. “I love doing my talk show “ Kutza said. “That’s the highlight for me because I get to meet so many people. I love coming to work and I’m proud to be a part of this station and area. We have the most dedicated listeners in our community. I’m thrilled I’ve been able to work here so long and it’s really amazing for a small station like WISL Radio to be on the air for 50 years.”
Mick Hagerty had nothing but praise for the longtime radio personality. “Tom’s is an institution at WISL. When someone thinks of WISL, they immediately associate Tom’s name with the station. His show is a tradition and we plan on maintaining that tradition for as many years as we can.” Hagerty said plans are being made to have Kutza conduct his talk show from his home to make it more convenient for the radio personality, who has endured health problems in recent years.
Mick Hagerty said various promotions are being planned throughout the year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the station. He said remote broadcasts will be done from different places including the historical Victoria Theatre in downtown Shamokin. Memorabilia trinkets pertaining to the 50th anniversary will be made available during the next several months. The station owner commented, “We plan to upgrade our equipment and hire more sales people and disc jockeys. We want to in crease our power on both stations (1480 AM and 95.3 FM). We also are looking into setting up a booth at Knoebels Amusement Resort so we can do live remotes from the park”
Hagerty said the format for the FM station, which features “oldies” music, will remain the same while the programming on the AM station will be upgraded.
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