Then & Now: WMHC Radio
Student-run WMHC had a small staff and a very limited budget, which was often relegated to replacing missing or damaged records and repairing the station’s original equipment, dating from 1951.
The third-oldest college radio station in the country—and the first women’s college station—WMHC increased its bandwidth in 1979 from ten to 100 watts in response to a new FCC policy that also resulted in a necessary change in frequency—90.7 FM to 91.1 FM.
As part of DJ training, students were required to take a written exam that tested their knowledge on equipment, music, basic information, and song logs. Any student who failed to abide by policy—which prohibited cigarettes and alcohol inside the station and had a zero-tolerance approach to missed shifts—was dismissed from the staff.
Frequently played artists included Bonnie Raitt, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, Stan Getz, and Chick Corea. In addition to music, programming included trivia contests; on-air interviews with musicians, students, faculty, and community members; panels on campus issues, politics, women’s issues, and nuclear power; and poetry readings.
Still student run and funded by the SGA, the station has seventy-five DJs who each week host more than thirty shows, including Lipstank Love and Suffering Jukebox.
All student DJs start out as interns, shadowing existing DJs for three weeks in the studio. Written and on-air tests are required at the conclusion of the intern process, and then students are granted their own two-hour shows.
Rock is the most popular genre of radio show, but other programs include jazz, blues, gospel, world/folk, and news/talk shows.
DJs are prohibited from ever using the seven forbidden words—designated by the FCC—but are allowed to play songs that include them during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Students DJ campus events, including the convocation after-party and the station’s recent sixty-second birthday bash. Extra funds raised cover office supplies, smaller-grade equipment, microphones, and turntable covers. The station frequency is in its third iteration at 91.5 FM. Still operating on 100 watts, the station reaches beyond South Hadley via a live web stream at mixlr.com/wmhcradio.
This article appeared in the spring 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
May 1, 2014
I was a freshman (what we were called then) in 1980 and also remember the celebrations when we boosted the power from 10 to 100 watts.
The station was in the basement of Mary Woolley, then, in a room near Abbey. I was a DJ for 3 years and played a number of formats: comedy, jazz, classical, and New Wave. I brought back a ton of 45s from a summer in England in 1982 and am still convinced we were the first to air “Come On, Eileen” in the US. I don’t believe the station ran for 24 hours back then and think it went off the air around 1AM or so.
During junior and senior year I was the News Director. We had many students come in to read the news on the hour, which came out of a very noisy UPI teletype machine with yellow paper. I remember phoning in a news report from my dorm room senior year when there was a campus blackout.
I had to apply for an FCC license, but I don’t remember taking a test. The WMHC staff used to go to DC each year for the college radio conference, and I really enjoyed that.
There are some factual errors in this story. I was the Music Director for the station in 1979. We were not purchasing records. I had re-established relationships with most, if not all, of the major record companies at the time who would send copies of releases in exchange for a monthly report about what was being played. We were not able to get classical recordings and only some jazz.
The application to increase the wattage may have been filed with the FCC in 1979, but the actual increase did not go into effect until after 1980 (the year I graduated) because I came back for the ceremony when the switch was flipped and the new transmitter went on line.
Susan-thanks for the props-I am alive and well and practicing law in Las Vegas
I’d like to add a bit of history to the then and now article in the spring Quarterly. In 1955-56 WMHC was an AM station, using the high voltage wires of South Hadley as an antenna (Yale radio used the water pipes). That year the FCC issued a ruling that all AM stations had to go commercial, with professional employees, licensing fees, etc, and no more broadcasting on the town’s wires. We made a decision to go off the air for a year, broadcasting only over the speakers in Wilbur Hall (Mary Wooley basement), and saving that year’s SGA dues so that in fall of 1956 the station could afford a new transmitter and go FM. The comments at the time included, “who would ever buy an FM radio?”
Ellie Rogowski Landowne ’56, WMHC station manager 1955-56
I reported the news for a very brief time my senior year (1952). The news came in on paper teletype tape that tore easily and had to be patched together. I didn’t last long. Professor Denis Johnston ran the station.
I was a DJ my Freshman year in 1978, when I did the Morning Wake Up show, with all classical. I brought my own albums as the pickings were sparse or scratched. I remember turning on the big switch to start up the power. Of course I would leave the radio on in my dorm room, ensuring I blasted my roommate, MaryAnn Young, out of bed with my “Good morning Mount Holyoke!” greeting!
Ellen Hyde Pace ’81
I was also a DJ in either 1979 or 1980. I had a jazz show. It was one of my favorite and most treasured memories of my time at MHC. I can’t wait to share this article with my husband who has heard me talk about my time on air but now can actually see a picture of what the station looked like back then. I often say that had I not become a lawyer I really wish that I could have had a career as a professional, on-air, DJ.
I was a DJ on WMHC from probably the Spring of 1980. Our fearless program director was Bev Salhanick (sp?). While I don’t recall taking a written test before I went on air, Bev made us take it seriously. Hope she is well, and thanks for those free press tickets to see Talking Heads at UMASS all those years ago!
I had an early Saturday morning shift, though I did work a late night shift at least once because I remember playing the entirety of the Clash’s newly released double lp, London Calling, so I could watch the B-52s perform on Saturday Night Live. I’m sure I never left my post, so there must’ve been a little tv in the studio.
Please note that the Kinks must’ve showed up on the above list of frequently played artists due to my efforts–I was a fanatic 🙂
I was just on campus this weekend for reunion and thought how awesome it would be to get WMHC DJs of the past together for their own reunion sometime. Is there anyone who can provide me with contact info for the current GM at the station? I tried the “contact us” link at the WMHC website but it appeared to be broken. Thanks!
Great idea Laura! Try this email address: email@example.com. Students aren’t on campus until the end of August so it may be a while before you get a response. Thanks!
Hi. Where is the link to listen to the ten most played songs on WMHC?
Thanks. chris Cosgrove ‘ 65
Here’s the link, Chris:
Hope that helps!