50,000 Watts...

You hear the voice of the announcer, the musicians and entertainers, but you seldom hear anything about the vast amount of machinery and electrical equipment required to send that voice or music out to you.

WLS control room In the wall of the big studio is a double glass window. Behind this window, with hands on the control knobs constantly, sits one of the operators. He watches what is going on, gets signals from the announcer, switches microphones on or off, softens the music if it comes too loud, or turns on more power if the speaker's voice is too soft.

A little needle on a gauge flutters back and forth registering every tone of the announcer's voice, and if there is some unusual sound---like dropping a cowbell on the floor-the needle jumps across its dial. The operator must be ready with the controls.

The pictureon the left was taken while the Indiana State Fair broadcast was in progress, and while Andy handled the knobs, Charley Nehlsen was talking by code telegraph with the operator at Indianapolis.

Charley Nehlsen In the picture at the left, Charley Nehlsen (Nelly) is talking by telegraph to a remote control. Below on the right, William T. Anderson (Andy) is watching a "continuity" to see what comes next.

Every mechanical detail about broadcasting must be exact; nothing can be left to chance. Before every program, many times a day, microphones are tested, power lines checked, apparatus examined. Where there are delicate electrical connections by tens of thousands, and a program going to millions of listeners, there must be no delays nor accidents.

WLS operators have many peculiar tasks, and they must handle unique broadcasts. Both Tommy Rowe and Charley Nehlsen served their apprenticeship as radio operators on the high seas. Rowe tells of his first trip on the salt water---a mere boy-handling the "graveyard watch" when there was a violent storm, the ship broke its steering gear, and in the small hours of the morning with seas breaking over and frightened passengers buckling on life belts, his trembling fingers had to tap out the SOS. He spent five years on the water, sailing the seven seas. Tommy is still under 30 years of age, but an old-timer in radio. It would take a couple of earthquakes to get him excited now

Tommy Rowe At the left, chief Engineer Tommy Rowe is inspecting a few of the thousands of electrical connections. Right, a glimpse in the big sending station at Downers Grove, where the program takes the air. WLS transmitter

Return to the 1932 WLS Family Album index page

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Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to rich@richsamuels.com)