The History of WMAQ Radio

Chapter 7

Four weeks after moving to the La Salle location, WMAQ scored a great triumph by broadcasting the address of President Harding---by wire from San Francisco, over a special Telephone Company network. And thereby hangs a tale.

During 1923 and 1924 the American Telephone and Telegraph Company provided the only kind of national network service for radio stations, in the sense of what we consider a national network today. For all special events, in any large city, they would pick up the proceedings with portable amplifiers at the point of origination, and then sell this service individually to any one radio station in any one city. There was no duplicate service to rival stations in the same city. A few days before each special event was to transpire, the Telephone Company would send wires to all Chicago stations informing them of the details for the proposed “Nemo” pickup---and soliciting their air time for the event. Then, the first local station to acknowledge their telegram would be granted the exclusive rights for the entire city for that particular event. This meant that the various stations had to be constantly on the alert in notifying the Telephone Company in order to “scoop” other local stations. And this method of arranging out-of-town pickups was the chief cause of worry for most of the Chicago stations, WMAQ included.

In line with the aforementioned policy, WMAQ exclusively broadcast the memorial services for President Harding on August 10th, shortly after his untimely death.

Late in August, by agreement with the La Salle Hotel, Jack Chapman’s Orchestra began to broadcast music daily. Chapman’s Orchestra was playing at the hotel at the time.

During the summer and fall the operating schedule consisted of three regular periods every day, except Sunday: noon to 2:00 p.m., 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., and 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at night.

Alone, Donald Weller had guided the somewhat uncertain technical destiny of WMAQ from its inception. But by the fall of 1923 plans for the expansion of the daily broadcasting schedule demanded additional operators. It might be mentioned that the demand for experienced operators and technicians in Chicago was very great during these years---and good operators were conspicuous by their absence. For the most part, radio operators were drawn from two general sources: amateur radio and marine or ship operating. There were few technical schools of any kind in existence, particularly in Chicago, with the lone exception of Dodge’s Institute at Valparaiso, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago. Radio operating jobs were far from scarce back in those days.

Onto this scene came a young radio operator, Walter Lindsay. He had just completed two years with the Government doing airmail installation work and had come to Chicago. He was undecided whether to return to his home in California or to look for work in the Windy City. Walking west on Madison Street one November afternoon he happened to notice the antenna towers above the La Salle Hotel, and decided to investigate the possibilities, if any. He walked into the studios of WMAQ, asked for a job and got it! That was seventeen years ago, and Mr. Walter R. Lindsay is still guiding the destiny of WMAW as transmitting engineer, which is probably an all-time long service record with one broadcast station.

He and Mr. Weller worked together at first, and later alternated shifts. But less than six months later, Mr. Lindsay took over full technical charge of WMAQ, which he still holds today.

At that time WMAQ was not incorporated, and was treated merely as a department of the newspaper. Miss Judith Waller was the director of the station, assisted by Mr. William S. Hedges, who at that time was the radio editor of the Daily News. Mr. Hedges was later made president when the station was incorporated in 1929, and is now a Vice-President of the National Broadcasting Company in New York.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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