Friday, February 04, 2011

Adventist World Radio set to celebrate 40th Anniversary

Early Adventist Radio Broadcast

Later this year, Adventist World Radio will celebrate its 40th anniversary. It was on the afternoon of Friday October 1, in the year 1971, that the first broadcast from the new Adventist World Radio went on the air from the new high powered shortwave station located at Sines in Portugal.

In our program today, we take a historical look at very early radio events that ultimately led to the inauguration of Adventist World Radio. It is true, we did look at some of these early events back in 1986 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of AWR, but since then, a lot more interesting information has been discovered. So, we begin back almost 90 years ago.

It was on March 25 in the year 1922, when radio was very young, that the first inaugural transmission from an Adventist radio station took place. The location was Andrews University in Berrien Springs Michigan, or Emmanuel Missionary College as it was known at the time; the temporary callsign was the amateur designation 8AZ; and the operator was the young John Fetzer from Lafayette, a little further south, in Indiana. The official inauguration of the station as a program broadcasting facility occurred under the callsign KFGZ a year later.

That is a brief outline of the first radio broadcasts from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. So let us move on now to other very early Adventist radio broadcasts, and we go up into Canada.

It so happened that there was a medical practitioner by the name of Dr. O. S. Parrett and he was the medical director of a small Adventist hospital on Vancouver Island just off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. Dr. Parrett had a friend who built his own radio broadcasting station that was on the air under the callsign CHCE with just 5 watts on 750 kHz in 1922. The doctor was invited to present a series of health topics over this small new radio station and this took place in the middle of the following year. By this time, the station was operating with a power increase up to 20 watts.

During the next couple of years, Dr Parrett made several additional radio broadcasts over several other radio stations in Canada, including:
CFCL Victoria also on Vancouver Island BC with 500 watts on 730 kHz
The Canadian National Railways station in Vancouver CNRV with 500 w, 1100 kHz
The Canadian CNR phantom station CFCN in Calgary Alberta 750 watts 690 kHz.

On a coming occasion, we will present a major feature here in Wavescan about the unique network of phantom radio stations throughout Canada.

In the meantime, we move down to the United States, and in chronological order we go to Allentown in Pennsylvania, and here we find Pastor H. A. Vandeman making his first radio broadcast over station WCBA with 50 watts on 1180 kHz. Vandeman made many broadcasts over station WCBA for a period of some 10 years, and a couple of others also assisted in these ventures. He was on the air also in nearby Harrisburg over station WCOD.

It can be remembered that Pastor Vandeman’s son, George, was the originator of the long running TV program, It is Written, which was launched in 1955.
Next we go to Springfield Massachusetts in 1924, to station WBZ, which was the Westinghouse station with 1500 watts on 900 kHz at the time. Here we find another speaker on radio, Pastor W. A. Spicer, after whom the university affiliated college in Poona India is named, Spicer Memorial College. In Springfield, Spicer presented a series of programs, Friday evening & Saturday morning, in January 1924, made up of music and the spoken word.

Three years later, another pastor, W. W. Prescott, presented a similar series of weekly broadcasts over station KFOR with 100 watts on 1380 kHz in Lincoln Nebraska.
Next we come to the era of Dr. H. M. S. Richards, the illustrious founder of the long running Voice of Prophecy radio program. Richards’ first attempt on the air was a short announcement regarding a series of public meetings he was conducting in Bakersfield California. The station was a very new and very small facility under the callsign KERN, on 1410 kHz, and the advertising announcement was on the air in February 1927.

Actually, Dr. Richards spoke over the air from many different stations in California during the late 1920s & 1930s, such as KMJ Fresno in 1928, KNX Hollywood in 1929, KGER Long Beach in 1930, KFI Los Angeles in 1934, and so on, right up to the war years and beyond. In 1937, the program title “Voice of Prophecy” was introduced and it was broadcast over the Don Lee-Mutual network in California. At the beginning of 1942, the “Voice of Prophecy” was heard on the nationwide Mutual network of 89 stations, and later the same year, on 225 stations throughout the United States.

And that’s the story of early Adventist radio broadcasting, as an introductory program honoring the 40th anniversary of Adventist World Radio.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 101 via Adrian Peterson)