1950s Archives - WPRB History
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LISTEN: Singing Station IDs by the Tigertones

William Borchard (class of 1960) recently submitted an acetate disc of WPRB station breaks, as performed by University a cappella group, the Tigertones. Below are his written recollections of the recordings’ origins, as well as interleaved ‘Listen’ links to hear them.


In 1957, I wandered over to Holder Hall and became an on-air engineer at WPRB. In those days, we had vinyl LPs and 45s (in quite an extensive record library), and large reel to reel Ampex tape recorders. The engineer played the records and the announcer was on the other side of the glass. We had a teletype machine that sent us the United Press International feed, and that is what we read for the newscasts on each hour.

There were no women undergrads or cars in those days. All we did was drink. But Dave Fullhart, a WPRB executive, was permitted to have his white station wagon, with antennas all over it and WPRB on the door, in order to carry equipment to remote locations. It was all very serious, exciting and fun.

One evening we got everyone on campus to tune in and played “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets over and over again. The students opened their windows and played it loud all over campus. Then they started a riot which got out of hand. As a result, the University banned us from playing that song ever again.

I started doing the remote broadcast of the Sunday Chapel service each week and finally I got my own one-hour show on Saturday mornings. It was called “Saturday Morning Showcase” playing mostly standard pop music. I got Jimmy Stewart to record a spot announcement about my show when he came to Princeton. I also got some townie girls to swoon over my show in a spot. I think by then I was doing the engineering and announcing myself.

And . . . . I wrote the singing station breaks. I had my high school music teacher arrange them, and I convinced the Tigertones to record them. I played them on my program but I doubt anyone else played them. Standards were lax, the AM signal was carried through the electric lines, and the FM signal could only be heard on or close to campus, so the audience generally was small, if any. It did not matter because we just assumed someone was listening—I think my roommate listened sometimes.

I still love radio, and am a strong supporter of New York Public Radio WNYC.

WPRB in the Daily Princetonian: Recruiting

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Does modulation excite you? Asking for a friend. WPRB has used all sorts of different methods over the years to lure new student DJs. This slideshow documents some of the best from the 1940s-1970s.

Rob Schuman ’74 sifted through The Daily Princetonian‘s extensive archive, looking at all 8,000 unique mentions of WPRB. He’s compiled the most interesting into this series of slideshows.

WPRU Bulletin + 75th Anniversary Message from Paul Dunn

Here’s the second (and final in our existing archives) WPRU Bulletin. Paul Dunn ’58 was the Bulletin’s managing editor as a Princeton Undergraduate, and continues to play an important role on WPRB’s board of trustees today. You can download the complete bulletin (.PDF) by clicking here.

Below, an important message from Paul about WPRB’s 75th Anniversary Membership Drive.


Announcing WPRB’s Public Exhibit!

We’re thrilled to announce the long-planned second phase of WPRB’s 75th anniversary celebrations (the first being the launch of this website): a physical exhibit of station history and esoterica, which will be on display at Princeton University’s Mudd Library through May of 2016, and which is open to the public!

Titled “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse”, and curated by WPRB’s Mike Lupica and Princeton University Archivist Dan Linke, the exhibit is a meatspace version of the kind of materials we’ve been highlighting on this website. On display are vintage photographs, playlists, documents, selections from WPRB’s vinyl record library, vintage broadcast equipment, and much more. There is also an interactive content station that allows visitors to browse audio selections and WPRB-related news clippings from the last 75 years.

“WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” is a free exhibit which is open to the public. The exhibit is housed in the Wiess Lounge at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, in Princeton, New Jersey. (Right around the corner from Hoagie Haven!) Viewing hours are Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4:45 PM.

More info.


1949 WPRU Sign On—Awaiting “the Magic Hour”

[By Nelson Runger ’53]

I drew the job of morning man in September of my freshman year, 1949. I had about an hour’s instruction the day before my debut—all about how to turn the station on in the morning, etc. There was no separate engineer. I was the whole staff on duty.

I cajoled my three suite-mates to get up and listen to my debut (which was a three-hour stint that began at 6:00 a.m., as I recall.) I showed up about a half-hour early, turned on all the switches and gauges I had learned the previous day, selected the records I would play during the first hour, read over the FCC announcement that had to be read aloud at the beginning of the broadcasting day, cued up the Star Spangled Banner, and awaited the magic hour. (Ed note: The routine steps of morning sign-on, then as now, are required to be chronicled on every radio station’s daily programming log. See above for example from roughly the same era referenced in this story.)

At 6:00, I played the national anthem, read the FCC announcement, and launched into my three hours of recorded music, zippy banter, occasional news items, (mostly read from that morning’s Daily Princetonian), and frequent solo work on the Jew’s harp (also called a mouth harp and a jaw harp.) At the end of my three hours, I turned the station off, there being then a period of some hours before the station went on the air again.

I rushed back to my room and found my three suite-mates staring glumly at me. They hadn’t heard a thing, the one switch I had forgotten was the one that turned the transmitter on.

On the Lasting Benefits of the WPRB Experience

[By Dave Forrest ’60]

Reminiscences of the heroic age of PRB in the late 50’s retain their noble lustre beneath the encrusted molluscs and other crud of time. Other contributors to this [project] will no doubt limn the brilliant PRB trajectories of such mythic figures as Siggins, Crowther, McGuire, Dunn, Fuellhart, McCracken, Miller, McGiffert, Fleishhaker, Medina, et al. and the promulgated joys of midcult and masscult offerings of the station.


WPRU Remote Broadcast Mystery

This is one of the oldest original photos we’ve discovered in the station’s archives, but no details as to the subjects, location, or year it was taken have been revealed. The mic setup suggests a remote broadcast, the WPRU banner places it somewhere between 1940 and 1955, and the combo’s setup indicates a live jazz gig at a… University eating club? Some long-shuttered venue in Princeton?

Do you recognize any of the subjects in this photo or have any information on the event it depicts? Please comment below and help us unravel this mystery!

UPDATE: Rob Schuman says: “I don’t, of course, recognize the group, but the station aired live jazz from very early on in its existence. I doubt its the same group, but here’s a clip from the Princetonian, October 9, 1941.”


WPRU Bulletin, Winter 1955

[Click here to download the 4-page PDF version]

From 1940-1955, WPRB’s call letters were “WPRU”. The station was heard on-campus at 640 AM and for a time, its staff created a weekly, printed bulletin. Paul Dunn ’58 recalls: “I believe we distributed [the bulletin] to dorms and at commons. This was the time when our signal reached only a few dorms, and we were trying to increase station awareness on campus. John Norton, known as Dopey, along with freshmen Ned Irons and Dave Meginity had developed black boxes—small transmitters which were installed in dorm basements.”

WPRB as “The Voice of the Campus”, by Paul Dunn


Working at WPRU or, in fact, having anything to do with broadcasting was the farthest thing from my mind the first time I entered the station in the early fall of 1954. I was simply fleeing from a group of sophomores who were trying to steal my beanie, which all freshman had to wear then. Holder Hall was the sophomore dorm, but we had to pass through this enemy territory to get to the Commons to eat. A month or so later, a few of my friends and I came up with the idea that WPRU, which, at that time, didn’t sign on till 8 pm Sundays, should have a classical music program Sunday afternoons. We had met some members of the station — Art Hulnich ’57 comes to mind — and we proposed the idea of a Sunday afternoon program called Sunday Sketchbook, and it was eventually accepted. It was not long till I was thoroughly addicted to life in the basement of Holder. (more…)