H Grant Theis Archives - WPRB History
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H Grant Theis

Robert Blizard Recalls Early Days at WPRU

Text: Robert Blizard ’44

I don’t think I had joined WPRU before the opening on December 15, 1940, but it wasn’t long after that when I was recruited by Lloyd Schaefer and went to work under Jim Robinson, the Chief Engineer. As I remember, the studio was in H. Grant Theis’s (didn’t we call him “Hank”?) dormitory room on the top floor of Pyne. When Theis gave it up, the room and the adjacent one were rented by Harry Bonner, Bob Cheney, and me. The studio remained where it was, and we lived in the other suite. Theis was a high powered executive, and we young fellows were a little afraid of him.

We designed and built most of our own equipment. Schaefer was the RF guy. I specialized in power supplies. The transmitter was in the basement and was coupled to the University’s power lines, which pretty much limited radiation to the campus, but there was some reception in the town.  We did broadcasts of sporting events, but I’m damned if I can remember how the signal got from the remote location back to the studio – I guess we must have used telephone lines. The operating engineer in the studio always had a soothing piano recording by Carmen Cavalero to put on the air whenever the regular programming failed.

After we got the Royal Crown Cola advertising account, we always had plenty of pop to drink.  That’s about what I remember, except for sitting at the controls with stupefying awareness that we were on the air, and any screw-up that I made would be heard by hundreds of people.

WPRB in The Daily Princetonian: The Early Years

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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 a series of slideshows. This post documents WPRB’s early years. Beware those kilocycle gremlins.

WPRU Artifacts Reveal Station’s Early History

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since initiating this history project, it’s that once the research bug bites you, the related fever is hard to shake. Case in point: these just-rediscovered artifacts from the mid 1940s, when WPRB (then called WPRU) was still in its infancy, which sent a considerable thrill up my spine. A huge part of the fun of digging into the deepest recesses of the station’s history is noting how doing so keeps moving the marker for the oldest-known (document/photo/recording/etc) further back.

While we have unearthed a few yellowed letters and documents from station founder H Grant Theis that detail the plans which lead up to the station’s launch in December of 1940, the assortment of scans presented here offers one of the oldest-known insights into what the station’s programming was like.

These clippings were discovered by current WPRB staffers Zenala and Misha in the bottom of a filthy file cabinet during an otherwise routine cleaning project. The documents were actually sent to the station back in 1992 by Stanley Abensur ’42. Huge thanks to Stanley for anticipating their relevance 25 years ahead of time, and to Zenala and Misha for bringing them to my attention!

Without further delay, we are pleased to present the following:

Exhibit A: Early floorplan of the station’s old studios in Holder Hall. (See above)