History of WTHU by George Wireman – (Emmmitsburg.net/history)
Thurmont is most fortunate indeed, to have its own radio station, WTHU, which first went on the air June 12, 1967, and has since proven itself to be a most valuable asset to the community and surrounding area. The success of Thurmont and the steady growth and progress it has made in recent years is largely due to the courage and foresight of many of its citizens. An example of this is the efforts of one Victor A. Leisner, who, feeling the need for better radio reception in the area, and realizing the immeasurable services a radio station can provide for a community, decided to do something about it. The first step in this direction, was to determine the feasibility of locating a station in the area. On August 1, 1965, Mr. Leisner contacted the Commercial Radio Equipment Corp. in Washington, D. C., requesting that a survey be made to determine if a station would be practical. Following the survey, Commercial Radio Equipment Corp. submitted their report to Leisner with the following recommendations:
- A station in the Thurmont area was practical and that an application be filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a 100 watt station, to operate on a frequency of 1450 kilocycles.
- The application should include a request for unlimited time operation with no power cut back.
- For best results the transmitting tower should be located to the north of the community.
On September 20, 1965, Mr. Leisner appeared before Lauren B. Colby, practicing attorney for the FCC, to draw up the legal aspects for filing the application for the proposed radio station. The official application was filed with the FCC on October 1, 1965. A short time thereafter, a proposed ruling was drawn up by the FCC, stating in effect, that applications for 100 watt stations would no longer be considered. For awhile, it appeared that the plans for a radio station in Thurmont were doomed. However, when this ruling was finally adopted, the FCC announced that all applications for 100 watt stations already on file would be exempt from this ruling. This announcement brought new hope to Leisner and his proposed radio station. All that remained between a dream and reality, was the final approval of the application itself.On December 3, 1966, at 11:56 A.M., word was received by Leisner that the FCC had approved a construction permit for a radio station to be built in Thurmont. The Leisner family was overjoyed with the news, but the community was mourning the death of its leading citizen, Mayor Roy W. Lookingbill, who died suddenly on December 1st with an apparent heart attack. Mr. Lookingbill, realizing the need and the value of a radio station in Thurmont, followed with great interest, the developments and progress of the proposed station, but died just two days before the construction permit was authorized by the FCC. Upon receipt of the construction permit, Mr. Leisner, together with his son William, began to draw up plans for a building to house the broadcasting studios. The necessary equipment needed for the station was selected and ordered. A contract was drawn up for the construction work and awarded to a local contractor, Albert L Staub. There was no delay in getting the construction work under-way, and during the months that followed the ground breaking ceremonies, the community watched and waited with deep interest. A radio station for Thurmont was something new and different. History was in the making. Upon completion of the building, installation of the equipment and the erection of the transmitting tower followed. On May 27, 1967, representatives of the FCC visited the site of the new station, located on Radio Lane just a short distance from Carroll Street Extended in the northern part of town. Their visit was for the purpose of inspecting the facilities and to see if the new station met the necessary requirements as laid down by the FCC rulings. The station was approved and on June 2nd application for programming test was submitted to the FCC for approval. It was only a matter of time when the dreams and plans of a radio station in Thurmont would become a reality. Finally, on June 12, 1967, authority for a programming test was received and at 6:19 P.M. that same evening, WTHU went on the air for the first time with the following announcement:
“Good evening. This is radio station WTHU in Thurmont, Maryland, operating on 1450 kilocycles. We are beginning a programming test by authority of the Federal Communications Commission. WTHU, the new sound in town, started action for a radio station in October of 1965. About one year later, after processing through the federal communications commission, we received authority to start construction of the station. When construction was finished a representative from the FCC paid us a visit and made a thorough inspection of our facilities and approved them. The application for programming test was then submitted to the FCC for approval. After much red tape and many months of hard work, the FCC granted WTHU authority to program music. Normally, WTHU will be on the air from 5 a.m. until 12 midnight, with no power reduction. WTHU is owned and operated by the Leisner broadcasting corporation, with studios, offices and transmitter located on radio lane just off Carroll street extended. WTHU is happy to be a part of this growing community. We sincerely hope that we will be of service to Thurmont and the surrounding area by bringing you the latest in news and the finest in entertainment. This is Bill Leisner, inviting you to join us for music, news and entertainment until 7:45 p.m. at which time we will bring you the Baltimore Orioles baseball game direct from Memorial stadium. To start our day here at WTHU is the Rev. Robert Braden of the Thurmont Methodist church.”
In the short time that WTHU has been on the air, it has without a doubt, created a whole new community spirit. Its call letters (WTHU) meaning “with you” are very appropriate indeed. The station has been received with great enthusiasm by the citizens of Thurmont and surrounding areas. Its interest in community affairs, on-the-spot broadcasting, and the use of the facilities of the largest news agency, the Associated Press, in reporting the news, have won for this station the respect and the admiration of the entire community. On July 27, 1967 a corporation was formed and the license for the station, issued in the name of Victor A. Leisner, were transferred to the Leisner Broadcasting Corp. Officers of this corporation arc: Victor A. Leisner, President; William Leisner, Vice President and General Manager; Mrs. Louise Leisner, Secretary-Treasurer. Employees of the station have done a remarkable job in the short time they have been on the air. Besides the officers mentioned above three other members help to make up the staff of WTHU. When the station first went on the air Edwin Ryan, Gary Jagow and Marvin R. (Rocky) Birely, Jr. were members of the staff. The many accomplishments of WTHU speak well for the station and the community which it serves. It has received credit for finding a small boy lost in the Catoctin Mountains. It has, within a 5-hour period, been responsible for collecting over $2,000 in pledges for the truck fund of the local fire company. It appealed to the citizens for clothing for a family that was left homeless as a result of a fire, and the response was most generous. On July 4th it presented a special program in honor of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which gained wide recognition for the station as well as for a local citizen who was responsible for writing and producing the program. The business men of the community have played an important part in the radio station through the sponsorship of programs which have led to increased business awareness and profit, as well as providing an immeasurable service to the community. WTHU has also been given credit for creating community interest to the extent that the local Halloween celebration, the first such event since the station went on the air, was the largest and best attended in many years. Congressman, Charles “Mac” Mathias, Sixth District of Mary-land, was a major figure in helping to obtain the local radio station and it is his wish that WTHU will continue to build upon its early accomplishments. In the years that lie ahead, WTHU pledges to provide new ideas, bring fresh insight to old problems, shed light on new ones, and serve to inspire and advance our understanding and knowledge on many subjects — from the individual to the world scene. As a member of the National Association of Broadcasters, WTHU lives up to the highest standards of broadcasting and will be a leading force for moral and cultural growth in our community, and will, beyond any shadow of doubt, be one of the surest guarantees of a well informed public.