December 7th, 1947 marked the first year that 1450 AM WLEC, our sister-station, officially took the airwaves, making this year our 70th anniversary!
“In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, change sometimes seems inevitable.
One thing that hasn’t changed for Sandusky radio-listeners is WLEC at 1450 on the AM dial. The longtime fixture in a Quonset hut along Cleveland Road signed on for the first time at 9 a.m. Dec. 7, 1947.
“In an age where everyone claims that radio is dying, the fact that WLEC, an AM station, is celebrating 70 years on the air somewhat quiets that notion,” said Production Director Troy Baumgartner. “I think it’s a testament to the legendary on-air talent over the years, and most importantly, the support WLEC receives from the community.”
The station was one of the first to sign on to the Cleveland Indians Radio Network prior to the Tribe’s 1948 World Championship season, just a few months after the station’s general manager, Jay Wagner, reached an agreement with team owner Bill Veeck.
A.E. Heiser served as the station’s first general manager and his first staff included Wagner, Louis E. Mahla, commercial manager; Donald Dean, farm editor; Bill Westerhold, news director; Donald Gehring, continuity director; Mary Beare, director of women’s programs; and Carol Gassen, traffic manager. Bob “Pinky” Reitz, Dick Petti and Jack Cowden were the station’s first announcers and George Buehrle and Jim Barnhardt were the first engineers.
The station played music when programs such as its farm programming, daily news and marine reports were not being aired. WLEC also hosted and participated in such events as home talent amateur radio shows, Sandusky home shows and cooking shows and contests.
Sports director Mark Fogg’s main focus since joining the staff in 1975 has been high schools sports, a tradition Wagner started at the station’s beginning. Fogg called the 1980 run to a state crown by the St. Mary Central Catholic boys basketball team and the 1998 state football crown won by Perkins.
Other memorable on-air personalities include Karl Bates, who retired to Sandusky after a career with the Mutual Broadcasting System and worked part-time at the station for 20 years. George Mayer hosted the “Make Believe Ballroom” show, featuring the hits from the big-band era, and station events at the Cedar Point Ballroom, while Dickie Schock made his name by playing his guitar and singing country music live during his shows.
The familiar WLEC Quonset hut was renovated in 2002 to accommodate the digital age, but before the station used turntables and reel-to-reel tape until the late 1990s when the transition to digital began.
“We were still editing shows and commercials by using razor blades to cut and splice audio tape,” Shoffner said.
In 1997, the station was purchased by Clear Channel Communications, along with its FM sister station WCPZ, which went with an all-sports programming.
BAS Broadcasting bought the station the following year and quickly returned programming to music from the 40s and 50s. The music focus has slowly shifted to a more classic format with current artists, along with the occasional big-band hit.”
– Dan Angelo, Sandusky Register
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