The History of WLRH
By George Dickerson
The original WLRH staff photograph that appears on this page had been stored away in a file cabinet for the past two and a half decades, and during those many years, I had only glanced at the photo a couple of times and placed it back in the file folder without giving much thought to the historical value of this group shot. But as the station prepares for its Silver Anniversary, I again looked at the photo, and it dawned on me that this was more than just an obscure photograph hidden in the station's archives. This was a document wrapped in the history of WLRH. Here was a photo that triggered memories from the station’s beginning and made me stop and think about the day we gathered at 222 Holmes Avenue East for the photo session and wonder what ever became of those fourteen original staff members.
The photograph was taken on October 12, 1976, the day before WLRH was due to go on the air.
As we assembled in the lobby of the station for the photo session, we were all a little edgy with something like opening night jitters. And because our station engineer had to deal with so many last minute technical glitches, some of us were concerned that the station would not be able to sign on the next day.
At any rate, we all showed up for the group shot: the men in their 1976 double knit wide lapel suit coats, and the women in whatever dress outfits were in style that year. The photographer instructed us on how and where to stand. We all smiled for the camera, and the historic moment was recorded on film. We then put the suit coats away and went back to work as we fretted and wondered if we would really be able to sign the station on the air the next day, or if maybe WLRH would never become Alabama’s First Full Service Public Radio Station.
But as everyone knows, the station did go on the air on October 13, 1976, and WLRH has been broadcasting to north Alabama and south central Tennessee ever since. Of course, we have had our share of bumps in the road during the past 39 years. If I would attempt to recount all of the obstacles the station has encountered and overcome during its history, a separate article of multiple pages would be required.
And what about those 14 faces in the picture from the past? Who were they? And where are they now? Well, let me just say that many of the folks in the photo left WLRH during the early days of the station’s history. At least two of the original staff are now employed at NPR member stations in other parts of the country. Some of the former WLRH staff members who were in the group photo are now working in occupations other than radio. And I am sorry to report that I can identify at least three of the people in the photo who are no longer living. I have no idea where some of the others are or what might have happened to them.
But if you look closely, you might recognize two of those original fourteen who are still with WLRH. As I said, look closely, because those two faces have changed during the past quarter century. As some say: Time takes its toll.
Who knows? Maybe years from now as WLRH observes its Golden Anniversary, a staff member might stumble on the original staff photo in the station’s archives and remark: My, what an interesting relic from the past--and what funny-looking clothing styles!