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Jan 28 2008

Market research, 60 years ago

As of this month, it’s been eight years since Charleroi’s WESA (940) and sister station WZKT-FM (98.3) disappeared into Keymarket Communications. The FM station, which changed its call letters to WOGI-FM, was moved to Pittsburgh and re-licensed to “Duquesne.” It’s now part of Keymarket’s “Froggyland” country format also heard on 94.9 in Fayette, 103.5 in Burgettstown (formerly in Steubenville), and 104.3 in Moon Township (formerly East Liverpool).

WESA was one of hundreds of new AM stations that filled the U.S. airwaves after World War II. The FM station signed on about 20 years later.

These days, the little 250-watt daytime AM signal (five watts at night) on 940 in Charleroi is almost completely irrelevant; under the call letters WFGI, it now simulcasts WOGI-FM from its single tower located along Interstate 70, just west of the Speers Bridge.

Click to enlargeBut when it signed on back on Sunday, Nov. 9, 1947, the mid-Mon Valley was thrilled to finally have its own radio station, and the new owners surveyed listeners through the Charleroi Daily Mail and Monessen Daily Independent.

Reported the Mail on Monday:

Congratulatory telegrams, letters and telephone calls were received by the management of radio station WESA, Charleroi’s first commercial broadcasting outlet …

(Manager) Pierre Paulin introduced the staff on the air yesterday from 3:45 to 4 p.m. as the dawn to dusk station broadcast a diversified and timely Sabbath program. Liberal responses were received from local and distant points noting clarity of reception and offering congratulations.

Today WESA was on routine broadcasts from its central office, located at the Charleroi Recreational park, Fifth street. … Ministers, district burgesses and KDKA artists have been invited to participate in the formal opening next Sunday afternoon.

WESA’s weekday schedule for January 1948 included sign-on at 7:30 with news and music; a daily 15-minute religious program at 8:15; news at 11 a.m., 12 noon, 1, 3, and 4:30 p.m.; a sports report at 4; and a phone-in trivia show at 12:15. Sign off was at 5 p.m.

There was plenty of rural territory inside WESA’s signal area in Washington and Westmoreland counties, which is why the station also ran a farm report at 12:45 p.m. daily. (In other words, you didn’t hear any frogs on the air, but you might have heard a few chickens and cows.)

By the way: The Charleroi Mail is defunct, too; it was merged in 1960 with a one-time competitor, the Monessen Daily Independent. The surviving paper, The Valley Independent, is today owned by the Tribune-Review‘s parent company.