By Jacob Larocca
This article is the writer’s own and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Concordiensis or its staff.
“Wireless Radio Sent By Union: Radio Club Transmits Phonographic Entertainment for a Radius of 50 Miles” was the Concordiensis headline in Oct. 1920. The article was referring to the first “aerial concert” in collegiate history.
Before the radio station was know as WRUC, it operated under the name Union College Radio Society (UCRS). On Oct. 15, 1920, a standard phonograph was used to play jazz for two 15-minute periods over a range of 50 miles on 640 AM.
Mere minutes later, operators tuned the equipment and communicated via radio with Cornell university, receiving a play-by-play report on the Union vs. Cornell game going on at the time, also a first of its kind. First-of-a-kind broadcasts like these are the legacy of WRUC today.
Originally the station went by the callsign 2ADD, which were the personal call letters of a UCRS member at the time. Since then, the station has changed its call sign numerous times, including 2XQ, WRL, UBS and UCRS, before finally settling on WRUC.
In the April 25, 1921 edition of the New York Times, the station was reported to have been heard 1000 miles away.
Later that month, for a publicity stunt, the electrical engineers in the radio club rigged a baby carriage with large batteries, a radio and a loudspeaker, and proceeded to walk around the streets of Schenectady broadcasting the radio.
Reportedly when the woman pushing the carriage met a police officer friend, she simply put the baby carriage to the side, turned up the radio to entertain her baby and then walked away to speak to the officer.
WRUC’s archives are hardly complete, though. A large gap in the archives stops at about 1940, when the UCRS was a prominent player in all campus events, and it provided the primary form of media entertainment for the campus. Programming included “The Pageant of Union,” a history of The Idol, improv skits by the Mountebanks theater group, collaborations with commercial radio stations, trivia challenges and interviews with professors.
Another gap in the archives occurs until the early sixties, when the station recieved a major upgrade to its equipment. By that time, interviews with popular artists, live music broadcasts and coverage campus-wide events were an everyday occurrence.
A decade later, in Sept. 1975, the radio station replaced its equipment again, finally switching from AM to FM. Accompanying the AM-FM transition, the station playlist was automated for the first time. Making all of this possible was the substantial WRUC budget, equivalent to almost $80,000 today.