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Written April 18, 2018

That was the official title on the cover of the publication:  PROGRAMS.  But everybody called it “the WOBC Program Guide.”

Our radio station ordered thousands of three-part folders, printed in assorted colors on one side of 8½"x14" paper.  Each week we selected a color and printed our schedule in black ink on the inside.

I arrived at Oberlin College as a freshman in the fall of 1965.  Although my major would be physics, I was also interested in broadcasting.  I was happy to discover that Oberlin students operated a ten-watt FM station at 88.7 (plus 590 AM), and I soon volunteered to be a sportscaster.

When my first Program Guide arrived, I read it closely and filed it away.  Most semesters there were 14 editions, and I saved them all.  By the time I graduated in the spring of 1969, I had 110 of these little folders.

Preparing for my 50th anniversary reunion in the spring of 2019, I organized my collection into two oversized loose-leaf binders for display at our Class of '69 headquarters dorm.

Thus bound, the Guides weigh a total of six pounds, but they're now easier to page through.

I've spent several days doing so.  Here's some of what I've learned — and relearned — about those fun times at WOBC.

Publishing and Distribution

During my college years, the Program Guide was edited by Tom Clark (near right) and/or Bruce Robinson (far right).

If I recall correctly, they would lay out each next week's edition on a Friday.

In our inner office, we had an IBM Selectric typewriter with a proportional font ball and a carbon-film ribbon.

It produced a great-looking output which almost appeared to have been professionally typeset.

Once the listings were typed, they were cut into columns and affixed to a giant 11"x18" sheet.  A few boldface words were attached with rubber cement, as I've simulated in this illustration.

Then the pasted-up original was rolled up and delivered to the college print shop, where it was photographically reduced to 77% of its original size and printed onto the colorful covers. 

The finished Guides were folded, addressed, and sent out on Saturday either via the free campus mail or, for off-campus subscribers who had provided their Zip code, via the U.S. Postal Service (non-profit organization, Oberlin, Ohio, permit no. 26). 

I don't remember the incident, but apparently in early October 1968 the Selectric needed attention from an IBM repairman.

For one week only, Mr. Clark had to prepare the listings using an ordinary typewriter.  The results didn't look nearly as good, but what are you going to do?


The Crazy Quilt

WOBC's broadcast schedule was diversified, to say the least.

Here I've depicted afternoon and evening programs beginning at 1:30 p.m. — or at “130,” to use the Program Guide's space-saving anti-colonic style.  (Not shown are the mornings, when we were on the air for at least 90 minutes each day.)  This particular grid represents the week that began Monday, November 29, 1965. 

Oberlin College has a Conservatory of Music, so it's not surprising that the grid back then was dominated by classical-music programs represented with blue blocks.  Lighter blue is vocal music, including a live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera.  It was generally believed, at least by non-Conservatory students, that classical was good background noise for studying.

Orange blocks represent popular music, both traditional and rock 'n roll.  The pop music department also programmed special categories represented by other colors:  purple for jazz, brown for folk music, and yellow for Broadway original-cast albums.

But WOBC aired much more than music!  Red represents news.  Green is live sports.  Magenta is comedy.  Black is poetry and drama.  And the thin bands of gray are informational public-service programs.  I'll detail this spoken-word programming in the second half of this article.

A commercial broadcaster could never subject its audience to such irregularity.  However, it worked for our campus station.  We had over 100 student volunteers who all wanted to “do their own thing,” and those interests varied widely.  We also assumed we had over 2,000 listeners, and each could find his/her favorites with the help of the free Program Guide.



As you can see from the grid, “prime time” every evening featured classical music.  (Except, of course, for that green block.  That represents my contribution, live play-by-play of a basketball game.)

Our announcers chose most of the records from our well-stocked library.  In some cases they played recordings that Conservatory professors had assigned to their classes as homework.

When students began cramming for final exams at the end of each semester, WOBC doubled down, playing nothing but classical around the clock.  “The music is uninterrupted,” explained the Program Guide, “except for announcement of title and performer, and is designed to be studied by — or for a relaxing break.”

Jan. 22, 1967

800 a.m.

Once again, as for the past four semesters, WOBC presents uninterrupted classical music to study by.  In this Marathon, WOBC will present 240 straight hours of music, continuing through 900 (a.m.) Tuesday, January 31.

May 28, 1967

1200 a.m.

Begins at midnight, Sunday the 28th, 24 hours a day, until June 6th at noon.  The Music Appreciation Listening Review Session (whew!) will be broadcast before the final Wednesday.  At both 800 and 1000 on Tuesday night, WOBC will broadcast the final review for the test, as a special service to those taking the final the next day.

At his class reunion in 2018, Ted Gest (left) told of one evening when he was on duty for the Marathon.  The staffer who was supposed to be next canceled.  Ted couldn't stay on; he had an exam the next day.  He phoned others who couldn't fill in, either.  Would WOBC have to sign off at midnight?

Finally, between records, Ted asked if any listeners wanted to take the graveyard shift.  One did call.  He'd never done radio before, so Ted had to teach him, including how to log transmitter readings.  Then Ted left.  The next morning, everything had been logged correctly, so all must have gone well, but the volunteer record-spinner never was seen again. 

Towards the end of my senior year in 1969, our chief engineer installed a device that could play five hours of music unattended, using two very long reels of very thin tape.  We called this little robot Igor.  Once the Classical Marathon began, we programmed him as a backup in case a human host again failed to show up.

And, as it turned out, I had to make use of Igor myself!  Upon graduation, I confiscated the error report and took it with me.  You see it below.

Apparently I had signed up for the overnight shift that began at midnight on Saturday morning, May 24.

When no one relieved me at dawn, I soldiered on, alerting listeners about live pictures of the moon coming from Apollo 10.  Finally, at 10:27 a.m., I gave up and started the automation.  Tape Long A played, and then B.

Our listeners heard An American in Paris shortly after 3:00 that Saturday afternoon.  About then, Jennifer Wagner must have stopped by, rewound A to the Stölzel, and reactiviated Igor at 3:38 p.m.

Then I must have rewound  B so that Igor could switch back to it at 6:12.  Unless someone showed up that evening, our listeners heard An American in Paris again after 8:00.

Eventually a real live classical record-spinner must have taken the controls.  After all, the Marathon was supposed to continue through Wednesday afternoon.

By the way, this is what the control room looks like nowadays.  Click the photo for a closer look at those notes plasted on the window.


Pop Shows

In the olden days, student radio had gotten its start at Oberlin when hobbyists transmitted music from “inside WOMB” around suppertime.  “There was a good bit of conversation about it around the dinner table and afterwards,” recalled Roger Brucker of the Class of 1951. 

By the time I arrived on campus, the SAGA Corporation was managing the dining halls.  They grilled steaks for us on Saturday evenings, but students sometimes complained about other fare.  WOBC tried to ease the pain with “easy listening” for the dinner hour. 

Sept. 24, 1966


Music for steak-eating.

Oct. 30, 1966


The soothing sounds of Rich Wasserbly.

Dec. 3, 1966


Listen to the home of the Oberlin Transistorized Eating Club with Bob Steyer, where the taste in music is better than the taste in food.

March 3, 1966


Wayne Alpern comforts those on their way to their first SAGA dinner in two weeks.

May 6, 1966


Paul Sturm features moldy oldies — on a dinner music show? ? ?

Not all the suppertime music was “easy listening.”  DINNER DATE disk jockeys, like all WOBC hosts, could choose any records they liked.  I talked with one of them recently; she recalled an evening just after a breakup with her boyfriend when she played nothing but sad songs.  Afterwards, everyone who had been listening asked her what was wrong.

Ken Levine talked with Neil Ross for his podcast dated October 10, 2018.  As Ken recalled, they both were disk jockeys "back in the Sixties and Seventies, when radio was still fun.  Kids growing up back in those days saw radio as a viable creative option."

Neil agreed.  "A disk jockey actually had some sort of cachet on a local level.  Now they're on a level with people who deliver the mail.

“To younger people you say, 'Pretend there's no Internet, no smart phones.   If you want to hear the music, you've got one or two stations in town that play it.  If you have a favorite record, you've got to wait for the disk jockey to play it.'

“It gave radio stations and disk jockeys a tremendous amount of star power because they were the conduit to the music."

I recall when WOBC received a brand-new album in the mail, we wanted to know which of its songs, if any, were likely to make our unwritten playlist. 

In the back of the station was a “conference room” with its own little control booth.  We'd turn on the “consolina,” put the LP on the turntable, and listen to a bit of each track.

More times than not, it was obvious which songs would be hits.  We'd start airing the chosen tracks that very evening, before our “competition” (the commercial stations) could get the official word from Billboard magazine.

In 1965, popular music of various kinds was scattered over three other dayparts.

In the morning from 715 to 845, there was a disk jockey program called SUNRISE!  Every weekday a different rock 'n roll DJ coaxed sleepyheads to their 800 and 900 classes, also reading news from the teletype machine at 730, 800, and 840.

When I became Program Director in February 1968, we expanded SUNRISE! to a full two hours, 700 to 900.

In the afternoon from 400 to 545, five different genres shared the generic title of RENDEZVOUS, with jazz on Monday, rock on Tuesday, folk on Wednesday, Broadway on Thursday, and pop on Friday.

Eventually RENDEZVOUS also expanded to two hours, 330 to 530.  In the process the music choices were homogenized, becoming almost entirely rock.

And in late night in 1965, beginning at 11:30 there was variety under varied titles:  folk on Monday, jazz on Tuesday, French pop music on Wednesday, more jazz on Thursday, “music and wit” on Friday, and even more jazz on Saturday.

When Joyce Roberts premiered her Wednesday showcase of French songs on October 6, she called it LET’S EAT CAKE.  That name did not survive.  By the next week, it had become LES CHANSONS.


Title Goes Here

Most shows did have rather obvious monikers like LES CHANSONS.  Soul music was played on FILET OF SOUL and SOUL PATROL.  Around midnight we heard THE ZERO HOUR and NIGHT PATROL.  And SUNRISE! welcomed the dawn.

But creativity was encouraged.  Marc Krass, who considered his name rather crass and therefore called himself “Marc Knight” on the air, titled his first show KNIGHT TRAIN even though his time slot was on Monday afternoon.

Other titles were seemingly selected at random, including:



Clever Comments

The Program Guide printed more than program titles; we listed the selections that the classical hosts were going to play, and we tried to describe every pop program.  But we couldn't simply repeat “John Doe spins some records” every week.  It was necessary to be a bit more colorful.

“Jeff Moore bumbles through another show.”
“Richard Davis returns from his geology field trip, stoned.”
“Ted Jacobson pulls the trigger, as we say in radio, on some 45's.”
“Jerry Case makes you actually want to go to your classes.”

Alluding to our frequencies, sometimes we touted “the top 88.7” or “the top 59.0.”  Or perhaps the calendar could provide inspiration.

February 28, 1966

Cindy Miller laments the lack of leap year.”

November 1, 1967

Only 33,568 more shopping days 'til Instant Millennium!”

December 17, 1967

“Merry Christmas if she's willing.”

Show titles were humorously altered, such as PISTACHIO instead of “Pasticcio” or MUSIC DEPRECIATION LISTENING instead of “Appreciation.”  When Randy hosted RENDEZVOUS it became RANDY-VOUS.  CASTLE HIDEAWAY with Rich Davis was once listed as CASTILE RINSEAWAY with Rich Suds.

And then there were a few presumably accidental misspellings, otherwise known as typographical errors.  Examples:

Pete Seegar
Lee Beckettttt
Premier Week

I thought the most out-of-control typo involved a suite by François Couperin titled “Les Fastes de la Grande et Ancienne Mxnxstrxndxsx.”  However, I later learned this title was not an error.  The composer, lampooning the lowly street musicians of the Great and Ancient Minstrels' Guild, had treated their union's name as an unprintable obscenity.



Most classical music programs used generic descriptive titles, like CONCERT HALL or EVENING CONCERT.  A program of orchestral music called BATON was alternately hosted by Tawn Reynolds and Mike Barone until the spring of 1967.  But then Mike dropped the BATON.  As Classical Music Director, he could do that.


March 14, 1967


? ? ? – Mike Barone
The un-heard-of in Classical Music!

April 11, 1967


The show takes a title!

Later editions of MUSIC OFFBEAT featured such oddities as Chiakin's Concerto for Accordion, as well as “recent discoveries by the great Baroque master P.D.Q. Bach.”

In November 1967, we began presenting programs about OLD SWEDISH ORGANS lasting 15 minutes.  The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation taped this feature on location at their nation's venerable churches.  After Mike graduated, he hosted a long-running organ series called “Pipe Dreams” on public radio under the name Michael Barone.

Here are a dozen other shows of interest.  I've added explanations in red.



March 9, 1966


VIRTUOSO – John Heckenlively
Featuring Dennis Brain.
Brain was an English French-horn player who drove his sports car into a tree in 1957.  Off the air, John mourned the loss of the late Mr. Brain's unmuffled clear tone.  All other hornists, John told us, "sound like they're blowing into a watermelon."

April 5, 1967


VIRTUOSO – John Heckenlively
John later filled three hours (spread over three weeks) with nothing but Wanda Landowska at the harpsichord.

Dec. 16, 1965


Six classical hosts collaborated for an 11-hour celebration of the composer's birthday.  Highlight: Leonard Bernstein (on disk) with Beethoven's rejected sketches for his Fifth Symphony.

March 6, 1966


The faculty recital of Emil Danenburg/Piano.
This series featured tapes from the Conservatory, mostly of student performances.  Mr. Danenburg would later serve as the college's President from 1975 to 1982.

Sept. 16, 1966


Live and direct from New York's Lincoln Center, WOBC presents the premiere performance of Barber's Antony and Cleopatra.
This was the gala official opening of the Met's brand-new Opera House.  Later, once the regular season began on December 3, we aired live operas on Saturday afternoons.  Unfortunately, like all out-of-town remotes, the network feed came to Oberlin over an ordinary telephone line with marginal sound quality.

March 6, 1967


PASTICCIO – Clark Hyde
Out-of-this-world humor was featured from Gerard Hoffnung's 1958 Interplanetary Music Festival.

April 9, 1967


ARCHIVE – Dave Richmond 
The history of the acoustic phonograph, with selections from 1900 to 1926.

Nov. 29, 1967


Maureen Forrester, contralto, and the McGill University Chamber Orchestra.
This concert was recorded at the Expo 67 world's fair in Montreal.

Feb. 23, 1968


A duet by Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin.  Really!

May 18, 1968

 700 a.m.

You asked for it!  Over 500 of you asked WOBC to present Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, complete in one day.  Come on up to the studios and keep Richard Rodstein company!
Of course, Mr. Rodstein had solicited those requests.

Sept. 15, 1968


CONSORT HALL – Dave Burbank
No, this was not a misprint of “Concert Hall.”  In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a “consort” was merely a group of musicians consorting with one another.

Feb. 24, 1969


Happy Birthday, Enrico Caruso!  The original 78's.
Mr. Rodstein had visited a man with an impressive Caruso collection.  Made between 1902 and 1920, the original records were labeled with the speeds at which they should be played to reproduce the correct pitch — not always exactly 78 rpm.  Dick transferred the music to tape, which he then aired on his WOBC program.  (He later received a Masters degree at Syracuse University, two years after I did.)



So which types of music did our listeners actually prefer to hear?  In December of 1966, when I was a sophomore, we took a poll.

Generally speaking, the results showed “there continues to be strong interest in classical music here.  More popular music is wanted in the rock, folk and jazz fields.  And less light pop and sportscasts are desired.”

Therefore, in the future there was less “easy listening” on shows like DINNER DATE.  But no less sports!

Never mind that our student body had little interest in intercollegiate athletics.  Never mind that serious musicians resented having their classical music pre-empted on random weeknights by 2½ hours of basketball jibber-jabber.  I was about to start my second semester as Sports Director, and I was determined to keep on jibbering and jabbering until I graduated!

In the second half of this article, I'll describe WOBC's sports and news.  You'll also hear about some special programs under the headings of “Thursday Noon Live” and “Friday Night Live” and “Saturday Morning Live.”  Click here to continue!



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