The first official broadcast of the WOAS radio station started at 8:00 AM on Friday, December 15, 1978. The station installed in two study rooms of the Ontonagon Area Schools library and the first manager was OAHS librarian, Thomas Graham Lee. At the time, the station featured two reel-to-reel players and two vinyl record turntables. Wiring for remote broadcasting from the cafeteria and gymnasium of the high school building was installed at the time that the station was being constructed. One of the many highlights of the installation process was the raising of the tower on the western side of the gym. Suffice to say it took a lot of manpower and rope to set the tower in place.
It would be difficult to compile a list of names for those who helped build the station, but Electronics Teacher Larry Matioli and station Engineer Jim Bradley would need to be mentioned for the problem solving and station development work they did. Our superintendent at the time, the late Louis Gregory, was also very supportive of the concept from the start.
Margaret Muskatt succeeded Thomas Lee as manager in 1985 and, in the years that followed, the station operation began to suffer due to under-funding and aging equipment (which was donated to begin with) Ultimately this lead to a lull in staff morale and decreased participation by a shrinking OASD student body. In 1987, the Community Schools program took over daily operations under the leadership of CS Director Mike Bennett. What followed was a decade of growth fueled by an increase in operating income for the station. Manager/DJ Mike ‘Zenith’ Bennett should be given a lot of credit for thinking outside of the box and expanding the WOAS programming and vision during this period of the station’s history.
As the 1990s progressed, the profile of WOAS again bottomed out as the Community Schools budget took massive hits statewide, thus ending this phase of the station’s history. The Ontonagon Area School District continued to be the station’s owner and operations continued with a skeleton crew of volunteers when the Community Schools program ceased to exist in 1994. In 1995, Bennett became the OASD elementary school principal and eventually left the area for other employment opportunities. Bennett’s departure left the station without an acting manager. In 1997, the station hit its nadir when our FCC license was about to expire. The Ontonagon Area School District board and administration at that time was either unaware of the situation or had decided to let the station fold with no one on board to take the reins.
It was in this same year (1997) that science teachers Ken Raisanen and Chuck Zelinski made a pitch to the new OASD superintendent John Peterson to take over station operations and begin renovating not just the program, but the entire studio. The broadcast license was renewed and a program began to refurbish the station’s infrastructure and equipment. With generous grants from the Ontonagon Area School District (OASD), the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO), community members and volunteers, the station underwent a major remodeling and equipment replacement campaign. Renovations began concurrently with the carpeting in the library being replaced and we were given the opportunity to have the original 1967 studio flooring replaced at the same time. All that had to be done was to completely empty both studio rooms in one day and then put it all back the day after the carpet installation was done. The full station rehab took two years to complete and periodic maintenance and equipment replacement is an ongoing process through the present day. Replacing the studio monitor components of the main broadcast board (from a lightning strike a few years ago) has been the biggest equipment expense we have absorbed since the renovation process began.
I officially assumed the Station Manager position in 1997 and am currently the longest tenured Station Manager to date (2016-17 school year). The most vexing problem we have dealt with since the turn of the century has been establishing a stable web presence. The foundation for our web and video streaming was done by former OASD student Mark Szaroletta who built our earliest servers (Kang and Kodos) from spare parts. Former DJ Tyler Moore did more work on the first version of the servers and also installed our EAS (Emergency Alert System) module. Intermediate School District computer tech Doug Mechlin took us to the next level and his replacement Ted Belej has take us even further up the technology ladder. Ted put ISD employee Stephen Radachy on the case and the web presence at www.woas-fm.org we now enjoy is largely due to their efforts.
As a rule, I don’t like to list names when saying thank you for fear of missing someone. The few folks listed here are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of the people who have been involved with WOAS-FM since Tom Lee first dreamed up the idea. We owe every one of our volunteers a large ‘thank you’ for all their efforts. The key word here is “volunteer” because each and every one of us at WOAS-FM is a volunteer who got involved for the joy of sharing radio with the local community (and now, the world on our web site). The school district does cover our heat, lights, and music license fees, but everything else is funded by our recycling project, public donations, and a share of the vending machine sales at the OASD building. Please join us as we carry WOAS-FM forward to its’ 40th birthday in 2018 and remember that any donations made to the station are tax deductible.
As of September 2016, we have taken care of our summer maintenance issues. We are gearing up for the new broadcast year that officially began September 6, 2016. It takes a few weeks to build the station’s day staff. If you are interested in joining WOAS-FM as part of our evening program schedule, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a message at 906-813-0614 Ext 109. Ken Raisanen, WOAS-FM Manager
Top Piece Video – okay, I am reading a book about the 1960 U-2 incident – but this FTV is about history, after all!