When an article appeared in The Valley News January 6, 1939 announcing the coming of the “Quick quiz” program to Athens, Sayre, and Waverly on alternating Wednesdays, one sentence in the article brought a number of phone calls and personal calls to the newspaper office, to correct the sentence which stated: “as far as could be learned, this is the first time a real broadcast of any kind has originated in any of the three towns of the Valley.”
Within a few hours after the papers had been delivered, the calls started to come in, advising the editor that the paper knew not where of they spoke.
Prior to the spring of 1930, a number of merchants were sponsoring programs over WMBF in Binghamton. Weekly they would send local talent from the Valley to the studios in that city for special broadcasts.
According to the story, Harold E. “Doc” Weller and George D. Powers got their heads together. They were then both with the firm of Powers, Soaper and Mosher, furniture store, and decided instead of taking the talent on the trip to Binghamton each week to broadcast locally.
A sound-proof studio, built to the best specifications of the day, was erected in one corner of the main floor of the Powers, Soaper and Mosher furniture store 227 South Main street in Athens.
The room (studio at that time) was 12 by 15 feet. It was later used as a furniture storeroom, but one could not enter it without feeling that at most any time the voice from those of the first local broadcasters would come to life.
George Powers told that “Doc” Weller was sort of a program arranger, talent scout and master of ceremonies. Each week they would travel over the territory scouting for local talent for the radio show, which went on the air direct from Powers Studio, for a period of over six months.
“I think it would still be going,” said “Doc” Weller, “but in those days getting to Binghamton on our sets down here was pretty much of a job—remember that was way back in 1930 and radio was still pretty young then.”
At the time there were no printed mementos of the broadcast, so from the memories of George D. Powers, “Doc” Weller, Tim Scannell, Fred Powers, Bird Sumner and others, some of the artists who appeared on these original Valley broadcasts were, Joe Nunan and checkerboard orchestra well known in the Valley; then there was Arthur Belcher of East Athens and his harmonica band. Mrs. Julia Bingham of Waverly sang on the program almost weekly, as did Anna Gil Martin of Sayre, later Mrs. Paul Sullivan. The square dance music of that time was taken care of by Lynn Williams and his Susquehanna Trail Blazers.
The typical harmony of the day was dispensed by the “Towanda Quartette.” Then there was a group of professional cowboys who were playing the theaters on a personal tour in this vicinity who yelled their yippee and yahoos from the Powers Studio each week. They were known as the Oklahoma Cowboys.
From East Smithfield for one broadcast came the entire Glee Club of that town. The exact number of persons in that glee club was not remembered, but what is remembered was the difficulty of getting the entire group into what was considered a very very small studio.
Apparently, it resembled a crowd boarding a New York subway train during rush hours, for each time the program manager thought the entire personnel of the club was crowded in the studio up would pop another member left over in the push.
These were the early days of broadcasting direct from the Valley and those connected with the enterprise at the time said “We didn’t make any money, and there were a lot of headaches to the broadcasting business, but it certainly kept us on the jump, and we had a lot of fun.”
The January 1939 article announced that Glen Williams, well-known radio news, sports and quiz announcer would conduct the “Quick Quiz” programs for the Spaulding bakeries originating in Athens, Sayre and Waverly on alternating Wednesday at noon, beginning January 11.
The first broadcast from Sayre went on the air Wednesday January 25, 1939 at noon over WESG, Elmira with Glen Williams conduction the Spaulding “Quick Quiz” from the corner of Desmond and Packer avenue.
Those interviewed on the initial Sayre broadcast were: Mayor Jesse Inman of Sayre; Jay Scanlin, tax collector; Harry Vosburgh, president of the Sayre School Board; Daniel Tierney, former chief of the Sayre Fire Department, and Postmaster A. L. Laws of Sayre.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.