KPCW’s broadcasting of news, weather, and music is thanks to many different voices.
Randy Barton, current host of ‘The Local View’ since 2005, joined as a volunteer in 1986. He recalls Blair Fuelner and Susan Finegan were the heart and soul of the station along with a force of rowdy volunteers.
Few constraints were placed on the volunteer Air Force, other than legal restrictions relating to obscenity, editorialization, and libel. “I have fine memories of program directors trying to ‘reign in’ the volunteer DJs. There were some real characters on the air,” Barton said. “There wasn’t much in terms of staff and most work was done by 3 p.m. daily. Lots of changing faces over the years.”
Some of those early voices were known for a particular genre: Summit County Treasurer Bob Williams and his Classical music, Police Chief Frank Bell playing Folk tunes, and Rock ‘n’ Roll with ‘the Rattler’ – a.k.a. Beth Fratkin.
And some of those voices have been heard for forty years now. Bill ‘Mr. Bill’ Edwards has been on air with KPCW bringing us classic rock via LP records, CDs, tapes, and mp3 since the second month of operation.
Fratkin started volunteering a few months after KPCW signed on the air. “I was always into radio and when I arrived here to find a local radio station, I was over the moon,” she said. “For a few years I did a Friday midnight, or whenever, show from the old bunker in the Memorial building. We had two turntables and a mic in a spot about as big as a closet. The control board looked like the dashboard of a ’64 Chevy with maybe 5 pots or dials that brought the inputs in. There was also a reel-to-reel tape machine that was mostly used to edit the news and for production.”
Former Program Director Don Gomes also encouraged board members, like Syd Reed, to have on-air presence. “He convinced me – pregnant with my second child – to go on the air with something I was familiar with,” Reed said. “So from 1980 to 1982 I had a cooking show, ‘T.T. Tillie’s Gourmet Tips,’ with quick, easy recipe ideas. I made the tapes in the studio at the projection room at the Memorial building or at home while the kids were sleeping. The DJ’s played them at noon and 6 pm.”
Barton recalls the early station observed ‘hospitality’ at times during the shows – and invited folks to come and hang out. That open door policy is another way KPCW was operated by locals for locals.
“Programming was eclectic but always driven by local, local, local,” emphasized Barton. “Music programming has changed from ‘anything goes’ in the beginning to our current play list.”
In addition to providing music, and local personality-driven programs, KPCW was also dedicated to informing its audience with local news interviews and updates from day one. Station founder Blair Fuelner established a reputation for being a tough, but fair interviewer. During the morning local news, city officials and community leaders would answer Fuelner’s questions live on the air.
In September, 1990, Leslie Thatcher joined the station as a reporter. She continues Fuelner’s interviewing legacy on The Local News Hour every weekday. Rick Brough joined KPCW from The Park Record in the late 80’s, and has covered local planning commissions and county council meetings for the past thirty years. The station has also been an NPR affiliate for decades, carrying Morning Edition and NPR headlines at the top of every hour, but the local voices are what continue to drive KPCW.