February 1957: New radio station begins broadcasting

Posted 3/1/19

Sixty-two years ago today, local radio listeners tuned in to WARF for the first time.The new station's general manager was Bob Bingham. Harry Height was the chief engineer and Lucille Standefer was …

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February 1957: New radio station begins broadcasting


Sixty-two years ago today, local radio listeners tuned in to WARF for the first time.

The new station's general manager was Bob Bingham. Harry Height was the chief engineer and Lucille Standefer was office manager. 

On-air personalities included Jim Waldrop, a 20-year veteran of the business and an ace newscaster and senior staff announcer for NBC New York; Jim Atkins, who had been named the nation's top country disc jockey while at WSM in Nashville; Bob Robinson, another top DJ and newscaster from Michigan; and Jamie Scot of Hollywood, California, who had been a featured performer on the Steve Allen Show and had worked for a number of large stations around the country. Scot would serve as program director of WARF.

The new station was owned by the Walker County Broadcasting Company. The company's president was Hudson C. Millar Jr., who also owned WKPL in Cullman. 

An inaugural broadcast aired Friday, March 1, 1957, from 4 to 5 p.m. Bob Marshall, chief announcer of WBRC, was the master of ceremonies. 

WARF was the new home of the Birmingham Barons for the 1957 season. 

The Mountain Eagle reported that extensive coverage of all other sports would be offered. News would be broadcast at the top of every hour on top of two 30-minute round-ups at noon and 6 p.m.

The WARF call sign was replaced in 2003 and has changed several times in recent years. We know it today as WJLX.

Several interesting references to WARF appear in the Eagle's digital archives.

In 1999, this paragraph appears in an article marking the 25th anniversary of the 1974 tornado that hit Jasper: "Radio Announcer Joe Cook of WARF broadcast a breathless quote that was picked up by the wire services and carried around the world, 'We can't talk to the Police Department...it just blew away.'"

In 2006, a reporter chatted with Dave Baird of ABC 33/40 about his memories of Jasper. Baird moved here with his family around the age of 12 and started his radio career at WWWB.

“It was a quiet little town,” Baird said of Jasper, “It was ‘Happy Days.’ You had Sherer’s Drive-in as a hang-out with the A-frame and the disc jockey up at the top. Johnny Mac (the late Johnny McPoland) was his name. He used to do his afternoon show up there. Some nights (former Jasper Mayor) Sonny Posey of WARF would be up there playing rock and roll music. I’ll never forget him playing ‘Surfin’ Bird’ up there.”

In 2009, I interviewed Preston Timmons, who was in charge of the station's gospel hour for 25 years.

Timmons was then a resident of The Terrace (now HarborChase) and had been chosen to participate in their Ageless Dreams program, which granted wishes for seniors.

When Timmons was asked if he had a dream to fulfill, he asked for the chance to play his music again for a crowd of people.

He had a large collection of gospel records, cassettes and CDs in his cottage, many of which were given to him by Posey upon his retirement.

Timmons was put in charge of music for the Terrace's monthly family night on Thursday, Oct. 15.

He set up his cassette player at a table in the back and played gospel songs by the Stamps, Happy Goodmans and others throughout the night for residents and their families. He also gave everyone a free CD.

The staff hung a banner over his table that read "WTPT Gospel Radio Show." The mock call letters stood for "Terrace Preston Timmons."

Timmons died in 2013 at the age of 92.

There are two other small items from the Feb. 28, 1957, edition of the Eagle that caught my attention.

One is a photo of Walker College trustee Breck Kilgore, Jasper street superintendent Chesley Sherer and Sylvia Shumaker admiring some new lighting that had been installed at the college. Kilgore had secured some unused lighting from the county, and the city had constructed the foundations and erected the poles under the supervision of Sherer.

The photo isn't especially interesting except for this part of the caption: "The photo above was made the day before Mr. Sherer's untimely death."

The headline of a nearby story states, "C.B. Sherer dies of heart attack on 19th Street."

According to the article, Sherer died on Monday, Feb. 25, 1957.

"He was standing between two workmen looking down into a manhole and as he raised up, he was stricken and collapsed. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital."

Sherer was 56 years old. He had been with the city since May 10, 1949.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.