This was the radio station that I listened to (or rather, my parents listened to) when I was a very young kid.  From this source, things like school closings, weather, lunar landings, news, sports and traffic could be heard.  At one point, there was a guy called the “Traffic Hawk,” (real name Don Foster) who flew in a Cessna 172 east and west over main street in Poughkeepsie advising drivers of any slow downs in the area.  That’s right, Poughkeepsie, New York, population 30,000, had it’s own eye in the sky, broadcasting live from the aircraft overhead.  Actually, I think he also flew up and down South Road (US Route 9) in the vicinity of the IBM plant, which employed quite a few people in those days.

There was also a guy who tried to break the Guinness Book of World Records by staying awake the longest, this happened several times.

For me, it was the school closings.  I hated school with an absolute passion.  Everyday, I would ride the school bus and say a little prayer; “…please God, make it today.  Make the boiler stop working, or the electricity go out.  Make the kitchen catch on fire or the roof cave in.  You are a great and mighty God and I don’t ask for much.  Please destroy my school today.”  Alas, God did not seem interested in this.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

WKIP first signed on in 1940 with the studios and transmitter located at The Nelson House, 42 Market Street, Poughkeepsie.  That building is long gone and the location appears to be the parking lot for the Dutchess County Office building.  Being neighbors with some influential guy from Hyde Park made for a nice dedication speech:

It signed on with a power of 250 watts on 1,420 KC on June 6th, 1940. Soon thereafter, it changed frequency to 1,450 KC as a part of the AM band shift brought about by NARBA.

Over the years, the station went through several ownership changes. The first major technical change came in 1961, when the station transmitter site moved to its current location, then called Van Wagoner Road, now Tucker Drive. The station increased power to 1,000 Watts and installed a directional antenna for daytime use.  It is one of those rare nighttime non-directional, daytime directional stations.

The directional antenna consists of two towers; tower one is 180 degrees tall (103.4 Meters or 340 feet) with 35 degrees of top loading.  That is used for both the day and nighttime array.  Tower two is 85 degrees tall (48.8 Meters or 160 feet) and is used only for the daytime array.  This pushes the major lobe of radiation towards the north.  I don’t know the reasoning behind that, but somebody spends a good amount of money to make it so.

Here is an air check from the early 1980s.  Weather on that day was “Sunny, cloudy, whatever… take your pick.”

Good old Steve Diner.

Today, the station looks like this:

The 1961 WKIP transmitter building with tower
The 1961 WKIP transmitter building with tower

When I was growing up, my cousins lived within walking distance of this. We used to come over and throw rocks at the tower when the station was unmanned on Saturdays and Sundays. At least, I think it was unmanned because no one ever came out and yelled at us.

WKIP backup transmitter, phasor and main transmitter
WKIP backup transmitter, phasor and main transmitter

Mid-1980s MW-1A still runs. The BE AM1A is the main transmitter. The phasor is the Original 1960s Gates Phasor.

This video shows how the studios used to look before they were rebuilt by Clear Channel Circa 2002 or so. At about the 2:02 mark, you will see the room pictured above as it looked in 1990.

The space between the video above and the picture below looked bad with nothing in it. It looks better now.

WKIP clock
WKIP clock

That clock is a collector’s item and belongs in a museum.

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16 thoughts on “WKIP”

  1. Pretty sure that at one time WKIP and WGNY (Newburgh) were co-owned for awhile, and that the rules at that time prohibited contour overlap, leading to the WKIP directional antenna.
    That would have been, I think, before WKIP FM came into being (which later became WSPK when it was sold off before FM was valuable).

  2. I got money that says the Harris sounds better than the BE. I had a similar setup here in Kentucky and would rather had the Harris on the air over the BE.

  3. I like the creative use of the computer switch to hold up the cover on top of the phasor ! 🙂

  4. Bill, that is entirely possible. The station had several owners over the years.
    Scott, it runs the standard iHeart talk format, so not much to gauge the difference between the two transmitters. The MW1A’s were pretty good boxes in their day, we have a couple that are still in primary service.
    Gregg, I had to move the antenna switch manually.
    Andy, that is the most valuable thing in that whole office. I was thinking about hiring an armed guard to make sure that it stays put.

  5. I’ve seen a nearly-identical clock with a second-hand for one of the old Des Moines stations. They look pretty cool with the backlights working.

    One of the old TX sites in town used to have a WU clock above the old transmitter, but it had disappeared the last time I was there.

  6. I had an original MW1 (not the “A” version) that was modded by the late Art Silver of Harris for a third power level, as the station operated at 1KW, 500 watts and 50 watts and critical hours then switching to a whopping 9 watts nighttime with an LPB TX2-20. The only problem I had with the Harris was when a bunch of plastic wire ties holding the STL lines on one tower broke the MW1 would trip off with the change in VSWR. The RCA BTA-1R just hummed along until the tower climber arrived to re-secure the line.

    BTW: Love the clock!

  7. Mike, you have good eyesight. One is the translator for WKIP (W253BV), the other is the backup for WRNQ. There is a shively combiner behind the rack and the antenna is side mounted on the WKIP tower.

  8. Hi Paul,welcome back!
    I visited WKIP back in the late 80’s and I noticed that the Harris was audibly “clicking” almost constantly which might have been tracking the modulation.Since it was my first meeting with a solid state AM TX and my guide was not an engineer,I simply thought to myself,hmm,OK.
    I’ve never heard anything like it from the SX series some years later.Any idea what it was?

  9. Yes, the reason for the directional array…WGNY and WKIP were co-owned for a time….WKIP is one of the few old school class IV ops with a directional array….I lived near the Smith Brothers Cough Drop Factory…my GF was a tailor on Main Street and my father was a Foot Doctor on Main Street…they both had WKIP on all the time….night signal did well to New Hamburg…I was on WFMN 103.1 Newburgh playing elevator music as a DJ 50 years ago. Anyone have “old antenna” site pix of Antenna atop Nelson House?

  10. OMG! I remember my days there (1973-74 & briefly ’76) as an engineer/DJ when it was AM-only. Did weekends and some overnights and occasional fill-ins on the off-peak hours as “Mike Schenley” (the only guy who played any song only once in a 6-hr airshift in his own strict equal-statistical format, while having fun telling short stories with the music… LOVED THE EXPERIENCE!!)

    Remember my first day, right after my last day at WGNY… how to “tweak” the phasor ’cause the parameters drifted if it rained (during my “sabbatical” a problem in the phase-monitor system was real cause and fixed!) Learned how to rebuild audio carts, edit open-reel tapes, do monthly reports of new records for distributors, keep fingers off the Austin ring-transformer, etc. – the kind of valuable, unforgettable, REAL “hands-on” education you can’t get anywhere else.

    Great colleagues during the “booze-name” Fun Ones days, like Johnny Walker, Bill Booze, “Traffic Hawk” etc. I truly treasure – and miss – those days and people and memories… thanks for keeping ’em alive!

  11. The Hawk! I was a student at Vassar College from 1971 – 76 and worked at Command Airways at Dutchess County Airport (KPOU) out on the line and eventually as a reservations and ticket agent.
    We watched The Hawk take off and land every day and WKIP was “the source” for local news. And yes, the booze name DJ’s like Johnny Walker. Great memories. So little local color in radio today.

  12. I miss the 60’s and 70’s KIP. I remember the Hawk, my next door neighbor knew him. He would fly over and we would wave at him and he waved back. I also know Jeff S. who IIRC DJ’d there in the 90’s. Little guy with a big voice! Nice guy.

  13. Any of you 70s-era guys know if WKIP used a Gatesway-II console back then? I have one with ‘WKIP’ scratched onto the front panel 🙂

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