When I was a student and DJ at Haverford College’s campus-only station, I longed for the audience available to nearby Haverford High School’s FM radio station WHHS. As was the case with my own station WHRC, I had no idea about WHHS’s incredible history.
One of the oldest licensed high school radio stations in the United States, WHHS was awarded a construction permit (PDF) from the FCC in February, 1949 and began broadcasts later that year as a 10 watt radio station at 89.3 FM. A program (PDF) from its opening night states that the station was located on the 2nd floor of the high school on Darby Road in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Press accounts at the time indicate that WHHS was the first high school radio station in Pennsylvania.
Last week, the Kal and Lucille Rudman Foundation donated $10,000 to WHHS in order to help the station with needed upgrades. On February 20, the Rudmans visited the station and were on hand when the studio was renamed in their honor. Kal Rudman, the founder of the music and radio industry publication Friday Morning Quarterback (FMQB), is also a supporter of several Philadelphia-area college radio stations.
Although the mood is celebratory at WHHS today, back in 2004, WHHS faced an uncertain future after a new 6,000 watt commercial broadcaster was slated to move to WHHS’s 107.9 spot on the dial (where it had been located since 1992). According to a 2004 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as a class D station, WHHS had little recourse. The article states that class D stations “must yield in any conflict with a class A station.” Luckily for WHHS, the commercial broadcaster actually worked to help the high school station find an open frequency in Philadelphia and file the appropriate paperwork with the FCC. WHHS’s request to move to 99.9 FM was approved and it was able to celebrate its 60th anniversary as a terrestrial station in 2009.
Many WHHS alumni have gone on to work in college, public and commercial radio and some even work in the Philadelphia market at WMGK, WYSP and WXPN. Today, the station has an impressive 125 volunteers programming its mostly music shows. Additionally, WHHS broadcasts news, foreign language and community programs. According to WHHS’s faculty advisor Ed Weiss, with the recent donation, WHHS hopes to purchase a new console, computers, and software in order to facilitate broadcasting 24 hours a day.
High school radio doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, so it’s exciting to see that WHHS is thriving. Perhaps they will even join their high school radio colleagues for the second annual High School Radio Day this year on April 24.