August 21, 2013, marked the 60th Anniversary of a radio advertising company that grew from a 500 watt AM daytime only radio station in 1953 to a strong AM/FM/FM radio operation serving Southeastern Illinois. For a broadcast coverage map click here.
WFIW-AM broadcasts with 1,000 watts at 1390 kilohertz during daylight hours and continues to broadcast at night on lower power. It features expanded local news, SRN Radio Network news, weather and farm information, a local talk show, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Hedgecock, Mike Huckabee, Dave Ramsey, George Noory and other features, plus sports, and religious programming.
WFIW-FM and WOKZ-FM both operate with power at 6,000 watts. WFIW-FM is on the dial at 104.9 megahertz. Just to the right on the dial is WOKZ-FM at 105.9. WFIW-FM offers an Adult Hits music format, and local news. There is also a heavy schedule of sports and weather. WOKZ-FM is known as “Real Country,” and features the best in country music 24/7.
How did it all start? In July 1952 Tom Land of Carmi, IL, and Bryan Davidson of Princeton, IN, formed an equal partnership known as Wayne County Broadcasting Co. Land was General Manager of WROY in Carmi and Davidson was General Manager of WRAY in Princeton when the application was filed for a Construction Permit to build an AM Daytime Only Radio Station to be located 1 ½ miles east of Fairfield on Highway 15 known as Campbell Hill. Operating power of 500 watts was requested, utilizing a non-directional 197 ft. antenna tower, with operation on 1390 kilohertz.
Call letters W F I W were requested. The first letter “W” is required of radio stations located east of the Mississippi River. The “FIW” stood for Fairfield-Illinois-Wayne. It is interesting to note the original W F I W call letters were utilized at Hopkinsville, KY, for a station owned by Acme Mills that went on the air in 1927, and went silent in 1933. The station was known as the “Veribest and Blue Wing Flour Station,” and the call letters stood for “Whitest Flour in the World.”
Radio Station WFIW in Fairfield began regular commercial broadcasting at 1:00 p.m. August 21, 1953, from studios in a newly constructed concrete block building containing about 1,500 square feet of floor space. Davidson signed the station on that afternoon with a prayer of dedication by Kenneth Brooks, minister of Fairfield’s First Christian Church. Davidson played 78 RPM records the rest of the afternoon, interrupted only by the 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock news from the Associated Press, read by Tom Land.
In October 1955, Land and Davidson formed another equal partnership, known as Salem Broadcasting Co. for the purpose of building and operating a radio station at Salem, IL. The Salem station (WJBD) began broadcasting in December 1956. Davidson moved to Salem and assumed management of WJBD. Gil Wallace of WVMC, Mt. Carmel, IL, was employed to replace Davidson as Chief Engineer and morning announcer for WFIW.
On May 25, 1961, WFIW increased operating power from 500 watts to 1,000 watts. On February 17, 1965, Wayne County Broadcasting Co. applied to the FCC to build an FM Class A station to be operated in conjunction with WFIW-AM. WFIW-FM began broadcasting August 18, 1965, with 3,000 watts power, duplicating WFIW’s program schedule during daytime hours, signing off at 9 p.m.
In May 1974, Land and Davidson agreed to dissolve their partnership, each stating the arrangement had been mutually beneficial for more than 20 years, and that the partnership had been most agreeable in every respect.
In January 1975, David H. Land, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Land, accepted a position as Account Executive and announcer with WFIW, following two years service in the Army. He graduated from SIU-Carbondale with a degree in Radio-TV in 1972, and held radio announcing positions while in college at WGGH, Marion, IL and WJPS, Evansville, IN; at WGOM, Marion, IN following college graduation; and at KCCO, Lawton, OK while in the Army. He had also performed announcing duties at WFIW while in high school.
On February 15, 1983, a decision was made to split the AM and FM operations. News was kept intact through partial simulcasts with WFIW-AM.
On April 26, 1991, Gil Wallace, long-time morning announcer and talk show host, often referred to as “Fairfield’s Morning Mayor,” retired after 34 years of continuous active service with WFIW.
In September, 1996, WOKZ-FM, went on the air as “Great Country” and is still a 24/7 country music operation.
Tom Land died on October 22, 2011 at the age of 91.
All three stations share the billing: “The stations listened to, not just heard!”
On July 20, 2012, The Original Company, headquartered in Vincennes, Indiana, purchased the assets of Wayne County Broadcasting.