M.D. Smith, III was in business as Birmingham Awning & Tent Co.
After Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) , the Quartermaster came
to see us about war work, since we made tents, awnings, and taupolines
at Birmingham Awning and Tent, and practically said we had to go in
M.D. Smith, III and wife Kirby Jones Smith, put radio station WBYE AM
on the air in Calera, Alabama. Built from scratch. On 1370 kc with a
power of 500 watts, daytime-only license. One of the sales mottos was,
"Your Best Buy By Far Is Bye." It was the first top 40 radio station
in the area. M. D. Smith, IV worked one summer in 1956 at the station
as music librarian, assistant book keeper and remote technician (set
up remote mics for Sunday Church remote broadcasts).
M.D. Smith III bought WJIG AM in Tullahoma, TN, already on the air on 740 kc with
a power of 1000 watts daytime only.
Henry Beam, who worked as a salesman for a beer company, became
General Manager/Sales Manager.
M.D. Smith, III resigned from Storer Broadcasting to devote full
time to the radio business and the two stations.
M.D. Smith III buys WHBS AM, 1550 AM, (5,000 watts day and 500 watts,
directional antenna at night) from the Huntsville Times, changes call
to WAAY, and changes format from Adult Listening music to Rock and
Roll Top 40. A petition is circulated to boycott the radio station
and run new sound out of town. Several employees quit that cannot
tolerate Rock and Roll music. Dick Essner becomes Chief Engineer
as well as Disk Jockey. M.D. Smith IV, who has been working as
Record Librarian, also began some Disk Jockey duties in the summer
of 1958, filling vacation shifts.
M.D. Smith, III, at the strong urging of his wife, Kirby Jones Smith,
buys WFBS (Fort's Best Station) in Ft. Walton Beach, FL and changes call letters to WNUE,
the "Nue" station in town with the Top 40 format that's always "Nue".
Here's a photo of the first coffee mug WNUE
ever made. It says, "For Better Business Tomorrow, WNUE Today."
Station was on 950 Kcs Daytime. By changing frequency to 1400,
station was able to go night-time and broadcast 24 hours a day.
Power was 1,000 watts day and 250 watts night. Kirby Smith also is
involved with the bookeeping, accounting, record list, music, contests
M.D. Smith, IV graduates from college in June and works for
as Merchandising Director, engineer and disk jockey. We are planning
to put a TV station on the air on Channel 25.
Charles Grisham plans
to put one on the air on Channel 19. The lone station,
WAFG, Channel 31,
which has been struggling, decides to get out of the business faced
with the impending competition
(Sign on Car for ch. 25) and in the Summer of 1963 offers to
sell it to Smith Broadcasting for $500,000.00 That is about what
was planned to be spent on Channel 25, so it is decided to take their
offer. Jim Beasley from Sweet Sue in Athens is the majority stockholder
who confirmed the sale. The minor stockholders in Huntsville did not
want to sell, but had no choice. The deal was concluded in July and we
apply to the FCC for an ownership change. Meanwhile, Channel 19 begins
construction on property next to channel 31. Channel 25 is later
awarded to the Alabama Educational Television authority.
Robert (Cactus) Gay (age 23)
is one of the engineers employed by WAFG-TV
when it is
bought by Smith and stays with the company until the present time.
The station was broadcasting on a 125 foot tower with 240,000 watts.
Call letters are changed to WAAY-TV.
First mascot was a beagle hound.
November - The FCC finally approves the sale and the
over Channel 31 with a staff of 17 people. M.D. Smith, IV is
Operations Manager. Maury Farrell is Sales Manager and MDS, III
is a remote General Manager. Channel 31
(WAAY-TV) is affiliated
with the ABC television network. Channel 19 (WHNT)also goes on
the air in November with a 250 foot tower and 600,000 watts.
Channel 31 had ONE Video Tape Machine. It was an Ampex, VR-1000.
It used 2" tape. It was monochrome (or course). It took up a
space of 4 feet, by 4 feet by 6 feet and that did NOT include the
TWO 6 foot high equipment racks of electronics (all tubes) to run
the machine. It had massive power supplies and tubes had to be
changed every day to keep it running. Only one spot on a break
could be on Video Tape since there was no way to splice or edit tapes
together. The other commercials had to be Slides and Audio Tape.
A picture of Master Control with projectors
and slide chain in the
foreground and the operator (Lamar Gilbert) at the "switcher" in the background.
When we bought the station, they were reading all commercials LIVE
from the announce booth. The first thing we did was put in Audio
Cart Machines with trip cues for the slides to eliminate the announcer
and the switcher didn't have to read along with the copy and trip the
slides at the right time. There was a Live Romper Room show every
weekday morning. It was the major production of the day. We used two,
mismatched B/W studio cameras.
One was a General Electric Image
Orthicon camera with a 3 lens turret and the other was a General
Electric Videcon camera with a zoom lens. We liked the zoom lens a
lot and eventually replaced the turret with another very expensive
"Zoomar" zoom lens (as seen in photo)
we bought used at a good price. In the photo, M.D. Smith, III is
running Camera 3.
The slides for
commercials were shot on Black&White "reversal" film. When it was
processed it was a slide ready to show, rather than a negative to make
a print from. That station had a very small, old B/W film processor
that processed 16mm B/W film for the nightly newscast at 6 and 10.
It ran slowly at 4 feet per minute and it took 100 feet of film for
less than 3 minutes of film, much of which would be edited out and
thrown away. However, we tried to only shoot what we wanted to use
to save on film costs. If a photographer could get 2 or 3 stories
on one 100' roll of film, we thought he was great.
Our 6 and 10 P.M. News Casts were called
"The WAAY of the World". The station also
owned one OLD Auricon sound 16mm camera. It was an optical sound track
and the electronics (tubes) used numerous batteries for the filament
voltage, plate voltage and motor power.
Late November - Just two weeks later, President Kennedy is shot
and ALL TV stations cease broadcasting commercials for 5 days. This
is tough for a struggling new TV station.
WAAY Radio, meanwhile, is making a lot of money as the dominant radio
station in Huntsville and the revenue is used to pay the losses at
channel 31 during these first few struggling years.
WAAY-TV broadcasts the first of the
ANNUAL C-P Telethons from our studios. Running the
camera is M.D. Smith, III and in front of it is Maury Farrell.
"Cactus Gay" also
takes a turn on camera, as does almost everyone in the station during this event.
M.D. Smith, IV AND M.D. Smith, III both get pilot's licenses. The
first aircraft owned by WAAY Radio and TV was a Cessna 172 SkyHawk.
Here is a photo of the tail of that
aircraft with the "NewsHound"
logo that has been in use at the radio stations for 9 years.
Aerial film of tornado damage in parts of Western Alabama are shot
later that month.
Anita Smith and Wayne Johnson are married. Wayne goes to work at WAAY
Radio in June of 1966 after getting a degree in Marketing at U of A.
Channel 31 builds a new 400 foot tower (the old was 125 feet tall)
and increases power from 240,000 watts to 1,240,000 watts in order to
serve Florence. With this tower and power improvement we are able to
convince NBC we would be a far better affiliate to have than WMSL,
channel 23 located in Decatur. The Network agrees. In January 1968,
Channel 31 switches to NBC to improve ratings. Maury Farrell and
M.D. Smith, IV have picture taken in front of Giant Floral Peacock
M.D. Smith, III heard a song in another town, and found out
that the music was available for purchase and a special pressing of
a 45 RPM Record. The company would either write your song lyrics or
you could do them yourself. Mr. Smith decided to have the record made
for Huntsville and Ft. Walton Beach (Home of WNUE Radio). He wrote the
lyrics for both songs and the TV station pilot (M.D. Smith, IV) flew the company airplane
for the aerial shots of the two cities. A month later, "Huntsville,
My Home Town" was born.The link is a page with album covers, words, and the music you can download in RA or .MP3 format.
August - After both Smith's get Multi-Engine ratings, the station
converts to it's first of four Piper Aztec Twin Engine Airplanes.
This is the Piper PA-250 (N31TV) with engines of 250 horsepower each. It is
60 miles an hour faster than the Cessna 172.
Channel 31 Signs an agreement with Jackson Way Baptist Church
to begin televising the Sunday worship service with the
first LIVE microwave remote in the valley.
and M.D. Smith, IV look on as Rev. Jim Dorriety signs the
agreement. The broadcasts begin in June of 1968.
Channel 31 converts to Color Video Tape and Color studio cameras.
Having bought a used color film chain/island
from WTOP in Washington,
DC in 1965 and the first station to broadcasting anything local in
color. The Two new 2", Quad rotating head tape recorders (RCA TR-70
and an RCA TR-22 (used but "high-banded" for color)) were a major
improvement. Before we only had one Black&White Ampex VR-1000, all
tube video tape recorder. It was a monster and good to retire it.
It sat in storage for a year with no one wanting it, and was finally
sold for a few hundred dollars as parts. The big RCA TK-42 Color
Studio cameras were huge. They each had one 3" Image Orthicon
tube for the picture and three 1" vidicon tubes for the 3 color guns.
The cameras cost $50,000 each. A complete set of replacement tubes
was $12,000 per camera. As the first station to broadcast live
newscasts in color, we were very proud. Channel 19 had a ratings
edge over us, even in B/W, but they also bought new color cameras about
8 months later.
After 6 years working for WNUE ( 1 yr.) and WAAY (5 yrs.) Radio,
Dan Whitsett, takes Maury Farrell's place as General Sales Manager
of Ch. 31. At that time the TV station was gross billing about
$300,000 a year with about 25 employees.
ABC signs up with WMSL, Channel 23 who get a frequency (Channel 48)
moved to Huntsville and move from channel 23 in Decatur to channel 48
in Huntsville. They build a 900 foot tower, but are on a mountain that
is 500 feet lower than Monte Sano, so their antenna is not that high
above average terrain. Maury Farrell is their new general manager
working for Frank Wisnett of Decatur. Their new call letters are WYUR
("Your" TV station). They are bought years later by American Family
Life Insurance company and change calls again to WAFF
(American Family's Finest).
Channel 31 decided to convert from B/W film for the TV news to Kodak's
new color news film. We install a high speed color processor and tanks
of color chemicals. The old processor operated at 4 feet of film per
minute. We felt the new 20 foot per minute processor was a speed demon.
It certainly used up a lot of color film at $10.00 per 100 foot roll
(about 2 1/2 minutes of film). We processed and used about 10 rolls
per day for the newscasts. This was a major expense to our station
(about $5,000 a month).
For a year, M.D. Smith, IV was the weatherman at 6 and 10 P.M.
in those days were painted on canvas with a plexiglass cover. The
daily weather was drawn with "paint pens" of various ink colors. It
had to be removed with lacquer thinner. The temperature boxes and
the forecast was "menu board" with plastic stick-on letters. The
nice part was that you could draw right on the map to explain what
WAAY Radio and WAAY-TV do our first major joint promotion. The Bridal
Fair held at the Sheraton Motel on University Drive. It was a big
success and made money for both stations, but it was a real problem
deciding which salesman at radio or TV got how much commission from
selling it. This and other logistical problems prevented many other
joint promotions of this nature in the future.
A newly Designed News Set and the
first Meterologist, Walton Jones joins
the anchor team of Adrian Gibson, Sam Depino and Ed Sisson.
The weather maps are the same material, but get reversed.
We became number one in news at 6 & 10 after three years working with
the Consulting Firm of McHugh-Hoffman. We had not been #1 in news for
over 6 years. We found out what it took overall to win in the ratings.
Some of those things are still a secret lesson. A lesson
M.D. Smith, IV never forgot.
The anchor team that was #1 in 1974 was
(Left to Right standing) John
Bradshaw (weather), Tony Beason (News), Dan Jamison (Sports). (Left
to Right seated) Ed Sisson (News) Adrian Gibson (Anchor) and
Sam Depino (Anchor).
April 4 -
The April 4th tornados gave us much
publicity as the ONLY station with live weather radar to show the
storms until ALL TV stations were knocked off the air at 11:05 p.m. when
the last tornado crossed the top of the mountain at Monte Sano and
Panorama. The stations were off the air for 2 days. Phil McHugh
was in town for a consulting visit at the time. Parkway City Shopping
Center was nearly destroyed.
To improve our Weather Radar, we added a digital,
color system to it to make it
easier for the viewers to see various intensities of storms. We were the first
in Alabama with this innovation.
It's the bi-centennial year (1776-1976) and before the July event, Channel 31
constructs a HUGE set, we call the "31 News Center"
and the look and
type style matches NBC's News Center. Left to Right are Ken Rainey (weather),
Dave Stanley (news anchor), Adrian Gibson (news anchor) and Rick Davis (sports).
Two nice close-up shots of Dave Stanley with the TV Monitor and Two-Way
equipment. The other is of Ken Rainey
on the freshly designed weather set.
" The Great American WAAY" was the Radio Theme during these few years and among other
items, the "Great American WAAY" belt buckle in both pewter and bronze was created.
Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville announced that due to declining interest
and sponsor support, there would be no annual Christmas parade in Downtown
Huntsville that year. Bob Baron with WAAY-Radio, M.D. Smith, III and
M.D. Smith, IV all got together and decided that WAAY Radio and TV would
put on an "All Volunteer Christmas Parade" Everyone pitched in building
their own floats, entries, and bands, and the Parade went on. That was
the FIRST and TWENTY years later, WAAY-TV still has the commitment to see
that our all volunteer Christmas Parade takes place. The location was
from the route around the courthouse downtown, to a route starting beside
the Huntsville Hilton and passing the Civic Center and looping the
area because of the size. The event attracted over 211 entries and
close to 50,000 spectators.
After 10 years as an NBC Affiliate, expanding into the Florence
(Shoals) area, the competitiion from WOWL-TV became significant.
With ABC we would have no competition in the quad
cities area .....AND ABC has just become the number ONE network in
the nation. We have just finished building our 1,000 foot tower.
We go back
to ABC and make a presentation to change to our station which has
become #1 in News ratings in the past few years (still a close race
with channel 19) while WYUR is a distant third in the news
ratings. ABC agrees we would be the best affiliate and agree to the
change. Dan Whitsett and M.D. Smith, IV negotiated the switch in New
York in June. The affiliate meeting is over, so Dan and M.D.,IV fly
to L.A. in July for the promotion manager's meeting. ABC affiliates
are flying high with the ratings and are #1 for the second year. The
theme for the fall campaign is "STILL THE ONE"
using the popular hit
song for a theme. The switch is made on December 11, 1977. Here, my
son Brent (age 9) is holding the full page ad
from the newspaper on that day.
A coffee mug was created with the "Still The One" logo and the 31 worked in.
The reverse side of the mug had the full size
31 logo and call letters. The heavy, serif "31" has been used for many years.
Soon after we would adopt the more modern 31 logo with
the circle around it similar to WABC-TV, Channel 7 in New York. (See 1979)
ABC network and Channel 31 continue to be tops in the ratings. ABC had used "We're The One" for a theme in 1978, but reverted to the music and logo of Still The One for the fall of 1979 and we make a new coffee cup sporting our new Circle 31 Logo for that year. Here is the back of the same coffee cup with the full station circle 31 logo. Notice the Red and Blue Racing Stripe that Scott Smith thought added a nice touch.
WAAY Radio installs and begins broadcasting from the new 50,000 watt
transmitter on Pulaski Pike for all daytime hours. At night, the
station still used the downtown studio site for the 500 watt directional
array. The current slogan for the hit music is The HOT Hits. This mug shows the 50,000 watts, Stereo, and "The Hot One".
Channel 31 has great ratings after several difficult years against
Channel 19 and so we celebrate with a picnic on the front lawn.
Some of those attending of interest: Bob Baron (Weatherman), Don Roden
chief engineer and after short time as engineer with Ch. 54 who came
to town in 1985 ,went on to be Chief Engineer of channel 19 before
leaving for private business) and the NewsHound, as he was called,
who did all the wreck and hard news coverage with a Cannon Scoopic 16
film camera for years. He died from one of several heart attacks he
had. Dick died in December of 1986.
The ratings for the book were:
The FIRST "CHOPPER 31" takes to the air. This is the first
time we have had a chopper for aerial photos (using fixed
wing aircraft like Aztec 31TV in the past). It is one
of many to serve Channel 31 since then.
August, 22 -
(From 1979 to 1980, M.D. IV lost many pounds with Weight Watchers
and begins exercising in races, including the budding new sport,
Triathlons.) There were none in Huntsville, so M.D. IV, with the
help of Bettie Higgins, Channel 31 puts on our first of many annual
Triathlons. A 3 mile run, 6 mile bike and 400 meter swim at the
Natatorium. We have 400 entrants (and more wanting to do it) the
first year. It peaks at 600 entrants in 1985 and then drop back to
400 in the late 80's and early 90's) The Sub-Theme of this event has
always been, "To Finish Is To Win."
March 24, -
Channel 48 has a fire in the early evening and the studio/transmitter
building burns to the ground. They move to current site on the
Parkway and rebuild a transmitter house at the old location.
April 13, -
In record time, Channel 48 returns to the air. WAAY-TV runs a
letter in the newspaper
welcoming them back on the air.
WAAY Radio installs the New KAHN stereo system, which was incompatible
with the other 2 systems on the market, with Motorola later becoming
the system used in the receivers in cars. Install new stereo console,
tape recorders and had a major ribbon cutting with Joe Davis, Mayor of
Huntsville cutting the ribbons on the new stereo facility. (Glen Buxton
was manager of WAAY radio at this time, Wayne Johnson, previous
manager having been transferred to TV in sales support work.)
It's one of the city's worst ice storms that lasted 5 days. Power out
to thousands of homes in the area. Takes many days to get it all
restored. Just after the 5th day of the ice storm,
Mr. Smith, III suffered a minor heart attack. He never seemed to
recover well and continued to have chest problems and trouble
breathing. In the summer of 1985 it was discovered he had lung
cancer in a very advanced stage. The board decided with the declining
ratings of Top 40 and the health of Mr. Smith, III that the AM stations
would go with an Adult Contemporary Format from Satellite Music
Corporation. WAAY Changed formats in August and WNUE followed in
M.D. Smith, III died from the cancer on September 20, 1985.
Kirby Jones Smith becomes Chairman of the Board, with members M.D. Smith,IV,
President -- Anita Smith Johnson, Vice President -- Ralph Dowdy, Member.
Channel 54 TV signs on the air. They are an independent station with
no network affiliation. They run movies and syndicated programs.
Later, they become affiliated with the FOX television network, as it
starts from only a few hours a week to programming every night of the
Another logo coffee mug was this one containing our News slogan, "The Clear Choice" on the side of it.
Remembering the Ice Storm and Tornadoes of the past, Channel 31 decided to
install a monster Catapillar Diesel Generator to power the entire station
when the power goes out in the future. It was one of the things M.D. Smith,III
talked about when he was alive and always wanted to do. We are the only
station to do this (until AFTER the 1989 Tornadoes).
M.D. Smith, V (Dee) goes to work in news as a weekend
photographer. In 1989 he transferrs to the Engineering Department
in light maintenance and purchase and inventory control.
July - Scott Smith joins TV as Art Director after several years
working for printing companies as commercial artist.
November 30 -
First 5:00 p.m. newscast begins on Ch. 31. We were the first in the
market and for 2 years had the ONLY 5:00 show. It became #1 over a
sit-com and a game show and finally Ch. 19 added their own version
that had less than half the numbers our show did by then. Ch. 48
expanded their 5:30 news back to 5:00 in 1992.
December - Brent Smith begins work striping La-Kart carts for
production. Later transfers and becomes a switcher and master control
February 13-28 - Calgary, Canada -
ABC covered many Olympic Games. Here's a special cup that had a gold leaf Circle 31 logo on one side of it and the Logo for the Calgary 1988 Winter Games on the reverse side. We ordered these special made from ABC and they were quite expensive and a treasured client gift.
Losses continued at WAAY radio in spite of the reduced payroll from
the satellite operation and it was decided to take it off the air in
the summer of 1988 while we looked for a buyer for the station. No
buyer was found immediately.
The board decides to give one last major try at WNUE to make it
successful and drop the AC and satellite service and go back to live
DJ's and the HIT (Top 40) Radio sounds that made the station famous.
It was "NUE HITS 14" and it sounded great. New logo designed by Scott Smith
was put on a
new coffee cup sporting Orange & Yellow lightning bolt.
good old TOP 40 in 1988 and music was still on 45 RPM records, but was beginning
a transitiion to CD's. Ratings did jump up several
notches and the station was well listened to in the Ft. Walton area.
However, getting and/or keeping competent sales personnel was all but
impossible and after one year and two months( Sept. 1989), with losses
large and continuing to grow, the station was also taken off the air and
put on the market to sell.
A frequency is opened in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (near Chattanooga)
and M.D. Smith and Robert "Cactus" Gay apply for it in the name of Smith
Broadcasting. Later Cactus becomes the other partner.
The Construction Permit (CP) was authorized in October 1989, but
the change in Authorization to Marson Broadcasting
(the new partnership) did not take place until April 23, 1990.
Construction began immediately.
Sam Floyd of United Broadcasting buys WAAY radio for $300,000 and
begins broadcasting in the early summer of 1989 with a Gospel Religious
format. Unfortunately with TV Evangelist Jim Bakker going to jail and
the other TV ministries scandals, religious broadcasting took a big
drop in support.
Kimberly Johnson (daughter of Anita and Wayne) comes to work at
Ch. 31 after working previously at WAAY Radio. She is in TV traffic
A freak tornado rips through Huntsville and destroys Airport Road
businesses and Jones Valley Elementary School and many homes on Tony
Drive. Channel 31 was the ONLY station to have a generator and be
able to stay on the air that night. We got much praise from that
wise move. Some time later, other stations got a generator, too.
The STAR 31 Logo is born. Scott Smith was asked to rework the logo without the circle around it and while doing so, he tested putting a STAR in the 31. It was approved and in a few months, it was on the building, cars, coffee cups and certainly on the air.
No buyer found for WNUE, which has been off the air since fall of 1989.
Some equipment is used for the new radio
station, WKXJ-FM, a Class C2 station being built in So. Pittsburg/Chattanooga,
Tennessee on 97.3 MHz.
WKXJ-FM goes on the air on November 5, 1990. It is a "Hot Adult
Contemporary" format. M.D. Smith, IV and Robert A.
(Cactus) Gay own the station under Marson Broadcasting.
(Marson is an old name used by M.D. Smith, III during the war years
in his manufacturing plant, Marson Company. It was the "Mar" from
Marcellus and the "Son" from Davidson that formed the name.
music was bought on 10" Reel-to-Reel tapes and dubbed with great effort to the
old "carts"(many came from WAAY and WNUE radio). Carts were the cartridge tapes that played commercials and music at
the radio stations in the 80's to keep music sounding better and not getting scratched
and dirty as in the early days when the actual 45 record was played on the air. The looked very much like the old 8-track music tapes, but were built differently. However, all the
NEW music of the 90's came on CD and was played on a home type CD player. Eventually a
new music "oldies" library was bought and the cart tapes were retired for music. A few years later,
all commercials were put on computer disk and the cart machines were taken out of service forever.
The general manager, Harmon (Dutch) VanBuskirk, of WNUE for 25
years, finds a partner, Neil Braswell and decide to buy just the
frequency and transmitter & tower and lease the building
for 2 years. Dutch gets back on the air in October 1990 with a "Talk"
format. It is satellite news and talk and Dutch has some live
phone-in talk shows.
After losing money for almost two years at the newly named WAAJ,
(the old WAAY-Radio on 1550) the station goes off the air again
and comes back to Smith Broadcasting.
Channel-31-TV ratings come in to show our station the dominate news
leader in Huntsville. The station is #1 for ALL newscasts, seven days
a week in ratings, share and households. This is the strongest
position the TV station has ever been in. The other stations continue
to cut staff. Now both channel 48 and channel 19 have staffs of about
75, while channel 31 has a staff of over 125 with the plans to begin a
new noon newscast on June 1, 1992.
No buyers were found for WAAY-AM, so the equipment was advertised to
In February the board voted to demolish the WAAY studios building
(on Church Street near downtown) and develop the property in some
other way. The building is leveled in 45 minutes with a bulldozer on
Thursday, March 12, 1992. Transmitter sold to Bishop Willis for his
Memphis 50kw station. Later a minority partnership bought the license,
towers, and daytime property on Pulaski Pike and put WAAJ back on the
air with the old 5,000 watt transmitter and begin a religious-gospel format.
June 1 -
Ch. 31 began NOON newscasts Monday through Friday.
June 8 -
Ch. 31 becomes the first station to Close Caption ALL its local
newscast for the hearing impaired. Ch. 19 began a year later.
August 22 -
The 12th Annual 3in1 Triathlon takes place. A special Star 31 Mug was created for winners in the age divisions. As always, the slogan "To Finish Is To Win" appears.
Jaunary 3 -
Sunday, 8am newscast begins on Channel 31, following ABC's beginning
of Good Morning America, Sunday edition from 7-8am.
April 15 -
It is announced that Channel 31 has re-hired Bob Baron who left
Channel 48 and he will be doing weather forecasts along with Gary
Dobbs after a year of working behind the scenes (due to previous
contract restrictions keeping him off the air for 12 months.)
Several nights later,
severe weather hits the area and the new "31 Storm Tracker" does
a superb job tracking and predicting where storms will move. It
is the only tracker on TV in the valley. Others add similar
capabilities some months later.
April 17-19 -
Ch. 31 begins Weekend early morning news from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. on
Saturday and Sunday.
Ch. 31's Monday through Friday 6:30-7:00 am news expands to a full
Hour from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. and we move the WAAY-TOO-EARLY program
back to 5:30 a.m. (W2E later expands to one hour also beginning at 5 a.m.)
We decide to become a 24 Hour News Station presenting MORE NEWS around
the clock. Our new coffee cup this year shows 24 Hour logo. We are already doing newsbriefs every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sports on the hourly Newsbreaks was included.
August 21 -
The 13th annual "31 3-in-1 Triathlon" takes place at Old airport and
- November -
WKXJ-FM, 97Kicks begins broadcasting with a 99.3 Translator in the
Chattanooga Metro area. Now with the 50,000 watt main transmitter on
97.3 covering the rural area and the new translator covering
Chattanooga, the future looks brighter for the profit potential of the
radio station. On this, its 3rd annivarsary (Nov. 5) it still is not
making significant profit, but paying its own way.
April 15 -
Bob Baron Joins Gary Dobbs on air...we now have the top one and two
weather people in the valley on our station.
March 1 - HiWAAY Information Service becomes a reality. We
decide to become our own Internet Access Provider for our TV station,
and supply to the public at the same time. Bryan Smith comes to
work as Manager to this fledgling operation. We Premiered at the
IEEE Computer show in February and sold subscriptions even though
the HiWAAY was not paved. We do get operational on the first, but
there were quite a few start-up problems. These problems are ironed
out in the first several months. We hoped to have 200 subscribers
after 12 months. In less than a year, we had over 2,000. Buying
NUANCE Internet Services in August of 1995 added about 250 subscribers
to the subscriber base. Soon we added a slogan, "Real Internet, Real Fast" to
the original globe logo we created in late 1994.
July 7 - LIVESTAR 31 arrives in town. This is Channel 31's first
Satellite Uplink Truck. It is a monster and bigger than the one
Channel 19 has purchased that comes to town a week later. Now we can
do LIVE broadcast from anywhere in our viewing area, that previously
were blocked for microwave by the mountains.
August 19 -
The 14th annual "31 3-in-1 Triathlon" takes place at Old airport and
August 25 - SHOALS STAR RADAR comes to the valley. This is a
high powered Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC) weather radar
mounted in a Winnebago Motor Home. It is taken to the Shoals and put
in service as an early warning radar for areas west to the Mississippi
river. It has the Baron processor on it, which can see 16 levels of
November - Channel 31 announces the opening of THREE new area
bureaus. They are located in Guntersville (Marshall County),
Scottsboro (Jackson/DeKalb counties) and Fayettville, TN (for
Tennessee counties). This brings to FIVE, the area bureaus covering
the whole 31 viewing area with regional/area bureaus for a local focus
on news, un-matched by any other TV station. We also can get to News Events faster with AIRSTAR, a twin-turbine prop-jet MU-2 aircraft.
January 1 - Beginning announcements of 31
run on Channel 31. We are testing out the most sensitive doppler
radar in the valley. The antenna is located on top of a specially
constructed, 120 foot, 3 section base tower, supporting the massive
EIGHTEEN FOOT RADOME housing the 14' diameter dish antenna.
It is the best technology for doppler weather radar in the SouthEast.
It has the same transmitter power
as the U.S. Weather Service at the airport, but has a larger dish
for more gain, and the state-of-the-art Baron Processor with 16 levels
of color intensity for rain, and special doppler functions not
available with any other radar. The premier of
"31 DOPPLER MAX" is
on January 17, 1996. As a part of this Doppler Max "kick-off" over
100,000 bumper stickers where distributed to
the most sensitive
radar in the valley.
December 7 - The tradition continues--
WAAY-31-TV held it's 20th
Annual Christmas Parade in Downtown Huntsville. In order to commemorate
this tradition that started in December of 1976, a special anniversary
patch was made.
- March 1 - HiWAAY Information
Services has TWO-YEAR Anniversary. It has grown to over 5,000 individual subscribers and
a large number of corporate network and web-site customers. The offices and computer
equipment were reloacated to spacious accomadations at Market Square on Memorial
May 23 - Mrs. M.D. (Kirby Jones) Smith, III (age 80) passed away after a
period of declining health. M.D. Smith, IV continues as President
and General Manager of WAAY-TV. Anita Smith (sister)
and M.D. Smith, IV now co-own Smith Broadcasting, Inc. and the TV station.
The Storm Team (weather team) of Gary Dobbs, Adrian Gibson and Kristen Cornett take to the air. Kristen is
also trained to drive and operate a remote weather station (Feb. 98) with GPS tracking called the Storm Chaser van. There is much focus on the weather in these years.
- December - HiWAAY Information Services, the largest ISP in Huntsville, buys all
of AirNet and the on-line business of Traveller, Inc. to become the largest
independent ISP in Alabama. Now with over 20,000 dial up customers and many
hundreds of commercial customers in North Alabama. There are also POPís
(Point of Presence) in Birmingham and Montgomery. Under the leadership of
Mark Derrick, HiWAAY continues to grow and prosper.
- January - M.D. Smith, IV elects to move from Channel 31 on Monte Sano, where he has had offices for 36 years, to the home office location on Clinton Street in
the Civic Plaza building. Because of the merger of HiWAAY and the other ISPís, this central location makes it easier to direct attention to both
Businesses. Redge Swing is promoted to General Manager of WAAY-TV while
M.D. Smith, IV remains President and CEO of Smith Broadcasting, the parent
corporation. Dan Whitsett is in charge of corporate sales, but
concentrating on work with HiWAAY.
- March 1 - HiWAAY Information Services has FOUR-YEAR Anniversary. The
offices at Market Square on Memorial Parkway had to be greatly expanded and
currently a build-out across the mall in a vacant area is underway to
support the nearly doubling of staff after the acquisition of AirNet and
Traveller. A special logo coffee cup (collector's item) was produced for clients.
- May 18 - It is announced to the staff that WAAY-TV is being sold
to Grapevine Communications of Atlanta. The main reason given is to concentrate
the family business efforts into the expanding Internet business and use the
needed capital to grow at a rate equal to other Internet Service Providers (ISP's)
in Alabama. The sale had to wait for FCC approval. It was granted in July
and the final order was received in early September. WAAY-TV, Channel 31
officially becomes owned and operated by Grapevine/GoCom Communications
on October 1, 1999. Smith Broadcasting continues in the Internet Communications
business, the "broadcasting" medium for the 21st Century.