20th Anniversary Retrospective – Part 1

It may be hard to believe now, but before Memorial Day, 1995, if your radio was tuned to 89.7 in Highland County or 107.1 in Bath County, this was the only sound you would hear.

<Insert sound of static>

No music, no news, no weather, no school closings or emergency updates – all the things you now depend on Allegheny Mountain Radio for.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of WVLS and WCHG entering the airwaves to serve the citizens of these two Virginia counties. Stay tuned to AMR in the upcoming weeks as remember the history and talk with some of the people and personalities who made it a reality.

WCHG was actually not the first radio station to operate from Bath County. In the 1980’s, attorney Erwin “Shad” Solomon broadcast on AM 1270 from a station located in a field behind his house on Route 220, south of Hot Springs. After Solomon passed away, the station was purchased by Koinonia Broadcasting, which received a construction permit to build a Bath FM station, as well as receiving approval from the FCC for the call sign WBHA – Bath, Highland, and Allegheny. A temporary transmitter and antenna were located on Warm Springs Mountain at the Homestead tower site, but only broadcasted sporadically at low power, and in 1990, Koinonia went bankrupt, and both stations went off the air.

The seeds of the current radio stations were sown in 1991. John Geiger of Dunmore was elected Pocahontas Communications Cooperative Board President, and expansion to serving Bath and Highland was discussed at a board retreat planning session. That same year, Mr. Geiger and Allegheny Mountain Radio pioneer Gibbs Kinderman took part as representatives for WVMR in a mock disaster drill at the Bath County Pumped Storage Project. Bath government officials in attendance saw the value of having such a local resource in times of emergency, and the idea gained traction.  At about the same time, the first Highland resident joined the radio board, Rev, Bill Cox, representing the Mill Gap Ruritan Club, which had been a faithful supporter of WVMR-AM. The PCC Board agreed to pursue operating a Bath station, and took the legal, financial and licensing steps over the next two years to acquire the rights granted to WBHA.

Our thanks to Gibbs Kinderman for the historical information in this report.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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