John Hart, “Father of WCHG” remembers

The station building is simply constructed with a great front porch looking west at the mountains. It is unassuming at the back of the high school parking lot, but it has an Ivy League connection. John Hart, one of the early founders told us about it.

“Two Harvard men got it off the ground. Could you tell us how that happened?”

“I was over in Rich’s hardware in Marlinton, West Virginia. Gibbs came in and charged something to the radio station. I said, ‘Sir, would you like to buy a radio station? He says, No, I don’t think so.’ And we got to talking up there together. About a week later, he came by my office. I was with the engineering department at the Homestead, and Carol said Mr. Kinderman is out here to see you. You wanna see him? And I said ‘Yeah’.   After Gibbs came back, and he found out that Mr. Ingalls taught Sanskrit up at Harvard, and he graduated from Harvard, they were buddies from then on, and anything we wanted, Mr. Ingalls would do for us.”

So all of the groundwork, the West Virginia station WVMR, had gone through helped launch its sisters in Bath and Highland.

“Today our transmitter on Warm Springs Mountain is on the tower that the sheriff let us have, and I showed it to Mr. Ingalls, and he says, ‘Oh it just looks like another tree to me. And Muscle was the name of the engineer that helped put this antenna up, he was from California. Don Mussel.”

So that was how WCHG got its tower, and connected up with Frost?

“And the old WCHG, Shad Solomon, a lawyer, owned it, and that tower is still there on 220 going South to the left. It was a thousand watt station, AM.”

We learned from Scott Smith’s story yesterday that station had operated as WBHA, for Bath, Highland, and Allegheny. It didn’t make close to twenty years and its range was not nearly as wide as Allegheny Mountain Radio. Eventually it closed.

What were some of the early challenges for getting the radio station started?

“Well, the biggest challenge was getting this building built, built that with all volunteers.”

I know the CHG in the call letters stands for Chargers of Bath County High School.   We are always in need of volunteers, but it would be especially nice to get some high school students in here, either to do shows with their music, or many other jobs that go with running the station. Again John Hart,

“We wanted the kids to take part in the radio station, just to help the kids more than anything else, and that’s why it was called WCHG.”

It’s true. There are so many skills that can be picked up around a radio station, from technical, electric ones to the communications and public relations side of things. It’s an excellent opportunity for young people.

For those of you who can’t see it, or are unfamiliar, please come on Sunday the 27th,

“Yeah, the father of WCHG is going to be there, and DJ Willy, and all the rest of the radio friends. Come on out and see us. Bring some money, and come see us.”

Finally for Mr. Hart, I wondered, why do you think residents of the Allegheny Highlands of the two Virginias, and beyond, should make contributions to the radio station?

“Well it’s quite important to the community. They give all the weather things, what the weather’s going to be, when school’s closed, what’s going on, and if you want to hear what’s happenin’, Caroline says ‘Look out the window. It’s window weather.’ That’s about all I know about the weather. I report the weather every morning to Frost, and uh, to Blacksburg. I had to go to school to do that.”

And continue to stay tuned in as we report on chapters in the history of WCHG and WVLS during this 20th anniversary year.

“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

Current Weather