Richard Byrd recalls 20 years ago

When there’s something that so regular, so hard to imagine being without, we can’t help asking, “How did it all begin?”

“The first time I remember it being discussed at all was when we were at a Emergency Services meeting in regards to the Pumped Storage Station in case of a dam break, or leakage or something, and we were there.”

Richard Byrd, Hot Springs resident, and longtime member of Bath Board of Supervisors reminisced.

“It was myself, John Hart, Mr. Taylor, the one who run the Bath Pumped Storage Station, and we met a gentleman by the name of Gibbs Kinderman. He was there reporting I guess for the Pocahontas radio station at the time. And he said something, and I think he brought it up.   And I said, ‘Hey! I think we need one of those in Bath County, especially to repot emergencies when it happens because we have no way of getting the word out. And I said, also, Highland has the same problem. And I said I think we need a radio staion, but I don’t think one would work. And Gibbs said, ‘One won’t work. You would need one for each county.’

Two radio stations were necessary, but they couldn’t be truly separate, not in an area where resources are slim, and almost entirely volunteer power was needed to get them up and running.   Twenty years later, WVLS and WCHG are still sister stations with WVMR, and a longer list for which you’ll need to listen to station IDs. Collaboration got them here.

“And that was a long, long time ago, and Eddie Ryder got involved. And Highland County, great people from Highland County came down, and we all met. Met for a long period of time. And Gibbs was the spearhead of it, and without a question he had only one thought in mind. It was provide some type of emergency services, some type of radio communication to the people of Bath and Highland County.”

Richard Byrd remembered more about what went into the stations’ launch.

And that was one of the greatest things that I could ever do as an elected official was ‘Hey! What can we do for Bath and Highland County as a whole?’ And that, Gibbs Kinderman was the wheel that kept that truck or vehicle moving.

We had our bumps along the way. Some things didn’t work. Some things we’d have to go back and start over. We didn’t know how to do marketing for fundraising.

That was way back then when, and that was the beginning of it right there.”

When asked why he feels the radio stations still matter today to residents from Covington to Franklin and Snowshoe to Deerfield, Mr. Byrd replied.

“I think that there’s a lot of people in Bath and Highland County both that are unable to get out, and get communication as well as other people. Some can go to the Post Office, or go to the streets, or walk up and down and get information or maybe have the ability financially to maybe get the television with all the stuff. But you can get the radio station for nothing. It’s just there, it’s provided by the radio station, and Pochahontas Communication Corporation, and everything else. And it’s provided at no charge to the people. “

With all due respect Mr. Byrd, that reminded me of a different group that states in its introduction, “We have no dues or fees, but we do have expenses.”

But because the radio is essential, and in Highland and Pocahontas’s case, a sole provider, the communities it serves support it, and keep it alive.

“They have done told us all, most of us know that they will go out, and go into the station and keep it running for any emergencies, but it’s not only the emergency services now, it’s the different types of programs that’s provided to the people.” Richard Byrd continued.

“I mean there’s programs there that suits everyone’s needs. There’s some things there I may not like, or others may not like. But if you listen to it, and pick it up, there’s something on there for everybody.”

When asked if he got any special satisfaction from the fact two radio stations were established on his watch, Mr. Byrd replied.

“It wasn’t a personal thing for anybody. I can say that was one of the best groups in my twenty years experience at that time being in the political office. That was probably one of my best experiences, other than maybe the retirement home. They both are pretty close to each other. That was probably one of the best experiences I ever had where the entire group worked together.”

And the results are fortunately still with us. For another piece of this historical look back, please stay tuned.

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.

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