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Fwd: [Pubtech] Carrier-based public radio
So what if it has nothing to do with Boston radio?? This is a FABULOUS
story regardless. Donna ought to do a history piece on WSCI (if someone
>Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 08:35:57 -0500
>From: Dana Whitehair <email@example.com>
>Subject: [Pubtech] Carrier-based public radio
>To: "PUBtech Public Radio Tech Talk" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Reply-To: "PUBtech Public Radio Tech Talk" <email@example.com>
>Sender: "PUBtech Public Radio Tech Talk" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Greetings once again from Austin, TX!
>I was asked to elaborate on my mention of an decommissioned aircraft
>carrier as the location of my last radio station. I guess quite a number
>of years have passed and some of you don't know about the glorious past of
>WSCI-FM in Charleston (actually, Mt. Pleasant, to be precise), SC.
>The station was originally located in the heart of Charleston's historical
>(or, as we called it, "hysterical") district. When NPR switched to
>satellite distribution, then KUT Station Manager, John Dozier (the most
>brilliant and twisted man for whom I've worked), went to the city's
>Architectural Review Board and asked that they allow a dish to be
>installed in the historical district.
>Now, for those of you who've never been to Charleston, the historical
>district is the crown jewel of this beautiful Southern coastal city. And
>while Charleston has since had to make a few compromises with modern times
>and technology, at the time, the thought of a satellite dish marring this
>pristine and painstakingly-preserved cultural icon was considered near
>sacrilege. I can only imagine the hysterical laughter that met John's
>request. How he got out of there without being tarred and feathered
>remains a mystery to me.
>It was clear WSCI-FM had to move. But, where?
>At about the same time, Patriot's Point - a public/private partnership
>that was building a maritime museum across the Cooper (pronounced "Cuppah"
>for those of you who've never heard Charlestonian dialect...listen to U.S.
>Senator Ernest Hollings sometime) River from Charleston - had just placed
>its own crown jewel - the decommissioned WWII-era Aircraft Carrier
>Yorktown (CV-10, nicknamed "The Fighting Lady") - deep into the mud along
>the Mt. Pleasant side of the river and was starting to prepare it as the
>center piece of the museum.
>John Dozier, who was about as well-connected as a person in SC could be -
>got an early tour of the Yorktown from one of the Patriot's Point
>directors. When he stepped into the Primary Flight Control Tower (PriFli)
>high atop the carrier's tower overlooking the flight deck, John saw this
>stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean, Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, the
>tips of two barrier islands, the Charleston peninsula (including the
>Hysterical District), the docks, the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper
>Rivers (which, any good Charlestonian will tell you, is where the Atlantic
>Ocean is formed), the entire length of the 2-1/2 mile Cooper River Bridge,
>and up to the Charleston Naval Base.
>John realized he was standing in the perfect spot for his radio station's
>master control room.
>To make a long story short, state agencies got together and agreements
>were struck. As envisioned, the station's master control room was
>installed in PriFli, where the operator could broadcast with a 270 degree
>view of the above-mentioned sights and watch various naval vessels
>(including submarines) being escorted in and out of the base by leaping
>dolphins (I kid you not). The main administrative offices and production
>studio were located just below the flight deck in the Combat Information
>Center (CIC). The lower engineering shop was located next door in what
>appeared to be a major intersection of communications equipment just off
>the CIC radar and sonar rooms.
>But, in my humble opinion, I (as technical director) had the ultimate
>office...not just at that station, but of ANY station. My office was the
>captain's sea cabin, located in the middle of the tower/superstructure
>just one level below PriFli. I was the only member of the staff with
>portholes and had my own workshop and - more importantly - sundeck.
>I'd gone from the brutal winters of Rochester, NY (WXXI) to this...I was
>in heaven! I ate lunch sitting on a walkway flight deck personnel once
>used to get out of the way of incoming and outgoing jets...hanging
>precariously high above the waters of the Cooper River and watching
>otters, dolphins, and commercial and naval vessels sliding silently
>through the waters of the harbor. The Point's electrician would
>occasionally take me on "off the beaten track" tours of the deep, dark
>depths of the Yorktown (at one point all the way down to where the lower
>decks were flooded with fresh water to keep the ship seated in the Cooper
>River mud). We hosted a Spoleto reception for then-NPR President Doug
>Bennett on the fantail. We had a benefit concert in the hanger deck. It
>was simply the coolest radio station I could've imagined.
>But, alas, several years after my departure from WSCI (and my relocation
>via Hurricane Hugo to Austin, TX), South Carolina Educational Radio was
>forced by budget cuts to close the Charleston facility and the offices,
>studios, and library were "de-installed." While most programming now comes
>from the network HQ in Columbia, I understand local producers worked out
>an agreement with network chiefs to have a production facility installed
>at The College of Charleston (ironically enough in the Hysterical
>District) so Charleston could still have some separate programming.
>I was brutally hot and humid in the summers. It was cold and clammy in the
>winters. It was a pain in the butt to haul remote recording equipment (and
>we did a LOT of remote recordings....including the Spoleto USA and Piccolo
>Spoleto festivals) on and off the ship (no elevators...just steps). And it
>was sometimes frustrating to have to dodge countless tourists while
>weaving in and out of the mind-bending maze of corridors (occasionally
>hitting my head on hatches...let me tell you, STEEL HURTS!!!) while trying
>to get to PriFli for emergencies.
>On the other hand, I've never quite been in as good a physical condition
>as I was from running up and down those steps and catwalks.
>But, as far as shielding was concerned...it was incredible. About the only
>thing that penetrated was an occasional radar or sonar signal from a
>passing ship, but even that was minor.
>WSCI as a free-standing station is just a memory. But, for a small staff,
>we kicked ass and took names...sometimes recording and producing over 50
>concerts a year from all over the state (including Brevard Music Center in
>western North Carolina). Keith Henty, currently at Jefferson Public Radio
>in Ashland, OR is a veteran of WSCI. He experienced the magic.
>But, it was the fertile mind of John Dozier - to this day, my favorite
>manager - that saw the potential of the Yorktown as a broadcast facility
>and as a brilliant public relations tool. Unconventional was convention,
>to John, and envelops needed to be pushed. For a short while, there was a
>Camelot-like "mouse that roared" in Charleston, SC. It was and will always
>be the "golden era" of my public broadcasting career.
>Hail the Fighting Lady!
>Dana E. Whitehair
>Manager of Technical Services
>KUT 90.5 Austin/KUTX 90.1 San Angelo/www.kut.org
>The University of Texas at Austin
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