WCAP 55th Birthday Party Report

Mark Watson markwats@comcast.net
Sun Jun 11 08:21:58 EDT 2006

  Last night (Saturday June 10th) the WCAP (980 Lowell) 55th Birthday Party 
was held. It was a fun, memorable, and emotional evening. Fun as it brought 
together many WCAP alumni from as far back as the mid 50's to as recent as 
the late 90's, plus today's current staff. Memorable because some of these 
alums that had worked together in the past had not seen or spoken to each 
other since leaving WCAP, and emotional for WCAP owner Maurice Cohen, who 
was overwhelmed by the showing of past & present station employees, as well 
as listeners & members of the public who stopped by & watched all or some of 
the event.

   The live broadcast began with an introduction voiced by Gary Francis (who 
first worked at WCAP in 1968, left in 1970 & returned in 1999) and a montage 
of the biggest music hits of 1951 put together by Dan Bourret (late 80's- 
early 90's sports reporter/producer). Then the main host of the evening was 
introduced, Bill O'Neill (personality/talk host 1980-1996) who introduced 
and spoke with all the WCAP alums & current staff in attendance, plus the 
special guests who honored Maurice Cohen: Lowell City Councilor & former 
Mayor Rita Mercier presented a proclamation from the city, State Senator 
Steve Panagiotakos presented a proclamation from the Mass.State Senate, and 
our own resident broadcast historian Donna Halper presented a plaque from 
the Mass. Association of Broadcasters. Kendall Wallace of the Lowell Sun had 
a mock front page of the 6/10/06 paper all about WCAP's special day framed 
and presented. The Sun also sent a reporter and photographer to cover the 
event. Radio consultant Clark Smidt also stopped by to congratulate Maurice.

   Lots of fun, interesting, and in a few cases, never told in public before 
stories were shared on the air, and many old acquaintances were renewed. 
Plus in the last 20 minutes of the program, we discussed some of the history 
leading up to the start of WCAP as provided to us by Auntie Donna. Most of 
us were surprised to learn that the original calls assigned by the FCC were 
WABW. Maurice's late brother & station co-founder Israel "Ike" Cohen liked 
the WCAP calls, then in use at a station in New Jersey. Ike struck a deal 
with that station to buy the calls and move them to where they've been heard 
for 55 years & 1 day now.

   Also, we talked about how local radio like WCAP is important to a 
community and sadly, a disappearing breed. Scott Fybush (early 90's news) 
mentioned the recent sale of WESX & WJDA and their flip to all brokered time 
programs as examples of this continuing trend. Auntie Donna had left us a 
listing of Mass. stations from the 1963 Radio-TV Annual and Scott pointed 
out that some of the stations on that list are now dark or all birdfeed with 
no local content. WCAP is also one of the few remaining stations still under 
the same ownership family since day 1 and still in the same studio location 
since day one.

   Speaking of Scott Fybush, I believe he is the WCAP alum who traveled the 
longest distance to attend, driving in from Rochester NY. Bill O'Neill came 
down from his scenic vista in Vermont and Barry Pretzel (late 80's news) 
drove down from Rockland ME just to attend. Since Scott is still in Lowell 
as I post this, I will make mention that before heading home, Mr. Fybush 
will be meeting Maurice this morning to visit the WCAP transmitter site, 
something he never got the opportunity to do when he worked at CAP. Photos 
of the TX site plus a party report will come on his Tower Site of the Week 
at www.fybush.com  Friday I'm told.

Mark Watson 

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