Radio Weddings: Gleason Golden Wedding Interview

On six previous occasions here in Wavescan, we have presented interesting information about Radio Weddings, weddings that were broadcast live over a radio broadcasting station.  Down there in Jacksonville Florida, Wendy Heape came across some of the information about our presentations of Radio Weddings, and she made contact with the Radio Heritage website in New Zealand, and webmaster Chris Mackerell forwarded her email communication on to us here in the United States.

Full of family excitement, Wendy explained that her grandparents were married in a wedding ceremony that was broadcast live over a mediumwave station here in the United States.  Fifty years later, her grandparents were interviewed live over that same radio station as part of the their Golden Anniversary Celebrations.  Wendy has a recording of that radio interview.

Wendy Heape is an education executive in Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast in Florida, a city that is described as the largest city in area in the United States.  Wendy recently entered into a spate of extensive research about Radio Weddings and she has made this information available to us for use here in forthcoming programs in Wavescan.

An early photograph of Georgia Tech depicting the shop building (left) and Tech Tower (right). Photo: Wikipedia

The radio station that broadcast the wedding of Wendy’s grandparents was WGST in Atlanta Georgia, though the original callsign for that station was the sequentially issued letters WBBF.  The new WBBF was owned by the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology) and the technical equipment was donated to the school by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper.  The Constitution had previously operated their own radio station under the call letters WGM, though they had closed their station six months before the new WBBF was established.

The inaugural broadcast from WBBF was at 7:30 pm on Monday January 14, 1924.  The one hour program consisted of official speeches and it was concluded with a school band of 50 students playing the school identification melody.  The originally allocated frequency for WBBF was 1110 kHz, with a licensed power of 500 watts.  Back then they were on the air for just one hour a week.

During the following year (1925), the callsign was changed from WBBF to WGST, indicating rather obviously the Georgia School of Technology.  Then three years later again (1928), the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) required the station to change channel, from 1110 kHz to 890 kHz, upon which they remained for 13 years.  The next channel change occurred in 1941 when they were required to move once more, this time to what has become their permanent channel 920 kHz.

During the wartime years, the WGST studios and offices were located in the Forsyth Building at the corner of Forsyth and Walton Streets, just right opposite the Georgia Tech School’s campus.  The antenna was strung between two supporting towers on top of the Forsyth Building.  In 1956 they transferred to another location on the school campus, this time above the locker rooms in the Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

The school sold their radio station in 1974, and it was sold again 11 years later (1985).  Four years later again (1989), the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago took over station WGST and changed the calls to WAFS.  In 2004, Salem Communications, who already operated WGKA, obtained station WAFS and they swapped the callsigns and operating channels of the two stations.  Thus the same 920 kHz station became WGKA, under which call it is on the air to this day, with 14 kW during the day and 500 watts at night.

Back during the year 1930, the studios and offices for radio station WGST were moved into the Ansley Hotel which stood 12 storeys tall at the corner of Williams and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta.  (That location today is a large parking garage, with what was Dunkin’ Donuts at street level.)

Hotel Ansley, Advertisement, Vintage c1931 Postcard. Image: eBay

At the time when Wendy Heape’s grandparents were married, the studios and offices for mediumwave radio broadcasting station WGST were in the Ansley Hotel, and apparently the transmitter and aerial towers were still located in the nearby grounds of the Georgia School of Technology on North Avenue in Atlanta.

The radio program schedule for station WGST as printed in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper for Thursday July 30, 1931, shows that Mr. J. B. Eason and Miss Gussie Heist will be married in a radio ceremony at 7:15 pm conducted by Dr. D. W. Dodge, the pastor of the Central Congregational Church in Atlanta.

Gleason Golden Wedding Interview – Tape recording from Wendy Heape

Mr. J. B. Gleason age 31 worked as a fireman for a local railway company, and he was popular in Atlanta as an accomplished musician, playing piano and xylophone for two musical groups, the Melody Kings and the Xylophone Band.  Miss Gussie Heist lived in the family home at Howell Mill Road and she was employed as a business secretary in Atlanta.

Newspaper reports declared that several thousand listeners tuned in to radio station WGST to hear the broadcast of the Eason-Heist wedding.  And Wendy Heape tells that as time went by, her grandparents gave Eason grandparents celebrated their (50th) Golden Wedding anniversary, and they were interviewed by radio station WGST in honor of that significant occasion.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of January 8, 2023

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