WSIR - A History
WSIR-AM 1490 Winter Haven – Polk County’s second oldest station, WSIR, was founded in 1947 by Lawrence A. “Larry” Rollins, Jack Brandstetter, and Frederick L. Allman. Brandstetter and Rollins had already been talking about going into a joint business venture after World War II ended, and Allman, who owned WSVA in Harrisburg, VA, told them that if they could locate a city in Florida that needed a radio station, he would join them. Rollins, the only Floridian of the three and familiar with the area, suggested Winter Haven.
When the war was over, the three formed Citrus Belt Broadcasters, Inc. (Frederick L. Allman, president), and filed an application with the FCC. Approval was granted for fulltime operation with 250 watts on 1490 in November 1946. The WSIR call letters were suggested by Rollins, and for many years, the station was known by the nickname “Sir Radio”. Initially, offices and studios were located at 132 Third Street S.W. in Winter Haven in a building that later housed Tyler Jewelers. A tower was erected on the southwest shore of Lake Howard.
The late Richard P. “Dick” Eyrich, WSIR’s long-time program director, put the station on the air at 8:37 P.M. on February 13, 1947. The next day, the first full day of broadcasting, was Valentine’s Day, and for many years the date observed as the station’s anniversary. On that first evening with Eyrich was Boris Mitchell, later executive vice-president and part owner of WKIS in Orlando, and football play-by-play announcer for the Florida State Seminoles. Another early station announcer was Dick Marsh.
In August 1947 WSIR became an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System, an association which would last for many years. The station called itself “The Information Station” and specialized in news on the hour and half-hour, and public service programs like “The Swap Shop,” “Want a Job?,” “The Florida Gardener,” “The Fishing Reel,” and the daily obituaries. WSIR was credited with helping save lives with its over-the-air appeals for blood donors during the years before there were area blood banks, and was also one of the few area stations to broadcast editorials on a regular basis.
The station carried special events, too, such as live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and on a number of occasions, stayed on the air around-the-clock to provide listeners with up to the minute hurricane information. Local remote broadcasts became a tradition – Sunday church services, the annual Easter sunrise service, Winter Haven High School baccalaureate and football games, events at the Florida Citrus Showcase, Boston Red Sox spring training games, and many others. Programming in the 1960’s included popular music with an hour of classical in the afternoon. At night the kids took over at 8:00 for a teen request show.
In its first year on the air, WSIR, with additional underwriting by area businesses, helped spearhead plans to build a permanent concrete football stadium for Winter Haven High School’s Denison Field. And, in another fund-raising campaign, program director Dick Eyrich broke a marathon announcing record while trying to raise money for improvements to Winter Haven Hospital.
Around 1950, WSIR constructed a new office and studio building at the tower/transmitter site on Lake Howard and also acquired a new mobile unit for on-the-scene broadcasts. The FCC granted a daytime power increase to 500 watts in the mid 1960’s, and still another in the late 1970’s to 1,000 watts. In the mid 80’s, power was boosted to 1000 watts unlimited.
Over the years, there were many changes in WSIR’s ownership. After a few years, Brandstetter sold his interest and moved back to Houston. In 1956, Allman sold his stock to Mutual radio network personality Tom Moore, who became president of Hundred Lakes Broadcasting, a newly formed group that also consisted of Larry Rollins, station bookkeeper Nellie Barber, and chief engineer Orden Craig. However, Moore stayed only a short time and then sold his interest, with Rollins taking over as president of the company. By 1960 Barber had sold her part to Arnold Silvert, who became the station’s sales manager.
In 1973 Hundred Lakes sold WSIR to Cypress Central Communications (Randall E. Jeffery, president). Others owners have also included Leopold Broadcasting (Mark Leopold, president/GM) in 1983, WHF Associates Ltd. in 1984, Quid Me Broadcasting, Inc. in 1988, the Histed Media Group (William Mark Histed, president/news director) in 1990, and Anscombe Media Group (Steve Reszka, president) in 2000. Today (2011) WSIR is owned by Anscombe Broadcasting Group Ltd. (since 2000), and broadcasts an urban gospel format from its Lake Howard studios.
On December 14, 2020, Anscombe Broadcasting sold the WSIR property (the land, building, and tower) for $304,500 to the City of Winter Haven which will use the property to expand the Lake Howard Nature Park and provide storm water control. The station was also sold but to whom was not disclosed. On February 1, 2021, WSIR went silent and the following day a Special Temporary Authority request was filed with the FCC to remain silent. Permission was granted not to exceed 180 days. Notwithstanding the grant of the Special Temporary Authority, the broadcast license for WSIR would automatically expire if broadcast operations did not resume by February 2, 2022.
Other names from WSIR history include Earl Sturgeon (sales manager-1950), Harry Carroll (sales manager-1958), Gordon Hubbel (farm director-1958), Bob Prescott (1959), Peter Wiltjer (chief engineer-1964), Larry “Vee” Flegle (“The Night Beat”-1968), Chuck Bishop (station and sales manager-1971), H. Howard Cole III (music director-1972), Martie Wetmore (promotions-1974), Craig Harper (sales manager-1974), Bill Montgomery (PD-1974), Jeff Whittaker (music director-1974), Jim Greenfield (news director-1974), Bob Stephenson (promotions/1975), Ken Copper (PD-1975), Steve Day (music director-1975), Paul Hershey (sales manager-1978; operations-1979), Bob Martin (PD/music director-1978), Dave Langdon (promotions-1978), Jim Carey (chief engineer-1978), Tom Anthony (music director-1979), Stacy Taylor (PD-1979), Stan Friedman (promotions-1979), Jay Menchan (music director-1980; PD-1981), Alan Waits (promotions-1980), Kim Verity-Eubanks (sales manager-1980), Tom Hilliard (music director-1981), Edward Haddox (air personality/sales 1984-88; PD-1990), Ted Leopold (station manager-1984), Steve Howard (PD-1984), Andrew Glogower (operations-1984), Lori Dale (Lori Edwards, news director-1984), Ted Hite (PD-1986), Debra Anscombe (GM-1986), Roger A. Zinszer (GM-1987), Randy Williams (PD-1987), Tonda Thomas (GM-1989), Bert Noble (GM/sales manager-1991), Bob Booth (PD/music director-1991), Jayne Lindsey (PD-1993), Robert Histed, Sr. (music director-1993), Carole Histed (public affairs director-1993), Robert Cubero (GM-1994), W. Richard Bingaman (operations/sales manager/PD-1994), Frank Clark (development/promotions-1994), Jeff Thornberg (chief engineer-1994), Marabel Perectes (promotions-1997), Esther Aza (PD-1997), Art Kamgard (chief engineer-1997), Israel Roman (sales manager-1998), Lou Mueller (chief engineer-1998), Stevon Reszka (PD-1999), Stephan Gill (GM/news director-1999), Tom Gentry (sales manager-1999), and L’ianna Marvin (public affairs director-1999).
Staffers have also included Jim Duke (news), Jim Knight, Jack Shaw, Ed Cole (engineering), Ross McVicker, and Dan Dermody.
1947 - 2021 Other Polk County Stations (History)