by Edward F. Perry, Jr. (click here to meet Ed)
WATD is one of those seemingly impossible ideas which actually worked and has now endured for over three full decades.
The idea for the station in Marshfield, Massachusetts emerged as the result of a prospecting trip Carol Ebert (now Carol Perry) and I made in December of 1972. We discovered an FM Channel then in use on Martha’s Vineyard could be used in a wide area of Cape Cod and the South Shore if the FCC would agree to assign a different frequency to the Vineyard station. Our mission on the trip was to try and guess which areas would offer the best chance for economic success five years later. (Five years is the average time it takes to bring a radio station from the “idea” to “broadcasting” stage). After touring a dozen towns we decided the Marshfield area held the greatest promise. In February, 1973 we filed the first round of paperwork with the FCC.
The first obstacle was finding money. We weren’t even married yet and had nothing in the bank. Fortunately, Bill Blackmore, a neighbor of ours in Duxbury, read about the FM proposal and offered to become a partner. With his support Rockland Trust agreed to lend us enough to build the station if the FCC approved it. The next problem was the Vineyard FM station which fought our attempts to change their frequency. Then a station in Worcester on 96.1 MHz opposed us on the grounds that we’d interfere with their signals and complained that a station in Marshfield would never find economic support and would be gone in a year anyway. Finally, in 1977, the FCC denied all objections and granted us a permit to build the station. We thought our troubles were over. They weren’t.
We’d originally proposed a transmitter site on Pudding Hill in Marshfield behind the town water tank. But access problems developed and the town wanted to buy the land for conservation. So we took an option of some land on Carolina Hill. But unfortunately the Conservation Commission bought that land as part of their open space program. Finally we went out and bought six acres next to the town landfill. With only the dump for a close neighbor we thought our hearing for a permit to build a tower would be a piece of cake. But nearly 200 people showed up to question everything from the need for a radio station in town to the prospect of squirrels climbing the guy wires and slipping to their deaths. One person worried about geese flying into the tower on their way South. We thought we were dead but the Zoning Board actually approved the tower (along with a requirement to fence the guy points to keep kids and wildlife off the guy wires). But we realized then that our choice of a site beside the landfill was probably the only thing which favored our permit. And after a victory party where more than a few libations were lifted, we asked the FCC for the call letters WATD…”We’re at the Dump!”
The Station broadcast its first full day of programming on December 6, 1977 from rented studios across from Lou’s Restaurant on Route 139. Our first test was the Blizzard of 1978. Using gasoline generators which the announcers would refill every two hours, we kept the station on the air for nearly a week supplying emergency information. Those broadcasts got the station noticed and probably doubled our audience.
Later in 1978 we began operating the first studio radio reading service for the blind in New England. Using a subcarrier on the WATD signal (the kind usually used to send background music to supermarkets) volunteers came to a special studio at the station and read newspapers and magazines to a dozen receiver-equipped blind residents of the area. That small service has grown to become the Talking Information Center, a nonprofit statewide network providing service to more than 20,000 visually handicapped persons in Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
In 1986 we moved into our own new studio building on Enterprise Drive. We invested in additional remote pickup facilities and began operating 24 hours a day. We also invested in two large generators to run the station during power failures. Since then we’ve been through hurricanes, blizzards, and coastal storms losing only a few minutes of air time.
Today, WATD is one of the most respected and honored stations in the state. For the past ten years, the Associated Press has given WATD the “Bay State Award” signifying the best local news operation in the state. We are one of the few radio stations ever to win five Edward R. Murrow Awards for national news excellence.
WATD is a full service regional radio station, the way some of the old line Boston stations used to be. We offer excellent local and regional news, unmatched live coverage of local breaking stories, live high school sports coverage and we even have our own weatherman based in Hull and an award winning locally produced children’s show. All of our announcers are “Boston Quality” and our music is oriented toward an adult audience.
My wife, Carol, and I work at the station full-time. It’s a family operation. It’s not for sale. And it’s staffed by some of the best people in the business. And, even after 40 years, we’re still having fun.