Maynard High School once had a student group called the Audio Visual Club with the purpose to assist teachers in such areas as acquiring, storing, and fixing the school’s technical equipment. Anytime a teacher needed to set-up an overhead projector or show an educational film, the A/V Club was called, and the club’s members thought this was great. For one reason according to Russ Arena (M.H.S. Class of 1975), their duties often got them excused “from some boring class.”
The members of the A/V Club were primarily underclassmen, and two such teens in 1973 were Richard Hurd and John Boothroyd. Both were sophomores and interested in most things audio visual. However, by the end of the year, they were ready to expand their experiences beyond setting up and operating film projectors. It was then that Richard Hurd came up with a novel idea. Accompanied by John Boothroyd, he asked Joe Magno about the possibilities of starting a high school radio station, later to be known as WAVM.
Joe Magno immediately liked the idea and started thinking of ways to make the radio station a reality. As to why he helped Richard and John, years later Magno said, “If kids wanted to try something, I always wanted to try and open the door for them.” It was the educator in him who wanted to at least give the students the opportunity to learn. Of all the chances that Magno had taken or would take on Maynard’s youth, this one would prove the most far-reaching.
Under Magno’s guidance, Richard and John began making preparations for the numerous tasks before them. According to John Boothroyd, “That entire Summer, Richard and I did a lot of work. Frequency search, naming the station, and ordering the equipment.” With the assistance of a top-flight engineer, they also had to secure licenses, studio space, and more minute items such as records. They were starting a radio station from scratch, which was no easy feat.
Fortunately, Richard and John could count on the other AV members to help out. Russ Arena was one. “We scrimped and begged equipment from wherever we could. And we auctioned off a snowmobile. I believe Larry Fryatt got it at cost.” Larry Fryatt, another member of the A/V club, got and transported a snowmobile from Powder Mill Sports, Maynard.
The students raffled off the snowmobile. According to Russ, “We just sold tickets a bundle…thousands of them. I believe that gave us a lot of money. That brought us our control panel.” With this raffle money and a donation from the Maynard School Committee, as well as old equipment from several radio stations, WAVM was part way there.
One of the easier tasks facing Richard and John was deciding a call name for the station. After several tries and ideas like WMAY or WMHS, they came up with WAVM. “W” is the designation for any station East of the Mississippi River, but what do the letters “AVM” stand for? Somewhere on this website, you’ll find the answer.
Digital Equipment Corporation, which began in Maynard, also had a helping hand in the creation of WAVM. They allowed David Knight, an engineer from D.E.C., to spend a lot of time at the station. He advised the students and took the lead in all technical aspects. Furthermore, when the station was finally equipped, Knight walked the students through the process.
While David Knight was wiring the studio–“jury-rigging” according to Russ Arena–, John Boothroyd and the other students were attending to studio details. John said, “We all picked out carpet, paint, chairs, etc.” They had been given Joe Magno’s office for the radio booth and small office, and the A/V storage room for the record room. According to Joe Magno, “Steve Desy [At the time, the M.H.S. Industrial Arts Teacher] built the studio” including a partition between the radio booth and the office. The area was small but sufficient.
It was David Knight who handled the extensive licensing paperwork and conducted the frequency search. This research was all part of the process that the station had to go through with the F.C.C., because, in the early days of radio, there were so many broadcasters sending signals on the same frequency and interfering with each other that the federal government had to step in. The Federal Communications Commission was organized, and they regulated who got what frequencies and at which wattage they could broadcast.
In addition to getting a license for the station to operate, all of the students, who would be broadcasting, needed personal licenses. An F.C.C. Third Class Radio License was required just to talk on the radio. To operate the transmitter, which is the piece of equipment that modulates the radio signal at the proper frequency, several students had to pass “Element 9” on the test, because the station had to have, according to John Boothroyd, one “Element 9 guy or girl” on the premises whenever the station was operating. However, “Element 9” was a difficult section on the test and of the fifteen students who first took the test for WAVM, less than half passed. Still, all fifteen students received their Third Class Licenses.
All of this work happened from the Spring of 1973 to the Spring of 1974. A full year of work just to get the space, equipment, and clearances. The longest wait was for the F.C.C. paperwork to go through, but finally, WAVM received their license.
On April 22, 1974, the students and Joe Magno gathered for a test. Russ Arena was chosen to announce. Among other words, he said, “You’re listening to WAVM Radio, 91.7 on your FM knob.” At the word “knob,” Magno burst, yelling, “It’s a dial, not a knob!” Obviously, there was some learning to happen, but at least they had technically just begun.
“The boys and I are committed to our obligation to these wonderful people [the community] to bring quality programming to the area. I hope everyone will give us their support and realize that the endeavor is new even to us and changes will have to be made along the way. The real job for my MHS AV boys is just beginning…”
-Joseph P. Magno, a 1974 newsletter