WHYL celebrated seven decades in the Carlisle community with a ribbon-cutting Friday.
“It’s an amazing history. We’ve had a lot of great talent go through the doors. I’m just kind of in awe that we’re all part of it today,” owner Eric Swidler said.
Swidler’s company, Radio Carlisle, owns Red 102.3/WCAT, Country Gold 97.9/WIOO and Oldies 102.9/WHYL.
The Federal Communications Commission licensed WHYL on Feb. 25, 1949, but early records of the station show broadcasts dating to December of the previous year.
Originally, the station was WLXW, and one of its first broadcasts covered the arrival of Santa Claus to downtown Carlisle.
“It has a really rich history in Carlisle,” Swidler said.
The station has had various owners through the years who changed the format from time to time, including 2005, when the station went from an adult standards format playing the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to an all-talk format to all Christmas music and back to adult standards — all within about a 10-month period.
The late Ben Barber, Scott Donato, Sandy Loy and former Carlisle mayor Kirk Wilson have been among the on-air talents at WHYL through the years.
Swidler dubbed one of those talents, Ray Thomas, “the voice of Carlisle.” Thomas was the afternoon on-air personality at WHYL for years and is now the program director. He was on duty at another one of Radio Carlisle’s stations, WIOO, when he and Swidler went through one of their most memorable experiences at Radio Carlisle.
It was Jan. 2, 2012, and Thomas was the only one in the building. New Year’s Day had been on a Sunday so that Monday was the official holiday. Thomas finished the long-running radio show, Tradeo, and put the station on automation so he could get something to eat before his 3 p.m. shift.
“About a half hour later, I’m coming around the corner there by Lowe’s and the building is up in flames,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was the biggest shock of my life.”
The fire kept the station off the air for less than a day before it was able to broadcast from a transmitter shack along the Holly Pike.
Financial issues kept WHYL off the air until just before the Swidlers bought it.
Then owned by Trustworthy Radio, WHYL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 13, 2012. In September 2013, Barber signed off the air for the final time because of the station’s financial troubles.
Barber, who had an iconic 50-year radio career in Cumberland County, died the following February.
Swidler and his father, Harold, bought WHYL in 2014, and the station returned to the airwaves in March 2015 with its “Good Time Oldies” format initially on the AM dial as Oldies 960 and with the FM simulcast coming along a year later on 102.9.
Now, with the 70-year-old WHYL firmly in the Radio Carlisle fold, Swidler looks to the future, saying that the stations are thankful for the support of the community and that they are aware of their need to serve the community.
“Let’s face it. This is a two-way street,” he said.
He’s also aware of the changing landscape of the business brought on by technology.
“We embrace the social media. We embrace the texting. We embrace also the internet and web, and it goes on from there. Frankly, to move forward into the future you’ve got to move with the times and that’s really what we do,” Swidler said.