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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: WSAB Is On the Air!

Southeast Missouri State University

It seems like Almost Yesterday that Southeast Missouri State Teacher’s College became a pioneer in radio broadcasting. With 200 watts of power and a wave length of 360 meters, WSAB went on the air on Tuesday, March 27, 1923.

Construction of the station began in the summer of 1922, but was delayed until the Education Building, now Crisp Hall, was near completion so that an antenna could be erected there. The station was housed in an oak cabinet made by students in the agriculture shop, and was located in the college physics lab, on the second floor of the Science Building, now Carnahan Hall. Development of the station was the idea of Professor E. H. Thomas, Chairman of the Department of Physics at the college.

The first voice to go out over the Southeast College air waves was that of President Joseph Serena, who welcomed all listeners, and then explained the objectives of Southeast Missouri Teacher’s College—and what the college expected from the region’s high schools.

The first full week of broadcasting included a musical program by Miss Violet Benson, a discussion of public health issues by Professor Robert Douglass, and an additional musical performance by Miss Laura Ann Keller. The broadcast schedule on Wednesday night of the first week was interrupted by a series of thunderstorms, and the station did not go on the air.  

But then, as reported in the campus newspaper, The Capaha Arrow, on Thursday of that first week, all of the Central United States was shaken when “Hirsch’s jazzy orchestra” filled the air waves with peppy music.

And the first week concluded with a performance by the Girl’s Glee Club.  The new technology of radio created an exciting week in Southeast Missouri.

Letters were received indicating that the sound of WSAB had been received from as far away as Texas, South Dakota, Maryland, and Paducah, Kentucky.

It seems like almost yesterday.

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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