Lasting Ties: WGCS Hosts A Request-A-Song For FIFI Relief

On Oct. 15, 1974, the 91.1 FM evening broadcast featured Khatchaturian’s Violin Concerto. Off-air, WGCS student general manager Jon Kennel (future general manager) and others had spent the day fielding dozens of request calls for classical and rock music as part of a special phonathon.

Since the fall of 1958, Goshen students, together with faculty collaborators such as chief engineer J. F. Swartzendruber and program director Roy Umble, had been broadcasting a variety of music, news, sports and commentary from a lofty nook in the Union Building. For the past year, students had capped the 12-hour broadcast day with “Synthesis,” a 75-minute program of progressive rock music.

Each of those 1974 request calls came with a pledge of money for Project Fifi (Fifi Reliefi). A devastating hurricane, Fifi, had struck Central America almost a month earlier. Particularly hard hit was Honduras, then hosting its ninth Study-Service Term group (including future president Jim Brenneman). In late September, GC faculty Bruce and Helen Glick gathered students with Central American connections at their home to brainstorm fundraising possibilities. WGCS public relations director Roger O. Smith took leadership for a phonathon.

Capitalizing on a mid-term reading day, the station extended its broadcast day by almost five hours. Callers could request classical or rock pieces. The higher the pledge, the more likely the request would be played at a preferred time. Requests for rock music outnumbered those for classical music, but classical requests seemed to bring in higher pledges. Meanwhile, in the Union Gymnasium, WGCS staffers squared off against other challengers in volleyball. All told, the college radio station raised $2,074 for Fifi Reliefi.

Today, 50 years after its founding, WGCS continues to broadcast from the Union Building and is more commonly referred to as The Globe. It provides 24-hour programming and can be listened to from anywhere in the world at: www.globeradio.org.

 

– Joe Springer

Curator, Mennonite Historical Library

 

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