World War II The United States’ involvement in World War II started well before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, at least politically. But it was the bombing of our base in Hawaii that actually led the United States to declare war on Japan and enter the campaign. The bombing of Pearl Harbor led many to believe the United States, or at least its citizens, were not adequately prepared for such a disaster. What could have been done to increase citizenry preparedness? One thought was to be able to better communicate impending disasters like the Pearl Harbor bombing. The only real mass communication device in the United States at that time was radio. Major markets were blessed with many commercial stations and network information feeds. However, rural America was often “out of touch” due to lack of reception. Following World War II, the American government saw the need to increase radio reach to citizens in rural and urban population centers. Thus, many new AM frequencies were created. These lower power radio facilities would also bring local and regional news and information to outlying areas. This also began the system that would eventually be called the Emergency Broadcast System. One such new market was Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Isolated from the major market areas (there were no freeways at the time), Tuscarawas County needed a broadcast facility to “bring the world its people.” The FCC granted a radio frequency of 1450 kHz to Tuscarawas County (Dover-New Philadelphia) for its new broadcast facility.
Our Founders The Reeves family had been the most influential in Tuscarawas County since the beginning of the century. Jeremiah E. Reeves started major industries, banks, and hotels in the Dover-New Philadelphia area. After his death in 1920, the Reeves family continued the leadership traditions begun by Mr. Reeves. His daughter, Agnes (Reeves) Greer, filed for ownership of the new radio station and was granted the license in 1949. As a tribute to her father, Ms. Greer requested the call letters for the station be her father’s initials, JER. The “W” was the letter assigned to stations east of the Mississippi River. On Wednesday, February 22nd, 1950 at 6am, WJER Radio began broadcasting operations in the present studio facility on the Boulevard in Dover, a parcel of land that was part of the Reeves family estate. The original 175-foot tower was erected on land with five miles of copper wire buried beneath its surface.
Early Programming Radio of the ‘50s was very different from radio of today. Television was not yet readily available, and radio was doing a lot of what TV does today. Local radio also meant “something for everyone.” There was quite a bit of “block” programming on the air. Stations did not have an official format. When WJER took to the airwaves in February of 1950, some of the programs included news and sportscasts, religious programming (two-and-a-half hours per week), symphonic music, and popular music of the day from such artists as Dick Haynes, The Three Suns, David Rose, Les Brown, and Ernest Tubb. In fact, on the inaugural day, WJER boasted having 4,000 musical selections on 16-inch recordings called transcriptions. Back then, records were sold on 78 RPM platters. These transcriptions were the forerunners of today’s album concept. The new station was lead by WJER’s first General Manager, Frank E. Shaffer. The Chief Engineer was William A. McLellan, and the first Program Director was Tom McClowry. Eventually, the WJER programming base expanded. Many live entertainment shows were broadcast from the WJER studios. The station became more sports oriented with the addition of the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns. The Indians were dropped in the mid 1970s and were brought back in 1994. The Browns were deleted from the program schedule after the team’s move to Baltimore. But today, WJER is a part of the Cleveland Browns Radio Network. High school sports broadcasts were very popular. The voice of the late Rex Ridenour told listeners of the happenings on local gridirons and basketball courts. The “block” programming concept remained popular into the ‘50s and ‘60s. A daily polka show was aired as well as Alpine Aires, which featured Swiss music and yodeling sponsored by merchants from Sugarcreek, Ohio. These two programs were a part of WJER’s daily fare until the late ‘70s. WJER even had its own mascot, a little electric figure was known as REJE whose name was derived from the station’s call letters. From the beginning, WJER has excelled in one area that remains the mainstay of our programming – news. Local news was, is, and always will be WJER’s most important product.
WJER FM WJER FM was granted a license and began broadcasting in 1969 on 101.7. Originally, the FM station programmed “beautiful music” and was popular in doctors’ offices and in elevators. As time went by, WJER put more emphasis on the FM station and eventually went live in 1992. Then in 2004, the station was sold to Clear Channel Broadcasting. In January of 2007, the station was moved from Dover to North Canton. It broadcasts there today as WHOF FM. 1450 WJER was sold back to Gary Petricola in early 2007, and the AM station continues to serve the residents of Tuscarawas County with award-winning local news, weather, sports, and community information. On February 7th, 2017, WJER returned to the FM airwaves with the launch of 100.9 FM, which also broadcasts from the original facility on the Boulevard in Dover.