Thursday, February 27, 2014
On the Air
I've been devoting some of my winter reading this year to books about life in the south during the Great Depression. Through their pages, I've learned what it was like to endure the hardships of a stock market crash and drought, only to be surpassed by enduring faith and community spirit. In one of the books, it was noted that WLS Radio in Chicago received its call letters from the words "World's Largest Store." According to that same book, WLS was owned and started by the retail and catalogue giant, Sears-Roebuck and Company. After having heard WLS for years, I was surprised to learn the story behind the airwaves. So, I did a little online research to find out how a retail giant and a radio station would come together. According to WLS' website, Sears-Roebuck had started out exploring the power of the medium of radio by purchasing airtime to attract the Midwest's lucrative farm market in the early 1920s. The experiment proved to be so successful that within a couple of years, the company decided to construct its own radio station. Several ideas for call letters were forwarded, but by the time they went on the air on April 12, 1924, they had selected WLS. Today, we take airwaves in all forms pretty much for granted, but nearly a century ago when the medium was new and, a decade later, when the days were difficult due to the Depression, stations like WLS brought innovation and joy into the homes of many who could use a lightened spirit and an ear to a bigger world.