WRBX was the second radio station to serve the Roanoke Valley. It was owned
and operated by the Richmond Development Company and went on the air in March
of 1930 with an output power of 500 watts at 1410 khz. The main studio was
located in the Crystal Spring water department building and for better visibility
they would also broadcast in the store front of "McBaines", a furniture
store. Rugs were hung on three sides of the showroom window. This deadened
the room and at the same time advertised the rugs. The control booth and entertainment
could be seen from the street. WDBJ radio would also use the storefront too.
(This may have been the beginning of the "remote broadcast") The
building later became the home of "Pughs" and more recently was
the downtown location of Grand Piano.
The transmitter and tower were located near Crystal Springs off Jefferson Street just a bit up the side of Mill Mountain.
The station only remained on the air for a little more than five years. The reason, according to Curtis Downey, Radio Historian, was as follows: It was in 1922, Ernest E. Kitts was commissioned to build a transmitter for Hugh Shott in Bluefield. The crude affair, powered by batteries, was set in operation in the office of the owner-editor the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the late Congressman Hugh Ike Shott, Sr.
Here, with a Victrola and a batch of quarter-inch thick records, Station WHAJ (Hugh and Jim) beamed its first signal. "Programming" which was very sporadic and entirely at the whim of the young broadcasters consisted of various individuals dropping by to play the records, and gradually anyone in town who could "do anything--sing, pick a guitar, talk"--began haunting the office for the chance to "get on the rad-dio."
the traffic of would-be radio performers in the editor's office became more
congested, the Editor's temper became shorter. On the floor of that office
was his prized possession--a white "liberty rug" with the Great
Seal of the United States in the middle and seals of each state forming a
colorful and impressive border. One fateful day with the batteries running
low, additional car batteries were brought inside to increase the power for
the equipment. Somehow one of the batteries spilled acid, eating great holes
in the beautiful rug. And
that was the end of station WHAJ!
Several years later, Congressman Shott told the FCC he had planned on putting his station back on the air and was allowed to change frequencies to 1410 Khz at 250 watts. This was the same frequency that Roanoke's WRBX was assigned. Though highly unusual Shott convinced the FCC to allow WHIS and WRBX to share frequencies and each station would broadcast a half a day.
A QSL card from WHIS in November 1931 listed the regular broadcasting schedule as 8-9 a.m., 12-3 p.m., and 6-8 p.m. This meant WRBX broadcast from 6-8 a.m.,9-12 noon and 3-6 p.m.
In 1933, WHIS bought WRBX. Mel Barnett had seen the handwriting on the wall and had moved to WHIS in 1931. Later several others from WRBX went to WHIS.... Pat Murphy, Bill Saunders and Barney Nash. WRBX, Roanoke, Va. Licensee (Richmond Development Corp.) voluntarily relinquished hours of operation to WHIS, Bluefield, W. Va. and went dark on Sept. 23,1935.
From the FCC microfiche files
1/13/31 Granted WHIS a C.P. to change freq. to 1410kc with 250 watts, shared 1/2 time with WRBX. License to cover the C.P. granted 6/26/31.
2/5/35 Granted WHIS a C.P. to change to 1410kc, 250 watts, 500 watts LS, shared with WRBX. License to cover the C.P. granted 5/28/35.
9/17/35 Granted WHIS a modification of license to change to unlimited hours, using the facilities of WRBX, eff 9/23/35.