High atop the Oak Park Arms

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others.

Radio Days: Did a short piece last week on a new classic hip-hop radio station in Chicago purloining the call letters of the old WBMX. Stood for the Black Music Experience and was headquartered atop the Oak Park Arms back in the 1970s and 1980s. Asked readers to tell us the call letters and format that preceded and succeeded WBMX. 

Got a pretty strong response. The before was WGLD. Golden oldies, I think, was the call letter reference. But it was best known in the annals of terrestrial radio history for bringing down the wrath of the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1970s.

To boost midday ratings, the station, owned by Sonderling Broadcasting, allowed the disc jockey, Morgan Moore, to switch from Elvis and the Everly Brothers to a talk show format focused on sex. Femme Forum turned out to be extremely popular with listeners. And the format, known as topless radio, spread across the land. The FCC was not amused.

It chose WGLD as the test case and, according to my internet research, its commissioners listened to a 22-minute highlight reel of Femme Forum that left its delicate sensibilities all agog. Might have had to do with the conversation about oral sex and the advice of a woman caller that you never knew what might be happening in the cab of an over-the-road trucker. Oh, my.

Femme Forum was banned by the FCC with just one commissioner raising First Amendment concerns. Sonderling Broadcasting, run by one Egmont Sonderling, if memory serves, was fined a modest $2,000. Femme Forum was no more and soon WGLD was remade as WBMX.

There was and is another radio station housed in cramped quarters atop the Arms. 

It was founded in the 1950s by Mr. Sonderling and its call letters were WOPA (Oak Park Arms). Mainly it was a brokered ethnic station, meaning that blocks of time were sold by the station to various ethnic groups wanting to broadcast to their specific ethnic communities in Chicago. Made a lot of money. Eventually Sonderling sold the station to one of those ethnic broadcasters, the Polish National Alliance. And that is why it is now WPNA (AM 1490). Among many and varied programs on WPNA, you'll hear the The Doris Davenport Show every Sunday night. Doris' show is the ultimate in local broadcasting and focuses completely on Oak Park.

This ramble started with stations changing call letters. Turns out that WOPA has been recycled, too. It is now licensed out of Clio, South Carolina to a station which bills itself as "The World's Local Prayer Mountain." Oh, my.

Thanks, Peter Sagal: Our Wednesday Journal Conversations series at Dominican University rolled on last week with Peter Sagal and Charlie Meyerson in conversation. Another great evening. Thanks to Peter, a longtime Oak Parker and host of NPR's Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me. We'll be posting a podcast of the conversation at OakPark.com where you can hear just how much Peter hates the name of his show.

We'll be back in 2018 with more great Conversations. Stay tuned.

Just one word: For many months I have been trying to reduce Donald Trump to just one word. Found it hard to do. So far I have it down to two words: Evil idiot. You have thoughts? Send them along.

Feel better: Here is the single greatest way to make the holiday spirit rise up in these troubling times. The Holiday Food and Gift Basket program has found sponsors to purchase gifts for some 800 local families in need this year. But on Saturday, Dec. 9, this Community of Congregations program needs lots of drivers to deliver the gifts to these families. It's simple. Turn up at United Lutheran Church (Ridgeland and Greenfield) around 8 a.m. Volunteers will load your car with bags of gifts and send you off to spread holiday happiness. Do this with your kids.

Contact:
Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

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Rex Fermier from Naperville  

Posted: June 30th, 2018 5:54 PM

Your history of WGLD left out the portion of its history after it changed from the golden oldies format. In the early 70's, WGLD was a hip progressive rock FM station. This format was carried over to WXRT, after WGLD became the Black Music Experience. I still have the WGLD poster by Skip Williamson! (You should probably google him!)

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2017 2:07 PM

Dan: In response to your request to describe Trump in one word, I have already sent that to your paper, in a column Ken Trainor wrote August 23, 2016. Here were my attempts (some also not in one word): Demagogue. Narcissist. Plutocrat. Serial divorced guy. Playground bully. Braggart. Belittler. Lacking in any empathy. Vulgarian. Ignoramus. I chose to remain anonymous at that time, but now I'm exposing myself (but not in the Matt Lauer sense). Ask Ken, who can verify. Maybe we can coin a new word in English, and just say "Trumpesque.", which will include all of the above as a capsule summary. "Just like "Shakespearean" embodies the essence of The Bard, on the different end of the scale of contributions to humanity.

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