Your note in the “Inside Report” section of the Nov. 22 issue of Wednesday Journal on “Anyone remember WBMX?” or a predecessor, brought back memories of the station when it was WOPA in the late 1950s. I think those were the original call letters of the station, which went on the air after the end of WWII as a classical music station. (All those clauses, and many of those below, are included in the phrase “I think,” trying to reach memories of over 50 years ago.) The classical music format failed I was told and the station became an ethnic station, selling air time to whoever would pay the price for 15 or 30 minutes of broadcasting, in whatever language the buyer chose to reach an audience.
I became aware of WOPA in the fall of 1956 or spring of 1957 when I was employed by the firm that did the auditing of the station books and also the books of the Oak Park Arms hotel, in which WOPA was located. I was assigned to the audits as a junior accountant. I do not recall whether the station was located in the original north portion of the hotel or in the south portion, which I was also told had been completed after the war. The steel framework for the extension was supposedly erected just after the Crash of 1929, but construction halted then due to the absence of money or credit, and then the war prevented any resumption of work.
Many of the station advertisers paid their bills in cash at that time. The station manager was also the bookkeeper and prepared informal monthly statements for the owners between the official audits. The manager decided to convert the cash payments to a personal pocket but showed all the cash as deposited in the monthly statements. The station’s principal owner, noting the build-up of cash on hand, wrote a large check to transfer the funds elsewhere, and was surprised when the check “bounced.” A quick investigation uncovered the defalcation, and after recovering much of the missing cash from the sticky fingers, the manager was fired, and stronger internal controls were installed over the cash receipts. Such was my introduction as a young auditor to the control of cash in small businesses.
I lost touch with WOPA when I left the accounting firm after about two years to enter graduate school, so I am unable to fill in the history of the little facility and its alphabetic transformations over the years as new owners decided to reposition its coverage in the marketplace.
Charles H. Stats