Compiled by Jim Cumbie
The station that was to become WYFR originated in Boston as W1XAL, an experimental shortwave station licensed to radio pioneer Walter S. Lemon. When W1XAL began in 1927, its programming was mostly educational with a sprinkling of music and entertainment. With some financial support from charitable organizations, it proved to be quite successful. In 1936 the station outgrew its transmitter facility in Boston and moved about 20 miles south to the site of a former W.W.I. era military powerhouse and station in Scituate, Massachusetts. Lemon established the Worldwide Broadcasting Foundation, and, to promote understanding between countries, the World Radio University. In 1939 the station call letters changed to WRUL (World Radio University for the Listener.) The station also used call signs WRUA, WRUS, WURW and WRUX for various frequencies and/or transmitters.
During World War II, WRUL broadcast the Voice of America. In the years after the war, the station’s studios were moved to New York, it became commercially supported and began a limited broadcast schedule. WRUL called itself “Radio Boston” and “The Voice of Freedom.”
In the 1950s, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service used some of WRUL’s frequencies to broadcast its programming. In addition, WRUL received a citation from President John F. Kennedy “for service with special merit,” for Spanish broadcasts during the Cuban missile crisis.
The station changed ownership several times: it was sold to Metromedia (1960), became the first international affiliate of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1962), was an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and then was sold to Bonneville International. Program time was increased, and the call letters were again changed, this time to WNYW for “World Radio New York.” The format included education, entertainment, news, and music.
On January 22, 1972, Family Radio entered the scene with the purchase of three hours of air time to broadcast Christian programs overseas. Family Radio was able to purchase the shortwave facility in October 20, 1973. The call letters were changed to WYFR for “Your Family Radio” and tranistioned to an all Christian format. The original broadcasts were in English and Spanish.
At that time, two 100kW transmitters, two 50kW transmitters and nine rhombic antennas were in use. The site occupied some 40 odd acres. Over the years, residential growth expanded up to all the boundaries of the property. The antennas experienced excessive cross coupling because of their proximity to each other and were too small for adequate gain. One antenna hung directly over the transmitter building. The Scituate site was too small, there was no room for expansion and the lease was almost up.
With FCC approval in 1976, the shortwave broadcasting facilities were moved to a location about 20 miles North of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. The new site in Florida offered 664 acres of flat and grassy land to accommodate additional antennas. This made an excellent place to erect the numerous large antennas envisioned for a rebuilt, improved WYFR. The relocation would also provide financial savings in operating costs. Newer and more efficient equipment was obtained to replace the old equipment in Scituate. A single story building with 11,000 square feet of much needed space was specifically designed and constructed in the center of the land — for transmitters, the control room, repair shop, and technical offices. Coincidentally, both sites took their names from American Indian words having reference to water; Okeechobee meaning “big water” and Scituate derived from the Indian expression for “cold brook”.
On November 23, 1977 the first broadcasts from the new facility beamed to Europe and South America from a single 100kW transmitter and two double-rhomboid antennas. Now WYFR found itself in the unusual position of operating from two sites separated by over a thousand miles. Each time a transmitter went on line in Okeechobee, a transmitter would be taken off the line in Scituate and shipped down to Okeechobee for installation. The last transmitter in Scituate went off the air on November 16, 1979. The construction that began in 1976 continues to the present day.
In 1977, WYFR received 13,000 letters in one year from Latin America alone. The owners knew at that point, that their ministry was expanding. Cuba was then added to the listening range; and by 1978, Family Radio was the strongest signal heard in that Communist country.
In 1984 WYFR utilized five 100kW and two 50 kW transmitters. Ten double-rhomboid and six log periodic antennas broadcasted to target areas in many directions.
WYFR – Okeechobee Transmitting Facility – 1984
Rural, in Okeechobee County, Florida, United States of America, about 20 miles North of Lake Okeechobee. North Latitude 27 degrees, 27 minutes, 30 seconds. West Longitude 80 degrees, 56 minutes, 00 seconds.
Semitropical with very high incidence of thunder storms during Summer months.
Relatively flat pastureland, swampy in places.
60Hz, 22,800 volts stepped down to 480 volts; 1500kVA.
Five 100,000 watt and two 50,000 watt; all are high-level plate modulated; some are entirely air cooled; some also use water cooling and vapor-phase cooling.
Double-Rhomboids on azimuths of 43.5 degrees, 87 degrees, 142 degrees and 160 degrees. Log-Periodics on azimuths of 222 degrees, 285 degrees, 315 degrees and 355 degrees. Gain of the Double-Rhomboids (two sizes) varies from 20 to 30 dbi according to frequency of operation. Gain of the Log-Periodic is 14.5 dbi. Take-off angle for the Log-Periodic antennas varies from 12 to 16 degrees according to frequency of operation. Takeoff angle for the Double-Rhomboids varies from 4 to 18 degrees depending on frequency of operation and size of the antenna (two sizes). Half-voltage azimuthal beamwidth of the Log-Periodics is 90 degrees. Half-voltage azimuthal beamwidth of the Double-Rhomboids varies from 11 degrees to 16 degrees depending Oft the size of the antenna. degrees. Half-voltage azimuthal beamwidth of the Double-Rhomboids varies from 11 degrees to 16 degrees depending Oft the size of the antenna.
Constructed of four wires side-connected to form a twoconductor line with characteristic impedance of 300 ohms.
REEL-To-REEL TAPE MACHINES:
Ampex decks with electronics constructed by Family Stations, Inc. Technical Department.
CARTRIDGE MACHINES: International Tapetronics Corporation single-cartridge units and SonoMag Corporation 24-cartridge carousels.
Sources: A WYFR fact sheet received with a QSL in 1984, Family Radio News: Oct, Nov, Dec 2006, Radio News: Feb. and March 1948, World Radio Handbook: 1954 – 1960, and personal observations.