WRKL Station Collection
Rockland County's first radio station, WRKL began broadcasting on July 4, 1964. WRKL featured local and world news, call-in shows and some music. Known for featuring controversial guests and topics, WRKL was firebombed in 1967 after an appearance by a representative from the Congress for Racial Equality on the popular call-in show "Hotline." The station resumed broadcasting shortly after the bombing and went on to earn several prestigious awards for journalism including the DuPont-Columbia award for outstanding political coverage. The collection documents the station's founding and activities.
Important Information for Users of the Collection
The collection is open for research use. One audiotape is restricted access.
WRKL Station Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/5401
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
This collection is PROCESSED.
The WRKL Station Collection documents the origin of AM radio station WRKL in Rockland County, New York. Husband and wife Al Spiro and Betty Ramey took out a mortgage on their home and scraped together sufficient funds to start a local radio station. Built on a shoestring and originally housed in two forty-foot trailers located in a swamp at Route 202 on the Mt. Ivy Peninsula, WRKL, Rockland County's first local radio station, began broadcasting on July 4, 1964. WRKL's format consisted of news, call-in shows, and some music. "Hotline," a one-and-a-half-hour call-in show with the purpose of giving a voice to WRKL's listeners and serving as a forum for Rockland County opinion, featured controversial guests and often sparked lively debate. Ramey once described "Hotline" as a "town hall for the community." As a local radio station, WRKL relied upon the local community and interaction with its citizens for its development. 12,000 people attended WRKL's first birthday party in 1965 and WRKL captured over 90 percent of the local audience by that same year.
On July 22, 1967, Al Spiro invited a member of the Rockland County Congress of Racial Equality onto "Hotline" to discuss racial tensions. The station received several threatening phone calls after the broadcast and on July 24, 1967, the station was firebombed. The fire destroyed both trailers that housed the radio station, the record collection and the station's equipment. The presence of two gasoline containers alerted officials to the suspicious nature of the fire that was later ruled an act of arson. The perpetrators were never identified.
As word of the fire spread, WRKL was deluged with offers of assistance from citizens of Rockland County, radio employees, and other radio stations. These offers ranged from volunteer labor and monetary contributions to donations of radio equipment from other radio stations. As a result of this outpouring, WRKL was back on the air within four and a half days after the fire. The first program broadcast after the re-opening was "Hotline."
In 1968, not long after the firebombing, Al Spiro suffered a heart attack and died. Upon the death of her husband, Betty Ramey, a former art teacher, took control of the management and operations of WRKL. In addition to running the station, Ramey also took over hosting duties of "Hotline." In 1969, WRKL won the prestigious DuPont-Columbia award for outstanding political coverage. WRKL won numerous awards over the next several years, including: the Edward R. Murrow Award (for Northeast U.S.) for Courage, Enterprise, Social Awareness of Significant Community Problems in 1977; the N.Y. Associated Press Broadcasters Association's Grand Prize in 1971-1973; and the New York State Broadcasters Association's Outstanding Public Affairs Program and Outstanding Public Affairs Series in 1978.
Ramey continued to run the radio station until 1985. She served as host of "Hotline" until November 27, 1985. Under the ownership and management of Betty Ramey, WRKL continued to offer to its audience an opportunity to not only keep current with local, national, and international news, but also a forum in which to air their grievances and debate controversial topics. In 1985, Ramey sold the station to Rockland Communications and resumed her pre-WRKL career in the arts. She currently lives in New York with her husband James W. Ramey. WRKL was sold to PolNet in September 1998, which changed WRKL's format from news to all Polish programming.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The WRKL Station Collection spans the years 1953-1989 with the bulk of the material dating from 1964-1977. The collection contains business records, photographs, awards, audio materials, architectural plans, and newspaper clippings. Ten books belonging to this collection have been integrated into the Library of American Broadcasting's book collection. Architectural plans and promotional posters are housed in the Library's map case.
Custodial History and Acquisition Information
The WRKL Station Collection was donated to the Library of American Broadcasting, University of Maryland Libraries, by Betty Ramey in June 1998.
Processed by Linda M. Machado, June, 1999.
EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Cary O'Dell, January 2005.
Arrangement of Collection
This collection has been organized into four series:
Detailed Description of the Collection
Series 1: Business and Financial Records, 1953-1985 (0.50 linear foot)
This series contains the business and financial records of WRKL. Included are numerous FCC license renewals, financial records relating to the sale of WRKL, architectural blue prints and specifications and property records.
The following architectural plans are housed in the Library of American Broadcasting's map case: Site Plan; Sewage Disposal System (1964); Survey of Property (1982); Foundation Plan; Finish Schedule, Plumbing and Door Schedule; First Floor Plan; Elevations; and Wall Sections.
Series 2: Publicity and Promotion, 1964-1986 (0.50 linear foot)
This series contains the contents of three scrapbooks from 1964-1977; numerous awards granted to WRKL, Betty Ramey and Al Spiro; and newspaper articles covering the radio stations. This series is divided into three subseries.
Subseries 2.1: Scrapbooks, 1964-1986 (0.25 linear foot)
This subseries contains the contents of three scrapbooks that document WRKL and its owners from 1964-1986. Two scrapbooks date from 1964-1976 and one documents a luncheon honoring Betty Ramey, in 1977.
Subseries 2.2: Awards, 1971-1986 (10 folders and 6 items)
This subseries contains numerous plaques, trophies and certificates won by WRKL, Betty Ramey, and Al Spiro between the years 1971-1986. The awards are house in box number four of this collection
Subseries 2.3: Newspaper Articles, 1967-1980 (2 folders)
This subseries contains articles written about WRKL from 1967-1980.
Series 3: Photographs, 1963-1968 (0.25 linear foot)
This series contains numerous photographs of the WRKL radio station, WRKL civic and social functions, the damage to the radio station as a result of the 1967 fire, and the efforts to rebuild the station. The pictures date from 1963-1968.
Series 4: Audio Tapes, 1968-1989 (32 items)
This series contains both reel-to-reel and audiocassette recordings dating from 1968-1989. Included are recordings of "Hotline" programs and Betty Ramey's meeting with Indira Ghandi. One tape from 1989 contains a recording of "Hotline" celebrating the 25th anniversary fo WRKL and features Betty Ramey as a guest.
This series contains one reel-to-reel tape that is restricted.
For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
The following books were removed from the WRKL Station Collection and integrated into the Library of American Broadcasting's book collection:
- Shapiro, Andrew. Media Access. Your Rights to Express Your Views on Radio and Television, 1976.
- Wylie, Max. Radio Writing, 1939.
- Barrett, Marvin (ed.). The Politics of Broadcasting, Alfred I. Du Pont-Columbia University Survey of Broadcasting Journalism. 1971-1972. (2 copies)
- Licty, Lawrence W. and Topping, Malachi C., American Broadcastin, A Source Book on the History of Radio and Television, 1975
- Gordon, George N., The Language of Communication: A Logical and Psychological Examination, 1969. (signed by George Gordon)
- Hasling, John, Fundamentals of Radio Broadcasting, circa 1980s.
- Routt, Ed, The Radio Format Conundrum, 1978
- Pennybacker, John H. and Braden, Waldo W., Broadcasting and the Public Interest, 1969.
- Indian Institute of Mass Communication, A Manual for News Agency Reporters, 1980.
- Laughton, Roy, TV Graphics, 1960.
Selected Search Terms
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.
- Radio stations -- New York (State) -- Rockland County -- Archival resources.
- WRKL-AM (Radio station : Rockland County, N.Y.) -- Archives.