Chat Room

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As the Twenties came to a close, Savannah native William T. Knight, Jr. led the Junior Board of Trade (forerunner to the Savannah Jaycees) into action: Savannah would get its first radio station. Despite the decade of austerity to come, the board secured the license and finances to make it happen.

Soon, broadcasts started recording from a studio on the top floor of the DeSoto Hotel, and a quartet of AM frequency call letters was affixed to the roof: WTOC, which stood for Welcome To Our City. With that, the whole wide world landed in living rooms across Savannah. There were big bands and swing bands, live broadcasts of the Savannah Indians minor league baseball team, episodes of the Lone Ranger and even a visit from a young Frank Sinatra on tour with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. WTOC was inspirational, and it was valuable—part of a burgeoning medium that defined the American lifestyle, shared current affairs and broadcast the fireside chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A postcard and matchbooks from the station’s glory days. Photo by Cedric Smith

WTOC eventually moved to the Lawton mansion at 516 Abercorn St. (now Savannah College of Art and Design’s Keys Hall), where it built a monumental signal tower that still stands tall. In 1946, the station added FM frequency, and eight years after that it made its biggest advancement yet, launching Savannah’s first television station.

Insurance giant AFLAC acquired the company in 1979, splitting the assets and creating new stations. Yet WTOC AM-FM will always hold a special place in history, when, for the first time, Savannahians connected with the world on air.