Approximately 60 alumni, who graduated in years ranging from the mid-70’s to 2016, gathered to celebrate the 45th anniversary of WSTB at the high school April 23.
Alumni enjoyed refreshments, reminiscing and tours of the radio station as well as the school.
“They were there the first couple of years when the radio station first went on air,” station manager Bob Long said of some of the attendees. “Originally the radio station was at the middle school, and it’s so much different than what it was when they were around.”
WSTB first started in 1972 as 91.5, with an “NPR format,” Long explained. Turntables, records and radio documentaries played, and in the afternoon, the staff would have to sign off to do production work.
“It was only on the air during school hours and in the evening,” he said. “[It’s] not like today where it’s on 24/7, 365.”
This is Long’s 36th year as station manager.
“I came in 1981,” he said. “The following year I changed the format; we played contemporary hit music, or pop, as they call it.”
He changed the station to V-ROCK, where most of the music was heavy metal.
“That was the most…exciting format,” he said.
According to a handout distributed at the 45th anniversary — “The Story of WSTB-FM” — “V-ROCK” was intended to be associated with “Z-ROCK,” a former Cleveland metal radio station.
Originally, the logo was a snake in the form of a “V” with the slogan, “The V is for venom…the rock is for you.” However, due to the time period, the slogan was considered too harsh, and the idea was discarded.
Instead, the final design was an upside down anarchy sign. The station was often known as “upside-down anarchy rock.”
For a few years, V-ROCK used CDs, but Long said the “particular technology didn’t last very long…and records were around for a decade.”
It was then in 1995 that the station switched to 88.9.
In 1999, V-ROCK became what is now The AlterNation.
“We’ve been playing modern rock for about 18 years,” Long said. “That’s a long time for a radio station these days.”
“The Day the Music Died” may have been nine years ago, but it was still fresh in the minds of some of the attendees, including 2009 alumni Jesse McConnaughey.
McConnaughey said he was listening to 88.9 October 13, 2008 when WSTB was pulled off the air, and suddenly it was just silent. He called Long and asked why there was dead air. Long said there was nothing they could do about it.
“[Later] Bob put in a resignation,” McConnaughey said, “but the Board of Education didn’t accept it.”
Long said the forced shutdown of WSTB was over a photo the superintendent at the time, Linda T. Keller, had wanted investigated. The “inappropriate picture,” found in a station computer, was of alumni Ben Claussen, a senior at the time. Claussen was at a hotel in Columbus with his friends for New Year’s, and in the background of this photo, were bottles of alcohol.
Long said Claussen had injured himself in a four-wheeler accident shortly before the photo was taken, and “even if he wanted to drink, he couldn’t.”
“As it turned out,” Long said, “that was just an excuse for another motive she had. That really wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Being a WSTB deejay is a big deal to those involved as well as their thousands of listeners.
Junior Nathan Fabiniak has been on staff since sophomore year. His deejay name is began as a joke between him and alumni Lucas Austin, who would say, “Knick knack Fabiniak, give the dog a bone.”
“[I would] be in Bob’s class and he’d say, ‘Knick Knack,’” he said. “It was kind of fun to say, and it became a real thing.”
He said he failed his FCC test the first time, but became a weatherman after passing the second time.
“It gave me the skills I needed to become a deejay,” he said.
He said, looking back, “I got a second chance; it changed me in a good way [and] helped me improve a lot.”
Sophomore Dana Bejger is also a deejay. She said she likes the atmosphere and the people she works with.
“There’s groups in school like theater and band,” she said, “[but] radio just feels like another home.”
Bejger’s deejay name is “Anad,” a family nickname, and her first name backwards.
“I think [I] sound like me more on air than I do in real life,” she said.
Bejger said she first got into radio when she was less than 10 years old. Her older brother worked for WSTB, and she got to visit the radio station once when he needed to record.
“I just looked at everything and thought it was amazing,” she said.
In the future, Bejger wants to interview for program director, the role currently filled by junior Brandon Sanders.
Sanders said this person creates the schedule of deejays who are going on air and trains new deejays. He/she also makes sure what they say on air is “up-to-par.”
Alumna Autumn Leonhardt, 2016 graduate and former manager of traffic, said even though WSTB has changed so much throughout the years, “it’s still WSTB.”
“It went through so many name changes and people,” she said, “but it’s still the radio station that people call home; we’re like a family.”