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Forty years in the making

Pictured, l to r: a Fairmont State instructor, John Dean, Betty Rae Weiford, Gibbs Kinderman, Gil Willis, Jane Beverage, Linda Gibb, Grace Jane Wigal, a Fairmont State instructor and Allen Johnson. Front row: Richard Hefner, Richard Lee Hefner and Lois Hefner.

John Dean
PCHS Class of 1979
Contributing Writer

A friend of mine and I were having a discussion about Pocahontas County recently. We both often visit the area for different reasons.

“Do you still listen to WVMR when you can pick up the signal?” she asked.

“Oh, my gosh,” I said. “How did you know? That’s the first thing I do!”

We both agreed how much we still love and listen to WVMR all these years later.

Having that opportunity to talk to interesting folks in Pocahontas County and be a part of history with Pocahontas County’s first-ever radio station drew me to the initial beginnings of WVMR 41 years ago. I just knew I was going to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein as a first-year journalism student at West Virginia University. Plus, an internship at a start-up radio station sure would look good on my résumé when I took the world by storm after graduating.

So, I started thinking back to WVMR’s initial days. Memories gushed forth that I have never written about before. I remembered a depiction of a possible logo for the radio station.

Black and white on 5 x 7 paper. Hand drawn. It featured the hills, valleys and mountains of Pocahontas County.

I recall it had the word “Pocahontas Radio” written on it even before the call letters for the station had been determined.

Talk about a flashback!

In 1980 some county residents didn’t believe a radio station was possible. Others were happy and cheered us on as we tested field equipment (dinosaur-like compared to today’s technology). With limited funds and personnel, we honed reporting skills with practice, demos and classes at colleges that were almost three hours away. But it was all worth it.

Some of those first interviews were with residents whose family trees in the county went back to the 1800s. By the way, Pocahontas County and WVMR have a lot to celebrate this year.

Happy Bicentennial to Pocahontas County, my native home. What a year ahead of us, right?

In 1980, we worked and played hard, doing the best we could with the tools we had and made do on a budget that didn’t have a comma in it. The initial fundraising, interviews, calls, visits, and so much more were needed before WVMR could even go on-air. I will always remember how much I learned in a never-to-be-forgotten summer.

I had no idea then how working at WVMR would help me land jobs that others couldn’t. Nah, I didn’t know it then, but the skills learned at WVMR stayed with me. They still do. WVMR taught me people skills, how to talk, how to listen. How to tell a story.

I’m so pleased to congratulate everyone involved with WVMR since the late 1970s and when the station first went on the air in July1981. And to all of you manning the mikes, the reporters, producers, editors and volunteers doing anything needed – Wow!

Four decades of not stopping. Not giving up. Stamina. Perseverance.

Everyone here, young and old alike, should be proud of what you have accomplished, contributed and continue to do so in the communities where you live and raise your families. Importantly, you have made an unseen impact on many lives through all these years. It’s wonderful what you’ve accomplished.

It’s not easy during these turbulent times of media mergers, hostile takeovers and corporate downsizings to survive. But you have! It’s beyond wonderful. What an achievement! Congrats and kudos to all the volunteers, employees and many others who have made WVMR what it is today.

Until someone walks in your shoes and starts from the ground up as you do every day, no one on the outside looking in really understands what working on-air or behind the scenes involves. You all have a bond. A camaraderie. A mission. Importantly you have the desire and inner strength to make a difference. Rest assured you have done that and more these last 40 years. You are all true professionals.

Whether you work in radio, TV, print or digital these days, it’s fun and exciting. There’s so much to learn. So much to see. So many opportunities and stories and just waiting to be told to the world.

Talk about history. Your list of stories to cover must be limitless. I think of all of the untold stories still waiting to be heard on the radio in the mountains in Pocahontas, Bath and Highland. They are there for the taking. Who doesn’t like listening to a delightful story, watching a classic movie or reading a well-written article?

WVMR is a jewel, cut from the rough and now molded and sparkling ever so brightly because of all of you. What you, the region’s peoples, and countless volunteers have achieved in really a brief period of time is truly amazing.

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your celebration. I am proud to say that WVMR is an integral part of who I am.
This is your time to celebrate! It’s a well-earned achievement for you and your stations.

These days, John is a writer and legal editor. He still has deep ties to Pocahontas County, often visiting Watoga State Park where he grew up and lived for 18 years. John is a member of The Watoga State Park Foundation Board of Directors and authors articles for its website.

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