Photo History of Utica AM RadioAudioClips History of Utica AM RadioVideo History of Utica AM Radio
In the middle 1930’s. Amplitude Modulation radio was fast becoming an economic and cultural force in the United States. WIBX radio in Utica was enjoying being a part of the culture. Scott Bowen was the owner-operator of WIBX, a 250-watt AM radio station. The250 watt AM radio stations were known as “pot boilers”. They served as a means to enjoy the success of the new technology at the lowest possible cost. In the not too distant future, WIBX AM radio was to be associated with the Columbia Broadcasting System. And, WIBX enjoyed its distinct status of being the only amplitude modulation radio station between Schenectady and Syracuse, New York. It was the only radio game in town.

Elliot Stewart joined WIBX radio in 1936 to work in the program and production division. And what a year it was. You could call Cornhill Taxi, a local Utica N.Y. business and pay twenty-five cents ($.25) for a cab ride; You could place an order of fresh cut roses from Coriale flowers for forty-nine cents; An order of Glads would cost you forty-nine cents for a dozen. At that time, Coriale flowers was located at 707 Bleecker Street, at the foot of Albany. Just a wee bit of trivia.

But back to Elliot Stewart. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Elliot Stewart of 107 Boyce Avenue in Utica. He had been active in the music field since the time he played violin in the old Utica Symphony. He studied voice in New York City and Chicago. He made his debut with Hope Hampton in “Madame Pompadour” in New York City. He was a featured soloist in “The Love Song”, “The Student Prince”, “The Desert Song” and “The New Moon”. He also had made phonograph recordings.

In time, Elliot Stewart became Program Director and Executive Vice-President of WIBX radio. The main source of revenue for any radio station was the money it derived from the sale of “air time” -- that is, the sale of time on the schedule. . In addition to a staff of time salespersons, Elliot Stewart, in addition to his program duties, also sold time on the WIBX airwaves. He wore many hats but he was the first “politically correct” person I encountered. For instance, he walked instead of riding in an auto so as not to favor one local card dealer. Because of his baritone singing voice, he was asked many times to sing the Star Spangled Banner at local political party fund raisers. When he agreed to sing for the Democrats, he would place a phone call to the leader of the local Republican party and inform him and did the local GOP person want him (Mr. Stewart) to sing at their political fund raising dinner. He was very active in the Utica Kiwanis Club which membership served as a “networking” opportunity to meet and become good friends with the leaders of the Utica business community. He began a weekly program heard Saturday mornings on WIBX named ”The Kiwanis Roundtable of the Air” which featured Kiwanians Dan T. Burke, a local attorney, Lewis Fowler and a young Rocco De Perno. Elliot Stewart also became an on-air personality as a was featured as the “Man on the Street” program, heard each day at noon, a remote broadcast aired from the Busy Corner in front of Liggett’s Drug Store. Ken Nash was his announcer. One feature of the program allowed on-lookers to ask questions of Stewart. One questioner posed this one: What Utica street name was a contradiction in terms? The response: Noyes (Noise) Street. There’s a film clip currently on the Internet which features these two programs, the Kiwanis Roundtable and Man on the Street. and other WIBX programs and personalities. Go to YouTube ,click Utica 1941 in the search box and a WIBX section is featured early in the film as well as featuring downtown Utica ambience.

During World War II, WIBX radio aired a weekly fifteen minute program telling of a story of the involvement of GI’s in battle in Europe. These were wounded soldiers who were sent to Rhoades Hospital which was located on Burrstone Road which is the location of today’s Utica’s Business Park, Notre Dame High School, Holiday Inn and New York Mills High School. This fifteen minute weekly program was submitted for the consideration of the Peabody Award, a prestigious broadcasting award. WIBX was a winner. Elliot Stewart, Nate Cook and Michael Carlo Fusco attended the banquet in New York City where the Peabody Certificate was given to WIBX . It was a singular achievement by a “small” station and well-deserved.

Elliot Stewart’s defining moment occurred as he emceed a program in April of 1948 with Announcer Bob Mahaney. It was at that time WIBX left its long time place on the Amplitude Modulation radio at 1230 kilocycles and move, with FCC permission, to its present location of 950 kilocycles. Its present location features 5000 watts of power day and night. It was done to remain an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System locally. With a power of 250 watts, it was feared that WRUN Utica would petition CBS to terminate its long standing relationship with WIBX and sign on with WRUN. However, while WRUN broadcast with a power of 5000 watts, that was just its daytime power output. .Because of FCC regulations and reduce interference to other AM stations in Upstate New York, WRUN had to reduce its power to 1000 watts at night. Bummer ! Hence, WIBX was able to continue its long-standing business arrangement with the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Elliot Stewart was a person of deep faith. He was of his word. He passed way in New York City while on a visit to the Big Apple. He and his wife are buried in St. Agnes Cemetery, Mohawk Street, Utica. New York.

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