Forgotten Trails – by Lydia Grimes

Published 2:37 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

By Staff
First radio purchase was celebrated event
I am bringing you another story out of an old volume of The Brewton Standard. This one comes from the Aug. 12, 1976 issue.
First Radio Bought in Brewton Area is Owned by W. Emmett Brooks
Among the many other dates concerning Brewton which W. Emmett Brooks can relate rapidly and accurately, is the date the first radio set made its appearance in Brewton.
Mr. Brooks purchased the first radio brought to Brewton from Clapp-Eastham Company, which no longer exists. The excitement he and others felt then over the set has made the date of the radio's installation, May, 1922, an unforgettable one.
The Brooks home, where the present post office is located, had to be equipped for the radio set. Two outdoor poles 25 feet high were strung with a long wire to pick up signals, which were brought into the set on a lead from the antenna wire, a ground wire was also necessary.
Mr. Brooks stated that the tubes were powered by a six-volt automobile battery, while the sound was picked up on headphones with a dry battery.
People eager to hear the radio had to wait their turn. Only one set of earphones could be connected to the set at a time and listening was “passed around” among those hearing a program. A year or two later, Mr. Brooks recalls, separate speakers were connected to sets, and within a short term radios were being purchased with built in speakers.
Mr. and Mrs. Brooks related that, in spite of its size, the radio set picked up with remarkable clarity radio stations over the eastern half of the United States, many of which cannot be heard here today on modern sets. This was because there were comparatively few stations in the country and most of them had clear channels without the interference that is encountered today with so many on the air.
Weather permitting, it was not unusual to tune in on this set on almost any night stations KDEA, Pittsburgh; WEAF, New York City; WLW, Cincinnati; WHAS, Louisville; WGN, Chicago; WSM, Nashville; KMOX, St. Louis; KRID, Dallas; KWKH, Shreveport; and WOR, Newark, along with other nearer and less powerful stations.
Communication has played a great part in the lives of the Brooks family. Mr. Brooks was editor of The Brewton Standard at the time of the radio purchase, having brought the newspaper in 1920. He was owner of the newspaper for 38 years, and in July 1947, he built Radio Station WEBJ in Brewton, the first radio station between Mobile and Montgomery, which he operated for 11 years.
He served as president of the Alabama Press Association in 1929-30 and as president of the Alabama Broadcasting Association in 1951. There are many “firsts” to his credit. He was the first Alabama Labor Director and first chairman of the state presidents of the National Broadcasters Association.
He organized the first athletic association here, and spearheaded the drive to light the football field, known then as the Rotary Field, the first lighted football field between Mobile and Montgomery. He served as County Solicitor from 1919 to 1935, and was the first commander of the local American Legion Post.
Mr. Brooks is a charter member of the Rotary Club and is still interested in all phases of community growth and achievement, having been involved in much of the progress of the Brewton area during the years since the purchase of the first radio set.
I will either bring you another little goodie out of the past or tell you another story next week. Until then … happy hunting.

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