50 years of broadcasting at Struthers High
Lawrence Delino remembers speaking the first words over the air when he was a senior
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Fifty years ago today, WKTL-90.7 FM, a student-run broadcast radio station based at Struthers High School, went on the air.
The low-watt station was recognized as the first all-student staffed radio station in the country, according to its website. A handful of other school systems in Ohio owned and operated radio stations in that era, but faculty and staff handled most of the show-hosting duties.
When it started, WKTL was on the air only during the hours and days that school was in session.
Lawrence Delino was a senior at Struthers High the day WKTL went on the air, and he has the honor of being the first person to speak on the historic station.
Today, Delino is a lawyer in private practice in Akron. He grew up in Struthers and lived there until he was 33.
Delino recalled what happened Sept. 13, 1965.
“I was chosen by Mr. [Steve] Grcevich to be the first person to speak on the air on WKTL,” he said. “I read a prepared statement introducing us to the Valley, and then the regular programming started. We ran at a miniscule 15 watts, reaching most of Mahoning County on a clear day.”
Grcevich was a radio announcer on WBBW-AM at the time who used the on-air moniker Jay “Jazzbow” Stevens.
He also was a speech teacher at Struthers High, and starting a radio station there as a unique educational experience had long been his dream.
With the help of federal grants, WKTL – the call letters stand for “key to learning” – became a reality.
“[Grcevich] had been talking about it and promoting the idea from the time I was a freshman,” said Delino. “It all came to fruition on that day half a century ago when he asked me to go on the air with the station’s first broadcast.”
Delino remained a part of the WKTL staff for the full school year as the sports director.
“I actually did play-by-play of Struthers basketball games with David Macejko, as well as regular daily broadcasting as part of the school curriculum,” he said.
“I ended up a lawyer here in Akron, but being part of that major event in Struthers history is one of the fondest memories of my life.”
The station now operates under the auspices of WAPS-FM 91.3 “The Summit” in Akron. Its modern-rock programming originates in Akron.
WAPS – the call letters stand for Akron Public Schools – also began as a high-school station.
Although WKTL started off with a humble signal and very limited broadcast hours, it was able to boost its power over the years, and community volunteers supplemented the student staff.
To this day, the ethnic music programs that were implemented decades ago remain a fixture on the station every Saturday.
As student interest – and budget funding – waned in the early 2000s, the future of WKTL fell into doubt. The present arrangement with WAPS “The Summit,” which is funded by listeners, began in 2010.
In 2012, the arrangement was formalized into a long-term broadcasting agreement. At that time, The Summit made a large financial investment to upgrade WKTL’s Struthers studios and transmitting equipment.