Film Photography, Personal

From the archives: WMHD-FM Terre Haute, 1986-87

I was 20 and thrilled.

So many children dream of being a fireman or a policeman when they grew up. Not me. I wanted to be the voice on the radio. And look: here I am! Microphone before me, Sennheiser HD40s hanging around my neck, my finger on the turntable’s go button. Let’s do this!

Me on the air at WMHD, 1987

I’ve written many times about my time at WMHD (click here to read every story) but have shown few photographs. I dug through my archives to find some. While you’re looking at what I found, here’s 45 minutes of my show from Dec. 8, 1987, to provide the soundtrack!

WMHD was the student station at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a tough engineering school in Terre Haute, Indiana. Students built this station from the ground up, including its studios.

WMHD studio

Here are our station’s engineers, Steve and Tim, doing some late-night work to keep the equipment in fine tune. It was their custom to take over the station on Saturday nights, playing album sides into the wee hours as they worked.

WMHD engineers working

This was the lobby of our broadcast studio. If you know your rock album covers you’ll recognize our mural as being a reproduction of the 1981 Yes album, Classic Yes.

WMHD lobby

The station’s office was across the hall. I became station manager in 1987; this was my desk.

WMHD office

Here’s the rest of the office. That’s the Program Director’s desk, our cabinet full of public files behind it. I remember the discussion that led to the drawing on the chalkboard: this is the layout for the booth in the production studio we were building.

WMHD office

My buddies tolerated my random photography but I don’t think they understood it. I simply wanted a record of this place so I could remember it better. Mission accomplished; seeing these images puts me right back in that studio, keeping my good memories fully intact. I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to be a part of WMHD, and to fulfill my childhood dream of being on the air.

Times change. Radio started to lose its luster with the millennial generation, and Generation Z abandoned it in favor of streaming. Student interest in WMHD flagged; the station quit broadcasting over the air in 2013. Rose-Hulman sold the license to crosstown Indiana State University, which operates the station now as WZIS-FM from studios on their campus. The former WMHD studios don’t exist anymore.

The desire to broadcast hasn’t died entirely, however. A small group of Rose students operate an Internet music stream that they call WMHD. You can listen here if you’re curious.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


17 thoughts on “From the archives: WMHD-FM Terre Haute, 1986-87

  1. Workplace photos have to be some of the rarest of all, at least from the era before phone cameras. I have a couple of shots taken one day of my kids sitting at my office desk pretending to be me, but that’s it. I have no idea why I happened to have a camera with me that day.

    • Where I work now we’re not allowed to make photos inside. It’s a data privacy thing. It’s a fairly nice office, too; too bad I’ll never have a record. I did make a couple photographs of one place I formerly worked, with various vintage cameras.

  2. Some of the best hours of my life were spent sitting behind a microphone at a small market radio station. And for the life of me, I cannot recall why I never took a photograph. Would be wonderful to have now.

  3. I spent some time around radio stations in the 80s and 90s. I’m sorry to say that they don’t have the same feel about them anymore. There is so much more choice and if you want music the streaming services can provide you with it very quickly. Happy days.

    • Last time I set foot in a station was about 10 years ago and a major feature of the place was the server room — every song was on a hard disk. Crazy. We still used tape back in my day.

  4. DougD says:

    I love this stuff Jim. Fun to play your show while working :)

    My engineering school radio listening experience wasn’t that great. I did live in the building that the antenna was on, but the U of Windsor’s student radio was very alternative and I was not. Almost all the local radio came from Detroit, and too much Bob Seger, for starts….

    • Dan Cluley says:

      “Too much Bob Seger”
      I recognize those as English words, but I’m struggling to understand what this sentence means. ;)

      I do think most stations overplay one or two songs, rather than dig a little deeper.

  5. Heide says:

    Of all the wonderful photos you’ve posted on your blog, that first photo is one of my favorites. That smile! It’s too bad your dream didn’t turn into a lifelong career, but how wonderful that you still had the opportunity to be on the air for a time. Wonderful post, Jim.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.