Airing a lost era
Parkersburg man starts radio station dedicated to golden oldies, local content
By Greg Forbes
The owner of KOIW compares the radio station in the back room of his Parkersburg home to a microbrewery – small-scale but crafted with the utmost care, love and attention.
Broadcasting live on 1680, KOIW reminds listeners of a simpler time, where family time was centered around the radio and episodes of Hop Harrigan.
Leto pumps out those classics around the clock with a help of the radio mixing board in his home and a nine-foot antenna in his backyard.
His catalog of 30,000-plus “Golden Oldies” preserves classics such as Captain Midnight and Paul Harvey and big band hits.
Leto didn’t start the station for income or personal gain. He wanted to keep alive an art that is becoming less common every day.
“These old treasures which are in the archive and are lost pretty much to this generation and the generation before that…have the ability to rebroadcast and get it out there,” he said. “They did so much in those programs. There is so much talent.”
Growing up, Leto distinctly remembers listening to KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, which would broadcast those shows he’s now trying to preserve.
“My mom would have it on Saturdays while she was baking pies and I’m sitting there on the ground with my pillow listening to old-time radio and I caught that fever then,” he said.
And even though many of those shows are now decades old, Leto has discovered new artists, about which he and his father talk and laugh. Leto added that his father even tunes in regularly on his on-line stream to hear some of his old favorites.
Leto said those memories and now the conversation it’s sparked between him and others who grew up with the classics are what the station is all about.
“There’s a niche here,” he said. “An older generation, a lost generation and people that have never heard it can experience it now.”
With the station ramping up, Leto said plans extend beyond classic programming. It’ll be used to promote local events and broadcast Aplington-Parkersburg High School sporting events.
Leto is looking for a sportscaster to call A-P events. He’ll supply the equipment for games.
Somewhere in the near future, Leto said he hopes to open his waves to local on-air talent who may want to read or perform for the station.
Between shows and live broadcasts, listeners can hear weather reports and other automated information.
Right now, Leto said the signal can reach to Aplington, but he doesn’t plan for it to be broadcast across a wide area. With no intentions or desires to compete mainstream conglomerates, he wants the station to be unique to the Parkersburg area.
“That’s the thing about microbroadcasting. It was never intended to go 30 miles,” he said. “It was intended to serve communities just like Parkersburg who could use a something, a little bump.”
Leto advises that radios made before 1993 do not have the capability to go up to 1680.
Those with old radios or wanting to listen to the station out of range need not despair however. Leto has set up online streaming that can be accessed through computers and smartphones at www.radiokoiw.com.
Of course, Leto has to adhere to FCC guidelines and has to keep a close eye on copyright laws, of which he happily does. He’s still making some adjustments to the sound quality and volume. But Leto, a 35 year radio veteran, knows that the not as enjoyable side of radio is necessary to bring the product to those that yearn for a glimpse in the past.
“I think to myself when this is going out somewhere, there’s got to be a little boy, a little girl, a man or a woman that says, ‘I absolutely love this,’” he said.