A few years back, Norm and I were rung up by a frantic FM radio station operator. Rock & Roll station WMGM–103.7 on the dial–was renting space on a tower in the marshes near Cape May, New Jersey, serving up classic tunes to the shore mavens. The FM antenna shared tower space with a TV station, and it seems they were about to get booted off because interference from the Stones, Zeppelin and Steely Dan tunes to the TV signal made the televisions in nearby Atlantic City a little woozy.
This TBT gets a little technical, having run first in the industry’s fine Journal InCompliance Magazine. But the human element is here, too, as we meet Lou, the crusty station engineer with a penchant for florid language and “calling it like it is”.
Fortunately, on this outing, we were served up with a little bit of luck…
A Tall Tale: What’s Luck Got to Do With It?
Rising above the tidal marshes of Southern New Jersey stands a red and white antenna tower shadowing a World War II era radio shack. The marsh was a simple mosquito nursery in the 40s when the first modest building—a cinder block foundation and stick-framed walls— was erected as part of a string of radio stations that formed a wartime network on the East Coast. German subs prowled the waters just off the shore of Cape May which hosted just a few houses and one general store with peeling gray paint and sway-back roofline.
The Army Signal Corps operated the station and for years the tower radiated Morse and Voice.
During some of the worst of the Nor’easters that raked the coast, the link was an important shore-to-ship link—an invisible lighthouse, warning ships away from the hungry shoals.
During the Cold War, the station was used for protection against another kind of submarine threats: Russian nukes.