Friday, November 25, 2005

Plainfield Nostalgia

Long holiday weekends lend themselves to looking back at old times and thinking of old friends.

Some older Plainfielders may remember when the city had its own radio station just off the Park and Seventh crossroads. It was WERA AM, with studios at 120 W. Seventh St. in the 1980s.

I moved to Plainfield in 1983. As a radio buff since the days of the Lone Ranger and Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy, I was fascinated by the idea of a local station with personalities you might run into at the supermarket or on the street.
A concise summary of WERA is online at

The radio experience lives on today in the mellifluous voice of Rich Phoenix, often called on to read ceremonial resolutions at City Council meetings, as he did on Monday with one proclaiming Dec. 1 as “National Rosa Parks Day.”

Phoenix had an afternoon show on WERA.

Others may remember Bro. Arthur Bailey III and his gospel show, which sometimes veered off into truth-telling to local politicians. Bro. Bailey, now departed, once spoke directly to me over the air (probably an FCC violation) to give me a hot news tip about an overnight holiday card game that ended in a fatality. He also regularly called out all the drug corners to alert the public and presumably law enforcement officials.

Barbara Ballard of the Central Jersey Chamber of Commerce (formerly housed in the same building) had an interview show on WERA. Listening to her show was a great way to get acquainted with the city. Ballard later went to work for Rep. Bob Franks.

WERA shut down when the station manager sold it in 1996.

On Tuesday (Nov. 22, 2005) Ballard recalled being trapped in the station during the deadly 1973 floods. The station became a live communication center for news and updates on the flood conditions.

Community coverage was the station’s strong suit, she said.
“The value of a local radio station is for people locally,” she said.

A while ago, I became aware of WKMB AM at 1070 on the dial, the outlet of Harvest Radio. The former country and western station in Stirling is now a gospel station with a transmitter in the Morris County locale but offices at the same location as WERA, 120 W. Seventh St.

See its history at

The roster of programs includes many hosted by Plainfield clergy. Former Mayor Rick Taylor has a program called “Know Your Community” on Mondays at 1:30 p.m.

Program guide:

For a break from television, take a cue from the old country gospel song and “Turn the Radio On.”

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: local radio