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WIPC - A History

WIPC-AM 1280 Lake Wales – WIPC (Imperial Polk County) began as a one-kilowatt daytimer in 1951, put on the air by Imperial Polk Broadcasting Corp (Sarkes Torrian, president). Its studios at 630 Mountain Lake Cut-Off Road were unusual, in that they were built in a three-sided configuration with eight outside doors that made it look like a small motel. The control room and main studio were in the center section with offices located in the two wings.

In 1956 WIPC was acquired by Kenneth H. Berkeley, former VP & GM of WMAL in Washington, DC, who sold it in 1963 to Imperial Polk Broadcasting Co., a partnership which included Berkeley’s daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Chuck Bishop, George Friend (co-owner of WPLA in Plant City), and Jim Sebesta. Oliva Broadcasting (George Oliva, Jr., president), which owned several other radio properties in Florida and Georgia, bought the station in 1970.

Aurora, Illinois’ Salter Broadcasting (Russell G. Salter, president) acquired WIPC in 1977. It was under its ownership that the station converted to a full-time operation. Construction of new offices and studios with state-of-the-art equipment followed the demolition of the old building which was necessary to clear land for a second tower for nighttime operation. Salter sold to Seggi Broadcasting of Florida in 1984. In recent years, the Lake Wales station has changed hands several more times through LMA’s.

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, WIPC’s music was programmed by day part, or what was then called, block programming – segments for popular music, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Sundays were reserved for church programs and gospel music – even some classical in the afternoon. Each day’s music programming was supplemented with extensive news, public affairs shows, and listener involvement. Later formats included Top 40, beautiful music, gospel, and talk/sports.

In 1960 WIPC was a vital source of weather information as a hurricane named Donna tore through Central Florida. The station managed to stay on the air through the entire night using an old Jeep motor for a generator, held together with bailing wire. Over the years WIPC presented live broadcasts of Christmas Eve and Easter Sunrise services at Bok Tower, and also played a major role in the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration along the shores of Lake Wailes.

In June 2000 WIPC sustained fire damage that was suspected to have been caused by lightning from a thunderstorm. While most of the building suffered some water and smoke damage, the main control room was burned out completely. Fortunately, the transmitter room, although covered with soot, made it through with little damage. 

WIPC has always carried its original call letters except for a short period between May 1989 and March 1990 when it went by WKZJ. Today (2009) the station is owned by Super W Media Group and features Spanish programming. Studios and transmitter site are still at the Mountain Lake Cut-Off Road location, off U.S. 27, where they have been since going on the air in 1951.

Names in WIPC’s history include general managers G. Max Kimbrel, William Van Steenburgh, Arch Abernethy, Chuck Bishop, Jim Sebesta, and Tom Thornburg. Sebesta was also sales manager from 1962-1965, and Abernethy (Ol’ Arch the Orange Picker) was once news director and did the morning show for many years. Program directors were: Joan Galloway, John Haughee, Shirley Tucker, Elizabeth Bishop, Peggy Welborn, Penny Pursel, Terry Walden, Bob Helmick (1971), Dan O’Day, and Phil Adams. Chief engineers included William Johnson, Chuck Daley, Hyman (Bob) Wolfe, Frank Berry, and Howard Massey. In sales were Ted Linton, Dick Marsh, John Gilman (sales manager 1959-1962), Bob Denham, Betty Banes, and Chuck Elston. Other staffers included Marvin Lacey (1958), Ronni Richards, Jim Southern, Dick Hunt, Joan Kimbrel, Charles Bruce, Eleanor Pryor, Tom Billington, Red Cannon, Rick Lewis, Lee Perry, Sue Thornburg, Wes Belisle, Barry Foster (news), Kim Cooper, Dan Hogan (weekends), Lee Whidden, Ken Mays, Rick Mitchell (music director-1972), Mitchell Stone, Larry Flegle (Larry Vee-1967), Bill Golden (1974-75; was Billy Gee 1977-78), John Terry, Lenny White, Jerry Smith, Randy Price, Mike Ballance (Amaza Kincaid), John Asp (David J. Lewis), Al Brock, Jeff Higman, Jackie Scott (became Jackie West at WGTO), Phil Adams, Kevin Fulton, and Doug Ramsey.

The popular mid-day team of PD Dan O’Day and Ronni Richards won the Small Market Award one year from Billboard Magazine. When they left Lake Wales, both hit the air at KLOK in San Jose, California. O’Day eventually turned to comedy writing (O’Liners) and programming consultant work.

Station History

1951 - 1989 Other Polk County Stations (History)
1990 - 2009 Other Polk County Stations (History)

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