Reflections From The Man Who Keeps WOBM On The Air [50 Memories in 50 Days]
Written by WOBM Chief Engineer Tom Trembly
Radio stations sometimes make an impression over a much larger area than one might think. This is especially true of a radio station in a tourist destination like Ocean County.
While I grew up some distance from the Jersey Shore, my first “encounter” with WOBM was as a toddler. On a trip to Seaside Heights, I can recall seeing the WOBM classic blue logo printed on the back of an amusement pier ticket book. It was particularly memorable because my young mind wondered whether that was a seagull, or a pterodactyl!
My dad also lived in the Holly Park section of Bayville for a few years around the time that WOBM signed on. Once on the way home from Seaside Heights, traveling westbound over the Tunney Bridge at night, he pointed out the flashing tower lights in the direction of Bayville and mentioned that he used to live near there. Little did I know that a couple decades later, those “flashing lights” and that radio station with the unique logo would play such an important part in my life!
After radio career stops in Allentown, PA and NYC, I arrived at WOBM and its Townsquare Media sister stations in 2008. As Chief Engineer, I’m responsible for all technical and IT operations, including making sure we stay on the air uninterrupted 24/7/365 – and that’s only part of my job! A few standout memories of my time here include:
Superstorm Sandy – It’s been said that the truest test of local radio is to be at our best when things are at their worst. Along with most of our airstaff, I was camped out at our former Bayville building – which at the time also housed improvised studios for our sister stations 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk while waiting for the new Toms River studios to be complete. Words like “chilling” and “spellbinding” may not be strong enough to describe the programming that went over the air the night of Sandy. Among my other Sandy memories are standing under the swaying tower while kickstarting our generator, driving at 3 AM to restore audio to one of our sister stations and narrowly dodging a falling tree, and driving out-of-state to purchase diesel fuel, which then had to carried can-by-can down a tree-blocked road to fuel a sister station’s generator.
Bayville Adventures – Some radio stations are housed in new office parks, and some have been in the same place their entire existence, as WOBM was for 45 years. For someone with an appreciation of broadcast history, take a guess at which type is more interesting? That said, the Bayville building was designed before the advent of today’s sensitive microelectronics, with the 500 ft. tower (a.k.a. the tallest lightning rod between Eatontown, Camden and Tuckerton) just feet outside the back door. This led to MANY a case of “smoked equipment” following a lightning strike, and my creation of various lightning suppression systems and some more exotic solutions (e.g. fiber optic transmission between rooms to avoid the use of metal wire) to get WOBM through storm season.
Moving To Toms River – Shutting down a place with decades of history behind it was bittersweet, but it was an honor to be part of building something new for WOBM. I can still remember switching WOBM to the Toms River studios for an overnight test broadcast, followed by putting the new studio on the air for real on 1/23/2013.
Under my watch, WOBM has essentially been “rebuilt” from microphone to antenna. This includes new studios, consoles, routing systems, digital audio playback systems, audio editing, profanity delay, remote control, microwave links, audio processors, transmitters, transmission lines, emergency generator, a brand new tower assembled piece by piece around the old one, and more.
What hasn’t changed is WOBM’s tradition of service to Ocean County. Included in that tradition is our staff, including those engineers who came before me – original chief engineer Rudy Clapp, followed by Roy Nilsen, Phil Galasso, Dave Brown and Jay Pierce (and anyone I missed!) Here’s to another 50!
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