Weidner event marks WRVM’s 50th anniversary

Christian radio pioneer premiered a half-century ago this week

Some pretty interesting firsts occurred on Sept. 17, 1967.

The weekly spy thriller “Mission Impossible” premiered on CBS-TV.

The New Orleans Saints played their first NFL game, a 27-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

It is also the day Christian radio station WRVM began broadcasting to Northeast Wisconsin from the top of Suring Hill in Oconto County. The evening-only broadcasts emanated from a three-room, cinder-block building. There was no running water.

WRVM had a full-time staff of two – manager Hardy Hayes and announcer Lynn Herman.

“I was 26 years old,” Herman recalled.

Hayes, Herman and part-time station technician Dean Brubaker were the first voices heard on the station at 12701 State Highway 32. When asked if he remembered those first words, Herman said he couldn’t say for sure, except that is “was probably ‘welcome to WRVM’ and an explanation of what the station was, and what the call letters signified.”

From its first day on the air, WRVM stood for “Wisconsin’s Radio Voice of Missions.” Herman explained that the station’s owner had a sister station in Madison, with the call letters WRVB for Wisconsin Radio Voice of the Bible.

Today the station’s call letters stand for “Wisconsin Radio Voice of The Master.”

The fledgling station broadcast Bible-based music and sermons. Today the Christian broadcaster has a network of six full-power stations and over two dozen low-power translators, reaching the northeast quarter of Wisconsin and south central Upper Michigan.

With streaming, the reach is unlimited. WRVM has regular internet listeners in Lower Michigan, California and Nebraska as well as overseas in Germany and Australia.

As for Herman’s favorite memory at WRVM, he points to the growing reach of the station.

“The sense that it was touching a lot of people from the Fox Valley up to Door County, Iron Mountain to Wausau,” he said. “We would hear how much it meant to (the listeners).”

Herman, a former pastor of Gillett Baptist Church for nine years, said WRVM’s programming was “useful and used by God.”

Current general manager Mike Cornell has occupied the front office on Suring Hill for the last 21 years. He’s inviting the public to help celebrate WRVM’s 50th anniversary with a couple of events.

On Labor Day, WRVM held an open house for any and all who would like to see the station , which has undergone some sprucing up in the last few weeks in advance of the anniversary.

Cornell and the staff are also inviting over 1,500 listeners and friends to join them at The Weidner Center at 7 p.m. Friday for their 50th anniversary celebration. Special guests include nationally syndicated radio host and speaker Janet Parshall, along with music from Gospel music favorites The Collingsworth Family.

Ticket prices range from $15 to $50 each, which are available by calling WRVM during business hours at 920-842-2900.