Home > Radio/TV > WDRF

(formerly WPWA)

Call letters stood for: "Delaware River Ferry"

Announcers | Recollections

Photo of a Master Control similar to that of WDRF
(Photo courtesy of Frank Kelly, fkelly@adelphia.net)

WDRF's offices, studios and towers were located on Edgmont Avenue in Brookhaven, next to Cullis Memorials.  The station's owner was the same Louis Kapelski who for many years was the general manager of the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry.

Prior to Kapelski's ownership, the station's call letters were WPWA.

By the mid 1960's the station featured a country-western format.  However, it first produced a true Rock & Roll legend...

"Bill Haley was musical director, a part time Disc Jockey and hosted some programs from there when the station was still WPWA.
Bill was also at the time a part-time Bartender at a bar on Market Square.  He was quite the scrapper in those days and even showed up at the radio station one evening with a bloody nose.
Bill Haley was born in Highland Park, Mich. His family moved to Boothwyn when he was in early teens.His first Band was BILL HALEY AND THE FOUR ACES OF WESTERN SWING.   Disbanded in 1948. Next he formed THE SADDLEMAN.
The radio station manager suggested he change the name to BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS (cashing in on HALLEYS COMET).  The rest is, as we say is history!
Rock & roll was born in Chester! Bill had his headquarters in Chester on E 5th. St. near Welsh. There was a sidewalk slab in front of the building (both long gone).
Bill was probably the most famous product ever of Chester."

Our thanks to Paul Crowther, pcrowther4@home.com, for this contribution!


Joe M. DiPlacido, joe.diplacido@exeloncorp.com adds:

"... Bill Halley and the Comets had their studio across the street from the [Hanley] firehouse."

March 28, 2001 UPDATE on the sidewalk slab:

"The sidewalk slab with the music notes were saved and were placed in the sidewalk behind Chester Water Authority's employee parking lot.  Thought you would like to know...."
Tina Marie Little

Click on the thumbnail images to see the larger version:

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4/4/2001: Photos courtesy of "Joker" Jack Chambers, jokerjak908@yahoo.com

"These pictures I attached are of the Musical Notes in the sidewalk at the Chester Water Authority office at 5th & Welsh Street, Chester.

There are several cement slabs with notes in them. They have a black substance to highlight the notes and /or preserve them.  There are at least three large blocks with one note in each.  They are located approximately 100 feet east of Fifth St. on the South side of Crosby St.

In addition, there is a five point star in red and about a half dozen lines going out from the star. This section of memoribila is located slightly east of the notes."

"Joker" Jack Chambers


Announcers: Arky Craft
Bruce Davis
Lord Jim (Ferguson)
Bill Haley
Cris Harwood (the Man of a Thousand Voices)
Bob Johnson
Frank Kelly
Jock Lawrence
Jimmy Lynn
Milt Nixon
Del Parks
Marion Pedlow
Jim Reeves ("Judge Rhythm's Court")
Jeff Scott
Cal Shull (record librarian)
Jack Stant
Duke Whitfield

Recollections: 3/3/2002:

"My name is Frank Kelly.  I worked at WPWA through the changeover to WDRF, from 1953 through 1957.  I started in my junior year in high school, more or less hanging around and learning to run the control board. One night Duke Whitfield, the evening counrty music DJ asked me if I'd like to do the headlines, and I was hooked on radio.  I worked at the Brookhaven location all day Saturday and Sunday, as DJ, staff announcer, newsreader, and engineer.  Sunday mornings I was alone and also answered the door and the telephone.  I stayed, never making more than $1.75 an hour, until I went to WDEL in Wilmington for less per hour but more total salary.

Some other announcers I worked with during that period were:

Jimmy Lynn (not Lynne)
Jock Lawrence
Jim Reeves ("Judge Rhythm's Court")
Jeff Scott
Cris Harwood
Jack Stant
Del Parks
Milt Nixon
Bruce Davis
Bob Johnson
Marion Pedlow
Lord Jim (Ferguson)
Arky Craft

Cy Swingle was the Station Manager.

Actually, I was on the station briefly even before 1953 because I was on the St. James High School team on "Scott's Hi-Q" hosted by Bob Johnson and carried weekly on WPWA.

Jock Lawrence did the morning show, called "Industry's Wake Up".  For a while, he also did the "Shooster's Night Watch" show from a Chester hamburger joint to end the broadcast day.  Later, Cris Harwood (the Man of a Thousand Voices) did the Shooster's show with his wife as a co-host.

Marion Pedlow (who was the widow of WWII hero Colin Kelly) did a women's show from her home. We just opened the mike and she talked for an hour, not even playing records.

Jimmy Lynn did "Teenorama" in the afternoon.  The audience was high school kids, who came and danced in the studio or, during the summer, on WDRF's patio next to the station.

Lord Jim did a kind of local gossip show, and Arky Kraft did a sports segment. Jeff Scott was Program Director when I arrived, but moved on to KYW in Philadelphia, and then later to one of the networks where he did a segment on car racing.

Del Parks replaced Jock Lawrence as morning man, having previously worked at WPEN in Philadelphia.

In addition to Bill Haley, another sort of celebrity worked briefly at the station: Lynn Dollar, the redhead who escorted people to the Isolation Booth on the $64,000 Question on TV, worked briefly with a partner as a disc jockey at the station.

Oh yes, one more bit of trivia: the station's phone numbers were CHester 4-4321 and SAratoga 9-7148.

If you'd like to see what the Master Control at WPWA looked like in the Brookhaven days, see the attached photo. This isn't WPWA, but master control included all this same equipment and looked virtually identical to this picture.

As you can tell. I remember WPWA/WDRF fondly.  Radio got in my blood, so after a little (44 year) hiatus as an engineer and marketing director, I now work part time as a staff announcer at WDUQ News-Jazz-NPR at 90.5 in Pittsburgh.  If anyone knows where any of the people I've mentioned are today, I'd love to hear from them.

Thanks for the web site and the memories.

- Frank Kelly, fkelly@adelphia.net

"I can't recall if it was WPWA or WDRF at the time but we [the kids from Parkside] hung out at the "Station". We danced at the "Patio" a new addition on the side of the station. One of the bands we danced to was Bill Haley and the Comets or Saddlemen. I can't remember which name they used but they were still country and western and Bill was just a local DJ with a band. It was the early 50s and I also remember a DJ by the name of Jimmy Lynne. We thought he was a lot cooler than Bill Haley. We were also members of the Uncle Ah Ha show. I'm not sure about the name but, we believed he was a professor at a local college. Among the advantages were being Jr. DJs, newscasters, and sportscasters. This was great fun until one of the guys used a word, over the air, that was not very acceptable and so ended our stint as Radio Broadcasters. By the way Cal Shull was the Record Librarian at the time and could name any popular song after just a few notes. We knew Lou Kapelski [my brothers worked for him on the Ferry and he lived in Parkside] and thought he was the richest man in the world. Maybe he was...HE GAVE US A DIME FOR HALLOWEEN!!"

- John Winfree, jwinfree@nni.com

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of WDRF, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2000, 2001, 2007 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 04/22/07