The One Plaza East office building at the intersection of East Main Street and North Division Street in Salisbury was the former Wicomico Hotel and early in its' history it was home to the Eastern Shore's first radio station. In the summer of 1928 WSMD went on the air from studios on the seventh floor of the hotel and was operated by cousins Charles and Alfred Truitt who were also publishers of Salisbury's daily newspaper. A 30 foot antenna was mounted on the hotel's roof and the station had 100 watts of power. WSMD's leased broadcast equipment had been used by The Woodward And Lothrop Department Store in Washington before that service was discontinued.
WSMD's most popular program was "Saturday Night Jamboree" from midnight to 2 AM featuring vaudeville from the Arcade Theater in Salisbury. After midnight there were less than a dozen American radio stations on the air and WSMD was heard as far away as California and Canadian provinces. However, if an SOS signal from a vessel was received the station was required to sign-off until the all-clear was received.
(-----12/6/03 Daily Times "In Times Past," Dec.12,1928-----) The "Voice Of The Eastern Shore" was carried to California and also up to New York and New England.
The radio station had received numerous letters from California within the past two days. One listener, Ollie Ross of Sanger, Calif., wrote: "Received your program this evening and wish to say that it was very good. We enjoyed it very much and wish to thank you for your splendid program. Hoping to tune in to WSMD again sometime."
Letters were also received from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Anna Hakala of Worcester, Mass., wrote: "This is the first time that I have had your station, it was coming in with tremendous loud speaker volume. I enjoyed your program very much. I would like to get a schedule of your programs, also a picture of your station if possible."
The station was also heard in New Jersey. The Eastern Shore was now known by many of those living outside of Maryland.
(-----9/9/53 The Salisbury Times: "Looking Backward" 25 Years Ago----)
Fans throughout the eastern part of the country yesterday heard the play by play description of the doubleheader between the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees broadcast over radio station WSMD here. Reports from a hundred towns and cities have been received by the station yesterday and today telling of the good reception and the appreciation of baseball fans for this service. Insofar as could be ascertained WSMD was the only station broadcasting a running account of the games as they were being played in the Yankee Stadium, N.Y., and several million listeners heard how the world champions took both engagements and went into the American League lead by 1 1/2 games. Most of the eastern stations were silent during that part of the afternoon and reports indicate that the local station was heard in probably a score of Eastern States. Telephone calls acknowledging reception were received between the first and second games of the program and there was immediate response. The switchboard at Wicomico Hotel, where the studio is located on the seventh floor, was so congested that the operation could not handle all of the them. Everywhere crowds were assembled at receiving sets in public places and about loud speakers placed at points of vantage on city streets.
The most celebrated guests to appear at the Wicomico Hotel studio were Gary Cooper and Faye Wray. Charles Truitt would recount later that prior to his interview with Faye Wray she was quite nervous about making her first live appearance on radio.
Helen Tawes of Crisfield, a vocalist and pianist who studied at The Peabody Institute Of Baltimore, sang on WSMD. Some three decades later she would be First Lady of Maryland when her husband, J. Millard Tawes, was governor.
But after about a year on the air the WSMD owners concluded there was a lack of advertising support to keep radio on the air on the Eastern Shore at that time. So the station ceased operation and its' broadcast equipment was acquired by WGH which was setting up operation in Newport News, Va.
There wouldn't be another try at radio on the Eastern Shore until 1937... (stay tuned).
Contributed by Terry Kleger of Salisbury. email@example.com