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Charles Reichblum ’48: Original Voice of the Orange and Co-Founder of WAER
Syracuse University has a long, storied history of producing talented sports broadcasters.
Names like Marv Albert ’63, Bob Costas ’74 and Mike Tirico ’88, decorated members of the sports broadcasting industry, honed their crafts and developed their radio voices as student broadcasters with WAER-FM.
As members of the WAER Hall of Fame, Albert, Costas and Tirico certainly paved the way for future generations of sports radio play-by-play voices. But before WAER, which stands for Always Excellent Radio, became a world-renowned 50,000-watt blowtorch and powerful on-campus radio station, it was an ambitious project that required the hard work and dedication of five student broadcasters and a faculty advisor to get off the ground.
Starting in 1930, the Radio Workshop allowed students to produce on-air programs for local radio stations. Thanks to new radio technology, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the University to conduct experimental broadcasts in the Fall 1946 semester.
Under the watchful direction of faculty advisor Lawrence Myers Jr., five students—program director Gerald Adler ’48, G’54, news and sports director Charles Reichblum ’48, music director Ehrla Niman Lapinsky ’48, continuity director James Cohan ’48 and production director John Kurtz ’48—helped usher in a golden era of radio on campus.
On April 1, 1947, WAER (then known as WJIV) officially launched as the first low-power FM radio station in the country, beaming out a 2.5-kilowatt signal that barely reached all radios on campus from its broadcast location underneath the steps of Carnegie Library.
“It was such a thrill launching WAER as a student, and now, seeing what it has become, well that was one of the greatest memories of my college career,” Reichblum says. “Back then, all of us grew up wanting to be in radio, and here we were, Syracuse University juniors running a real radio station. Those were special memories.”
The Original Voice of the Orange
Reichblum, the original “Voice of the Orange,” served as the radio play-by-play voice for Syracuse’s football and basketball games, partnering with his color commentator, Marv Shapiro ’48, who went on to become president of Westinghouse Broadcasting Co.
Reichblum and Shapiro called home football games from Archbold Gymnasium and home basketball games from the colosseum at the New York State Fairgrounds after a fire ravaged Archbold Gymnasium during Reichblum’s senior year. The broadcast team also aired road games.
Even if the station’s signal couldn’t be heard beyond campus, Reichblum says those pioneering students knew they were both making history and maximizing the opportunity to enjoy real-world broadcasting experience while still in school.
“I was the play-by-play announcer and we all felt fortunate to be playing the roles of real radio people while we were at Syracuse. Our station’s signal wasn’t very strong, but it did cover the campus. We were broadcasting across campus, and we had an FCC license. It’s a proud tradition WAER has on campus, and we were honored to be part of the founding group,” says Reichblum, now 95 years old.
On Nov. 9, 1984, the six founding members were honored with the Founders’ Award, presented annually to a WAER student who best exemplifies the professional ideals set by the station’s original staff.
Lifelong Passion for Radio … and Trivia
Reichblum grew up an avid fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He fondly recalls spending countless hours in his room listening to Pirates baseball broadcasts on KDKA, which helped Reichblum form a special connection with his favorite team and his favorite medium.
Bob Prince handled the radio play-by-play duties for the Pirates, and Reichblum quickly became enamored with how Prince wove stories and trivia into his broadcasts. Upon learning that Prince lived down the street, Reichblum proceeded to knock on his door and introduce himself.
When he was 14 years old, Prince gave Reichblum his first job in radio, an internship where Reichblum monitored the station’s teletype to sort through that day’s news. One morning, Reichblum came upon a story that would spark his lifelong love affair with trivia and obscure facts. The teletype mentioned how three of the nation’s first five presidents—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe—died on the same day: July 4.
That presidential factoid was the first of what Reichblum dubbed his fascinating facts, a collection of stories that Reichblum started cultivating in high school and continued throughout his time at Syracuse University.
After graduating with a radio degree from the College of Speech and Dramatic Arts (which later became the College of Visual and Performing Arts), Reichblum served as sports director at WJAS (Pittsburgh) before forming Century Features, Inc., a national company that provided syndicated sponsored weekly sports and news columns that ran in newspapers that were distributed across the country and Canada. Reichblum came to be known as Dr. Knowledge, a fitting tribute for someone who amassed one of the world’s largest collections of stories during a 50-plus year career in journalism.
He broadcast the daily “Dr. Knowledge Feature” nationwide on the CBS radio network, and Reichblum also hosted his “Dr. Knowledge Show” on KDKA. Reichblum is the author of “The All-Time Book of Fascinating Facts,” including the newest version of the book, a summation of Reichblum’s interesting facts—which has been called the best trivia book of all time—the all-time book of fascinating facts. Previously, he wrote 11 “Knowledge in a Nutshell” and “Dr. Knowledge Presents” books.
Syracuse Holds a Special Place
It’s been nearly 75 years since Reichblum graduated from Syracuse, but the University still holds special significance—Reichblum and his wife, Audrey, raised a son, Robert ’78, who earned a broadcast journalism degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
“I get nostalgic for many reasons, but I will always love Syracuse University. It was the perfect place for me. WAER launched my radio career, and we had such great instructors,” Reichblum says. “They were all helpful in getting us going in this field, and we were all infatuated with radio, which was the big thing back then. We held ourselves to a high standard at Syracuse and our broadcasts were on par with what you’d hear back then on WSYR. I’m so proud of what we accomplished.”