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WKSL tunes out

February 03, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - After nearly 31 years of operation, WKSL radio is tuning out.

The radio station, known for playing "positive country" music and Christian programs on its 94.3 FM frequency, broadcast its last show out of Greencastle on Friday.

The station, founded by Benjamin Thomas Sr. and operated under Greencastle Broadcasting Co., was bought by Chambersburg Broadcasting Co.

Officials there would not disclose plans for their latest acquisition.

"It was a part of me for all but 12 years of my life,'' said Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who fondly remembers his first broadcast from the station at the age of 13. "It's hard to say goodbye. There's a terrible void in my heart."

Bob Thomas served as the company's president. His brother, Benjamin Thomas Jr., was also an officer in the corporation.

A mobile home manufacturer, the elder Benjamin Thomas was a faithful radio advertiser and could often be heard live on the airwaves promoting his business. In 1967, he applied for a broadcasting license and invested in his own radio station.

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"He just fell in love with radio," said his son, Bob Thomas. "Owning a radio station was always his dream."

With the first-stand alone FM radio station in the area, Benjamin Thomas Sr. set out to create something different for his listeners, his son said.

His goal was to be known as the "good companion" radio station with friendly announcers who talked to people and not at them, Bob Thomas said. Over the years, the radio station earned the reputation as a learning place for aspiring radio announcers.

"Dad was one who allowed young people to get their start there," Bob Thomas said. He listed several former employees who've gone on to larger broadcasting companies.

Popular WKSL radio personality Shelly Williams, whose real name is Beverly Foreman, said she learned the business by accident after going to the station on dates with a high school boyfriend who used to work there.

When a weekend position opened up, Foreman took it. She worked there almost 14 years.

"I never dreamed I was going to do that," Foreman said, who is planning to go back to school to become a computer medical secretary, but may look for part-time work at a radio station.

Foreman's broadcasting partner and the station's news director, Don Aines, started out as a news stringer in 1989. He said the only thing he isn't going to miss about the job is getting up at 3:45 a.m.

"I was thankful for the opportunity to work at the station. It was a lot of fun," he said.

With increased pressure from competitors, Bob Thomas said it was becoming difficult to operate as a stand-alone station. Even with "the most loyal listeners," Bob Thomas said the company was beginning to slowly lose ground.

"I'm sad to see it happen," Bob Thomas said. "But as Dad told me Friday, `Bob, it's time to turn the page and go onto the next chapter.'"

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