History

Alabama Historical Radio Society (AHRS) was founded in 1989 as a non-profit organization by Don Kresge, a retired General Electric Company engineer and a resident of Birmingham. The society was formed to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to join together and pursue their interest in vintage broadcast radio,vintage radio equipment and broadcasting. Whether a person enjoys listening to music, old radio broadcasts, or actually restoring old radios, the society has a place for them.

The Society maintains a museum of historic radio equipment and memorabilia, known as the Don Kresge Memorial Radio Museum, in the lobby of the Alabama Power Building at 600 18th Street North in downtown Birmingham, where visitors can view restored vintage radio and related equipment. The exhibit includes one of only two known surviving copies of the “Superflex” radio. The Society also owns the second copy. The Superflex is a broadcast radio receiver, manufactured in 1927 by the Radio Products Corporation, a company headquartered in north Birmingham.

The Society has a monthly business meeting at their facility at 1801 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard in downtown Birmingham, near the Alabama Power building. Their meeting space houses a large library of reference material including books on various radio related topics, an archive of documents, oral histories, photographs, technical manuals on vintage radios, a complete radio restoration shop, a functional 1960 vintage DJ (disk jockey) booth and other memorabilia relating to Birmingham broadcast radio stations and radio personalities.

The archives contain extensive material on WSY (We Serve You), the first broadcast radio station in Alabama. This station was owned and operated by Alabama Power Company. The station was first located on Powell Avenue and later moved to the Loveman's Department store building (now the site of the McWane Science Center) in downtown Birmingham. The station was moved to the campus of the Alabama Polytechnical Institute in Auburn (now Auburn University) and the call sign was changed to WAPI. This station was later moved back to the top of Red Mountain in Birmingham.

Society members provides other opportunities to the members and community including “shop days” on Saturday and Tuesday mornings beginning at 8:30 AM, where members can share knowledge, work on projects, research answers to specific radio related questions, analyze schematics, read about the history of a particular radio model, or locate a part needed for a radio restoration. The group conducts formal classes on electronic restoration, vacuum tube radio construction and repair, and even cabinet refinishing for the wooden cased models. Also, the group members prepare and present programs to local area civic groups to raise awareness and foster interest in this vital part of Birmingham entertainment history. The group welcomes people of all ages who are interested in learning more about vintage radios; whether it is someone who wishes to rebuild an antique radio or simply trying to research the history of an old radio which might be in the family.

AHRS Founder Don Kresge at a presentation at the Alabama Theater, Birmingham, Alabama