What do call letters for York radio station WSBA, TV’s WPMT stand for?

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Philip K. Eberly’s “Susquehanna Radio, The First 50 Years” tells about the early years of radio in York County, Pa., and southcentral Pennsylvania. The 1992 book is available at York County libraries. Background posts: 101 Ranch Boys play on in York County memories and Old WSBA station: ‘Another part of history has gone’ and Carly Simon at WSBA: ‘What do you want to hear?’.

In his book on the nationwide Susquehanna Radio Corp., the late Philip Eberly answers questions and provides insight locally into the 1940s and 1950s when radio was the hot media.
For example, what does WSBA stand for?
Actually, Eberly’s “Susquehanna Radio, The First 50 Years” isn’t clear on that point:


“The precise origin of WSBA’s call letters will probably remain a mystery. Legend has it that the letters stood for Susquehanna Broadcasting Authority. However, this could not be substantiated through documentation or through the personal recollections of participants present at that time.”
The FCC assigned call letters arbitrarily in those days. WSBA might have been in that category, he wrote.
Also, according to Eberly:

- WHP stood for Harrisburg Patriot newspaper.
– WSBA-TV – yes, the company operated a TV station for 30 years at Channel 43 – became WPMT in 1983. WPMT stood for “Pennsylvania Movie Time.” Today, the Fox TV affiliate operates in the former WSBA-TV studios on the South Queen Street hill in York Township.
– WSBA-AM operated along the Susquehanna Trail north of York. That building was recently demolished. WSBA had long since moved to its current location near Wrightsville.
– WSBA-FM got off the ground in the late 1940s, went off the air for a period, came back on and changed to WARM-FM in 1983.
– Lancaster’s WGAL-TV and York’s WORK-AM were owned by the Steinman family, owners of the Lancaster newspapers in the early 1950s.
– WGAL-TV moved its tower, antenna and transmitter to the Hellam Hills in 1954. The station, whose studios are in Lancaster, transmits from that elevated point in eastern York County today.

This book is focused on WSBA and its many Susquehanna Radio sister stations through 1992.
It would be interesting to know more about York’s first radio station – WORK-AM, now WOYK-AM 1350 – founded in 1932.
But from these two pioneering stations grew an array of stations serving York County. To gain a glimpse of the host of stations filling county airwaves today, click here.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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8 Responses to What do call letters for York radio station WSBA, TV’s WPMT stand for?

  1. Richard K. Shipley says:

    We Sell Better Apples WSBA

  2. Bill Jacobs says:

    As a young teenager in York County growing up in the 40s, the joke among our group was that WSBA call letters meant “We seldom broadcast anything.”
    That sounds disrespectful, but seriously that is what we used to say.
    Please don’t publish this response. Thanks for your good work. I read the column each day online. Hope the publishers don’t take that privilege away from us and begin charging for this daily pleasure. Best wishes.

  3. BobbyWoontz says:

    From the mighty 9-10, won-der-ful W-S-B-A, here’s the weather!

  4. Randy Shaffer says:

    Concerning call letter meaning –
    WPMT was marketed as Pennsylvania Movie Time, but actually stood for Pennsylvania Mohawk Television (Mohawk TV was the station owner) just as WHTM stands for Harrisburg Times-Mirror. (Times-Mirror TV was the station owner)
    Some stations call letters stood for peoples names. WNOW (1250) I was told was owned by the H.J. Williams company and the initials of a family member were used for the call letters. I was told the same was true for WSBA, owned
    by the Appell family.
    Many people knew that WHP was owned by a Harrisburg newspaper and made the assumption that it was the Harrisburg Patriot. It was actually the Harrisburg Telegraph Newspaper. The three stations WHP-AM-FM-TV operated in the Telegraph building until moving to uptown Harrisburg in the 1970’s. WHP simply stands for Harrisburg, PA

  5. Norm Smith says:

    I was always under the impression that WSBA stood for Susquehanna Broadcasting. I could be wrong, but that is what I remember from back in the 60’s.

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