An exhibit celebrating 70 years of WFTM Radio in Maysville is currently on display at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center on Sutton Street in Maysville.

WFTM stands for World's Finest Tobacco Market. The station began broadcasting on Jan. 1, 1948, with James M. Finch Jr. and Charles P. Clarke as the hosts, according to current WFTM Director Robert Roe.

Roe said James Finch wanted the call letters of WFTM, but at the time, another station in New York was using those letters.

"He decided he would try to get the letters from the other station," Roe said. "He called up and they said they weren't particularly attached to them, so if Finch would send them a country ham and a hand of burley tobacco, they would hand over the letters. So, that's how we got WFTM -- ham and tobacco."

When the station began its first broadcast at midnight on Jan. 1, 1948, Ellen Walton was the first one on-air singing Ave Maria

The first noticeable piece of the exhibit when one walks into the Wormald Building is a large transmitter.

According to KGMC Director CJ Hunter, the transmitter is the one currently used by WFTM.

"This is the transmitter they use to broadcast," Hunter said.

Other items in the exhibit include signed photographs of former hosts and former guests on WFTM, such as Heather French Henry, signs and other memorabilia.

"Some of my favorite pieces are the large signs," Roe said. "I think they're some of the coolest pieces we put in the collection."

Two items include boxes that were carried to ball games in town and church services.

"The blue box was carried to ball games during broadcasts," Hunter said. "The black box was carried to churches and used to broadcast their services."

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There is also a video that was put together by  Roe. The video tells the history of the station and those watching can hear some of the former interviews with guests who have appeared.

Roe, who was in charge of putting together the pieces for the exhibit, said he had been collecting WFTM memorabilia for years.

"I've been collecting items since about 1990. Anything with WFTM on it, I wanted to collect it," he said. "We have the privilege of recording this area's history daily and I want to keep hold of that history."

Roe said he enjoyed putting together the exhibit for the museum because it shows people not only the history of WFTM but also the history of Maysville.

"I hope they walk away with an appreciation of what a unique town we live in," he said.

The exhibit will be open until Feb. 19.

The admission cost for adults is $10 and $2 for students.


Christy Howell-Hoots is a reporter for The Ledger Independent newspaper, covering Bracken County

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