Born in Canada
around 1861, Henry and his family moved to California and Nebraska
before arriving in Dallas. After he graduated
with a degree in electrical engineering, he started the Pan-Electric
Telephone Company in 1885. The company failed and Henry tried looking
for a new venue. He found one when he was hired to install an electric
light system for the first season of the state fair. He then spent
time serving Southwestern Bell and the Dallas Street Railway Company.
Garrett helped run an electrical supply business during the 1890s
before become the city's first car dealer in 1902. However, he decided
to pursue a different career by becoming the superintendent of the
Dallas Police and Fire Signal System.
While enjoying his free time, Garrett pursued his interest in radios,
often experimenting with the equipment. The destruction of telephone
lines caused by a fire inspired him to find a way to use radio transmission
as a way for the fire department to communicate. He succeeded in
his endeavor and convinced the city government get a 50-watt radio
transmitter in 1920. The new equipment would send alarms to fire
stations and car receivers.
Between the alarms, the transmitter was connected to a phonograph
which played Henry Garrett's classical music collection. Anyone
owning a radio could listen to the music in addition to the emergency
announcements. However, the majority of air time went to talk show
programs. Every evening at seven, there were police bulletins, sports
news, and weather forecasts. This was followed by a concert of classical
music. Broadcaster John Stone soon got involved and became first
disc jockey in the Southwest.
The radio station, located on 1310 AM, received its license in 1921.
For reasons unknown, it used the call letters WRR. In addition to
broadcasting music, WRR provided radio equipment for the city departments
until they could acquire their own apparatus and administered dispatching
services for private ambulances and the Cockrell Hill police.
WRR transferred to the Jefferson Hotel in 1923, the Adolphus Hotel
in 1925, and the tenth floor of the Southland Life Building during
the 1930s. The city obtained control of the station from the fire
department in 1931. Five years later, WRR moved into the Police
and Fire Building at Fair Park in time for the centennial exposition.
The station obtained its FM license in 1948 and started broadcasting
classical music on its 101.1 position on the radio dial. However,
management decided to keep both the AM and FM frequencies. The final
headquarters of WRR was entered in 1973. Half a decade later, the
AM frequency was sold.
WRR is currently operated by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural
Affairs, which treats the station as a business by relying on advertising
and sponsorships instead of tax revenue. In addition to the regular
format, the broadcast is available in digital format on the internet.
As time marches onward, WRR is the oldest same-owner radio station
in the United States.
December 5, 2016
© Clint Skinner