It started in an obscure little building nestled in the heart of Frenchtown. Today, WSTA 1340 AM Stereo has grown to play an essential role in holding our community together. The station started as a “get away from it all” retirement hobby for William N. Greer who had wired most of the radio stations in Puerto Rico. Upon his retirement to St. Thomas, Greer decided to start his own radio station. This was 1950. At the time what we now know as Waterfront didn’t exist and the time was ripe for a local radio station. It was his opinion that the economy at the time could not commercially support more than a 50-watt station. As a result, he filed the first ever commercial application to the FCC to run a station of so little power. He then proceeded to build his own transmitter by hand. With the help of volunteers in the Frenchtown community, especially the Quetel family, he soon had a small concrete structure built that would house the facility for the next 25 years.
Meanwhile, it was announced that a St. Croix station was planned to go on air at 250 watts. Not to be outdone, Greer dropped his original plans, filed for 250 watts and went on air a full year before his competition. One of his first broadcasters was a young air force man who was a regular on the popular Armed Forces Radio. This DJ, Ron de Lugo, came aboard to host a well-listened-to morning show. From this post, he, along with WSTA and many community members, helped to fan the fires that would lead to the resurrection of carnival in 1952. When Newsday anchor Lee Carle joined the staff in 1954, he could hear the chickens, dogs, and people outside. No one concerned themselves with soundproofing – it was the people’s station.
Throughout the years, everything in the community has somehow tended to center around the Lucky 13. For years, without other stations to produce signal interference, 250 watts was sufficient to broadcast as far away as Antigua. This resulted in the radio station being a message center for the Caribbean. The station also doubled as a fire alarm sending a word out for the volunteer firemen to rush to a fire in progress or providing vital service to those lacking telephones. (At the time, WSTA’s phone number was 4-89 . . . an indication of just how few telephones were in service at the time.) WSTA and its people, in one way or another throughout the years, have continually had the cloak of decision making tossed on them from time to time.
In the mid-seventies, long after they had outgrown the original facilities, broadcast operations were moved to the hill overlooking Subbase. In 1984, Addie Ottley, under the company name Ottley Communications Corporation, bought the station, and a year later the power was boosted to 1000 watts of stereo power. It was with this power, the foresight to build to withstand nature’s force, and satellite communications, that the Lucky 13 was able to remain the island’s guiding force. During Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Marilyn and again during Hurricane Lenny, WSTA was the only station on the air 24 hours a day throughout the storm.
After Irma and Maria devastated the island, WSTA still provided island residents with programming and information. WSTA continues to stand as the People’s station.