Going through some of the files up in the station in the Fall of 1988, I noticed a crude historical outline of Beloit College Radio (intended for the 1986 anniversary) that reached back to at least the twenties. It was intriguing: How great is the station's heritage? After exploring the Archive's radio files, I began to get a hint of how extensive it is. A strong interest in both radio and history compelled me to research further, and then, to attempt a written history. I first looked at the files in both the Archives and at the radio station and then proceeded to scrutinize all of the Round Tables, yearbooks and other material from the turn of the century on. Towards the end of the Summer of 1991, I developed the first of two sets of surveys that were sent out to selected alumni, usually student board members. The results were encouraging: almost 50% of those surveyed were able to send back a response. Interviews were also conducted during this time, adding to the series of interviews done by Bryan Oldenburg in the Fall of '85. The enthusiasm and the amount of information provided by Alumni surprised even me: That so many people were interested in giving their input to the project is a testament to college radio's lasting impact on their lives.
There is one glaring gap in Ethereal Messages that should be noted: the lack of information on the involvement of women. There was very little to be found on the woman's experience at WBCR. Unfortunately, out of the surveys sent to women who were involved, only a few were sent back (even though the general response was quite good). I was left to rely on what I had and even a few quotes by men in an attempt to fill the gap. Though this wasn't the only area - there were other alumni that would have helped add more information in general, but they were either unable to respond (such as Tom Keenan) or we were unable to trace them (such as Jeff Geer). But then, this is a history of Beloit College Radio. Someday, another history may be written, filling in this gap.
Ethereal Messages has three purposes. One is to give a sense of history to those who become involved in WBCR; to make present and incoming students aware of its heritage, how and why radio at Beloit College evolved as it did. As Rich Allen. '85, explains late in the book, "Students come to Beloit College - many of them without any past history of radio experience or broadcasting experience, and when they get on the air they want to do things their way - they have no sense of a history of radio, how it operates and how one speaks to their listening audience." Another purpose is to give past members not only just a legacy of Beloit College Radio, but credit for their contributions, when possible in their own words. And of course, the third purpose is simply to present a history of radio at Beloit College, to anyone who's interested.
College radio has always been an alternative, giving air time to music and other material not fiscally endearing to most commercial stations. It's also a chance for students to operate at the other end of the transmitter, to experience radio from the programmer's point of view. It's their opportunity to be that disembodied voice emanating from a speaker, communicating music, ideas, news, comedy, and other material. Beloit College radio has helped serve this and related purposes for most of the 20th century, developing an impressive heritage. Ethereal Messages is the first attempt to offer a complete, though concise look at its evolution.