Sixty years after its first transmissions wafted through nearby dorm rooms, WUML drew about 200 radio station alumni to Lowell to reminisce, compare notes and broadcast memories of their shared experience.
The station that began in 1952 as WLTI with sophomore Ed Bonacci’s dorm room amplifier has grown into a staple of campus life, now broadcasting from the Lydon Library basement. It is, literally, underground radio. The station later changed its call letters to WJUL, more recently becoming WUML.
Those who have become involved with the station relish the experience, and many remain involved.
The Oct. 20 reunion drew some of the most loyal supporters, according to Matthew Denaro, co-general manager of WUML. They came from far and wide, and included founder and 1954 Lowell Technological Institute graduate Bonacci, now 79.
Bonacci proudly points to the station he began as “the oldest student organization at the University.”
Chris Porter, who lives in Seattle and serves as programming director for the large and respected One Reel production company, spoke at the gathering about co-founding the still-vibrant “Live at the Fallout Shelter” program more than 27 years ago.
“That’s a huge testament to the show,” says Denaro. “That’s longer than a lot of businesses have been around.”
Denaro began planning the event last March and calls the 60th, “one of the most amazing events I’ve ever been involved with. It was an honor, and pretty humbling, too, to be with all of those people who led the station to where it is now.”
When asked to speak, Porter (not a graduate from the University – he transferred to Brandeis after his sophomore year) said, “How could I not? I went to the 50th anniversary reunion which was a truly special time for all – particularly for the ‘80s crew. The station was my favorite thing from my college years.”
In his time at WJUL, he served as promotions director, music director and “Fallout Shelter” host.
He is a product of Bonacci’s creation.
“I listened to WJUL when I was in high school,” says Lowell native Porter, who now books acts like X and Y for Seattle’s legendary music festival Bumbershoot. Upon enrolling at the University, “I wholeheartedly focused on getting my foot in the door at WJUL as soon as I could. … What I got from it was priceless … it was a foot in the door of what became my career – the music business.”