This is the War Stories Section of
The Broadcast Archive
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
by Phil Galasso
I have a war story for you: "The Night of the Singing Bird Poop"
From 1985-1988, I worked as a contract engineer for the now-defunct WERA (AM)
in Plainfield, NJ. This was a 500-watter on 1590 kc. with a 3-tower in-line
array and a downtown studio located some three miles away from the transmitter
site. One summer evening in 1987, I received a panic call from the disc
jockey...a thunderstorm had rolled through and knocked the station off the air.
While en route to the transmitter site, I heard the transmitter come back up,
but I stopped in to check on things anyway.
Apparently, the transmitter site had lost power momentarily, causing the
relays in the old RCA BTA-1R to drop out, and
the DJ forgot how to reset the transmitter. At the site, I noticed that the
phase and base current readings were way out of tolerance. After checking the
phasor, I took a walk to the towers. Tower #1 was OK.
When I got near the doghouse for Tower #2 (the reference tower), I could
clearly hear the station's programming. It was not the normal
"singing" of vacuum capacitors in the ATU. The music got louder as I
approached the tower base. A clump of wet bird droppings had gotten across the
horn gap, causing a singing arc. Brandishing a dry broom, I removed the bird
poop and the readings returned to normal.
In 28 years in the broadcasting field, this has got to be my weirdest
131 Stafford Forge Road
West Creek, NJ 08092-9329