RECOLLECTIONS ABOUT MARCUS P. FRUTCHEY FROM JERRY F. GREEN, ROLLINS CLASS OF 1963
I never knew how WPRK-FM got started at Rollins or how Mark Frutchey came to be its general manager but what I do know is whoever made these decisions did a wonderful service for Rollins.
When I arrived on the Rollins campus in the fall of 1959 I had a great love of everything audio and a fascination about broadcasting, so it was only natural that I would immediately be drawn to WPRK-FM. It is asking too much for me to remember all the details so suffice it to say I eventually took the classes in radio and volunteered as a student DJ.
Mr. Frutchey was not an academic and I am not sure he was even considered a part of the faculty; however, he possessed a tremendous knowledge of every aspect of broadcasting from its technical side to its commercial side. He was also a mentor and friend to every student who decided to descend the steps of the Mill Memorial Library to the basement studios of WPRK-FM.
He came to Rollins when he retired to Central Florida after working over 30 years with NBC (I believe in New York City), but I do not know the year he began working at Rollins. When I first met Mark he must have been about 65 years old so if my arithmetic is correct he would have started in radio about 1914 or earlier; thus his rich insights. In a sense, through Mark Frutchey, WPRK-FM can trace its origins to the beginning of radio.
Mark’s lectures did not only cover the physics of radio transmission, the technical how-tos of radio, the power of radio as a communication medium but his lectures were peppered with stories of how radio got started and what life was like in the early days. We learned about radio in our time by working the station and he made sure we could trace every wire from the microphone through the console into the transmitter.
We even learned how to broadcast off-site be it from the Knowles Chapel or the auditorium in Orlando where the Florida Symphony Orchestra played. I remember one afternoon when Mark crawled around the attic of the symphony hall extending mic wires to a 12 inch reel-to-reel tape recorder located in a small room at the top of balcony area. We later broadcast that concert.
Mark Frutchey was like a Master Sergeant when it came to supervision of the student DJs. Fire and brimstone descended upon anyone who said anything over the air that did not reflect positively upon Rollins. Thus, my own story. One evening I had the records lined up for a show called the Rollins Symphony hour. I had read the jacket of each record and knew what I was going to say as I introduced each piece of music. But before we got to the Symphony Hour we had to play a 15 minute tape about birds sent to us from the Audubon Society.
Those of us in the studio at the time were cracking jokes about the bird program when it came time for the 8:00 PM station break which I did. It went something like this. “You are tuned to the radio voice of Rollins College, WPRK-FM, operating at 91.5 mHz from our studios in Winter Park, Florida. Stayed tuned at 8:00 o’clock for the ‘Missed Placed Crow’ followed at 8:15 by the ‘Rollins Symphony Hour’.”
Well all hell broke loose. Mr. Frutchey was listening from his desk in a small narrow room at the back of the studios. He came running to the console and let me know in no uncertain language that I had made a immature comment unbecoming a Rollins student and I would have to personally take the consequences. The consequences were answering the inevitable phone calls which started immediately. I personally answered each call and apologized. I learned the next day that my little transgression made me somewhat of a hero on campus. It seemed Mark was somewhat used to these episodes and things quickly returned to normal, although I never made the same mistake again.
The studios of WPRK-FM were not only a place to go for radio classes or DJing but a place to go and unwind between classes or at the end of the day. When WPRK was not on-the-air Mr. Frutchey was always at his desk in the back room listening to a short wave radio with an antenna he had mounted on the roof of the library. While he listened he was either doing paper work or reading the newspaper. Whenever any of his people needed to or wanted to talk about something, Mark was the first one to whom we went. He would sit for as long it took to help whoever-it-was to deal with whatever-it-was. He was always there for us.
While I never again made an on-air transgression at Rollins, I did make one here in Baltimore several years latter. After Rollins I came to The Johns Hopkins University for graduate studies. While Hopkins did not have a radio station, a local community college did and this station (WBJC-FM – also at 91.5 mHz) was operated in the evening by a group of volunteers. I ending up being the Monday night volunteer and on one occasion I made the station break as follows, “You are tuned to the radio voice of the Baltimore Junior College, WPRK-FM!
Several years ago, WPRK-FM had some problems. Alumni wrote letters on the station’s behalf and even gave money. I am certain this would not have happened if it were not for the lingering effects of Marcus P. Frutchey, either directly or indirectly.