‘Rides America’ and other unusual programming on early WYEP
One interesting service that WYEP provided to its listeners in the late 1970s and early 1980s was called “Rides America.” In a recording of WYEP from 1980, DJ Pat Lowry explained the service this way: “’Rides America’ is a service that we offer to our listeners to help you get from one place to another. If you need a ride or would like to offer one to somebody else, send it to Rides America, care of WYEP radio.”
“Yes, ‘Rides America’ was sort of an on-air, share-a-ride board,” said W.T. Koltek, a DJ on WYEP from 1976 to 1985. “And people would send in, let's say: ‘John needs a ride to the West Coast next week,’ or whatever. If you were looking for a ride or could provide a ride for someone, if you were going somewhere, you would send this into the station or call it in. And we would read these on the air two or three times a day. It was the sort of service that I guess you would also see at the time in underground newspapers. We were certainly the underground newspaper of the air.”
From today's perspective, it seems remarkable that people would give their contact information to be read out over the airwaves. In Pat Lowry’s 1980 recording, she read some of the received announcements, “Fred needs riders to go to Denver or Boulder and share driving expenses. Leaving June 14th or 15th, you can call —” and then gave out Fred’s home phone number to listeners.
“It was a different time,” offered Koltek. “I think it was a more innocent time in that respect, with people giving away personal information in very public ways.”
It was, indeed, a more innocent time. A WYEP listener named David Bandler wrote a surreal piece for the station’s program guide in the mid-1970s, and concluded by mentioning that he wrote a donation check to WYEP. The listener then included a copy of his check, reproduced in full in the guide sent out to all station supporters. It featured his bank account and routing numbers, completely unobscured. (The numbers are blurred out in this scan of the guide, but rest assured it was not like that in the original.)
It's hard to believe, from a 2024 vantage point, that people would give out their personal information in this manner. “Rides America” and Mr. Bandler’s check are fascinating reminders that the fears we routinely have today were not a great concern at the time when WYEP was young.
Be sure to join us at our 50th Anniversary concert at the Byham Theater on April 16 featuring an evening with Shawn Colvin and KT Tunstall (tickets are on sale now). And listen on April 30 as we share listener’s stories of WYEP memories during that day. If you want to share a story about how WYEP has been meaningful in your life, go to wyep.org/memories.