Christian radio station WGYJ-LP 93.5 FM ‘The Light’ holds final live broadcast Aug. 31

Published 1:54 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

“We had an opportunity, and we used it. We did everything we could do. If I had a gold mine coming in, we’d stay with it.”

That’s what Martin Gehman said Aug. 31 after the last live broadcast of WGYJ-LP 93.5 FM “The Light” concluded at the former Gospel Light Church on North Trammell Street in Atmore.

David and Jerry, Martin’s sons, signed off for the last time with their father in the studio, marking not only the end of one chapter, but also the start of another.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

David said right now, they have an opportunity to sell the radio station, put it back on the air or it will go away.

“Our first focus right now is to get everything out of the church property,” David said. “Once we get everything vacated, then we catch our breath. We’ll have some time to maybe contemplate (the next step).”

David said the property where Gospel Light Church was located was sold to New Beginnings Church.

A combination of the sale of the church and the cost of running the radio station were the reasons why the station held its last live broadcast, David said.

“The Light” has been broadcasting for more than six years. The station first went on air on the early afternoon of Jan. 26, 2017 inside of the church’s sanctuary.

According to Atmore Advance archives, the radio station was the brainchild of Dale Gehman, Gehman’s older brother, who died a couple days before Thanksgiving in 2016.

“Dale was an outstanding engineer,” David said.

Back in the early days of Gospel Light Church, before the radio station existed, the church would provide food for the Poarch Creek Indian Pow Wows. The moneys raised from the sale of the food went to pay down the debt of the church mortgage.

David said some four to five years later after the church was founded in 1974, the church debt was paid off in full.

David said Dale was into electronics as a young man.

“The high school had a radio-TV electronics class,” he said. “We didn’t have TV growing up. We had radio.

“As Dale was cutting his teeth in electronics and engineering, back in the day he used to have these TVs, which came in a console. A tube was a big glass tube that had tubes in the power section. Dale collected some of those from where, I don’t know. Dale took a tuner from a TV, and simply had it hooked up to speakers without a tube. In his room, Jerry, Dale and I could listen to TV, much to dad’s consternation.”

While in high school, Dale began working at WATM, when it was located at the old Greenlawn Hospital.

Dale’s work as a radio engineer led him, along with his brothers, to construct the WASG-AM radio station in Atmore, according to Advance archives.

“We went on the air Nov. 12, 1981,” David said previously. “We operated on south Main Street, where the weather radar tower is.”

David said the weather radar was an acquisition from Fort Smith, Ark., and it was a purchase the National Weather Service took notice. This was a big purchase because it helped lead to the current emergency management system of notifying residents of bad weather.

“The state of Alabama was so impressed,” David said. “At that time, it wasn’t the (emergency management system) EMS, but they actually put up signs along the Interstate at 65, saying for weather information, tune to AM 1140 or AM 550.”

David said after being in broadcasting so long, Dale put in a license for a construction permit for “The Light.”

“In that second extension, when Dale died, it was going to lapse on Jan. 31, 2017, we had Dale’s funeral,” David said. “We had a funeral in Pennsylvania, and a memorial here in Atmore. At that service, an FCC attorney was here and some broadcasters. Dale helped a lot of broadcasters.”

One of the broadcasters cornered David at the memorial service and asked him what they were doing here?

Then, came birth of “The Light,” thanks to local support and financial backing from Martin.

Huxford Pole and Timber donated a pole for the antenna, Escofab Inc. fabricated a bracket to be able to mount the antenna on the pole, Southern Pine Electric Cooperative erected the pole and antenna and Power 88.5 FM loaned essential pieces of equipment to get the station going, according to Advance archives.

David said when the COVID-19 pandemic came around, attendance numbers dwindled at the church, and the property eventually sat unused. He had maintained the property, put a new roof on the buildings and managing the radio station seven days a week.

A pilot for a corporation, David even controlled the station remotely via technology and the Internet.

But, now they’re entering a new phase, David said.
“We will go,” he said of the station. “We finished the last live program. We had contemplated pulling it off today (Aug. 31). It’s hard to cut it off. We’re going to let it run through Sunday afternoon and evening.”