Selby Shoes & WPAY on Gallia Street (circa 1952)

WPAY pioneered Portsmouth radio, beginning its broadcasts on April 15th, 1933. By the early 1950s the station’s offices and studios were to be found on the north side of Gallia Street, next door to the Selby Shoe factory outlet store. The old Selby factory building, which long stood behind these store fronts, is now long gone, torn down in 1999, but the building that once housed WPAY and the Selby Shoe store still stands, just east of Kirby’s flower shop.

Pictured here is the rear of a 1941 Plymouth, which has been turned into a mobile billboard for the station. WPAY broadcast first on 1400 AM and then beginning in June of 1948 on 104.1 FM. Local talent dominated the programing, with Zeke Mullin’s morning show developing a strong following among the listening area’s dairy cows. Once, when management decided to take Mullins off the FM stream and relegate him to the original AM stream, the station received “hundreds of letters from dairy farmers complaining that there cows stop giving milk with the new guy and they wanted Zeke back on.” The protest worked and Mullins continued his broadcasting career on the FM. After Selby closed in 1957 and the larger American shoe industry collapsed in the wake of new free trade laws and cheap foreign competition, the old factory building went the way of the once famed Selby Arch Preserver shoe. Zeke Mullins would then pen and perform one of his most memorable songs.

Selby Shoe, Selby Shoe
A hundred years, tall and true
When times got hard and jobs were few,
lucky ones were working at Selby Shoe