Q: There’s a little patch of green space called Huntoon Park near the state capitol in Topeka. Inside this park, you’ll find a GIANT statue of a little bird, which was once the mascot for a radio station. Can you name the radio station associated with this little bird?
A: WREN (W-R-E-N or “wren” radio)
The history of W-R-E-N (or, “wren”) radio is long and complicated. The AM station began in 1926 and had broadcast studios located in Lawrence. Later, the station moved to Topeka. WREN’s mascot was a bird – a “wren,” of course, and one of its earliest advertisers was “Jenny Wren Flour” – hence the bird mascot for the station.
There is another school of thought regarding the origin of the station’s call letters. WREN happens to be the four middle letters of LaWRENce, where the station was first located. For a period of time, WREN shared an AM frequency and airtime with KFKU at the University of Kansas, which presented educational programming for a short part of the day.
In September of 1952, in addition to operating KKFU, the University of Kansas began operating a new FM radio station called KANU, the precursor to Kansas Public Radio. Eventually, KU relinquished its time-sharing agreement with WREN and KKFU went by the wayside. KU still has two radio stations on campus: KANU / Kansas Public Radio, a full-time professionally-staffed station and the student-run radio station, KJHK.
These days, WREN no longer broadcasts over the air. Instead, it’s an Internet-based radio station that plays Golden Oldies from the 1950s and '60s. The bird statue and mascot of WREN that now sits in Topeka’s Huntoon Park once stood atop the WREN studios in Topeka. And now you know.