It all began on June 18, 1933 when KTRB Radio first began broadcasting its 250-watts of power from a small building at the corner of McHenry and Sylvan Avenues in North Modesto. The call letters stood for radio pioneer Bill Bates and local radio shop repairman T.R. "Tom" McTammany.
Now, 50-years later, many of personalities that made KTRB a local institution to thousands of listeners, will come together Saturday for a big, all-day birthday bash at the Cheyenne Social Club on Yosemite Boulevard in Modesto.
From 10 a.m to 4 p.m. the golden anniversary celebration will include the introduction and performances of some of the station's old-time personalities, live music, a simulated Western shoot-out, a talent show for children, entertainment by Calliope the Clown and contests and prizes for everyone. Hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn and soft drinks will be available for purchase, or guests may take a picnic lunch. Free birthday cake will also be handed out to guests.
Live entertainment will include Cecil Lynch, re-creating his popular Man-On-The-Street interviews, KTRB talent contest winner Brenda Cruse of Oakdale will sing, Dave Nelson and Pat Kelly will conduct live broadcasts, and performances will also be given by the Kenny Pierce Band, Charlie Smith Express and the Favero Sisters.
Festivities will continue later at the North-40 Club on Prescott Road Saturday night with $10 tickets at the door. Free tickets are available from KTRB sponsors and at the radio station studios. Programming for the big all-day party will feature the re-creation of some of the station's early shows, in addition to the ABC Network providing news reports of 1933 headlines.
Veteran KTRB broadcaster Cal Purviance, Bates' program director for many years, is semi-retired now but still manages the station's operations department, with Kathy Connley as station manager. Purviance remembers Bates as "a man who loved every aspect of radio." Bates was a consultant to the Mexican Navy and later was chief engineer for KNX radio in Los Angeles before moving to Modesto.
For nearly two decades, KTRB was the only radio station in Modesto. It wasn't until 1950 when Jud Sturtevant started KMOD, which later became the present KFIV. A year later in 1951, a third station began broadcasting, known as KBOX...which later became KBEE and KHYV. It was founded by attorney and state legislator Ralph Brown. Then, Chester Smith went on the air with KLOC in Ceres in 1963.
Some of the earliest advertisers on KTRB included J.S. West, Asbill's Furniture and Appliance, Rice Furniture, Velvet Ice Cream and Lee Brothers...some of which remain sponsors today.
Four years after Bill Bates' death in 1969, KTRB was bought by Big Valley Broadcasting, a corporation that included brothers Mike and Pete Pappas, for $675,000. The FM side had its power increased with is call letters changed to KHOP. Two years ago, Pete Pappas bought out the six other investors for $1,110,000 for both the AM and FM operations.
Bill Bates and KTRB were well-known, community-oriented institutions: For instance, when Bates appealed on the air for donations for wounded servicemen at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland, listeners responded with enough afghans to fill two truck-trailer rigs. A plea for harmonicas to be sent to servicemen overseas, filled countless boxes at the station's studios. Hundreds of pairs of eye glasses came in when Bates gave on-air plugs for the Lions Club sight conservation program. A radio offer of Kerr canning jars brought some 2,600 requests to the station.
For many years, KTRB would donate 50 to 75 turkeys at Christmas and Thanksgiving to needy families that Bates had learned of from listeners. When Bates died, operations manager Purviance, Turlock furniture dealer Irwin Vrh and others organized a "Pennies For Pines" memorial...commemorating his love for the mountains and his cabin in the Dardanelles. California matched over $4,000 in contributions from KTRB listeners and numerous volunteers spent two weekends planting thousands of pine seedlings in the area between Cold Springs and Pinecrest. There is a plaque at that site which memorializes Bates' contributions.
And not to forget Modesto's annual Fourth of July Celebration whereby again Bill Bates and KTRB provided parade and fireworks radio coverage, thanks to advertisers and businesses. Cal Purviance was and still is parade chairman and master of ceremonies for the big event. KTRB's Carol Benson, coordinator of the 50th anniversary celebration, says she is amazed by the amount of listeners who still tune in to the station and added: "Some of them haven't moved their dials from the 860 spot for five decades."
Down Memory Lane: In addition to Bill Bates and Cal Purviance, many valley and foothill listeners will recall the KTRB voices of Gene D'Accardo, Ward Hill, Bob Sterling, Max Sayre, Derek Waring, Selden Palmer, Bob DeLeon, Ralph King, Bill Short and Art Baker.
During the past half-century of KTRB's history, there were many other shows and personalities to hit the airwaves over Northern California, such as:
The Maddox and Rose (Chester Smith came later)
During the '50s, Don Lapan and his "Knick Knacks" request hour
Cecil Lynch and his "Man-On-The-Street" interviews
Cousin' Andy and Uncle Eldon
Of interest to women was the May Damrell reports on KTRB
The first female announcer in the valley, Ruth Sipes
The Swanee Cowboys, with Arkie Stark and the Blocher family
Weekly radio sermons with the Rev. Don Weston
Cicily Roddy and her "Tots and Teens Radio Amateur Hour"
"The Birthday Show," "Swap Shop," "Disc Hits & Tid Bits,"
"Jukebox Jamboree," "Melody Matinee," and "Sunrise Serenade"
Modesto's KTRB To Celebrate Golden Anniversary
1933 - 1983
KTRB Mobile studio 70s-90s
KHOP-FM automation "Blue Room" 80s-90s.
L-R Fred Hunter, Tammy Lynn, J.W. Ford, Bill Slater 1980s.