I often reflect on what broadcast stations used to be, having been retired for 29 years, with a 32 year stint as a Broadcaster. What we have now are radio stations broadcasting a myriad of music formats, conservative and liberal views on All Talk Shows, ad infinitum. In looking back in time, my question is what happened to the motto 'Serving the Public' ?
Let me tell you about myself for just a minute. After 6 years in the Navy from 1941 to 1947 I was discharged as a Radioman First Class. I spent 4 years in Broadcasting schools in Hollywood. Three years at Doria Ballies Radio Arts Academy, and one year at Don Martins Radio and Television Arts Academy. In my last year of school I freelanced on a Los Angeles Radio Station. In 1951 after finishing school I accepted a job at Radio Station KTRB 860 in Modesto California. I spent my entire career at KTRB, and in 1982 retired as Operations Manager for KTRB and KHOP our FM Station.
I learned radio broadcasting there from an icon and a true professional. Mr Bill Bates, founder and owner of KTRB. Mr. Bates dedicated his broadcast station to serving the public. The station was loosely formatted- country and pop music featuring early day singers, musicians, and entertainers. Chester Smith and the Maddox Brothers and Rose got their start at KTRB because of Bill Bates. We had news every hour on the half hour. In addition to music throughout the day, Bill was a stickler for serving his listeners. He went on the air at 08:00 AM with what was called the Old Time Tunes program with the theme song of the 'Beer Barrel Polka. Old Times Tunes was really a misnomer. In all the years I spent at the station there were few records of any kind he played on Bill's program.
His show was an early version of the present day talk shows. He would cover any subject, and read from different publications to start the discussion with people who would call in to offer their comments. On Thanksgiving and Christmas time he would devote an entire program to giving away turkeys to the needy families. He wound spend much of his airtime around the weather. Bill had one of the first Amateur Radio Licenses (HAM) in California. His call sign was 6CF, which was changed later by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to W6CF. Our Chief Technician, Cliff Price, was also a HAM, W6ERE, and was net control of the California Weather Net on 80 meters at (or around) 3956 KHz.
I am also an amateur radio operator (HAM), K6BII, and on Saturdays I was the Net Control for the weather net. We had over 100 HAMS from the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona and even a couple from British Columbia check into the net regularly reporting the weather and any other interesting news of their area. Mr. Bates would intertwine this weather throughout his program. It was the most listened to station in the Central Valley, especially his program.
Other programs initiated by Mr. Bates included 'The Auction Block' where anyone could call in and advertise an item for sale. (individuals -no businesses). The 'Job Listings' where business, farmers etc. would call in and offer a job they had open and the 'Lost and Found' program. All these services were offered free to the public.
One of Bill's primary interest was to inform the public as to news events happening in every part California, and especially in and around our counties of Stanislaus and Toulumne in Central California. We had one full time newsman at the station, one full time news reporter in the field with radio two-way radios to report the news on the spot. In addition we had from 8 to 12 sales personnel whose personal cars were equipped with mobile radios (1620 KHz) to augment the news reporters. If any of these employees came across an event that would be classed as news, they would call into the station and would be put on the air with the story.
We also had a 1,000 watt HAM radio station set upstairs at KTRB for the HAM weather reports which could also be used in emergenices. Cliff Price and myself belonged to the Stanislaus-Toulumne County Emergency Broadcasting System. We had close to 30 local HAMS as members of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES.) These HAMS would call into the station and report a possible emergency situation. Mr. Bates made every effort to inform the public of any problems in our area. When a major flood happened we had emergency reports from the many volunteers in the field. I even broadcast from my plane during 2 major floods.
As Chairman of the Stanislaus-To County Emergency Broadcasting System from 1978 to 1983, and as Communications Chair for Stanislaus County Civil Defense, I relied upon these dedicated volunteer radio HAMS for their input. It was, always there, and KTRB contributed greatly to the success of any major event that happened in our area.
Listening today, I wonder where all of that service to the community is now. Yes, I hear traffic reports (KTRB was a pioneer in that field) on local stations, a bit of news here and there. but I find no station reporting on major events as they happen. KTRB was also a pioneer in broadcasting National and Local election coverage. On election night we had all of our remote radio units maned by sales people as well as management to cover the individual polling places and reported an ongoing account of the election results. We had the final count way before the Election Central did. As a matter of fact, I have been told that even our local newspaper, the Modesto Bee, had their ear to those broadcasts! Speaking of that, the National Weather Service informed us that they listened every morning to the Amateur Weather Net and utilized much of the information for their official forecasts!
KTRB also gave most of the day on Sundays to Religious Broadcasts. Every month we would set up equipment at one of the churches in town and broadcast the entire service. KTRB also had a full time Sports Announcer. The station broadcast all of the Modesto High School football and basketball games when Modesto High was the only High School in town. When the other High Schools were established we split time among them all.
Looking back - Radio Stations, organizations, Amateur Radiomen and many local people contributed a lot to the well being of our community. I wonder will it ever be that way again? KTRB, was a 10,000 watt station in Modesto California in those days and later a 50,000 watt station. In the days of the Cold War it was the official emergency broadcast (Conelrad) station for Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties.
In June 2007 KTRB's license was reassigned to San Francisco, California and has been replaced by KMPH on 840 KHz. My hope is that the new facilities would follow some of the dedication to the public that it always did in Modesto, California from the day it signed on the air June 18, 1933.
President, Modesto Radio Museum Foundation Modesto, California
Having been retired for 29 years, with a 32 year stint as a radio broadcaster, I often reflect on what broadcast stations used to be. What we have now is a bunch of radio stations broadcasting a myriad of formats of music of all kinds. Conservative and Liberal views on All Talk Shows, ad infinitum. In looking back in time, my question is "What happened to the motto 'Serving the Public'?
Let me tell you about myself for just a minute. After 6 years in the Navy from 1941 to 1947 I was discharged as a Radioman First Class. I spent 4 years in Broadcasting schools in Hollywood. Three years at Doria Ballies Radio Arts Academy, and one year at Don Martins Radio and Television Arts Academy. In my last year of school I freelanced for a Los Angeles Radio Station. In 1951 after finishing school I accepted a job at Radio Station KTRB 860 in Modesto California. I spent my entire career at KTRB, and in 1982 retired as Operations Manager for KTRB and KHOP our FM Station.