Bill Bates founded KTRB in Modesto, California in 1933 It was the first commercial broadcasting station in the area. He was President until he passed away on Good Friday, 1969. In those 36 years he established a radio legacy throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley of California. He was on the air mornings from 08:00 AM to 09:00 AM hosting his program called 'Old Times Tunes' Show. More talk than tunes, he featured news stories, heavy on local events, weather, listener interviews, and religion.
Many of his sponsors would call on the phone and chat for a few minuets before launching into a commercial, a practice that proved to be a successful listener appeal. He gave away turkeys every Thanksgiving and Christmas to needy families. He broadcast Lost and Found items, Job Listings, and an Auction Block for listeners who had an item to sell.
Bill for years continued to receive top ratings by the industries rating companies. He was a household word to many people. Dairyman used to say that their cows would not give milk if they were not listening to Bill Bates's Old Time Tunes program. Hardly a truth, but a showing statement of how respected he was for his program. Anonymously he provided scholarship for many local students in the Modesto area. His employees revered him.
He owned two cabins in the Pinecrest and Dardanelles area of the Stanislaus National Forest. He spent many weekends at these cabins. He loved the mountains, and he promoted good stewardship of forests. He interviewed Forest Rangers of the Forests and Parks, giving road and weather conditions in the areas.
On Good Friday 1969 Mr. Bates passed away at his daughters home in San Jose. When his death was announced on the air a deluge of phone calls and cards came into the Radio Station. One of his sponsors, Mr. Vrh, owner of Vrh's Furniture in Turlock, California called KTRB's program Director, Cal Purviance, and proposed a memorial of some kind to Bill someplace in the Sierra.
They started to explore the possibility. Purviance contacted the forest Service for suggestions, and they suggested the Penny for Pines project. This project suggested a donation to the Forest Service from a penny or more to be used to purchase small seedling pine trees to be planted in fire devastated areas, or where trees had been destroyed by decease. This project was selected.
Purviance and Vrh went on the air and presented this idea to the listening audience. A hillside of young trees to be planted in honor and memory of Bill Bates. The response was staggering. People began sending checks and money orders to the station. Within a week thousands of dollars were received to go forward with the project. The location selected was just south of Hi way 108, west of Pine crest. Not too far from one of Bills mountain cabins.
Purviance and Vrh then went on the air to explain what would take place, and anyone wanting to help plant the seedlings, call the station. The response was surprising. On the tree planting morning a caravan of some 15 cars motored to the planting location on Forest Service road 4N95, which goes to the High Sierra Camp. The planting location was about 3/4 of a mile south of Hwy 108, on the east side of the road. For two weekends KTRB listeners and friends drove to the location and planted a hillside of trees.
That was 1969.
It is now 2007.
I often go to the sight. There was a marker posted, explaining the planting in remembrance of Bill Bates. It is gone now, vandalized I assume. One can see the 38 year old growth of pines that means so much to the family and friends of a man who loved so much to our Stanislaus National Forest.