Wednesday, April 23, 2014

KFUL, Galveston, The Community Station - 1924-1933 - Part 3

For Part 1 of this station history, go here.
For Part 2 of this station history, go here.

The Galveston Daily News began carrying more complete schedules of the programming on KFUL instead of just isolated mentions.  In August a special program was dedicated to the round the world flight of the Graf Zeppelin.  A local concert orchestra led by Felix Stella would play 'appropriate' music and an announcer would give details about each of the countries being traversed by the historic flight.

As 1930 rolled around KFUL broadcast coverage of the Mardi Gras Festival and and started covering baseball games plus live coverage of the opening of Tokio Garden for the season.  In April, the station conducted on-air announcer try-outs.  Aspiring announcers gave a five minute talk on the air and listeners voted, by mail, to determine the winner.  Toward the end of the year, KTSA renewed its request for a full-time assignment on 1290 kilocycles and KFUL also requested a new channel, arguing that if KTSA, which by that time had allied with the Columbia Chain (CBS) received its allocation, KFUL should also get a full time assignment.

Information on the last two and a half years of KFUL is scant.  Issues of the Galveston Daily News are missing (from my source) for all of 1931 and 1932 and up until October, 1933, and the earliest issues of Broadcasting Magazine, which began publication in the second half of 1931, had no mentions of the station. But the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported on May 1, 1931, that the Radio Commission had once again denied the application by KTSA for a full time allotment, at the same time authorizing a renewal of KFUL’s license as a share-time station.

On June 4, 1931, the Bryan Eagle reported the station had been taken over by the News Publishing Co, the Galveston Daily News and Tribune parent company.  Louis C. Elbert was Vice President and General Manager of the company.  A similar story appeared in the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen and reference was made to the station formerly being ‘operated by the Buccaneer Hotel.’  The September, 1931, issue of Radex listed the change of ownership among it’s ‘Summer Changes’ column and also reported in it’s last issue of the year that the station slogan was ‘The City of Perpetual Sunshine.’

Despite the lack of better identification of the seller, so far as I know the license for the ‘community station’ had always remained in the name of Thomas Goggan and Brothers up until the sale to the News.

Listings continued in Radex for these years, showing Galveston’s radio stations as KFLX, operating on 1370 kilocycles with 100 watts, and KFUL, operating on 1290 with 500 watts.

The last listing for the station in Radex appeared in the May, 1933, issue.  I have no information about the reason for the sale or the end of operations but perhaps the Great Depression was impacting tourism and straining Galveston’s economy.

After KFUL ceased operations, George Roy Clough moved his KFLX into the Buccaneer Hotel studios and changed his calls to KLUF, pronounced to rhyme with his last name.  Some accounts of broadcasting history on the island refer to KLUF as a continuation of KFUL and it’s possible some of the established programs of KFUL were picked up by KLUF, but Clough continued to operate on 1370 kc with 100 watts where he had a full-time allotment so the government would consider KLUF a continuation of KFLX, Galveston’s first station, but the history of that station is for another post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

KFUL, Galveston, The Community Station - 1924-1933 - Part 2

See Part 1 here.

More reports of distant reception continued to be received.  On February 10, 1927, the paper reported the station had received a letter from Mission House, Nukulonpa, Panga, in the Friendly Islands, estimated to be as much as 15,000 miles away, where a broadcast by KFUL had been received  on January 18th. 

On the 19th of February a big squall blew through wrecking planes at the air field, damaging houses and businesses and knocking down the KFUL antenna.  The squall affected a wide swath of Texas and Louisiana  and reports from as far away as the Valley mentioned the incident.  A temporary aerial was put up the next day. 

Rev. Raimundo De Ovies of Trinity Episcopal, who had delivered a sermon on the very first broadcast of WHAB, Galveston’s first radio station in 1922, became an announcer at KFUL and the youth group at his church organized a regular Sunday evening program featuring youth groups from churches all over the island.  Fred Richardson and his California Syncopators, in town appearing at the Winter Garden, made regular appearances on the station and KFUL station artist ‘Happy’ made an appearance at the opening of a new Star Electric Shop, pawing the ivories and singing ‘the blues’ it was reported.  It isn’t clear if ‘Happy’ was a mascot or an actual person but a couple of months later the paper reported on the opening of the Airdome Dance Pavilion, 25th and Boulevard (what we now know as Seawall Boulevard) where KFUL broadcasting star ‘Happy’ Roy Thomas was to be the manager. 

‘Radio’s Latest Marvel’ - hypnotism by radio - hit the Galveston airwaves in late March, 1927, when Noah the Great came to town to demonstrate his skills.  A booth was set up at Joyland Park where a woman was going to be put under for 48 hours and made to perform several acts before going to sleep.  Men were going to be made to ride bicycles and perform tricks and the public was invited to stop by the park to view the demonstrations. 

A report in the paper in April claimed bathing crowds at the beach had been breaking all records for so early in the season with a large group from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and others from Oklahoma and Kansas reported.  Efforts of the Beach Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the power of KFUL were credited.

In May, 1928, new management took over.  Will H. Ford became the new station manager, Art Johnson of Chicago became announcer and station director, Jack H. Rogers was named as pianist and Roy Cole from Oklahoma City became engineer, apparently replacing George Roy Clough.  Goggan’s named a new head of it’s radio department, too, Bernard McComb.  An all night program was scheduled for May 29 to launch the ‘new’ station, starting at 8:15 in the evening and running until daylight.  Many Galveston performers took part.

The Colorado Joy Boys, who played Hawaiian music, were in town and had a regular daily slot at 12 Noon.  They had recently been a big hit on WBAP.    

Will Ford was an insurance man and was closely allied with the W.L. Moody, Jr., interests on the island.  On the 27th of February, 1929, The News carried a big story about the new Buccaneer Hotel, a project of Moody, getting the final touches at 23rd and Boulevard, and revealed KFUL was to have brand new studios on the second floor, which is where the lobby was located.

This postcard on eBay shows the new hotel which has since been demolished.  The studios were located on the east end of the building (right side).  There were also several meeting rooms on the second floor and my understanding is that there was a picture window into the studio from one of those meeting rooms but not from the lobby itself. 

The station had already been collecting equipment for the new facility but before the hotel was completed a big fire broke out at Goggans in the second week of March.  Traffic was backed up all over the island as fire equipment and onlookers converged on the scene.  Damage was said to total $80,000 from the fire which was believed to have started in the Goggan’s workshop on the 3rd floor, next door to the radio station.  KFUL was practically a complete loss and the Palace Theatre, on the ground floor, suffered extensive water damage.  Draperies and other soundproofing in the studio were thought to have accelerated the fire.  The transmitter, on the roof, was inaccessible but believed to have been destroyed.  Equipment for the new facility had also been lost.  It was the 2nd fire in a month at Goggan’s.

Will Ford announced within a few days the station would be back on the air in 60 days from the new facilities in the Buccaneer and would be broadcasting with 1000 watts.  It was estimated it would cost $20,000 to get the station back on the air.  In the interim, a few regular KFUL programs were picked up by KFLX.

Ten days after the fire, Ford filed for the office of Commissioner of Finance and Revenue for Galveston and the campaign featured charges by his opponent and he and the Moody interests had ‘appropriated’ Galveston’s community radio station and were trying to get a stranglehold on Galveston.  In response, Ford claimed the the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, which had been managing KFUL at a loss, had come to him and asked him if he would take over.  After consideration he had agreed to take the job and continue to operate the station at a loss.  He said he was paying the full cost of the new studios out of his own pocket. 

In the meantime in early April the Federal Radio Commission released it’s decision on a petition by KTSA, San Antonio, and KFUL to each be assigned their own frequencies.  KTSA had applied to continue on 1280 kilocycles, which the two stations had been sharing since National Radio Allocation Day in November, 1928, and KFUL had applied for 1120 kilocycles (and 1000 watts).  The FRC ruled the two stations were to continue to share time on 1280. 

By the end of June, 1929, KFUL was once again ready to take to the airwaves.  A big gala opening was announced for Monday, June 19, with a 8 hour program that would start at 7:15 pm and the public was invited.  Pat H. Wilson, Jr., was the new station announcer and announcers from KTSA, WRR, KPRC and KWKH would also be taking part.  The broadcast would also include a remote from the Shrine Temple.  Six days later another new announcer was introduced.  Pvt. C. J. Simmons, with the Third Artillery Group at Fort Crockett, was added to the staff.  He had only recently been assigned to Fort Crockett from California and he was said to be known to radio listeners in the West for his sports announcing.  He would work evenings at the station using the air name Ace Simmons.

This postcard showing the station orchestra in the studio at the Buccaneer could have been taken anytime after June, 1929.

Continue to Part 3.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

KFUL, Galveston, The Community Station - 1924-1933 - Part 1


The Radio Service Bulletin published by the Commerce Department on January 2, 1925, listed KFUL, Galveston, as a new station approved in the previous month.  Licensed to Thomas Goggan and Brothers Music Co., KFUL was authorized on 288 meters, 1160 kilocycles, with 10 watts.  Goggans had a big store in the 2100 block of Market Street which housed the station, apparently on the third floor next to a workshop.  The firm had been founded in Galveston in the late 1800s and had branches all over the state at one time including a store in downtown Houston.  It was considered the largest and oldest musical firm in Texas, supplying sheet music and instruments of all kinds. For more on Goggans, go here.


The first mention of the station in the Galveston Daily News appeared on the 18th of December, 1924, and the program featuring the Oriental Orchestra the previous evening may have been the inaugural broadcast.


The first Goggan’s ad mentioning the station appeared in the News on the 8th of January, 1925.


In its first few months of operation, the station featured many local performers and civic clubs including the Chop Suey Entertainers, The Tokio Royal Orchestra, George McQueen, Miss Bobby Rowling, a cabaret singer formerly of New Orleans, the Lions Club, the Schubert Glee Club of San Jacinto School, the Knights of Columbus, the Sons of Hermann Orchestra, and the 9th Infantry Band from Fort Crockett, plus several visiting artists, including a talk delivered by a visiting skating champ.  Reports in the paper following broadcasts always boasted about the number of calls received, especially if they were out of town.  The badly over-inked picture of the Tokio Royal Orchestra in the studio was published in the News on April 25, 1925.

In April a new head of the radio department at Goggan’s was named who would also be in charge of the station.  According to the original announcement his name was Ray Clough but he was subsequently referred to as George Roy Clough, none other than the owner of KFLX, Galveston’s other licensed radio station at that time. 

In June a deal was announced with the Galveston Playhouse Corporation to move the station to the Garden of Tokio which was apparently on the beach and operate there for the summer, as well as boost power to 100 watts.  It was asserted the increased power would provide coverage for a range of 500 miles in the summertime and all of the US in winter.  This would help to publicize Galveston as the ‘Port and Playground of the Southwest.’  J. E. Stratford of the Playhouse asserted ‘practically every well known beach in the country is now advertising itself by means of the radio.’  The Radio Service Bulletin published August 1 did report that KFUL had been authorized to boost power to 50 watts.

The issue of the station’s ability to serve as a promotional vehicle for the island came to the fore again in February, 1926, when a proposal was floated before the Galveston Ad Club to undertake a public subscription drive to raise $8,500 to enable Goggan’s to enlarge and improve the facilities and boost power to 500 watts.  The Ad Club declared itself in favor of the idea, which was to be presented next to the Chamber of Commerce.   Five hundred dollars was raised in a very short time and it was said the entire amount was expected to be raised in 50 to 60 days.  Mentions of the station’s broadcasts in the paper regularly included mentions of the fund drive with exhortations to those who had made pledges to send in their money.  By the end of the month it was stated that an outside announcer would be hired to be the principle announcer on the station, someone not connected to Goggan’s, and a central committee would be appointed to be in charge of station activities while George Roy Clough would remain in charge of the ‘operating room.’  Pledges of support for the drive were said to have been received from Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. 

The fund drive took longer than anticipated and fell short of the goal but improvements were undertaken anyway.  By August, 1926, it was announced $4000 had already been spent and another $2000 was needed within a month.  Then in early December it was announced the ‘new’ station would open on Friday, December 17, tests of the new equipment having proved satisfactory. 

On the seventeenth a feature story proclaimed the inaugural broadcast of ‘The Community Broadcasting Station of the Gateway to the Southwest’ with an inaugural celebratory broadcast lasting all night long.  The new facilities had been built at a minimum of expense.  George Roy Clough had built the equipment which, it was claimed, would have cost $25,000 otherwise.  The fund drive had raised $3615; Goggan’s had spent $2000 on parts and labor and another $1599 to furnish a new studio and reception room.  Test broadcasts had drawn letters from all over the continent and a cablegram from Midway Island in the Pacific, estimated to be 8000 miles away.  The story said more funds were still needed and emphasized nearly every civic organization on the island had endorsed the drive.

A follow-up story a couple of weeks later reported that letters had been received from every state and almost all the Canadian provinces as well as Mexico.  ‘Well over’ 3000 cards, letters and telegrams were being answered by the Chamber of Commerce which was sending out advertising materials, indexing the addresses and creating a big wall map.  The story also emphasized the station was still in need of funds to bring the power up the the contemplated wattage.  Frank B Herrle or Herrie was appointed musical director of the station and a big open house was planned for the end of January during which visitors would be able to observe programs being broadcast.

Records of government actions in that era are available only through the Radio Service Bulletins issued monthly which do not show that KFUL received authorization for the contemplated power boost for the ‘new’ station.  It was not until April of 1927 that temporary authority was granted, efffective May 3 of that year, for Goggan’s to boost the station’s output to 750 watts, pending final approval.  Then in July, 1929, permission was granted for the station to operate with 1000 watts daytime on an experimental basis with 500 watts nighttime, but by November of that year the authorizations had been reduced to 500 watts which was apparently the wattage the station operated with until it went off the air in 1933.

Continue to Part 2.

Images above from the archives of the Galveston Daily News on newspapers.com.