On April 4, 1952, the Freeport Daily Facts and Review reported that the Federal Communications Commission had approved the call letters for KBRZ, a new AM radio station for the Brazosport area, the first radio station licensed in Brazoria Co. The call letters had been used previously by a station in Bryan operating on 1440 kc that had gone silent in 1949. Kelly Bell of Nacogdoches, President of Brazosport Broadcasting which was putting the new station on the air, told the Facts the call letters stood for Brazosport and Brazoria Co.
The original application had been filed in November, 1950, for a 250 watt station operating unlimited hours on 1490 kc but that had been amended in May, 1951, to 500 watts, daytime only, on 1460 kc. The Construction Permit was granted on March 26, 1952. On May 21, the FCC approved the site for the new station, located on the old Angleton-Velasco road (FM 523) just outside the small settlement of Oyster Creek. The new Texas 332 and the original span over the Intracoastal Waterway to Surfside would not be completed for a couple of years but the location was just north of the intersection of the Angleton-Velasco road and the new highway. Harry Twombley, a construction company man in Brazosport had joined the ownership group. Bell, originally from Midland, was an attorney in Nacogdoches and owner of KOSF there. Another owner was J.C. Stallings of Nacogdoches who was to be General Manager, a post he held at KOSF.
Prior to the launch of KBRZ, KIOX, Bay City, 1270 kc, had served as something of a local station for Brazosport, broadcasting advertiser remotes, a weekly 'This is Freeport' program from the Showboat Theater in Freeport, and covering the opening of the Brazoria Co. Fair in Angleton.
Construction of the facility got underway on June 10 and two days later O. A. Wood told the paper in an interview they hoped to be on the air by August 15 and the station was looking for local personnel to staff the station. Wood, who had worked as Commercial Manager for KOSF, had been named GM of the station and had set up temporary offices on Broad St. in downtown Freeport. Apparently, Stallings was going to stay in Nacogdoches.
As the date approached the sign-on got pushed back a couple of times. On the 15 of August, Wood said they hoped to be on by the 23rd but that date passed. On the 27th, a Wednesday, Wood said the station would begin operations the following Monday but the story also said the station would sign on at Noon that Sunday (possibly this was just for a dedicatory ceremony). Then on Friday August 29 the Daily Facts and Review reported final FCC approval had been received and the station would sign on the next morning and hold an open house at the new station on Sunday, August 31. A special dedication ceremony would be held at the station on Saturday evening involving the local Chamber of Commerce which had petitioned the FCC on behalf of the owners.
KBRZ operated on 1460 kc with 500 watts of power, daytimes only (local sunrise to local sunset). Studios and offices were housed in a building that resembled a big ranch house while the transmitter was located in the rear and the 210' antenna in the salt grass prairie that stretched back to the Intracoastal Waterway.
ETA: A 1964 Historic Aerial image clearly shows the original studio and transmitter site. A direct link to the image is not allowed; go to Historic Aerials and use the search parameters 'FM 523 and FM 332 Velasco Texas.' You can turn on the 'All Roads' overlay to orient yourself. The station is the first structure north of the intersection on the east side of 523 with a driveway to the transmitter out back.
On Monday, September 1st, two small ads appeared in the Daily Facts and Review. One advertised a late fishing report on daily at 5:30 pm with the tag line ‘No, This Didn’t Get Away.’ The other urged listeners to ‘Develop the KBRZ Listening Habit’ by dialing 1460 daily from 7:30 to 7:45 (am) for ‘a program of comfort.’
Several stories over the first several months identified more of the station personnel. In addition to Wood these included Betty Klein, Program Director, Dick Smith, News Director, Jack Howard, Commercial Manager, and Bill Reading on the commercial and announcing staff. Smith had an impressive resume, citing stints as News Director or Editor at WOAI, KTSA, WFAA and the Liberty Broadcasting System. Klein had worked at KTRM, Beaumont, KTXJ, Jasper and the Pams Agency in Dallas. Howard had worked for the Liberty Broadcasting System and also Mutual and the Cactus Network in west Texas while Reading had worked at KNUZ, KULP, the Liberty Broadcasting System and KUHF-FM. In separate stories Danny Kirk was identified as chief announcer and Kenneth Ferguson as Chief Engineer. Kirk had come to KBRZ from WACO.
A story in July, 1953 named Raymond Carlton, aged 17, as working afternoons at KBRZ after summer school and said he planned to make a career in radio. The station started broadcasting football games of the two high schools in the coverage area that autumn, carrying them on tape on Saturdays since the station was off the air Friday evenings. The station at times also carried the games of Lamar Tech in Beaumont. A story in September, 1954 identified Bob Dunnavant as the play-by-play announcer for Brazosport Exporter games with Jim Grant doing the color commentary. Charles Dunaway, Sports Editor of KBRZ, handled play-by-play for the Angleton Wildcats games with Chuck Lay doing commentary. Two months later the paper reported popular DJ Charlie Dunaway was leaving KBRZ for a job as staff announcer at KPRC, Houston, noting Dunaway had been with the station 2 years and married a local girl. Houston native and Texas Radio Hall of Famer Chuck Dunaway chronicled his career in his 2004 book The Way I Remember It, including a chapter devoted to KBRZ. This used to be online but has been taken down and the book is currently out of print. The same month Dunaway departed Jim Grant left for KGBC, Galveston. In April, 1956, Clifford L. Holloway was identified as Commercial Manager for KBRZ when he filed for office as a candidate for Lake Jackson City Council. In June, 1956, a story mentioned ‘former PD’ Bob Dickson was taking a job at KRIS-TV, Corpus Christi, covering sports. Dickson had come to KBRZ in November, 1955, to serve as PD, bring his popular 'Breakfast with Bob' show from KIOX, Bay City.
Within months of signing on, the station conducted the first of what would come to be a long running annual event, a Kiwanis Radio Auction. Kiwanis Club members from both Freeport and Lake Jackson, the two largest towns in Brazosport, collected goods from merchants throughout the area for the auction which was held over the air on a Sunday afternoon in mid-December. A big ad in the paper before the auction listed all the items for sale and for the first year these included a refrigerator, a dishwashing machine, a radio, fishing tackle, a watch and much more. Money raised was to go to underprivileged children and the KRA, as it came to be known, was an annual event on KBRZ for over 20 years.
Another annual event was a Teens Against Polio Radiothon, held as early as 1955 and continuing annually until at least 1969. Several Brazoria Co. residents had been afflicted with polio during the nationwide epidemics of 1952 and 1954 and polio was on everybody’s mind as a terrible disease. Teen groups known as Teens Against Polio were formed all over the country and held fund raising activities, typically in January, including talent shows, dances, and midnight movies. The radiothons on KBRZ involved all the area junior high schools; on a designated Sunday, requests would be taken on the air for dedications in return for a 25 cent donation, which was picked up by one of the volunteers stationed at the various junior highs. I had my first on-air experience as a guest DJ on the radiothon in January, 1960, along with Howard Dupree who was a student like myself but also worked part time at KBRZ. That year we also passed out car litter bags in return for a donation.
One of the most memorable personalities on KBRZ in the early years was the guy who delivered the weather forecast every morning from Coast Guard Station Freeport. It had been a huge boost to civic pride when the Coast Guard opted to station the 165' cutter Dionne at Freeport instead of Galveston in 1952 but even before the cutter arrived the Coast Guard station, on Freeport Harbor, the old Brazos River, just inland of the Intracoastal Waterway and below Dow Chemical Plant A, had been well known. It was a frequent destination for school field trips and you passed right by it on the old road to the swing bridge leading to Surfside. The weather report was probably the most complete weather feature you could ever want to hear on the radio delivered live by a specialist at the station and focused on conditions in southern Brazoria Co. but what made it so memorable was the accent of the Coast Guardsman who delivered it. In his pronunciation the word hour became almost a 3 syllable word - ouwuh, as in 8 miles puh ouwuh - and it produced chuckles and comments among people throughout the area.
In December, 1955, Brazosport Broadcasting and KBRZ changed hands. The buyer was William D. Schueler of Baltimore, MD, who had been in broadcasting since 1940. Schueler planned to move to Brazosport with his family and told the local paper he contemplated no personnel or programming changes. At the time, Kenneth W. Ferguson was identified as General Manager, having moved up from Chief Engineer.
In January, 1958, Ferguson announced the launch of ‘146 Full Dimensional Fidelity,’ a technological innovation which promised to bring ‘full hi-fi tones’ to the radio listening experience. FDF as it was referred to for short was said to be the equivalent of hi-fi in recording.
Images taken from newspapers.com.
For Part 2, go here.