Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Howard Kemper - KXYZ - 1940

Howard Kemper was an announcer on KXYZ in 1940.  He was also an amateur photographer.  Recently his son John discovered some old negatives and with the assistance of grandson Michael Kemper restored them and shared them with me. 

John Kemper supplied biographical and career information about his dad which I am copying here as submitted since it needs no editing.

"Howard, my dad, was from Abilene, Texas and his very early interest in radio inspired him to pursue radio broadcasting.  As there were no schools for this, he was self-taught mimicking other announcers and practicing before a mirror.  At age 17, after graduating from high school, he took his first job as an announcer with KLAH in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  A year later, he was hired as an announcer with KBST in Big Spring.  Later, he worked at KRBC in Abilene and in early 1940 KXYZ in Houston.  His time at KXYZ was brief as his young wife and new daughter had remained in Big Spring. The distance was a strain on family life and he eventually returned to KBST in Big Spring.
During his broadcasting career, Dad announced the news, sports, and weather, did much on location reporting, announced live dance band performances, hosted talent shows, and as "Uncle Gus" even read the funny papers to kids. He also interviewed many local celebrities and movie stars including Bill Elliott, Jeannie Porter, and Spanky MacFarland.  
He is probably best remembered for his "Man On the Street" or "Curbstone Reporter" program interviewing people of all walks. He also participated in the Texas 1943 War Bond Tour traveling with Wild Bill Elliott, Anne Jeffreys, Gale Storm, and Gaby Hayes. He was later recognized for his fine efforts and contribution to the tour's success by the State of Texas and Republic Pictures.
Eventually, Dad entered the life insurance business and enjoyed a successful career for a good many years."

So Howard Kemper's time in Houston radio was brief but these pictures are priceless.  Thanks again John and Michael.

Howard Kemper was from Abilene.  He wrote to his younger brother in college there about his job at KXYZ.

Howard Kemper reading the news and making an announcement.  KXYZ was an NBC Blue affiliate, perhaps explaining the pretty blue stationery.  Notice what appears to be a pass-through along the bottom of the window.  Perhaps the headphones were handed through?

Getting ready for that 15 minute news review at 2 am?   Looks like teletype machines didn't change much over the years.

An unidentified individual at a control board in a very tight space.  No microphone so is this an engineer?  Did engineers have to show up in suit and tie in those days?  I cannot tell if the second board looks out over another studio (or indeed, the one the man is sitting at).  Any information that anyone can supply, including the identity of this individual, will be appreciated.

There isn't much evidence of soundproofing in any of these pictures.

The next three pictures are of the equipment room.

Close-up of one the transmitter tubes from the preceding photo.

Up on the roof of the Gulf Building, tallest building in town at 37 stories.

Looking south along Main Street from the roof of the Gulf building.

Looking north from the Gulf Building roof along Main Street toward the bridge over Buffalo Bayou and out over the North side.  

The Gulf Building was completed in 1929 at 712 Main Street @ Rusk.  At 37 stories it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi at the time and the tallest building in Houston until 1963 when the Humble Oil and Refining Company/Exxon building was completed.  It is now known as the JP Morgan Chase Building.

The 18 story Rice Hotel was completed in 1913 at the corner of Main and Texas, 2 blocks north of Rusk, on the site of a former capitol of Texas.  It housed the studios of KTRH for many years and now houses the Rice Apartments.

KXYZ had been operating on the 1440 frequency with 250 watts of power since 1932 when the operations of KXYZ & KTLC were consolidated and KTLC ceased to operate.  By 1935, power increased to 1 kilowatt.  The transmitter had moved to the Chronicle building, Texas at Travis, in 1928 and in 1930 to the Gulf building.  The main studios moved from the Texas State Hotel on Fannin at Rusk to the Gulf Building in 1935.  Thus, the studios pictured above were still quite new.  Just when Harris County Broadcast Co. took over the station from William John Uhalt is missing in the FCC data I have located so far, but the company retained ownership of the station until December, 1948, when it was taken over by Glenn McCarthy’s Shamrock Broadcasting.  The Uhalt Electric Company had been the original licensee (call letters KTUE) on August 24, 1926.

As a result of the North American Radio Broadcast Agreement in March 1941, KXYZ moved to the 1470 frequency and a couple of years later to 1320, where it still operates.  In 1943, KXYZ was authorized to relocate its transmitter facilities to Deepwater, Texas, subsequently identified in FCC records as ‘southwest of the intersection of Route 225 and South Avenue, Pasadena, Texas” and again as 2800 Powers Drive, Pasadena.  This was the site of the joint KTRH/KPRC transmitter facility, originally the location of KTRH when it first moved to Houston from Austin.  KTRH was exiting the facility.  Completion of all the construction needed took a couple of years and KXYZ wound up on the 1320 frequency with 5 KW daytime, 1 KW nighttime power.

The former main transmitter at the Gulf Building was licensed as an auxiliary transmitter, limited to 1 KW power, and was activated for use during the construction delays.

KXYZ moved its operations (studios, offices) out of the Gulf Building to the 16th floor of the Fannin Bank Building at Holcombe and Main in October, 1963.  

The longtime transmitter location on Texas 225 southeast of Houston, used by several local operators since 1930, became too valuable for industrial purposes and was sold in the last few years.  KXYZ now transmits from a triplex set-up with sister stations KBME (790) and KPRC (950), all owned by IHeart media.

How Border Radio Fueled Country Music

How unregulated radio stations out of Mexico fueled the country music boom in America

This article from insider.com mentions Will Horwitz and XED plus several Texas music notables who remember listening to the border-blasters and have mentioned them in their songs.

This will be listed under the Radio History Links on the side bar.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Tele-Views - Houston - June 1951


The publication known today as TV Guide was being published in a few markets in the northeast by this time, but it would be another two years before it went national.  There were other similar publications around the country.  This one was localized for Houston and published locally with both local and national articles and local names on the masthead.

Back cover.  The street address for Central Television Service is the same address given on the masthead (page 4) for the publisher of this guide.  Dick Gottlieb in his column (on page 5) mentions TET.

Note all the names on the Masthead, top left.  Vol.2 Number 7 indicates the guide has been published since Channel 2 went on the air as KLEE-TV.  A very young Dick Gottlieb, pictured upper right column, notes he is starting his second year as columnist, indicating he took over (or started) the column when the Hobby family purchased the station and flipped it to KPRC-TV.  
Sunday night programming - note Wild Bill Hickok and Hopalong Cassidy as the Western was already asserting itself as popular TV fare.  Toast of the Town with no mention of Ed Sullivan?? and Dave Garroway as a Sunday evening (perhaps not being presented live (entertainment show host.

Monday programming:  12:15 pm - Music Hall with Paul - I wonder if that's Paul Schmidt and the Tuneschmidts? (Hope I've spelled the name right - I'll try to look it up). 1 pm - TV Kitchen with Jane Christopher and Bob Dundas, Jr. - 45 minutes live television from the KPRC studios, 5 days a week!  Christopher became hugely popular; Dundas was the son of the head of Foley's Department Store and also a booth announcer on Channel 2.  I started watching as soon as we got a set and still am a fan of cooking shows.
4 pm - Matinee with Dick Gottlieb - another live, 45 minute show every weekday.  I was a regular viewer.
6:55 pm Weathercast with John Wissinger, Houston's first TV weatherman.  7 pm - the Cisco Kid - another Western.  Probably considered politically incorrect now but Cisco was one of my favorites as a kid.  El Real, the Mexican restaurant that operated out of the Tower Theater on Westheimer in Montrose for some years, occasionally showed re-runs (sans audio) on the big wall where the screen used to be.
There are many programs with 'big name stars' of the day; if you weren't around then you probably don't remember them (and I don't recognize many). There are other local shows listed that I do not recall.
Tuesday programming:  more of the same.  8 pm - Fashions in Motion with Joy Mladenka.  I have seen this programming listed on KXYZ-AM in the 1940s; it was a women's fashion show - on the radio!  On channel 2 the show was narrated by Dick Gottlieb, broadcast live from the Battelstein's store on Shepherd Drive on the edge of River Oaks.  The models wearing fashions (all available for sale at Battelstein's, of course) glided down a circular staircase in the lobby of the store while Gottlieb read a prepared script describing the garments.  From this nine-year old (at the time), a review:  Absolutely dreadful television! 

This is all the files I have received at this time.  My thanks to Patrick Grant for making these available (and apologies for taking so long to get them posted). 

Comments are welcome on any of the shows, personalities, etc.