Saturday, June 30, 2007

Off-site Galleries

The collection of photographs from the Bob Bailey and Bailey Brothers Studio in the Heights has wound up at the Center for American History at University of Texas at Austin. This collection is one of the most remarkable collections of photographs documenting a city available and there are many, many photos of radio and television included but they are difficult to find. The collection has been arranged for the convenience of archivists.

On this page, scroll waaaay down on the page to the Radio TV folder and click on ‘Click to view images.’ There are only a few dozen there but there are more scattered throughout the other folders. There are dozens, probably 100s more related to radio and TV in the collection. Stations featured in the 30s and 40s included KPRC, KTRH and KXYZ, in the 50s and 60s, there were lots of KNUZ, so many that it leads me to think Bailey may have been the official KNUZ station photographer.

One way I've found to try and locate these is to search by call letters. You can also search by personality name and may find a few that way. There are a few photos of KHOU-TV and many of KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV personalities.

The collection used to be maintained locally and was very conveniently organized for searching but was transferred to UT a couple of years ago. I still have not found many of the photos that I remember from the old site.

Another way to access the collection is to go to the home page of the Bob Bailey Collection and start scrolling. There are 5000 photographs and that's just what's on line so far!

And another way: this is what comes up when you search for 'communication.'

Radio Emporium - navigate the drop down menus on this site to see a collection of station logos. The Call Letter history section only goes back to about 1980 and is not very accurate.

Reverse Time Page is maintained by Mike Schultz. Mike has been very helpful in identifying equipment in the early WCAK photos and he has a fascinating site.

Chalk Hill Museum in Kilgore also has a lot of interesting stuff, including a couple of items relating to Houston.

The University of Maryland Libraries holds an extensive collection of materials collected by Parks Johnson concerning the Vox Pop program which originated on KTRH in 1932 and went national in 1935.

If anyone knows of any other photo archives on line that would be of interest to readers of this blog, please let me know.


Seventeen months after putting Houston’s first television station on the air and with the TV freeze guaranteeing him a monopoly on TV viewers for some time to come, hotelier W. Alfred Lee sold KLEE-TV to the Houston Post/KPRC. Executives at KPRC and the Post and the Hobby family had become interested in making an offer for the station and had been assessing its value. They were concerned that FCC policies favoring diversity in media ownership might mean that both the Post and Chronicle would be left without TV licenses when the freeze was lifted or forced to compete against each other for a permit; they calculated Lee was losing $30,000 a month on his TV operation, which they did not believe he could not sustain for long. Then they learned Lee was looking to sell.

Hilton Waldo Hearn, Jr., in his 1971 Master’s Thesis at the University of Texas, W. Alfred Lee, Pioneer of Houston Television, says Lee had become convinced that when the freeze was lifted, he would be left running an independent television station since the TV networks had made it clear they wanted their TV affiliates to go to the companies they had been doing business with as radio affiliates and Lee did not have a radio network affiliation. Lee had little broadcast experience to draw on and the station was still on the air only 4 or 5 hours a day and was running on a minimum staff.

The asking price was reportedly $743,000. The Hobby’s were cautioned that was too much to pay for a money losing operation in the unproven medium of television but they felt they had no choice if they wanted to get into television. A deal was reached and approval sought from the FCC in the spring of 1950.

The other applicants for TV permits in Houston were dismayed, to say the least. KPRC and the Post had effectively executed an end run around the TV freeze and left the other applicants in the lurch. As it developed, they would have another 3 years to build the KPRC-TV brand without competition in Houston.

According to Hearn, the keys were handed to the Hobbys at 10:30am on May 31st, the change of ownership was announced in the Post on June 1, 1950. A month later, on July 3, the call letters were changed to KPRC-TV.

Faced with a small audience (there were an estimated 26,000 TV sets in the Houston area at the time), Lee had been selling TV time for less than radio. The KPRC radio sales staff was charged with turning this situation around and 4 months later, according to Jack Harris, the station was showing a profit. In addition to the $743,000 asking price it had been estimated another $250,000 in losses might be incurred before the station showed a profit but that reserve was never tapped into. By the end of the year, it was estimated the number of tv sets in use in Houston had more than doubled and it reached 100,000 by late 1951. The station changed its primary affiliation from CBS to NBC but still carried programs from all 4 networks.

The new owners drew upon their broadcast experience since 1925 in promoting and growing the station. They scheduled a big TV Fair for the July 4 weekend to introduce the new call letters and stir up more public interest; it was held at the Plantation Club at 9101 South Main and was attended by an estimated 50,000 people over three days. The Post published a special 40 page section on the change-over on Sunday, July 2.

TV dealers set up booths demonstrating their sets and live entertainment was provided on site and over the air including Red Ingles and his Natural Seven band, Carol Bruce, June Christy, the Mel Arvin Trio, Gypsy Edwards, Curly Fox and Miss Texas Ruby, and 11 year old Tommy Sands, who would become a teen idol before the decade was over.

The biggest attraction, however, proved to be the Fair-goers themselves, who got to see themselves on closed-circuit television.

The special section in the Post carried feature stories on station personnel, including station manager Jack Harris, assistant manager Jack McGrew, newsman Harry Arouh, News Director Pat Flaherty and his young assistant Ray Miller, Sports Director Bruce Layer, AM and TV Program Director Jack Edmunds, Chief Engineer Paul Huhndorf and KPRC Chief Engineer Harvey Wheeler, wrestling promoter and announcer Paul Boesch, country music stars Curly Fox and Miss Texas Ruby, and announcer Dick Gottlieb, who had been working in Houston radio for several years and would go on to be known as Mr. Television in Houston but had only been seen on camera recently. There were also stories about KPRC radio personnel and history and on-going KPRC radio programs such as Laugh with the Ladies, Darts for Dough, and Battelstein’s Fashions in Motion, some of which would become television staples in the early years, as well as new programs planned for TV. Thursday evenings would feature Phoenix Phil and his Pals, a puppet show by a local ventriloquist, Chester Leroy, and his cast of Phoenix Phil, Eddie the Cowboy, Miss Linda, Sandy McAndy and Cub Scout.

There were also stories in the section about many of the different TV sets from different makers that would be on display at the Fair.

Improvements were undertaken in the physical plant (KLEE-TV’s studios had not been air conditioned, for one thing) and the broadcast day was expanded. New programs from the networks also became available.

The schedule for Sunday, July 2, 1950, from the Houston Post, the last full day of KLEE-TV calls:

4:45pm - Test Pattern & Music
5pm - Hopalong Cassidy
6pm - Toast of the Town
7pm - TV Playhouse
8pm - Paul Whiteman
8:30pm - Morey Amsterdam
9pm - Baseball
10:30pm - Glamour Go-Round
10:35pm - News Bulletins
10:50pm - Coming Attractions
10:55pm - Sign off

The baseball game would have been the Houston Buffs, a St. Louis Cards farm team.

Monday, July 3, 1950, the call letters changed to KPRC-TV. The new calls were no secret, of course. The on-air unveiling was in the first segment of the 1st Annual TV Show in the 8pm hour. The schedule for the evening was:

12N-4:30pm - Test Pattern
4:45pm (sic) - Test Pattern and music
5:07pm (sic) - For Us the Living
5:30pm - Don Mahoney and His Sears Kiddie Troupers
6pm - Kukla, Fran and Ollie - N (i.e., NBC)
6:30pm - The Walking Machine
6:45pm - Musical Showroom
7pm - Chevrolet Teletheatre
7:30pm - This is Show Business
8pm - First Annual TV Show
8:30pm - Film Feature
9:30pm - First Annual TV Show
10:30pm - News Bulletins
10:35pm - Coming Attractions
10:40pm - Sign off

Some program notes for Monday evening were printed in the Monday paper:

5:07pm (sic) - For Us the Living - Documentary film on how the Food and Drug Act protects the public.

5:30pm - Don Mahoney and His Sears Kiddie Troupers
The easy talking cowboy brings his children's amateur hour to Kiddie Troupers from the Plantation.

6pm - Kukla, Fran and Ollie - N (i.e., NBC)
Popular puppet show led by lovely Fran Allison and unrehearsed.

6:30pm - The Walking Machine
Educational film about foot hygiene -- tells what feet can do for us and we for them.

6:45pm - Musical Showroom
Johnny Royal at the piano with guests.

7pm - Chevrolet Teletheatre
'The Way I Feel.' Story of adolescent love broken by death.

7:30pm - This is Show Business
Binnie Barnes and Abe Burrows join Producer Max Corbin, Radio Star Jane Pickens and Comedian Jan Murray on this intimate get-together hosted by Clifton Fadiman.

8:30pm - Film Feature
'Hollywood and Vine.' Jimmy Ellison stars in this one, which seesaws between laughter and romance.

9:30pm - First Annual TV Show
C.P.Simpson will award watches to the two top contributors to the television Cancer Crusade. Lynn Cole, romantic baritone and Capitol Recording Star, will sing.

10:00pm - (omitted from basic listings): Hands of Destiny - 'Too Old to Live.' This story is inspired by President Truman's recent speech on the difficulties encountered by old people looking for work.

More details on the founding of KLEE-TV and the changeover to KPRC-TV can be found in Jack Harris’ book The Fault Does Not Lie With Your Set and Richard Schroeder’s Texas Signs On. The latter mostly repeats information from the Harris book. There will also be another post on KLEE-TV’s founding here on the Houston Radio History blog.

The above account also draws on newspaper stories at the time in the Post, especially the special section of the Houston Post published Sunday July 2, 1950.

For more on Don Mahoney and Jeanna Clair, see this Historic Houston thread on HAIF which includes comments by kids who appeared on the show and Don Mahoney's son.

The Wikipedia article on Tommy Sands says he was born in 1937.


From the Houston Post, Jack Harris' book 'The Fault Does Not Lie with Your Set' and other sources.

Owner: W. Albert Lee, Houston hotelman and commercial real estate broker.

The first to apply for a permit in Houston on October 10, 1947, Lee had been on the Board of Directors of the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo for years and had traveled to New York City to negotiate for a star entertainer to appear at the Rodeo when he first was exposed to television. He returned to Houston determined to put a TV station on the air. The FCC granted a permit on January 30, 1948, acting quickly, it has been suggested, because of the impending freeze and the Commission did not want to leave a city as large as Houston without TV for however long the permit process was going to be frozen.

First test pattern at full power: 12/20/48

Sign-on was set for 6pm on New Year's Day, January 1, 1949.

The schedule for the first night, after some opening remarks:

6pm - Test Pattern
6:15pm - Allen Dale Show - a musical variety show set in a record shop.
6:30pm - Lucky Pup (CBS) - children's puppet show about a little dog who inherited $5M and what he did with it.
6:45pm - Make Mine Music - Tony Mottola Trio - musical variety show; 'as most video shows are, it is held together with a plot and action.'
7pm - Newsreel
7:10pm - film short - music
7:15pm - Places Please (CBS) - a Barry Wood show which takes place behind the scenes of a Broadway theatre; different guest stars appear on the program.
7:30pm - To a Queen's Taste (CBS) - A French chef takes over to cook a special dish. Mrs. Dione Lucas, employee of the Cordon Bleu, gives out the recipe and shows how it's done. It takes her 30 minutes to demonstrate.
8pm - Winner Take All (CBS) - the audience gets to see the fantastic prizes given away on the Bud Collyer quiz program.
8:30pm - Fashions on Parade - New York and Paris fashions will be shown. A plot and entertainment make this more than a style show.
9pm - Kobb's Korner (CBS) - Spike Jones has competition when the Korn Kobblers make music from balloons, rubber tubes, auto horns, cowbells and washboards.
9:30pm - Doorway to Fame - Danton Walker has a professional talent show. Little known performers get a chance to be on a television show.
10pm - Swing into Sports - a sports lesson, currently golf; Dick Altman, KLEE-TV Sports Director.
10:30pm - Morey Amsterdam Show (CBS) - a variety comic show.
11pm - sign off

What actually happened:

Around 3:20pm, as the owner was showing some dignitaries around, a loud boom was heard and the transmitter shut down. A water line in the transmitter had burst. The GE transmitter used plastic tubing for the cooling system and none was to be found in Houston for repairs. Eventually, copper tubing was substituted and the station got on the air around 9:30pm. It was decided on the spur of the moment that the Chief Engineer, Paul Huhndorff, should go on first to explain what had happened as the station had been besieged with callers. Thus the Age of Television arrived in Houston with the words "There's been trouble...plenty of trouble."

As far as I know at this time, the entire schedule was aired and the station was on the air until about 2am.

In the first week, programs from CBS and DuMont were aired; later, the other networks also supplied programming. KLEE-TV was on the air 6-9pm, five nights a week only for several months, but by the end of the year was broadcasting 4 or 5 hours a night.

Note: I have published this material before in an on-line forum; it has been slightly reworked for this blog.

KNUZ-TV, Channel 39

KNUZ-TV signed on at 7pm on Thursday October 23, 1953, after months of frustrating delays. It was Houston’s 4th TV station and 1st in the UHF band, operating on channel 39 with an estimated radiated power of 20,000 watts which they hoped to boost to 100,000 watts soon. A test pattern had been broadcast for 10 days leading up to the official sign on and reports had been received of good reception from Port Arthur and Port Neches, 90 miles away.

The station operated from the University of Houston Television Center on Cullen near Wheeler, just off the University of Houston campus. The facility had been built by UH and leased to KNUZ-TV for 10 years. The antenna was behind the building according to the special reports in the Chronicle, a 707 ½ foot antenna built by the local firm of John D. Trilsch. Channel 8, which had studios in the Ezekiel W. Cullen building on campus, also broadcast from that antenna; channel 39 had the space on top.

The entire facility was said to have cost $530,000 and contained 15,000 square feet of space; operations were on the ground floor, offices were on the second floor.

Viewers were encouraged to stop by and visit; they could see the program on the air from the reception area and there was also a 350 seat bleacher section which could be folded back against the wall and accordion doors which could divide the studio into a smaller space. Thanks to a large glass expanse on the front of the building, motorists passing by on Cullen would be able to look into the studio.

The opening program was a one hour introductory show followed by a live telecast of a Lamar High School vs. Milby High School football game which experienced many difficulties. It was a short-lived debut. The station was off the air until the following Monday while engineers remounted the antenna atop the KUHT antenna and worked on the technical problems experienced during the remote.

When the station returned to the air on Monday the schedule printed in the paper was:

3pm - What’s Cookin’
3:30pm - Window Shop
4pm - Paul’s Place
4:45pm - Cartoon Caper
5pm - KNUZ Ranch
6pm - Rhythm Roundup
6:30pm - News, Weather
6:45pm - TBA
7pm - Long Shot
8pm - Danger Assignment
8:30pm - TV Auction - simulcast with KNUZ-AM
9pm - Movie
10:30pm - Twilight
11pm - Sign off

These programs were Monday thru Friday. A feature section of the Chronicle gave more details of individual programs:

What’s Cookin’ was hosted by Wilma Rutherford, a former model, graduate of TCU, and veteran of theater and radio/television. She had hosted the first cooking show on Texas television on WBAP-TV in Fort Worth, her hometown, several years earlier, then worked for KFI-TV in Los Angeles and KRLD-TV, Dallas, before coming to Houston. She had a maid that helped on the show.

Window Shopping with Mitzi Wayne described unusual values in local shops.

Paul’s Place, hosted by 23 year old Paul Berlin, popular KNUZ-AM disc jockey, was described as an ‘open house for viewers who like the lighter side of music and small talk,’ with Jan Stewart, a comedienne, on hand as a foil. The show would be aimed at teenagers with films of musical acts and visits with artists in town. The show would take place in the studio which had a bleacher section to accommodate a live audience.

The 39ers with Rhythm Roundup featured the Ranch Hands, Biff Collie, another KNUZ-AM dj, and Laura Lee.

Tonight (listed as Twilight in the listings) would feature Bill Anthony and would be a windup for the day with news, weather and music as requested.

K-News Television with KNUZ news director Bill Crawford would be on at 2:55, 5:55, 6:30 and 10:25pm daily.

Col. E.C. Beach was the auctioneer on TV Auction, Paul Berlin was the emcee. Real merchandise was auctioned off, including kitchen appliances, tires, etc. Bidding was by postcard with the highest bidder winning but real money was not accepted; ‘TV Bucks’ had to be used, which were obtained in return for purchases at about 30 advertisers affiliated with the show.

High school football games would be broadcast every Thursday night at 8pm

Station management included Max Jacobs, President, Dave Morris, Vice-President and General Manager, Irvin M Schlenker, Treasurer and Chairman of the Board, Bailey A. Swenson, a local architect who had designed the studios, Secretary, Douglas B. Hicks, assistant treasurer and Leon Green, asistant secretary.

KNUZ-TV utilized DuMont equipment throughout and became a DuMont Television network affiliate during its short life.

Another show which was developed by the station was the Houston Hometown Jamboree which was simulcast on KNUZ-AM from the City Auditorium. Biff Collie was one of the first hires on KNUZ-AM in 1948, coming to town to be a sports reporter but later becoming the station's very popular morning man. He worked at several other stations in Houston and is one of several Houston DJs in the Country Radio Hall of Fame. The Arlie Duff mentioned was a very popular jock on KOKE in Austin in the 1960s, one of the most entertaining and original jocks I ever heard. I know nothing of the Paul Hunter mentioned.

KNUZ-TV ceased operations as of Friday, June 25, 1954. According to a summary of the statement by Max Jacobs, President of KNUZ-TV, published in The Houston Post, a major reason for the shutdown was “the station’s inability to obtain a substantial amount of network programming and the national advertising which would have resulted.” The Post story went on to note that 70 UHF operating permits had been surrendered to the FCC and several UHF operations around the country had shut down.

Houston Consolidated Television, permittee of Channel 13, was able to get on the air more quickly because of the failure of 39. Negotiations had already started to use as much of the equipment of 39 as would be compatible with VHF. Channel 13 moved into the building on Cullen and operated there until moving out on Bissonnet in 1961. The building was then leased to NASA for computer operations for about a year, then Channel 8 took over those studios and operated there for more than 30 years.

ETA:  An additional picture of the original building from the 1950s plus the current facilities on the site have been posted on

The image above is from the special section of the Houston Chronicle published on Wednesday, October 21, 1953, on microfilm at the Houston Public Library. The 39/13/8 facility is now the TLC2 Center of the University on Cullen, about a half block south of Wheeler, but I'm not sure how much of that facility was there in the beginning. My earliest recollection of the Channel 8 facility was of a quonset hut facility but the quonset hut now is behind another building.

Houston Television Timeline

This timeline includes information drawn principally from newspaper reports in Houston and Galveston with some data from the FCC databases available online. It has been brought down to ca. 1985 with information known at this time but there are many gaps in the available data.

10/8/47 - Houston hotel man W. Albert Lee files for a permit to operate a TV station in Houston on Channel 2 as KLEE-TV. The nearest TV station on the air at that time was KSD-TV in St. Louis. Proposed studios will be in the Sterling Building.

1/5/48 - KTRH applies for a permit to operate KTRH-TV on Channel 13, the 1st of 5 or 6 applicants for that channel.

1/17/48 Post p.1 - Texas Television applies for a permit to operate KTHT-TV on Channel 7, at that time allocated to Houston. Texas Television is the TV branch of Roy Hofheinz’s Texas Star Broadcasting which also operates radio stations in Houston, San Antonio, and Harlingen and has applications for radio stations in Dallas and NOLA.

1/21/48 The Houston Post reports on p.1 that KPRC and the Post have applied for a permit to operate KPRC-TV on Channel 4, at that time allocated to Houston. The proposed transmitter will be on City National Bank where KPRC-FM is located with a total height of 415'.

1/30/48 - The FCC approves the application of W. Albert Lee for KLEE-TV.

The Houston Post reports Harris Co. Broadcasting’s application to operate KXYZ-TV on Channel 13. The story notes a sale is pending of Harris Co. Broadcasting’s KXYZ-AM and FM to oil man Glenn McCarthy’s Shamrock Broadcasting but no hearings have been scheduled by the FCC.

9/30/48 - FCC Freezes new TV applications. The freeze is intended to last only 6 months but the issues needing to be resolved prove to be thorny and the freeze stretches to 3 and a half years during which time no new TV stations are authorized.

12/20/48 - first telecast of a test pattern at full power on KLEE-TV, Channel 2

1/1/49 - First day of KLEE-TV, Channel 2

5/23/1950 - FCC approves sale of KLEE-TV to the Houston Post Co. for $740.000.

6/1/1950 - Houston Post assumes ownership of KLEE-TV, Channel 2

6/11/1950 - A man climbs into a roped off area at Buff Stadium that serves as the TV booth and sits down beside play-by-play announcer Dick Gottlieb and keeps interrupting him. Gottlieb repeatedly tries to quiet the man who eventually pulls a gun and shoots himself. The director, informed by a cameraman what has happened, asks to see it and the carnage is shown on screen for a few seconds. The man dies on the way to a hospital. Gottlieb is shaken but not hurt and the game and broadcast continue.

7/3/1950 - KLEE-TV call letters changed to KPRC-TV

11/2/50 - Press 3/33 - The Houston Press reports there may be 4 more TV stations in Houston; there are 4 applications for 3 UHF channels (23, 29, 39).

Fall 1951 - AT&T announces it has completed installation of coaxial cable from Houston to Dallas and will be ready to bring live network programming to Houston as soon as it gets to Dallas; in the meantime, the cable is carrying 600 phone circuits and Houstonians are watching TV shows as much as 6 weeks after they were originally broadcast by the networks. AT&T was under pressure from the 4 TV networks to get the whole nation connected to live TV in time for the national political conventions in the summer of 1952 and is working on a microwave link from Kansas City to Dallas.

4/14/52 - TV Freeze lifted

7/1/52 - Live TV network connection is completed for Houston. Work on the Kansas City to Dallas link has lagged and AT&T cobbles together a microwave-coax link from Jackson, Mississippi, to Dallas instead. The first network program seen live in Houston was the Today show with Dave Garroway who welcomes new viewers in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Tulsa with the words “We’re in New York. We’re real people - just like the ones in your town.”

8/20/52 - A construction permit is issued for KUHT-TV to operate on Channel 8.

3/22/1953 - Gulf Television Co. Inc., signs on KGUL-TV, Channel 11, with studios at 11 Video Lane in Galveston. In its story on the new station the Chronicle mentions that permits have been issued for 8, 39, and 23 but notes the permittee for channel 23 reports having trouble getting his hands on any equipment.

3/29/53 - KPRC-AM/FM/TV moves into new studios on Post Oak Rd.near the present day Williams Fountain and boosts power from 16,000 to 65,000 watts and will further increase power to 100,000 watts when a new tower completed.

5/25/53 - KUHT-TV Signs on. The station has an excellent history on its website to which I can add nothing.

Late August, 1953, Frank Stockton, enjoying a day on the links, overhears his caddy entertaining fellow caddies by singing to them. He gets the boy’s number and calls KPRC-TV.

9/2/53 - 13 year old John Nash, Jr., a student at Jack Yates Jr. High, makes his TV debut on Matinee on KPRC-TV as a special guest of Dick Gottlieb. Described as a ‘real gone singer’ by one newspaper writer, Johnny Nash quickly becomes a regular on the program.

9/10/53 - Roy Hofheinz announces the entire KTHT staff is taking TV courses at KUHT so as to be prepared when the application for KTHT-TV is approved; KXYZ-FM leaves the air for 8 years, Fred Nahas, President and GM, says the entire staff will be devoted to getting their UHF TV station (29) on the air in the first quarter of 1954

9/12/53 - installation of a second coaxial cable serving Houston-Galveston is completed and in service. Up until that time, channels 2 and 11 had been sharing one link and had to work out agreements between themselves as to who would be allowed to take a live network feed and who would have to air kinescopes, films or live, local programming.

10/8/53 - KGUL-TV airs a special experimental program demonstrating CBS’ Colortron tube, seen only in black and white in Houston since the coaxial cable could not transmit color.

10/18/53 - Fred Nahas claims plans are complete and a site is to be announced soon for Ch. 29; the construction deadline is Feb 1954. (When Glenn McCarthy took over Harris County Broadcasting he had decided to withdraw from the competition for Channel 13 and attempt to get another station on the air sooner by going for a UHF permit)..

Ch. 23 - Dallas applicant Max Jacobs UHF Television Co. of Dallas, has until 1/1/54 to start construction on Channel 23.

10/22/53 - Thursday, 7pm, KNUZ-TV, Channel 39 signs on; owned by Veterans Broadcasting with studios on Cullen @ Wheeler in a building leased by the University of Houston. The station carries programs of the Dumont Network and is on the air 8 hours a day from 3-11pm. After the first day’s broadcasts, the station is off the air for four days while engineers work to resolve technical problems.

1/8/54 - Jesse Jones announces that after intense negotiations which started in November, 1953, the rival applicants for Channel 13 have merged to form Houston Consolidated Television which will become the only applicant for Channel 13. Jones declares it the 'greatest civic achievement in Houston in many years.' It is estimated the merger would save 2 years in the process of competitive hearings that would eventually decide a licensee.

The merger consists of KTRH Broadcasting Co. which holds 32% and will operate the station; Houston Area TV Co, consisting of 17 shareholders, who hold 32%; Houston TV Co., consisting of 15 shareholders who hold 20%; and TV Broadcasting Co. Of Houston (Roy Hofheinz), who holds 16%. The station will be affiliated with the Chronicle and could be on the air in 100 days.

A 5th applicant for Channel 13, W. C. Lechner, a Dallas oilman, had dropped out of the competition

1/14/54 - KGUL announces a deal has been signed for Houston studios in the Prudential Building on Holcombe Blvd. at Fannin (the building is now part of the MD Anderson Center complex).

5/3/54 - Post - KPRC-TV - 1st Color TV show, the Voice of Firestone from the network It is estimated there are only 50 or 60 color sets in the area, all but 2 or 3 still in the hands of distributors and retailers, some of whom will have public showings while others with invite guests. Color set screens are about 12 and a half inches and the sets cost $1000.

6/25/54 - Last day of KNUZ-TV; KTRK may take over studios and equipment to get on the air quicker.

Sometime in 1954, Houston Consolidated Television filed a petition with the FCC to restrict the Houston activities of KGUL-TV

10/1/54 - KGUL responds to KTRK petition to restrict Houston activities

Late 1954 - hearings were conducted before the FCC on KTRK’s charges that KGUL-TV was trying to move to Houston.

12/8/54 - Paul Taft, President and General Manager of KGUL-TV, testifies in the FCC hearings that the KGUL-TV permanent studios at Galveston occupy 945 square feet while the branch studios and offices in the Prudential building on Holcombe occupy 4000 square feet.

11/5/54 - KGUL files to delay approval of Channel 13 until the hearing is resolved on KGUL’s new tower.

11/20/54 - KTRK-TV Sign on

7/11/56 - FCC approved sale of KGUL-TV, Channel 11, by Gulf Television Corporation from Paul E. Taft and Associates for $4.75 million. Gulf Television is Corinthian Broadcasting Corporation.

3/28/57 - FCC approves sale of KXYZ-TV, Channel 29 (since deleted) by Milton R. Underwood and Philip R. Neuhaus from Glenn McCarthy for $600k (with KXYZ-AM).

June 59 (per Wikipedia) KGUL-TV becomes KHOU-TV

10/21/59 - Channel 11 sold by Corinthian Broadcasting to Whitney Communications Corp, JH Whitney, US Ambassador to Great Britain.

April 24, 1960 - (per Wikipedia) - KHOU-TV begins broadcasting from new facilities at 1945 Allen Parkway, west of downtown Houston.  The station will operate from that facility for 57 years before deciding to move due to damage sustained during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

10/13/1965 - FCC approves purchase of 80% of the Construction Permit for Channel 39 (KNUZ-TV) from Max Jacob and Irvin Schenker (40% each) and Dave Morris (20%) by WKY Television Systems, Inc., for $240K.

KHTV-TV - 1/6/67, Channel 39

6/16/67 - FCC approves sale of KTRK-TV, Channel 13, from Houston Consolidated Television to Capital Cities Communications for $21.3M.

Ann Hodges column in the Chronicle, 11/20/67, announces KVVV-TV, channnel 16, Alvin due to be on the air early in 1968.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1968, reports KJDO-TV, Channel 45, Rosenberg, has a target date of Fall, 1968, licensed to D.H.Overmyer Co., with sale to US Communications Corporation pending FCC approval. The same source reports KVVV-TV, Channel 16, licensed to KTUE Associates, Inc., has an unknown target date and KUAB-TV, Channel 20, licensed to United Artists Television, Inc., has an unknown target date.

According to Broadcasting Yearbook, 1971, KVVV-TV, Channel 16, Galveston, was approved by the FCC on March 18, 1968, with 977 Kilowatts visual, 100 Kilowatts Aural. The mailing address is TVUE, 1217 Prairie, Houston, consisting of Roy O. Beach (16%), Harris Kempner Trust (11%), and others. Jeff Thompson is listed as News Director.

August 31, 1969 - KVVV-TV (channel 16) leaves the air after a brief life of just 18 months on the air. The equipment and tower used by KVVV were eventually sold to new PBS member station in Corpus Christi, KEDT, which signed on in 1972.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1971, reports KJDO-TV, Rosenberg, Channel 45, has a target date of April, 1972, to operate with 1,410 KW visual, 282 KW aural. The address is given as 1529 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, % US Communications of Texas, US Communications Stations. The Chief Engineer is James Parker.

August 15, 1971 - KVRL-TV, Channel 26 signs on at 6pm; the station will operate weekdays starting at 4pm, Saturdays at 11:30am. The station became KDOG-TV sometime in the 1970s and as of May, 1978, when Metromedia purchased the station, KRIV-TV. The call letters were based on the initials of a company executive.

By publication deadline, the Broadcasting Yearbook, 1971, reported that KVRL-TV was not on the air and no target date had been set. It was licensed to Crest Broadcasting to operate with 1660 KW visual, 331 KW aural. Crest Broadcasting consists of Bernard Calkins, former head of the Houston City Bus Company, 25%, R. G. Schindler, 28%, and Leroy J. Gloger, owner of KIKK-AM/FM, 19%.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1975, reports that Crest Broadcasting, 3935 Westheimer, licensee of KVRL-TV, consists of Raymond G. Schindler, 43%, Frank Head, 12%, and Leroy J. Gloger, 7%.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1977, reports that Crest Broadcasting is the licensee of KDOG-TV, Channel 26. Leroy J. Gloger is President and General Manager, still owning only 7%. The same source reports an application for a subscription TV service to operate on Channel 20 by a company based in Austin.

April 6, 1978 - FCC approves sale of KDOG-TV, Channel 26, from Crest Broadcasting to Metromedia for $11 M. The call letters are switched to KRIV-TV.

Channel 20 was licensed to operate as KEON-TV as of 10/27/1980. As of 11/16/1981 the call letters were switched to KTXH-TV but the exact sign-on date is not clear. Broadcasting Yearbook for 1985 gives only the year 1982, licensed to Channel 20 Inc, 8950 Kirby Drive, with 5000 kw visual, 500 kw aural.

11/17/83 - The FCC approves transfer of Corinthian Broadcasting's KHOU-TV to Belo Broadcasting for $342 M, part of a $606 M deal involving several Corinthian stations. The licensee remains Gulf Television.

12/31/84 - The FCC approves transfer of KTXH-TV, Channel 20, to Houston GBS Corporation, part of the Gulf Broadcast Group, for $62.07 M plus a prorated bonus related to first year operating profit.

The 1985 edition of Broadcasting Yearbook reports KHBU-TV, Channel 14, is licensed to Educational TV of Houston at 7502 Fondren Rd. and has a target air date of 1985. It also reports KZEI-TV, Channel 67, Alvin has been authorized to operate with 3000 kw maximum, 1352 kw horizontal visual and 1352 kw aural, licensed to Four Star Broadcasting, not yet on air and target date unknown.

The 1985 Broadcasting Yearbook reports there are 3 pending applications for Channel 57, Baytown, 10 for Channel 45, 4 for Channel 49 and 6 for Channel 55, all Conroe, 1 for Channel 22 and 2 for Channel 48, both Galveston, 8 for Channel 61, Houston, and 3 for Channel 51, Katy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gallery II - WCAK and A.P. Daniel photos

Note: I have received some great informaton from Mike Schultz of Reverse Time Page identifying the equipment in these photographs and putting them in historical order. Mike's comments have been added below in italics. Check out Mike's site and enjoy! Bruce, 6/27/07

Note # 2: A second image of Daniel's house has been added with the tree leafed out; this picture is considerably darker but may allow a better view of the antenna. Bruce, 7/2/07.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Chris Varela, a Houston native who is on the Harris County Historical Commission and is very knowledgeable and passionate about Houston history in general and the history of Houston radio in particular. Early in his research, more than 10 years ago, Chris started trying to locate descendants or relatives of Houston radio pioneers and over the years this had led to some spectacular finds. A niece of Alfred P. Daniel, Mrs. Jerry T. Millar, gave Chris an old family album full of pictures of Daniel, his various installations, and other members of the Houston Radio Club. When we met, I took a few snapshots of some of the photos to post here. We are planning on having them scanned so this will be just a temporary gallery but I just couldn't wait to share these photos. I didn't realize until I had gotten home that inadvertently I had selected photos that had all appeared in the book so these will be familiar to some of you.

The placard on the wall identifies this as the set up for Daniel's Special Amateur station, 5ZX; note the row of batteries along the baseboard, and what do you think of the window coverings? Daniel gave up a promising career as a window decorator to get into broadcasting!

Mike: Phonograph-that's a Cheney, but don't know the model. A tube transmitter is to the right of the phonograph. It looks commercially made, but I can't identify it. Under the desk is a motor-generator unit used to provide power for the transmitter, and a bunch of wet cell batteries. I can't identify the horn speaker either. It almost looks like it was a converted phonograph horn, rather than one that was made to be a radio speaker from the start. On the wall are framed licence certificates and the small cards are ham QSL cards.

Despite the card for 5AO visible to the right of the typewriter, this is presumed to be Daniel's set up for WCAK. If any readers of this blog can help in identifying any of the equipment in this photo or any of the others, please use the comments option below or email me (on the profile page on the right sidebar). NOTE: WE WERE WRONG ABOUT THIS BEING WCAK -- SEE MIKE'S COMMENTS AT THE BOTTOM -- THIS IS THE EARLIEST PICTURE.

Mike: To the left of the typewriter, at the bottom, is a Grebe CR-2 receiver. I can't identify the unit above it, but it appears to be an audio amplifier. Directly to the left is a DeForest receiving tuner consisting of three subsections (top and bottom are variable condensers and center is a coil mount). To the left of the big knife switch is a stack of coils that went with the DeForest unit. DeForest made what they called "Interpanel" radios, which were like radio Erector Sets. They could have as many as maybe 15 of these small panels. The headphones are by Baldwin. The wall phone was old when the picture was taken, and is circa 1905. I think that light bulb shaped thing on the wall is a thermometer. Pretty neat item. There's some really rare and valuable stuff in these pictures.

Readers who have been following this blog will recognize this photo - it was part of the illustration accompanying an article on the Houston Radio Club's exhibit at the Houston Fair and Exposition in 1921 mentioned in the post about the Pre-broadcast era - and is supposed to be Alfred Daniel's first microphone, made using a candlestick telephone. Daniel had loaned the picture to the paper for the article.

Mike: The tube is almost certainly a Western Electric Signal Corps VT-2, which was sold into the civilian market in large numbers after WW-I. The phone would appear to be one that was made for use in an intercom system (notice the pushbutton on the base). Can't identify the make, but it looks pretty early.

The Alfred P. Daniel home at 2504 Bagby, long since demolished. Daniel operated 5AO, 5ZX, and WCAK from the parlor of this house.

This is presumably the upstairs room at the Daniel house used as a studio; note the 2 microphones.

Mike: Based on the appearance of the mikes, this picture is later, maybe late 20's. The picture isn't clear enough to identify the mikes. It may be a different phonograph than in the other views.

A couple of promotional cards printed by Alfred P. Daniel. The designation 263 meters indicates this card was printed after Daniel was allowed to move off the crowded 360 meters. Chris Varela says the slogan "Where 18 Railroads Meet the Sea" was created by a preacher; it was widely used, appearing often in special sections of the Chronicle boasting about Houston's commerce and industry.

Mike: The "rack" on the wall is a transmitting inductance. It looks quite out of place being that it would be for a much higher powered transmitter than the one on the desk. The card says "four 5 watt tubes". That looks right for the transmitter on the desk. In this case, the tubes would be UV-202 types, or perhaps more VT-2's (they were cheaper).

Louis Peine who worked for Hurlburt-Still and WEV and later for General Electic. This is the photo on the cover of Chris's book and is unfortunately a little fuzzy in part because the photo was not flat.

Mike: There is an unidentified transmitter on the desk, and to it's right, a Kennedy type 110 receiver with a matching Kennedy audio amplifier. The horn speaker (looks like it's attached to the guy's head) is a King "Amplitone". You would clamp a pair of headphones to the two branches at the bottom, and it would work as a speaker.

The second picture is the earliest, and it shows the bottom of the transmitting inductance on the wall, and components to the left of what must be a high power spark transmitter, of a type that a ham would have used circa 1915-1920. This would not have been suitable for voice transmission. This would have been followed by the one on the WCAK card. The inductance is still there, but a tube transmitter (for voice) has replaced the rest of the spark transmitter. The first picture is a bit later, and the inductance is gone, and curtains have appeared.

Unfortunately the fuzziest of them all, my fault for moving when I snapped the picture and not having enough space on the picture card to take a second shot. Center front, sitting on the floor, is Alfred P. Daniel; just to the right Eleanor Regan. On the right end of the first row is Louis Peine. Next to Eleanor Regan, just above Daniel, possibly kneeling, is Hallet Worthington. Second from the left, front row, Alfred Neal Dargan. I didn't discuss this with Chris but looking at the photo later, I came to the conclusion that second from the right in the second row may be Ingraham S. Roberts III; looks like someone Chris pointed out to me in other pictures. I'll let him correct me on that.

We looked to see if Howard Huges was present but couldn't identify him.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The 1930s - Part 1 - The End of KTLC

The decade of the 1930s was a relatively quiet one on the Houston radio scene. There were 4 radio stations operating here in 1930, KPRC, KTRH, KXYZ and KTLC and 2 in Galveston, KFUL and KFLX. By the fall of 1932 KTLC ceased operations; some of its programming and staff was absorbed by KXYZ. By mid-decade, KFLX was the only signal in Galveston and the call letters were changed to KLUF. Under increasing competitive pressures and the economic situation during the Depression, there was a general thinning out of stations all across the nation in the 1930s. In the 1930 Census, Houston had ranked as the 28th largest city in the nation; by 1940, it had grown to be the 21st largest, but from August, 1932 until July, 1944, there were only 3 radio stations to serve the growing city: KPRC, KTRH and KXYZ.

Jesse Jones, Mr. Houston, owned the Chronicle and the Rice Hotel, which in turn owned KTRH. In the early 30s Ross Sterling sold the Houston Post-Dispatch and KPRC to Jackson Josey, described by the Handbook of Texas as a representative of Jesse Jones, who renamed the company the Houston Printing Co. and renamed the newspaper the Post. In 1930, Tilford Jones, nephew to Jesse Jones, had formed Harris County Broadcasting and purchased KTUE and changed the call letters to KXYZ. For more than a dozen years, up until KTHT hit the airwaves just after D-Day in 1944, all the media in Houston except the Houston Press were controlled by Jesse Jones or his business associates or family. It was a fact Roy Hofheinz was to complain bitterly about to the FCC in his struggle to win approval for KTHT, alleging his competitors operated as a monopoly and were trying to deny him a license. The Houston Press, whose editor had worked for the Post and founded the Chronicle, observed at one time the Post was even more fawning in its admiration of Jones' greatness than his own newspaper. The stations seemed to have cooperated closely on promotions.

There were at least 2 applications for new stations during the decade but nothing became of them and it was not until 1946 that any stations other than KTHT got on the air leading an onslaught of new signals on AM and FM, in the city, the suburbs, and the outlying areas. The decade was not without developments, however. Before it was over, 2 programs started on Houston radio had gone to the networks and were enjoying long, successful runs, with one spawning a spin-off and a short-lived TV version in the 1950s. A Houston station would become only the second in the nation to operate 24 hours a day and two others, KTRH and KPRC, would be only the second pair of stations in the nation to operate from the same antenna.

In 1931, the Federal Radio Commission list of June 30 showed KPRC at 920, licensed to the Houston Printing Co., KTRH at 1120, licensed to the Rice Hotel, KFUL, Galveston, licensed to the News Publishing Co. at 1290, KTLC, Houston, licensed to the Houston Broadcasting Co. at 1310, KFLX, Galveston, licensed to George Roy Clough at 1370, and KXYZ, licensed to the Harris Co. Broadcast Co. at 1420. Up in Austin, KUT was still on the air at 1500, licensed to the Driskill Hotel.

Even though they had different owners on paper, KTLC and KPRC were co-operated for some time in the early 30s. G.E. Zimmerman, who had been the first general manager of KPRC in 1925 and whose title was Supervisor of Radio for the Houston Post-Dispatch, served as General Manager of both stations. KTLC operated from the ‘old Post Building.’ T.P. Hills was the Program Director, Ingraham S. Roberts III was the commercial manager. Since the Post-Dispatch building at Polk and Dowling had only been occupied in 1925, the reference to the ‘old’ Post building was a reference to the building on Travis at Texas which had housed the early radiotelephone studio that supplied some of the programming on WEAY. A Houston city directory of those years shows KTLC on the 3rd and 4th floors. KPRC was on the 22nd floor of the Post-Dispatch skyscraper at the corner of Texas and Fannin. The listings of the two stations occurred side-by-side in the Post-Dispatch in a big display box; the listings for KTRH and KXYZ occurred in smaller print, elsewhere on the page. Only KPRC was named as the Post-Dispatch station.

Some of the staff worked on the air on both stations. Bruce Layer, who was later to be Sports Director of the Houston Press, KPRC and the first Sports Director of KPRC-TV, was doing play-by-play of Buffs games on KTLC. Blind pianist ‘wonder boy’ Frank Tilton appeared regularly on KTLC, still doing his all request piano shows. Occasionally the listings indicated Tilton’s program would also be broadcast by WRR in Dallas.

KTLC ceased operations at the end of the broadcast day on August 17, 1932, a Wednesday. The program schedule printed in the Post-Dispatch that day showed the last program of the day to be the KTLC Goodbye Program, but there was no story.

The Chronicle had more information; in its story that day the Chronicle reported that Tilford Jones, nephew of Jesse Jones and manager of KXYZ, had gone to Washington just a few days earlier to arrange the transfer of KTLC to KXYZ and had received FCC approval. KTLC was to be ‘absorbed.’ Sustaining programs, i.e., those with paying sponsors and unexpired contracts, would be aired on KXYZ; some others might also be picked up and KXYZ’s program director Hayne Hall had other plans for new programming. KXYZ was to increase its power from 100 watts to 250 watts in early September; its studios were still listed as being in the Texas State Hotel at 720 Fannin.

Bruce Layer’s play-by-play of the Buffs starting airing on KXYZ within a few days. The Post’s listings put KXYZ in the display box next to KPRC; KTRH’s listings continued to appear in much smaller print elsewhere on the page. The Chronicle gave equal space to the KTRH and KXYZ listings while KPRC listings were smaller.

One of the announcers who lost a gig with the demise of KTLC was a young man blessed with the ‘gift of gab’ as he put it who had been staging his own teen dances at big dance halls like Kensington Hall and End ‘O Main Dance Hall and as far away as Louisiana since he was 15 and had convinced the program director of KTLC to sell him a block of time once a week for an amateur hour program before such programming was a staple of broadcasting. Within 2 years of the demise of KTLC he would be elected to the Texas Legislature and in 4 years he would become the youngest County Judge ever in the history of Harris Co. and go on to serve four terms. Within 12 years he would own his own radio station and and then several others and draw the attention and acclaim of broadcasters across the nation for his station’s coverage of local, national and international news events. Within 14 years almost to the day he would put Texas’ first FM on the air. Over the next 50 years, he would also serve as mayor of Houston and play a central role in building the world’s first ever domed stadium and bringing major league professional baseball to Houston. Roy Mark Hofheinz had passed the bar at age 19; in 1932 when KTLC folded he was just 20 years of age.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

KRCT, Goose Creek, KIKK, Pasadena

On August 31, 1946, a story in the Houston Post was headlined ‘Tri-Cities Radio to take to the air within 3 months.’ A construction permit had been granted by the FCC on Friday, August 30, to Bay Broadcasting Co. for station KRCT, to operate on 650 kc with 250w. C.Q. Alexander, the 6 foot 9 and a half inch mayor of Goose Creek was one of the principals. According to the Post a site had not even been selected yet but the Chronicle story on the same action said all the equipment had been acquired and the station expected to be on the air by Thanksgiving. The Chronicle reported the calls were to be either KBAY or KOCT, the latter apparently a typo.

The owners of the Goose Creek Daily Sun had applied for a permit for a 250 watt station 5 months earlier but that application had apparently been withdrawn. In its report on the KRCT permit the Chronicle also noted the Daily Sun had applied for a another permit for a full time 1000 watt station to operate on 1360.

I have not been able to pin down just when KRCT got on the air but if a site had not yet been selected it seems unlikely it came about in as little as 3 months. Many new stations in the 40s experienced delays of several months in their efforts to get on the air. The Houston papers reported on FCC actions concerning stations in Houston and the surrounding area and even as far away as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, probably taking the information from an FCC press release or the wire services, but did not regularly cover other news of stations in the suburbs. It would have been up to the station to notify the papers of its progress and I have found no mentions.

As the applicants and then permitees of a competing radio station, the Daily Sun also carried little mention of KRCT unless it was legitimate news, such as in November of 1947 when the KRCT tower on Cedar Bayou was knocked down by a strong norther blowing through the area. Other than mentioning the permit for KRCT in August, 1946, the earliest mention I have found in the Goose Creek Daily Sun was on p. 2, June 24, 1947, of a radio address on the issue of school consolidation in the tri-cities area to be aired on KRCT. Just days later the paper reported on page 1 that Sylvia McKinstrey had resigned as City Clerk to go to work for KRCT.

Fortunately, mentions in other papers make it possible to move the date back.  On February 27 the Liberty Vindicator ran a story about a Baptist revival and said one of the sermons was due to be given over the air on KRCT on March 9 at 2:30 pm.   On April 17 the Vindicator reported on a concert in Liberty by a popular quartet, the Stamps-Times Quartet, which was heard regularly on Sundays at 8:05 am on KRCT and on May 22 ran an ad for The Baptist Hour, heard Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 3:30 - 4:30 pm, sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Crosby.  Also on May 22, the Freeport Facts ran an ad for a weekly dance at the Surfside Beach Pavilion on Friday nights featuring the Blues Rustlers who could be heard weekdays at 5:15 pm on the station.

Although an exact date still cannot be determined it's clear the station got on the air between late December, 1946, and mid February, 1947.

By the late 1950s the station was owned by Leroy Gloger who may have served as manager of the station before buying it. The first week of October, 1957, KRCT began broadcasting from new studios at 227 East Sterling in Pasadena and the city of license was changed to Pasadena. The station always ran lots of ads in the Chronicle with the first concerning the changeover appearing on October 2 proclaiming a Grand Opening going on the 3rd thru the 6th with everyone invited to stop by and visit the new facilities. There was to be $1000 worth of door prizes. The on-air schedule included Hal Harris from 6a-10a, Gabe Tucker, 10a-1p and Sleepy Bob (Bob Everson) from 1-5pm. Tucker had been a country dj in Houston in the early 50s on KATL and KNUZ and had been one of the last KATL djs after the station switched to KYOK. He spent a couple of years in Nashville managing Ernest and Justin Tubb and the Wilbourne Brothers before returning to Houston to KRCT. His wife was also in the music business.

Broadcasting Yearbook gives the year of origin of KIKK-AM as 1957, reflecting the move to Pasadena.

Gloger liked to claim that 650 was Houston’s only ‘clear channel’ station but the clear was assigned to WSM, Nashville, the Houston station was always limited to daytimes only. Over the years the station was also promoted as the ‘Voice of Labor.’

On May 1, 1961, Gloger opened new studios in the Montagu Hotel at 804 Fannin at Rusk in downtown Houston and changed the call letters to KIKK, again proclaiming the switch in big ads in the Chronicle. A story in the TV section of the Chronicle the previous day advised readers not to worry, it was the same old KRCT, just new calls, and helpfully noted the DJs would refer to the station as ‘Kick, for kicks.’ Gloger told the Chronicle reporter the change came about because research had shown call letter confusion among listeners. The ads just used block lettering for the call letters; it is not known yet just when the familiar boots came to be used for the ‘k’s.

The KIKK calls had previously been used on a station in Bakersfield, CA, which ironically dropped the calls when it changed formats to country music.

The air staff included Hal Harris from sign on to 9am and 12N to 3pm, Gabe Tucker from 9 to Noon, and Tiger Myers from 3pm to signoff. Hal Wallace was the newsman.

The image is an ad for KIKK the weekend the call letters were changed. If anyone has any information about when KRCT got on the air or exactly when it changed hands to Leroy Gloger, I'd appreciate hearing from them.

Anyone wanting more information about the meaning of clear channel stations, not the company, can find an article on Barry Mishkind's Broadcast Archive site listed among the Radio History links on the side-bar (the site does not allow linking directly to individual pages).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

1930 - KTRH signs on, KTUE becomes KXYZ

On page 1 of the Chronicle on Monday, March 24, 1930, a story announced KTRH would begin broadcasting from 6th floor studios of the Rice Hotel on Tuesday evening at 8pm, with 1000 watts daytime and 500 watts nighttime from the transmitter at Deepwater on the La Porte highway. The frequency was 1120 kilocycles, ‘just below KMOX on your dial.’ Test broadcasts had been going on for a few days and listeners were already aware of the new station which would bring the programs of the Columbia Broadcasting System to Houston for the first time. Besides new studios at the Rice, direct wire circuits were also maintained with the Lamar and Texas State Hotels, the Elks Club and several churches and theaters for ‘pickup’ programs.

The La Porte highway basically followed the route of today’s Texas 225; Deepwater was a small farming community between Pasadena and La Porte and is now a part of the northeastern corner of Pasadena. The land for the transmitter had been part of a farm owned by Tilford Jones, nephew to Jesse Jones, who would be the head of Harris Co. Broadcast Co. which purchased KTUE later that year and flipped it to KXYZ. The site of the KTRH transmitter was used later for a joint transmitter plant for KTRH and KPRC and has also been used by KRCT/KIKK and is the location now of KXYZ.

The inaugural program on the new station was to feature a countdown of sorts which sounded very familar, recounting ‘The Romance of Texas, beginning with the Robert Cavalier Sieur De La Salle Expedition’ down to the present time, then Jesse Jones was to speak. Milton G. Hall was the Program Director and Chief Announcer; staff announcers included Earl Melby and Harold Pyle. Jerry Belcher served as advertising manager. T. Frank Smith was Chief Engineer and B.F. Orr was the General Manager. Orr was also General Manager of KTUE at the Texas State Hotel and both Smith and Orr were to be with KTRH for years.

The station operated from the Rice Hotel for years until around 1970 when it moved out to Lovett Boulevard in the Montrose area. The call letters have not changed since the station moved to Houston. It moved to its present frequency of 740 in late 1942.

There was a 20 page section published in the Chronicle about the new station, mostly consisting of ads but with pictures of talent and equipment and giving details of some of the new programs on tap and how the equipment worked. Among the congratulatory ads was one from KTUE, ‘the Happiness Station.’ and one from the B.J. Still Electric Co. at 1116 Main (‘It’s Easy to Pay the B.J. Still Way’) and the Hurlburt-Still Electric Co. of 1207 McKinney. Apparently the company responsible for Houston's first broadcasting station had split.

Broadcasting Yearbook gives March 29, 1930, as the date of origin for the new station. KTRH was first mentioned in the monthly bulletin issued by the Commerce Department on March 31, 1930 as a change of city of license and call letters, not a new station. Up in Austin, KUT was also on the list, still on the air, licensed to the Rice Hotel, operating now at 1500 kc.

On the Commerce Department list as of June 30, 1930, stations on the air in the Houston-Galveston area included, in addition to KTRH:

KPRC, now licensed to Sugarland with studios in Houston, operating at 920 kc and licensed to the Houston Printing Co
KFUL Galveston, licensed to Will H. Ford and broadcasting at 1290 kc
KTLC, licensed to the Houston Broadcasting Co. at 1310 kc
KFLX, Galveston, licensed to George Roy Clough at 1370 kc
KTUE Houston, licensed to William John Uhalt of Uhalt Electric at 1420 kc

In August of 1930 KTUE changed its call letters to KXYZ; the new owners were the Harris County Broadcast Co. and their address was listed as Main and Rusk, Jesse Jones newly completed 36 story skyscraper which was to be known for years as the Gulf Building, the tallest building in Houston until 1963, and now known as the JP Morgan Chase Building. Studios continued to be in the Texas State Hotel for a few years but then moved to the Gulf Building. In the late 1940s, oilman Glenn McCarthy’s Shamrock Broadcasting bought KXYZ-AM and FM with plans to move most of the operations to his new Shamrock Hotel at Main and Holcombe, though keeping some of the operations in the Gulf Building downtown. McCarthy also applied for a license for KXYZ-TV to operate from the Shamrock. It is not known if any of the operation in fact ever did move to the Shamrock. In 1968, ABC bought KXYZ-AM and FM and they did move across Main St. from the Shamrock Hilton to the 16th Floor of the Fannin Bank Building.

The images above are taken from the archives of the Houston Chronicle at the Houston Public Library; both are from the special section of the Chronicle about the launch of KTRH. The top illustration is a portion of the cover page of that special section showing the transmitter plant at Deepwater on the La Porte Highway. One side of the transmitter building housed the transmitting equipment while the other served as a residence for Chief Engineer T. Frank Smith and his family.

The second illustration is of some of the performers scheduled to be heard on KTRH.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Houston's First Broadcasting station - WEV

Here is some additional information about Houston's first broadcasting station, WEV, and the company which owned it. For more information on WEV also see the AM chronology for the year 1922, Part 1, from the sidebar or click on the Label WEV below.

WEV was licensed to the Hurlburt-Still Electrical Co. and operated from their
automobile battery service garage at the northeast corner of McKinney Avenue and San Jacinto Street where 1 Houston Center now stands. The company had a store at 1101 Capitol where they sold electrical supplies, lamps, such household appliances as there were, and radios and radio parts. They were one of the largest radio dealers in town. Founded in 1901, they established Houston’s first automobile battery and electrical service garage in conjunction with Remy Electric of Anderson, IN, which was setting up a nationwide chain of battery service garages. They also carried Dayton Electric Laboratories (Delco), Klaxton and Willard batteries. Radio equipment was battery operated in those days so there was some affinity between the two businesses other than the fact one of the partners in Hurlburt-Still was a radio enthusiast. In June of 1920 they built the new garage facility on McKinney which later doubled as the radio station.

According to one knowledgeable source, battery service garages did a booming business in the early days of radio. The early low-voltage recifiers were messy, troublesome, and tended to overcharge, leading to ruined floors and carpets, and sometimes fires. People listened sparingly, and many an evening's entertainment faded away before the end of a show, or the wife got into trouble for listening in the daytime. So the majority of people took the battery down to the shop to be charged up. They'd rent you a loaner, or set up exchange battery policies.

This only lasted until 1928 or 1929, when most people began buying AC line operated sets as soon as they could afford them.

The license for WEV was issued on March 23, 1922, the fourth in Texas and 108th nationwide. The first broadcast was at 10:00am on April 12 on 485 meters (roughly 619 khz), consisting of official weather, market and crop reports taken from government sources as required by law. The station’s license also authorized it to broadcast ‘music, speeches and other entertainments’ on 360 meters (roughly 833 khz). The Houston Press claimed it was the most powerful station south of Kansas City with 200 watts; the Post said when all equipment ordered had been received, it would be capable of putting out 500 watts, but reports of power output were notoriously unreliable and it may actually have had only 10 watts..

Until the 1930s, broadcast antennas were arrayed horizontally. The antenna shown in the picture is actually the part hung between the two masts. This configuration was known as a flattop.

The part slung between the two masts was called a cage. This antenna with multiple wires was an advancement over 3 or 4 parallel wires arranged flat. It provided greater antenna capacity than the flat arrangement of multiple wires with less self-cancellation.

Local steel structures sapped a good deal of radiation from such antennas, while making the tuning of the antenna unstable.

The inset on the left in the picture is Alfred P. Daniel, the Dean of Houston Radio. He had been experimenting with radio since he was a teen, as early as 1907. He was the licensee of Houston’s second broadcasting station, WCAK, which he operated from the parlor of his home at 2504 Bagby. He also served as announcer, program director and operator for WEV. After WCAK and WEV both folded, he convinced Ross Sterling, Sr., largest shareholder of the Houston Post-Dispatch, to put the radio station on the air which became KPRC and probably influenced the choice of call letters. He was the first announcer and first program director of KPRC in 1925 and 21 and a half years later the first announcer and first program director of KPRC-FM

The inset on the right is B.J. ‘Ben’ Still, a partner in Hurlburt-Still and General Manager of WEV. After WEV folded in late 1924, he apparently was never involved in broadcasting again.

1929 Part 2 - KPRC moves to Sugar Land and Greater KTUE moves on up...

As mentioned there were lots of other changes in Houston radio in 1929. KPRC increased it’s power twice during the year, to 1000 watts in January and in November to 2500 watts daytime and 1000 watts nighttime from its new plant at Sugar Land. KFUL, Galveston had also increased its power twice that year, to a maximum of 1000 watts daytime, 500 nights. In November, KGHX, Richmond was sold to the Houston Broadcasting Co., and in December the call letters KTIP, which had been KGHX, were changed to KTLC and the station was re-licensed to Houston. Just when the call letters had changed to KTIP, though, was not noted in the Commerce Department records I have seen.

KPRC moved to it’s new transmitter plant at Sugar Land on November 15. Commerce Department records indicate it was licensed to Sugar Land with studios in Houston; the studios remained on the 22nd floor of the Post-Dispatch skyscraper on Texas at Fannin downtown, with picture windows overlooking downtown. The paper printed a special section devoted to the new facilty which included many pictures including the transmitter, battery room, and a well-appointed lobby. Radio stations were very proud of their facilites and visitors were welcome to stop by for a tour. The special section, unfortunately, was very dark on microfilm and I was not able to get any usable scans other than the picture of the plant itself. KPRC was called the ‘Beacon of Houston.’

Post-Dispatch Radio Editor Milton G. Hall wrote much of the copy, including some sidelights on KPRC history. The new facility was located ‘7/8ths of a mile from Sugar Land Industries,’, i.e. the Imperial Sugar plant (Sugar Land Industries was the holding company), and was visible to trains passing by on the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe lines passing through town. Hall wrote that the KPRC call letters were known coast-to-coast and one of the reasons for the selected site was so that passengers on trans-continental trains might catch a glimpse of a station they had listened to back home. An electric clock controlled the lighting on the sign to insure it was always turned on at dusk so passengers on night trains also would be able to look out the window and see it.

A recent post on a discussion on HAIF indicated the transmitter was located near the present day intersection of Eldridge Road and US 90-A and just north of the railroad tracks. This would be to the east of Imperial Sugar. The concrete bases of the two towers were still in place until a few years go, when they were removed for a new structure.

Hall also noted in his story several KPRC performers’ names were known coast-to-coast; there will be more about them in a section of this blog devoted to performers and broadcasters.

In just a few months, Hall would be named the first program director of KTRH and serve for 2 years. In 1932 Hall was involved with Will Horwitz and his ill-fated involvement in XED in Reynosa, Mexico, and in April, 1946, the Post took note of his death in Austin.

The paper regularly carried only listings of programming on its own station, KPRC, but on this special occasion published a listing of all radio stations in the US taken from a wire service. For the Houston-Galveston area the stations listed, besides KPRC, were KGHX, Richmond, at 1500 kc (199.9 meters), KTUE, Houston, at 1420 kc (211.1 meters), KFLX, Galveston, at 1370 (218.8 meters) and KFUL, Galveston, at 1290 kc (232.1 meters).

On December 3, 1929, an ad in the Chronicle announced that KTUE was opening new studios in the Texas State Hotel soon and some advertising and sponsored programs were being accepted and advertisers were invited to contact the station for information. Another ad on Sunday gave the launch date of the new, ‘greater’ KTUE as Monday, December 16. The Chronicle was also running big ads bragging about its coverage of radio.

A full page ad in the Chronicle on the 15th called KTUE a ‘new Broadcasting Station’ and said that it would begin regular broadcasts on Monday the 23rd. A story on p. 2 of the Chronicle said that the station had been entirely revamped and remodeled, the power upgraded from 5 watts to 100, and new studios installed in the basement of the Texas State Hotel at 720 Fannin. Test broadcasts were to be conducted beginning on the 16th. The hotel been designed by well-known Houston architect Joseph Finger and had just been completed in September. The building has recently been refurbished and is now a Guest Quarters Hotel.

In addition to the ad and story there was a 20 page special section on KTUE in the Chronicle that day. The cover of this special section has been posted on this blog at the bottom of the main body of the blog. Offices and studios had been installed in the basement of the hotel, owner William John Uhalt advised, because that been tried elsewhere and been found a superior way to insulate the microphone from traffic noise and other noises that were transmitted over the air. Jerry G. Belcher of the Chronicle had been engaged as Program Director, to be assisted by Yancey A. MacGowen, who had been in sales at the station for 2 years. Belcher would later become famous for a program he hosted on KTRH which went national. KTUE’s programming was to include a regular orchestral request hour from 9am to 10am; listeners were invited to write the station with their requests but they would also be able to call the station while the program was on the air. Another regular feature would be a 90 minute concert from noon to 1:30pm every day featuring music provided either by the Texas State Hotel Trio or the Rice Hotel Cafeteria Orchestra. Three other orchestras had also been lined up for regular programming, Paul Hainge and the Rice Hotel Orchestra, Louis Connor and the Lamar Hotel Orchestra, and Julien Paul Blitz and the Texas State Hotel Orchestra. Mrs. John Wesley Graham, who had appeared on the first Houston Post concert on WEV in 1922 and was a staple of the Houston airwaves into the 1940s would also be a regular performer. She operated the largest music academy in the city and would soon offer piano lessons over the air on KTUE.

The inaugural program was to feature a musical pageant of Houston history, including primitive tom-toms and pipes, airs that ‘would be familiar to the ears of Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle,’ Spanish and Mexican melodys, songs from the Civil War era and so on; an announcer would introduce the segments with a brief historical note. If that sounds a bit over the top, KTRH was to repeat the idea and presumably try to top it a few months later. Earl Melby was to be the principal announcer on the station; he had previously worked at KGBS, KPR, KFQW, KVC and KPRC. The special newspaper section included notes about programs planned thru the end of the year.

The Chronicle soon added listings for KTUE to its radio page. Up until that time, the only Houston station listed in either the Chronicle or Post had been KPRC. The listings were headed by a long list provided by the wire services of programming on stations all across the country, followed by a list of ‘Central Clear’ stations, and then ‘Southern Clear’ stations, which was headed by KPRC and included WSB, Atlanta, WSM Nashville, WWL, New Orleans, etc. The Chronicle created a new category in its listings for ‘local,’ showing both KPRC and KTUE. There were no listings for KTLC appearing in either paper at that time.

Edited 10/19/11 to add the picture of the KPRC transmitter building at Sugar Land.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

1929 Part 1 - K-The Rice Hotel

There were no new stations authorized in the Houston-Galveston area in 1929 but in Austin and San Antonio there were developments which were to affect the Houston radio dial.

Over the years, radio stations had gotten more expensive to operate and the government had exercised more control over broadcasters. The University of Texas had participated in wireless activities as early as 1911 when engineers at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas at College Station originated a wireless message. Both schools had been supplied with equipment and the broadcast was intended to originate a network to include institutions of higher education in the state. The University held the license for Austin’s first radio station (and 2nd in the state), WCM, issued March 22, 1922, one day before the license for WEV was issued to the Hurlburt-Still Co. In Houston. When WCM left the air in October, 1925, it was licensed to the Texas Department of Warehouses and Markets and UT put another station on the air with the call letters KUT. But after the government ordered the use of crystal control by broadcasters in 1927, the University decided to get out of broadcasting. According to historian Richard Shroeder, by February, 1929, KUT had been sold to two brothers from Houston whose last name was English and they moved the station from the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin to a golf course on the Georgetown-Fiskville Rd. Then they went bankrupt in just a few months.

That same month KUT was sold, ownership of San Antonio radio station KGDR was transferred from it’s original owner, Joe B. McShane, to the KGDR Broadcasting Co.; it operated from the Blue Bonnet Hotel.
In 1929 you could rent a room at Jesse Jones’ Rice Hotel in Houston for $2.50 cents a night. The ‘Top o’ Houston’ Rice Roof Garden promised the end of a perfect day, ‘an ever refreshing haven of pleasure and evening recreation,’ sixteen floors above the clamor and heat of the city streets. Table d’Hote Dinners were $1.50 Sundays, $1.25 weekdays and while you enjoyed your dinner a 10 piece orchestra entertained. Reservations were recommended. Besides dining and dancing and deluxe accomodations, by late that year the Rice was getting into broadcasting, buying and then moving 2 radio stations, putting one out of business while starting another.

In November, ownership of KGDR, San Antonio, was transferred again to the Milam Radio Co. and then on December 9, ownership transferred yet again to the Rice Hotel of Houston which then received approval from the Commerce Department to change the call letters to KUT and move the station to Austin. At the same time the Rice Hotel also bought the station that had been operating in Austin as KUT and received approval to change it’s call letters to KTRH and move it to Houston. The Federal Radio Commission had agreed to let KUT be moved to Houston only if a replacement station was put on the air in Austin which otherwise would have been without a station.

According to the station’s history posted on the KTRH website in 2005 for the station’s 75th anniversary as a Houston station, Jesse Jones bought KUT in Austin and moved it to Houston in the back of a pick up truck to become KTRH. KGDR was moved to Austin and commenced to operate as KUT, on a different frequency and with less power than the previous station with those calls. It was apparently the 1000 watt KUT transmitter than Jones wanted for Houston; otherwise he could have just moved KGDR here. The Rice Hotel continued to hold the license for KUT and operate it until 1932 when it sold the station to Hearst Publications and the call letters were changed to KNOW.

That pick-up truck must have put on a lot of miles that winter.

The Chronicle announced the developments in a brief story on page 1 of the December 11 edition. The transmitter building and towers were being erected on the La Porte highway at Deepwater and it was anticipated the station would be on the air by late February or early March. A ‘1000 watt transmitter has been acquired;’ the call letters KTRH were to stand for K - The Rice Hotel. The story also mentioned that KUT had been off the air since it’s owners had gone into receivership and the Federal Radio Commission had ordered that KUT was to continue operation. The fact that KGDR was going off the air was also mentioned.

Depending on your interpretation of these events, either KNOW, Austin, (now known as KFON, a Spanish station at 1490) or KTRH, Houston, is the descendant of University of Texas radio station KUT. The Broadcasting Yearbook credits KFON as having originated in 1922 (as WCM) and gives the date of origin of KTRH as March 29, 1930. The current owners of KTRH, Clear Channel Communications, seem to be satisfied with the 1930 date but Thomas White's US Early Radio History credits KTRH as the true heir of WCM and names it the 35th oldest radio station in the US. Barry Mishkind’s Broadcast Archive offers the same analysis and if you subscribe to this view, KTRH is also the 2nd oldest radio station in Texas though only the 4th oldest radio station in the Houston/Galveston market.

As mentioned in the section of this chronology on the year 1925, the Commerce Department records I have seen do not support the claim that KUT was a continuation of WCM. They show that KUT was authorized in October, 1925, as a new station with different ownership than WCM, not just a change of call letters and ownership. However I have not seen the original files of the station’s license, only a summary report as published by the Commerce Department monthly. KFON can trace its history to the original license for KGDR in December, 1926; neither KFON nor KTRH can claim its origin in 1922 according to what I have seen.


Having spent 40 years in radio, all of it either on the air or in the program director’s chair, I have come to consider a radio station to be part and parcel of the community it operates in and the idea that a radio station can be picked up and moved 200 miles to another city and still be the same radio station, even if it operates with exactly the same equipment and call letters, just doesn’t ring true to me, and in this case there was a change of ownership, change of city, and change of call letters involved, not to mention the fact the station had to have been off the air for some time during the move. But in fact there are several notable examples in the history of broadcasting of just such moves; apparently the issue is the continuity of license, regardless of owners, call letters or city of license.

There will be more on KTRH in the section of this chronology on the year 1930.