KxKx 88.5 FM
San Francisco, California
Emory Johnson (left) and George Conklin at KxKx-FM's Ampex rack
The photographs on this page, from the collection of
George Conklin, were taken around 1962-63 when KxKx-FM signed on the air
from studios at 286 Divisadero Street, San Francisco. Rev. Conklin, an
acclaimed educator, media producer, editor and minister, provided the
following background on the photographs and the station:
studio pictures (above and below on this page) are of me, George
Conklin, program consultant for the station, and Emory Johnson (with
glasses), the general manager.
was at 88.5 MHz with an ERP of 120 kilowatts. It was owned and operated
by the Trustees of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Rafael,
a seminary of the Presbyterian Church. The call letters had been used
earlier by a classical music station on the Peninsula. The use of upper
and lower case in the call sign (KxKx-FM) was an effort to distinguish
the new station at the low end of the FM band reserved for educational
initial funding (about $250,000) came from the national office of the
Presbyterian Church in New York, the seminary and local churches in the
Bay Area. The station was state of the art with the latest RCA stereo
'board' (seen in the lower photo), Ampex stereo tape recorders and
Neumann stereo microphones. The engineering design was done by Hammet
transmitter was an RCA located on San Bruno Mountain with an equipment
cubicle adjacent to that of station KPEN-FM operated by James Gabbert.
The link to the transmitter was a matched and balanced "20k" pair of
telephone lines. Another telephone line was used for an SCA feed, and
another line was used to remote control the transmitter. The Chief
Engineer was Wayne Loerke.
program format anticipated that of National Public Radio with a variety
of interview shows, lectures, classical music and location recordings.
The station had a small remote van with Ampex stereo tape recorders and
Neumann stereo microphones. The "issue" of which local church to
broadcast on Sundays was solved by broadcasting, via a location tape
recording, services from the Stanford Chapel.
break announcements were initially done by William Pierce of
WGBH/Boston, possibly the best-known educational station announcer at
the time and noted for narrating live broadcasts of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra and Boston Pops concerts. Pierce was the announcer for those
broadcasts. Emory Johnson flew him out to San Francisco to record at
Presbyterian programming per se was on the main stereo channel of
KxKx-FM. The SCA (Subsidiary Communications Authorization) channel was
used for educational programming. Presbyterian churches in the broadcast
area has special SCA receivers in their education rooms.
made to begin a network of church operated stations in New York (WRVR-FM
at the famed Riverside Church) and Hartford, Conn. (WSCH-FM at South
Congregational Church), using broadcast-quality telephone lines. That
dream was not realized.
continuing operation of the station, with an annual budget of about
$100,000, became too expensive for the seminary and churches and the
station was sold to KQED-TV in the mid 1960s for $80,000. The Ford
Foundation paid $40,000 of the sale price. The station became KQED-FM.
George Conklin (left) and Emory Johnson at KxKx-FM's RCA console
the history of KxKx-FM, I had the distinction of burning out the
transmitter! The entire staff of the station (perhaps four or five
people) were attending a meeting of Presbyterian churches at a local
church in the Bay Area to do a brief demonstration of the new station.
Since I had an FCC license I was asked to operate the station with
programming on the main stereo channel and the SCA channel.
As I was
operating the station from two tape recorders, the off-frequency alarm
went off. A quick check of transmitter parameters indicated that the
frequency-specific crystal, which maintained the correct frequency, was
drifting. The transmitter shut down automatically. I telephoned the
church and talked with Emory Johnson and Wayne Loerke. We agreed that
they would keep the phone open and when they started their presentation
I was to turn the transmitter back on and over-ride the automatic
shutdown by holding the shut-down switch in ON position.
day we drove up to the transmitter site on San Bruno Mountain and opened
the transmitter rack door. There was charring and the wiring to the
crystal oven was burned out. In those days, before digital controls,
transmitters were kept on frequency by precision crystals set to be on
an exact frequency when they were 'gently' warmed — in a small crystal
oven — to a point well above ambient temperatures.
happened was a leak had occurred in the "helix cable" used to feed the
10 kilowatt transmitter power to the 12 bay antenna array high on the
steel antenna tower. Moisture got into the cable and reflected the radio
frequency energy back into the steel transmitter case. Our 'guess' was
the first thing to burn was the light duty wire which heated the crystal
oven. That caused the first symptom, going off frequency as the crystal
cooled. Then the RF energy heated other components as I over-rode the
automatic shut done. It is a wonder the station stayed on the air for
the few minutes of demonstration.
a "happy" outcome to that event. The president of RCA was a Presbyterian
layman who was very interested in the station project and provided the
replacement transmitter at no cost.
CURATOR'S NOTE: The
former quarters of KxKx-FM, which also later housed KQED-FM, at 286
Divisadero Street in San Francisco, is presently home to
Garden of San Francisco.