B. Floyd Farr (1909-1984)
KPO/NBC and KEEN Radio
B. Floyd Farr
Class of 2018
By Keith B. Farr
Floyd Farr was a school teacher at Weber High School in Ogden, Utah. In his spare time, Floyd read “live” commercials between reel changes in the projection booth at the Paramount theatre. The station manager of KLO happened to be in the theatre, went upstairs and offered Floyd an announcing position. From KLO Floyd went to KDYL 1320 AM, an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City.
Remotes were common around the nation and at the time the NBC network was connected to KDYL station via telephone lines — and Floyd happened to be on the air. KPO in San Francisco phoned KDYL and wanted to talk with Floyd. When they found out Farr had a college degree and was an English teacher, Floyd was offered an announcing position at KPO for $300 per month. Around 1935, that was greater than the teaching profession or Utah radio stations salaries.
KPO and KGO were also the anchor stations for the NBC network from San Francisco. Within months Floyd was elevated to chief announcer of KPO and was also a network announcer.
He worked around such notables as Art Linkletter, Jack Webb, Hal Peary, Kate Smith Red Skelton and Jack Benny. Many nationwide programs originated from San Francisco including “One Man’s Family” and “Death Valley Days,” along with Lux Radio Theatre. There were various other network shows with live orchestras originating from San Francisco.
Weekly, Floyd was taken by boat to Treasure Island as newscaster via shortwave for overseas listeners. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Floyd was the network lead-in announcer, transmitting telephone information from Pearl Harbor then aired to New York and the East Coast from KPO and the NBC radio network during early morning hours. Then KPO and other NBC affiliates did very little reporting until late afternoon that day.
George Mardikian, the owner of Omar Khayyam’s restaurant in San Francisco, became friends with Floyd and George Snell, a life-long buddy from KDYL whom Floyd hired to work at KPO in 1945. Mardikian would bring in cash to promote his restaurant each week.
Quietly, from the back kitchen area of the NBC studios, the three men put together a concept of owning a station. Sitting on rice sacks, the concept of KEEN Radio in San Jose had begun; the three partners were friends of Richard Nixon and President Herbert Hoover. In 1947 Floyd Farr, George Snell and George Mardikian established KEEN Radio, San Jose, leaving NBC the same year KPO changed its call letters to KNBC. (Many of the network shows were then originating from KFI in Los Angeles along with San Francisco by this time.)
Farr, Mardikian and Snell remained partners until their deaths. KEEN (1370 AM) was the headquarters for a total of seven West Coast stations, including stations in Las Vegas and Hawaii. Known as the Golden Pacific Group, at the time there was only one larger radio operation of stations on the West Coast — Golden West, owned by Gene Autry, a great broadcaster.
Our KEEN was the flagship operation for the Oakland A’s network in the early Seventies on a total of sixteen stations. We paid Charlie Finley one-million dollars for broadcast rights for the A’s. The A’s won the pennant two years in a row while being broadcast on KEEN.
Our Golden Pacific Group stations included KEEN and KBAY in San Jose, KWIN and KCVR in Lodi, KFIG in Fresno, KAHU AM & FM and KULA in Hawaii, along with a construction permit for KFOA-FM in Hawaii.
Floyd Farr was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
Keith B. Farr, the author of this article, was the nephew of Floyd Farr. A Utah native like his uncle, Keith Farr began his radio career in Oregon and Utah, then was recruited by Floyd Farr, first to work at KVEG in Las Vegas and later at KWIN and KCVR in Lodi. A noted radio and television archivist, Keith Farr is currently retired and resides near Lodi Lake, California.