Newspaper Articles Of The Day
Describe The First Days Of KFRC

San Francisco “Bulletin,” Tuesday, September 23, 1924: Section 2 Page 1:


If present plans are carried out, Lt. Lowell H. Smith, world flier and one of the American aviators who has made aviation history, tomorrow night will formally dedicate radio station KFRC, the new broadcasting unit of the Radioart Studios, 492 Sutter St., and the broadcasting headquarters of the San Francisco Bulletin and Journal, on the roof of the Whitcomb Hotel.

The assurance of the dedication was contained in a long distance telephone conversation with Lt. Smith himself. “Sure, I’ll say hello to the people of San Francisco from the new station … be glad to,” he said.

And so, at 8 o’clock, unless there is a change in the flier’s program, thousands of radio fans up and down the Pacific Coast will be able to hear, over the most perfectly modulated broadcasting station on the Coast, at its first introductory program, a message from the man who carried the Stars and Stripes by air from the rising to the setting sun, around the circumference of the globe, and brought it home again. Lieutenant Smith and the new station, KFRC — a double epoch!

City and county officials, radio engineers, and men of prominence in business, electrical and newspaper affairs will be present tomorrow night when KFRC joins the sisterhood of broadcasting units on the Pacific Coast. The station, which is the newest of the Western Electric type units, is the most unique station on the Coast. There is, in fact, only one other in the U.S. like it … at St. Louis, and, according to the engineers, the St. Louis station “pounds into New York like a local.”

Station KFRC is owned and operated by the Radioart Studios, under the management of Thomas R. Catton Jr. and James B. Threlkeld Jr., both well-known San Francisco radio men. It will be used to broadcast orchestral music, primarily from the Whitcomb Hotel Concert, Symphony and Dance Orchestra, for vocal entertainment of a high grade, and for press information, baseball, football, and other matters of amusement and entertainment. It will be operated in conjunction with The Bulletin in every particular.

No preliminary announcement of those who will appear on the program tomorrow night will be made at this time, owing to the fact that the Radioart studios are offering to radio fans two $100 radio sets, the winning of which will depend on how correctly the fans are able to follow the program. One set will be given to the fan who most correctly logs all that happens tomorrow night, and another to the fan who reports the greatest distance reception of KFRC.

In general, aside from Lieutenant Smith’s talk, speeches will be made by persons high in radio circles, city officials, and others interested in radio matters. The concert which follows and which will last until 10 o’clock will in turn be followed by a dance program until midnight. It is planned to make KFRC’s entrance on the air something to be remembered and to mark the beginning of a different type of broadcasting, and one that is more to the liking of the fan.

The station itself is a new departure in broadcasting units. It is not a high powered station. It is rated as a 50 watt station, but of the Western Electric type, which guarantees a high degree of efficiency. Radio engineers and the Radioart Studios personnel determined on the low power, perfectly tuned unit as preferable to the high powered sets which cause interference. The Government at Washington is watching the work of KFRC with considerable interest in view of the coming conference as it is believed that such units will form a solution of the present broadcasting congestion.

The working range of KFRC has not yet been determined. It has been reported at more than 1,000 miles on preliminary tests with only one end of its antenna hung. Ship reports have not yet been received, but it is believed that with the perfect utilization of power which has been achieved that its work will compare favorably with any 500 watt set on the Coast.

From the Oakland Tribune,
September 28, 1924 —

The station itself is located on the roof of the Whitcomb Hotel, high above the business district of San Francisco, and with an unobstructed view for miles in all directions. Two ship’s masts 110 ft. in height tower above the hotel roof and between these swings the four-wire piano-taut antenna, with its 98 foot spread and 95 foot lead.

The aerial itself is of the L type, pointing directly north and south, with its lead taken from the northern end. In its lower connections use has been made of a novel stunt worked out at KGW, the Portland Oregonian, in which the steel frame of the building is used as a counterpoise. In this way, greater radiation is accomplished. KFRC’s transmitter is grounded in a dozen places.

The operating room is of the “double” type … one room inside another. There are housed the controls, the panels, the motor- generating units, the transmitter with its 50 watt “bottles,” the generator that supplies 12-volt filament current and 800 volts for the plate circuit.

Six pairs of wires lead from the operating room to the main part of the hotel. One cable goes to the main studio on the second floor, to the roof garden, to Drury Lane and the main dining room, on the end of which are the various pick-up microphones that enable the station to broadcast anything from a banquet to a dance or a symphony concert. Another cable carries an automatic signal system for an interchange of signals between the operator and the orchestra conductor. Still another cable carries an intercommunicating telephone system.

The microphones and the signal system, in connection with the telephones, give a most flexible control of the station. The orchestra leader is in instant touch with the operator at all times.

The studio, which is the main feature of the KFRC equipment, is situated on the second floor, just above the main lobby of the hotel. There, under shaded lights, amid rich hangings, the best in music is to be picked up by the microphones and broadcast to a listening world. The walls are lined with friar’s cloth, forming an echo-proof hanging. Heavy carpets muffle footfalls. A Mason-Hamlin grand piano stands in the center of the room, with table lamps on both sides for artist and accompanist.

Concealed behind the draperies is the same automatic telephone, signaling light system, connecting with the operating room, so that both studio and operating room may be appraised what the other is doing. The operator “sits in” at all times on a concert with loud speaker and headphones and “checks” outgoing signals for quality, volume and modulation, handling the amplifiers to the proper degree for correct reception.

In addition to the usual furnishings the studio has davenports, music stands, each with its own individual lights, the pickup microphone on a shock-proof pedestal, and easy chairs for artists not actually engaged in appearing.

General broadcasts will take place from KFRC on Wednesday and Friday nights from 8 to 10 PM; on Saturday nights with a dance program which lasts until midnight; on Sundays from 6:30 to 7:30 with a program of popular music, from 8 to 10 PM with a classical program, and from 10 to midnight with another dance program. Special features will be announced from time to time during the week.

As a direct service to its patrons, KFRC will also broadcast news bulletins from the San Francisco Bulletin, giving the latest wire and local service to air listeners. These bulletins will be broadcast on a schedule to be announced later, in accordance with public demand. The main purpose is to serve the radio fan who wants something worthwhile, as a regular daily service. In this respect, both the Radio Studios and The Bulletin are open to suggestion of an intelligent nature.

Various other features are of interest in connection with the station. For one thing, the station announcement, which bids fair to be famous all over the West, will be a fire chief’s siren. This was first introduced by the Bulletin at its old station, KDN, at the Fairmont Hotel.

During concerts while the station is on the air, an “S O S” watch will be kept for distress signals. In the event of boats in trouble the operator will know it instantly, and the station will shut down in accordance with federal regulations. An announcement of this will be made on such emergency, so that the fan will understand what is happening. The station carries a ship set of its own for just this work alone.

For persons who are interested in the opening of this station and concerts therefrom, the Radioart Studios at 492 Sutter Street is open every evening, and those who have no radio sets may go there, where provision has been made for them to listen to KFRC at any time that it is on the air. A service department will also be maintained until 10 o’clock every night, in case a receiving set breaks down in the middle of a concert — a new departure in radio affairs in San Francisco.

Harrison Holliway, old-time ship operator, will be the Director and Announcer in Charge of KFRC. He is well known to the radio fraternity for his connection with the former station of the Emporium in the earlier days of broadcasting.

In addition to its other activities, station KFRC will be used by the San Francisco Stock Exchange as its official station for the broadcasting of stock and market reports for out of town and local points.

So — at 8 o’clock tomorrow night — listen for the siren that marks the initial opening of KFRC, the broadcasting station of the Radioart Studios and the San Francisco Bulletin, which makes its official debut with Lieutenant Lowell Smith, world flier, on the Pacific Coast, and marks a new milestone in Western Radio history.

PHOTO CAPTION: Tomorrow night at the Hotel Whitcomb, KFRC will go on the air, marking a milestone in radio broadcasting history with its latest improvements. The station is owned and operated by the Radioart Studios in conjunction with The Bulletin. Upper left is one of the artists who will sing tomorrow night. Upper right is the KFRC studio, the finest on the pacific Coast. Lower left is the operating room, showing the compact 50 watt transmitter. Lower right is Stanislaus Bern and his orchestra. These musicians will open the station and will play thereafter on broadcasting nights.

San Francisco Bulletin, September 24, 1924, Page 1:


(Mainly a rework of the previous article. Excerpts only follow.)

Stanislaus Bern, musical director, is already known to radio fans through his appearance at KGO, the broadcasting station of the General Electric Company in Oakland, where he won the reputation of presenting “The sweetest orchestra ever heard over the radio.” His offerings at Hotel Whitcomb are famous up and down the coast, and he will be an almost nightly attraction from now on, over the air.

With Bern will be various dance orchestra, one in particular — Elmer Ohlsen’s Hotel Whitcomb orchestra, which is among the leading musical aggregations of the coast.

For information of radio fans, KFRC is broadcasting on 280 meters. This is within two meters of the 278 meter wavelength of KFSG, Angelus Temple, Los Angeles. For that reason, and to present interference, especially for receiving points located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, KFRC’s wave has been made very sharp. This must be born in mind when tuning for the station tonight. If it is found to be too sharp for practical reception it will be broadened later.

San Francisco Bulletin, Thursday, September 25, 1924, Page 2:


By Earle Ennis

Broadcasting station KFRC — “Known For Radio Clearness” — thrust its 50 watt personality into the air lanes last night from the roof of the Hotel Whitcomb, and, with a dedicatory program of unusual merit, joined the sisterhood of Western Electric entertainment units that dot the country from East to West.

The new station, owned by the Radioart Studio, 492 Sutter Street, and the official radio headquarters of The Bulletin, stepped officially on the air at 8 o’clock. The entire roof garden of the hotel was packed with guests who were on hand to welcome the new station and congratulate the hotel management, The Bulletin directorate and James B. Threlkeld Jr. and Thomas Catton Jr., the owners.

The station, which is the only one of its kind of the Coast, broadcast its premier program on 280 meters, under the direction of Stanislaus Bern, concert director, and one of the best known of the Pacific Coast musical directors. Government and city officials were also present to express the felicitations of the occasion and extend their good wishes for the station’s future.

A fire siren announced the opening of the station as a unique entertainment factor in San Francisco Chief of Police Daniel J. O’Brien, who has been ill for some time, signalized his return to official duty by formally welcoming KFRC to the city on behalf of San Francisco.

“An achievement of merit and a forward step in bringing worthwhile entertainment to the people of a city” was his designation of the new unit.

Ernest R. Drury, manager of the Hotel Whitcomb, and J. D. Allen, assistant manager, made brief talks on the purposes and intents of the station, and its position as an entertainment factor in municipal affairs.

Colonel J. F. Dillon, Supervisor of the sixth U. S. district, who has charge of all broadcasting activities on the Pacific Coast for Uncle Sam, extended the fraternal hand of official welcome in behalf of the Dept. of Commerce, commending the low power and short wave equipment, which, he said, expressed to a great degree the government’s wishes in the manner of broadcasting.

To Arthur H. Halloran, editor of “Radio,” an official delegate of the Coast broadcasters to Secretary Hoover’s conference in Washington on October 6, goes the credit for the code phrase by which the fans will remember the call letters KFRC.

“Known for Radio Clearness!” said Halloran, and every fan within a thousand miles wrote it down.

Other speakers included J. J. Parks, managing editor of the Bulletin, who spoke in behalf of C. S. Stanton, the publisher, assuring cooperation in news, program and entertainment service and setting forth the desire of those behind the station to meet public demand in the matter of service.

A. C. Brunner, of the Western Electric Company, radio engineer who installed the set, made a brief talk on the technical and development phases of the station.

The musical program was one of high merit. Opening with the “Star- Spangled Banner” by Bern’s little symphony orchestra, radio fans were treated to two hours of the finest concert music ever heard on the Pacific Coast. The controls were switched about from the operating room in Drury Lane, to the broadcasting studio on the second floor, and to the main dining room without an instant’s loss of time.

At 10 o’clock, with the introductory program finished, the dance orchestra of Elmer Ohlsen was “plugged in” and for another two hours or until midnight, the world of outdoors danced with guests in the roof garden to the same orchestra.

From all parts of Western U. S., telegrams, letters and telephone calls have poured in and are still coming from fans who heard KFRC on the opening night and have something nice to say about it. Utah, Oregon and Washington, Southern California and Arizona are all represented in the communications, which report excellent signal strength and perfect modulation.

Installed as a unique station of a new type, KFRC — “Known For Radio Clearness” — has already justified the expectations of engineers and the hopes of its owners. For the benefit of radio fans who many find the 280 meter wave a trifle sharp, let it be understood that this is the new idea of the Federal government and very soon all broadcasting stations will be obliged to sharpen their waves. In this particular KFRC is just a jump ahead of the others — pioneering in a new field with official approval.

Owners of receiving sets will find KFRC unusually clear and steady, if in the tuning of their sets they are careful to tune exactly for the 280 meter wave and not above or below it. When this is done the station will register as the most pleasingly modulated unit on the Coast.

The program of the station will be printed daily with other “Radio schedules and programs.”

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All articles copyright © 1997-2006 by John F. Schneider. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with the generous permission of the author.

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