Altec-Lansing Corporation billed it as “The mike that became a must!” when it came out around 1949. I’m talking about the Altec 21B condenser microphone capsule which was part of the M-11 Microphone system. This capsule was an amazingly small mike for that era.
This mike was a revolutionary development at the time because condenser mikes had fallen out of favor way back in the 1930s. Ribbon and dynamics had taken over the professional audio field and many thought the condenser would never come back. Altec engineers had a different idea…a new approach to the problem: not “redesigning what was already available, but starting from scratch with a dual specification: “The best quality and the smallest size.”
More than 20 “man-years” were spent in the design and engineers of the 21B. The result wasn’t just a “better mike” – smaller in size – but a mike, smaller in diameter than a dime…that set a new standard in microphone performance…with new pickup techniques as well. The condenser mikes of the 1920s and 30s were big and had bulky amplifiers that had to be in close proximity to the pickup capsule and were powered by large battery packs.
The new smaller size capsule mated with the new “miniature” vacuum tubes developed during WWII made possible the come back of the condenser unit. Altec used an A/C power supply box instead of bulky battery packs. The result was the M-11 microphone system. The capsule itself was 5/8ths of an inch in diameter and just a quarter inch thick. It had a sound entrance opening that was a tiny slot around the top edge of the capsule.
People referred to this mike as the “coke-bottle” because of its unique and stylish shape. The small 21B capsule was mounted at the top of the slender “coke-bottle” “150A” base which contained a 6AU6 miniature vacuum tube which converted the very high impedance of the capsule to a low impedance by use of a cathode-follower circuit. The unit used a multi-conductor cable connected through a Cannon “P” 8-pin connector which was at the bottom of the “coke-bottle”. The mike could be separated from the power supply by as much as 400 feet.
This cable mated with the power supply box which supplied both filament and high voltage to the vacuum tube and condenser capsule. The power supply box also had an output cable that connected the system to the audio equipment it was to be used with. There was an optional matching transformer that plugged into the power supply box to provide a balanced output for professional audio systems.
The 21B capsule produced an extremely smooth and extended response over the entire audio range and was omnidirectional. Later modifications were the 21C and D which only changed the way the sound entered the mike at the top. Its graceful, slender shape made it possible for artists to “get out from behind the mike” and be seen with a minimum of obstruction when used on a mike stand and it also fit comfortably in the hand for mobile use.
The M-11 mike system became an instant sensation in the audio industry and saw wide use in broadcasting, public address motion picture production and recording. Later Altec used the same capsule with an even smaller base that used printed circuits and a sub-miniature vacuum tube…this was dubbed the “lipstik” M-20 microphone system. It was literally no larger than a lipstick and was practically invisible on a regular mike stand. It was also equipped with a fountain pen clip so that it could be put on a coat lapel or tie or hidden underneath the tie, corsage or other ornaments.
Altec went on to develop other condenser mikes including uni-directional units. This was the start of the resurgence of the condenser microphone in the US. Shortly after the Altec was introduced the industry saw the importing of the very fine German condenser mikes that continued the condenser comeback. Today condenser mikes of all kinds are used universally in everything from telephones to high end recording. Altec-Lansing was considered one of the premiere electronics manufacturers of the 20th century.
Gates Radio Company of Quincy, Illinois was a major manufacturer of broadcast equipment for many decades going back to 1922. In 1957 Gates was bought out by Harris Corporation which kept the Gates name until 1975 when it changed to Harris. Gates, and later under Harris, the company built a full line of equipment for radio including audio and transmitting equipment.
In the late 50s Gates developed a new line of broadcast turntables that used a unique drive system. Most “rim-drive” turntables up to this time were driven on the inner surface of the outer rim. Gates moved the drive mechanism to an inner solid hub nearer the center of the table. This change reduced the rumble to a much lower level due to the lower motor speed requirement.
The newly designed unit had a convenient gear-shift style speed change lever and a silent rocker-type on-off switch. Gates claimed that you could start the table by the switch or the shift knob and either way there would be no jerk or jarring of the stylus on the record.
These beautiful turntables were used in hundreds of radio and TV stations back in that bygone era.
Gates offered a 16 inch and a 12 inch version of these turntables. More and more stations in the late 50s were ditching their older 16 inch tables for the smaller units because there was less need for playing the large old-style transcriptions. The smaller units took up less space in the crowded control rooms. A 12 inch turntable with a longer pickup arm could still play the 16 inch records, if needed.
Gates built some very fine quality equipment that sold for reasonable prices.
There are still a few more high quality broadcast microphones that we have yet to cover in this series of articles on the Modesto Radio Museum website. Shure had a couple of popular mikes with radio broadcasters…the Models SM-5 and SM-7.
The Shure SM-5 [photos 1,2,3] was originally developed in 1966 as a motion picture and TV overhead boom mike. It had a huge foam windscreen and a swivel-yoke bracket that were particularly adapted for this type of use.
But soon radio broadcasters discovered this mike was an excellent model for radio control rooms that gave an announcers voice a full-bodied tone. The big windscreen was also a big advantage in preventing “P” popping and other breath noises when used closeup like most announcers seem to want to do!
The SM-5 was a dynamic cardioid unit with a relatively flat frequency response. With the large foam windscreen removed the mike unit itself is relatively small…and looks similar to the famous Shure SM-57. A later updated version was the SM-5B. I dare say that this mike got far more use in radio than it ever did as a movie or TV boom mike!
Shure ended production of the SM-5 in 1986…but many are still in use in radio stations around the country…and are still in demand on the used equipment market…but they are a rare find! Many radio announcers and engineers wonder why Shure ever decided to discontinue this popular model.
One reason may be that Shure had come out with another mike especially for voice, narration and radio sometime in the 1970s. This mike is the SM7…and it’s later version, the SM-7B. [photos 4,5,6] This mike looks somewhat different from the SM-5 but also has a swivel-yoke type mount and the overall size is somewhat smaller than the SM-5.
The SM-7 has a choice of two foam windscreens, a large one or smaller size, that slip onto the front of the mike. Another feature of this mike is a built-in “graphic” equalizer. Directly on the rear of the mike are two switches one controls the bass or lower frequencies and the other the high frequencies. These can be adjusted to select a bass rolloff or high boost or totally flat response depending on the use.
The SM-7 is also a cardioid dynamic unit that is still being manufactured to this day…and is widely used by many broadcast stations and voice-over artists.
Again we refer you to the excellent microphone website by Dr. Stan Coutant for further details on both these Shure broadcast dynamics. Photos on this page are courtesy of the Coutant website.
Historical records tell us that the first high school radio stations made their appearance in the United States in the 1920s. The stations at that time were designed to be information conduits for school faculty and administration with little if any student involvement. High school stations all but disappeared in the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression and restrictions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It wasn’t until the late 1940s that high school stations began showing up again on the FM band.
It’s believed that the oldest FM high school stations were KPBS (1947) in Portland Oregon and WNAS
(1949) in Indiana which was still on the air as of May 2019. Brian Sullivan who manages the station and teaches high school radio at the New Albany, Indiana High School says that in the 1950s, the formative years of the station, many listened to WNAS to hear the student broadcasts of the Hoosier’s basketball games. Sullivan says of high school radio, “It’s not just about the technical stuff. Soft skills, like working on a deadline and critical thinking are easy to come by.” Sullivan explains that even if a student doesn’t go in in the field of radio or television these are qualities that can apply to any job or field of study.
In the 1970s there were over 150 licensed high school radio stations in the United States. Many of these stations were using low power FM (LPFM). The number stations declined in the 1980s and 1990s but began to grow again with the renewed availability of LPFM bands. Many of these stations operate as community radio stations when not being used by high school students. Students create ideas for broadcasts and produce programs ranging from coverage of community events to coverage of the news and local sporting events. Many students choose to deliver programs presenting specific musical formats such as jazz, classical, rock, country etc.
In the late 60s in Modesto, CA there were no high school radio stations. None that is until a group of students at Thomas Downey High School and a teacher decided that it was time. It was not easy bringing
the project to fruition but this was no ordinary group of students, and this was no ordinary teacher. Together they were a winning team. They secured equipment and programing materials by getting donations from electronics manufacturers and record companies. They raised money by putting on creative and successful community events. The high school’s staff and students chipped in and radio magic started happening. On September 5, 1969 KDHS (90.5MHz) began broadcasting. The station was licensed by the FCC to the Associated Students of Thomas Downey High School.
The Modesto Radio Museum has decided that rather than us telling you their story we will have them tell you. We’ve reached out to the teacher who guided them and to the students who helped create and program Modesto’s first high school radio station, KDHS.
Robert Gary Chituras, born October 19, 1943, at Robertson Hospital in Modesto. He was the son of George and Aline Chituras. A long time Modesto native; Bob attended Enslen Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High, and Thomas Downey High School. He graduated from high school in 1961 and then attended Modesto Junior College, where he received a degree in communications.
Bob enlisted in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War and served aboard the USS Princeton, as a Yeoman Third Class. He served his country from 1965 to 1967. After returning from Vietnam, he utilized his communications degree to become a disc jockey at radio stations; KYOS in Merced, and KYNO in Fresno. Fellow DJ and friend Bob Neutzling (Johnny Walker) says of Bob, “What a great guy. Known on the air as Chip Roberts, he actually interviewed me for
a job at KYOS in 1968. At the time there were no openings. A short time later I received a call from Doc Hill, the owner of KYOS, and he offered me a job replacing Bob Chituras on the air. I kept in touch with Bob and would visit him at KYNO in Fresno , while he was doing midnight to 6:00 AM. I will always remember him as a very nice person. He is one from my early days in radio that I will never forget.”
Bob worked at Hosking’s Food Products; later named Major Hosking’s, and then Major-Sysco. He served in these capacities as a driver, dry and frozen goods salesman, and transportation manager. He established RG Chituras and Son Yard and Home Maintenance Services as an interim way to survive. Later he went on to work for Westurf Nursery, Inc. He culminated his working career working at Foster Farms as a driver, and most notably retiring as a vehicle safety manager.
Bob was a part of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) association as a valued member, starting in 1961. He progressed to NASCAR, serving as flagman, announcer and later a track promoter at Merced Speedway, ending his racing affiliation in 1985. Bob officiated high school football sports with the NCOA, achieving the Rich Bernasconi Award for the “Ultimate Consummate Official.” He was a devoted trap shooter with Valley Trap League and ATA member for 25 years. Bob was an avid fisherman and loved spending time with friends and family. He also loved taking frivolous trips to numerous bingo halls and casinos.
Bob died June 12, 2017. He is survived by his son, Johnathan; grandsons Zachary and Graysen; and nephews Steve and Jeff Harkrader. Bob was preceded in death by his parents George and Aline Chituras, and sister Georgia Chituras.
Glenn Wayne Fox formerly of Oakdale, California, last of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, died on June 15, 2020, at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He suffered a brain hemorrhage from which he did not recover. He was 73 years old, divorced, and had no children. Glenn was born in Modesto, CA and grew up in Oakdale, CA.
Glenn graduated from Oakdale High School in 1965. He attended radio announcer school and had a long local career with radio stations KTRB and KHOP in Modesto, CA. He was also a talk show host for station KWHN in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Glenn was known as the “Silver Fox” in part due to his great broadcast voice. Derek Waring who worked with Glenn at KTRB during those early days recalls, “Glenn was gentle man with a great sense of humor. He loved his job and put everything he had into it”
In 1993 Glenn’s parents, Allen and Marie Fox, who had originally migrated to California from Sallisaw during the Great Depression, decided to move back to their home area in Sallisaw. Glenn moved with them. In the late 1990s his parents’ health declined and they moved back to Oakdale while he remained in Sallisaw. Glenn had a variety of jobs and finally purchased a local bar, The Finish Line, which he operated until about 2010. He advertised the bar as “Coldest Beer in Downtown Sallisaw.”
When he was young Glenn raced dirt bikes and became a huge fan of NASCAR. He became a great source of local and national history in both Oakdale and Sallisaw, in particular country and rock and roll songs and performers, NASCAR drivers, classic cars, and especially the life and times of Pretty Boy Floyd, a local Depression outlaw. He dedicated a portion of his bar to an historical display about him. He often returned to Oakdale to visit family and friends, especially for class reunions.
Glenn was cremated and his ashes returned to the home of his sister, Pauline Fox Ward and her husband Michael Ward. No other members of his immediate family, mother, father, brother Robert and sister Mary Lou have survived. He is survived by nieces Torri Bergstrom and Stephanie Bjorge, grand nephew Jeremiah Lobaugh (Hailey, son Noah) and grand niece Tiffany Byrd as well as his sister in law Susan Fox and her children nephew Michael (Martia, daughters Catherine, Elizabeth) and niece Patricia (Joel, son Milo).
Family and friends will gather for a remembrance as soon as pandemic conditions allow. If you’d like to receive details on Glenn’s Memorial Service please contact the family at (209) 499- 0012.
John Franklin Chappell, 71, died unexpectedly in his sleep June 20 of natural causes. He was born July 10, 1948, in Oakdale, Calif., the only child of George Franklin Chappell, born in Harrisville, Miss. and Helen Mae Wormington, born in Mo. They were married in 1937 in Yuma, Ariz.
John, a two-time cancer survivor, enjoyed life to the fullest, traveling and riding his GoldWing motorcycle.
John attended both Thomas Downey and Modesto High Schools. He graduated from Modesto Junior College and Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree at San Francisco State University.
John’s radio career began at KSRT in Tracy. He then worked at KCEY in Turlock and was Program Director at KFIV in Modesto. John had a 36-year career at Modesto Junior College as Telecommunications Systems Manager and was a part-time radio instructor. He was instrumental in launching the radio careers for a number of radio personalities.
John loved all forms of transportation. He was an airplane pilot and owned a Grumman Tiger aircraft. John was one of the first in the United States to own a Mercedes Benz Smart car. In more recent years, he became an avid drone pilot and motorcycle enthusiast.
John enjoyed going on cruises and traveling with friends. He was a charter member and current president of the non-profit Modesto Radio Museum. John’s dream was to build a physical museum within the proposed Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum.
John was a caring individual who would do anything he could to help a friend in need, and everyone John met was a friend.
John was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by a nephew, Jerome Chappelle and his wife, Jeri of Granbury, Texas; cousin Charlene Green of Emeryville, Calif.; and cousin Phyllis Barnes of Albuquerque, N.M.
A Celebration of Life will be held in the future after it is deemed safe for gatherings. Those wishing to donate to the Modesto Radio Museum in John’s memory may send checks to: Modesto Radio Museum, P.O. Box 580452, Modesto, CA 95358.
We mourn the passing of the Museum’s President, John Chappell.
It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend John Chappell. John died this past June 20th at his home in Modesto, CA. He was the current President of the Modesto Radio Museum.
John attended Thomas Downey High School but transferred and graduated from Modesto High School in 1966. John is also a graduate of Modesto Junior College (MJC) and Ogdens Radio Operational Engineering School, Huntington Beach, CA. His radio career began at KSRT in Tracy, Ca. He worked at KCEY in Turlock, CA and was Program Director at KFIV in Modesto, CA.
The major portion of John’s career (36 years) was spent working in Media Services at MJC. He retired from that position nearly ten years ago and devoted his life to travel and the Modesto Radio Museum. He was also an avid drone pilot and motorcycle enthusiast.
John was instrumental in kick starting a number of local radio personalities careers. He was a caring individual who would do anything he could to help a friend in need, and everyone John met was a friend. Our sincere condolences to John’s friends and family. He will most certainly be missed.
John’s friends and family would love to hear your thoughts, memories, and stories about John. Please share your comments below.
This is Rick Myers. Tim St. Martin (1945-2020) was our friend. It was my pleasure to compile these tributes. My comments appear in regular-face type. The rest of Tim’s friends’ comments are in bold-face type. Let us begin.
Tim hired me 52 years ago. I was crazy young, but so was Tim. I was 19; he was 23. Already he was Program Director of KFIV, a fun Top-40 radio station. We were both left handed, both born on September 1st, both had sisters named Jill. Those were good enough omens for Tim; I got the job. I wasn’t his best hire, but I was a good hire; I stayed 45 years. . . .
Another first-meeting memory comes from Greg Edwards:
The first time I met Tim he dragged me to Scenic Drive-in explaining I couldn’t be “A Modesto Person” until I ate at least one Knockout Burger including fries and a shake. A Knockout Burger is about the size of a manhole cover. It’s not “lunch for four,” it’s “lunch for four days!” It gave Tim time to tutor me about Modesto’s past. I learned that day about Graffiti Days, Cruising, and what it was like to grow up around here. If you’re on the air talking to the locals, you better sound local.
I belong to the Central Valley Broadcasters, and got to see Tim at our get togethers. In fact, I saw Tim for the last time just a couple of months ago at lunch. It had been years but some KFIV/KJSN staff got together with our old General Manager, Gary Halladay and his wife, Sharon. Yes, we all told the same stories for the hundredth time, and we agreed to get together and to do it again…..but for Tim, it was our last time. RIP, Tim.
There was a gentle helpfulness about Tim. Decades in radio produced a veteran’s perspective, and he had a sense about the right moments to share these well-learned insights to broadcasting. Kara Franklyn shared some of those insights:
Tim was my co worker, my mentor. 15 plus years. We weren’t social outside of work, but I spent many a day with him. I have so many great memories. I can still hear his laugh. When I got a genuine belly laugh, not the polite one, I felt like I won the lottery. Loud and infectious, it was like a warm blanket. When I was first hired at Sunny-102, I did overnights. I would run Tim’s board for his first newscast at 5:30. There were many a conversation with Tim guiding me on what to say, how to say it. He was very particular about not dropping your G’s when speaking. It stuck with me and even to this day when I hear someone do it on or off air, I think of him. He was grumpy in the best way—never at me—and he’d make me laugh when he talked about what was getting to him that day. Not once did I encounter an ego with Tim. He was solid, kind and willing to help me as I started my news career. A good guy does not seem to encompass Tim. Tim was fair: if you messed up, own it and then move along. Every office should have a Tim St Martin. He made me laugh, think, and I treasure the time spent with him and the knowledge I learned from him.
Tim loved telling stories full of warmth and with funny conclusions. We have a few “Timmy Stories” of our own. We’ll start with his close friend Dave Nelson:
Tim was a good friend of mine for over 40 years. We scuba dived together…did a radio show together…I lived with him and his late wife Kathy for over a year….rode motorcycles together…went to Mexico with some other guys and had one of the best times EVER…I doubt that Tim and I could have laughed or partied any harder …and for years Tim and I golfed with Gary Halladay and Mike Hogan just about every weekend …every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner you could find Tim seated with my family…Tim was probably the easiest person to spend time with…he expected nothing and liked to just chill…pretentiousness was an unappealing trait he found annoying…I have a lot of stories but one that I still laugh about concerned the Oakdale Rodeo…I had won the DJ calf-tying competition in La Grange…still have the belt buckle…now it was Oakdale’s turn. I was living with Tim and Kathy at the time and Tim decided I needed a hat…not just any hat but his $100+ straw cowboy hat…nice…that was a lot of money back in the late 70s. So with an admonishment not to wreck it, off I went…it went terribly wrong..FAST…as I was wrestling my calf to the ground a Rodeo Clown stole Tim’s very nice hat…walked over a few feet, put a cherry bomb under it and BLEW IT UP!! Never cared for clowns….It was a sad sad day when I gave THE BRIM OF THE HAT back to Tim! Damn, it sure was funny as I look back. RIP MY FRIEND, I’ll check in with Cari once in a while to see how that grandson is doing.
Bob Langwas Tim’s broadcast partner at KTRB. Bob and Tim had years of On-Air magic:
I spent the happiest professional years of my life as a member of the broadcast industry, especially those first years fresh out of college. I joined KTRB radio in Modesto as a fledgling disc jockey. A few months later in the fall of 1969, Tim, then employed by our competitor KFIV, was hired from “across the street” and became our News Director.
Tim St. Martin and I were in our early twenties and were teamed as on-air partners during what was called “morning drive.” One of the nice things about KTRB is that, as young out-of-the-box radio guys, we were allowed to make mistakes, and we made plenty. But we each had a lot of enthusiasm and always an abundance of creative energy. Our General Manager, Sam Horrel, would greet us each as “Tiger.” Tim and I took to calling each other “Timmy Tiger” and “Bobby Tiger.”
A Museum treat: A Tim St. Martin newscast from 1973:
The announce booth where I broadcast my shows was situated in the center of the building among large studios once used for live broadcasts. These studios had lots of dual-paned windows. My room was perhaps eight-feet square and equipped with the audio board, two turntables, a couple of Sparta cartridge machines, a reel-to-reel tape deck, a clock, a temperature gauge, and a Playboy calendar with a naked lady. At the other end of an oblong hallway was Tim’s news booth, next to his office and the AP machine teletype room. Tim was a self-described rip-and-read news guy and every morning on the half hour, he’d deliver the news. He was also in charge of a segment called Community Calendar which allowed us to banter back and forth about various timely topics.
In the pre-dawn hours, especially during winter months, the only illumination was from the two small rooms one or the other of us occupied. The rest of the building, including that hallway, was dark. One morning, Tim and I were in a casual on-air exchange and I happened to look down at my program log. It was at that moment when Tim bolted from his news booth and raced toward me through the darkened hallway. When I looked up to see what the commotion was about, all I saw was the light in his empty. Where was Tim?? Suddenly my studio door was thrown open and there was Tim all excited and in full ear-shot of our listening audience. He threw a cigar at me and just as quickly ran back in the other direction. His daughter, Amy, had been born the day before!
Tim and I shared a similar sense of humor—more important, we had an innate ability to amuse ourselves! We each had a knack for writing. I was the Production Manager and the two of us wrote commercials for local advertisers, many times creating spots that were two-voicers and in character. The ones that were most fun were those we attempted to ad lib—we’d decide on what the scene would be and would run through the important dialogue. One was for Fargo Distributing, a tire store that received co-op funding from Cooper Tires. Tim hit on the idea that we’d play the parts of a couple of old sod-busting cow pokes. He’d be Farley and I was Eugene—where the names came from, I’m not certain. We referred to the staff as the Fargo Boys—Dangerous Del, Steel-Eyed Stan, Bronco Bruce, and others—and said they were wanted for shootin’ down tire prices.
To replicate the horses’ hooves, we each took a pair of plastic coffee cup inserts and “galloped” across the desk in front of us toward the microphone. If the take wasn’t what we anticipated, we’d gallop away from the mic, regroup, and try it again! We’d add other sound effects like gunshots or the sound of spurs. But as much as these old cowboys thought the fictitious Fargo Boys offered great deals on Cooper Tires, Farley and Eugene themselves had no idea what tires were intended for. At one point, they tried putting a set of tires on a stagecoach. Farley got a tire close enough to install on the axle and told Eugene to hold up the stage. Eugene yelled, “Reach for the sky, you sidewinder!” They even tied a rope around a tire, hung it from a tree branch, and created the first tire swing!
Tim and I also played a couple of dogs named Spotty and Prince advertising a pet store. We were Fred and Bernie, two Christmas turkeys who hadn’t seen their pal Murray since Thanksgiving. We did a take-off on Edward G. Robinson and a bunch of thugs for Little Caesar’s Deli. We were Kirk and Spock, Dino and Jerry, and two Germans named Hans und Feetz.
In December 1970, Tim and I provided live color commentary from the Third Annual Riverbank Christmas parade—no doubt one of the last such broadcasts echoing a bygone era of radio. We described everything from the gown and tiara worn by Miss Riverbank to the dalmatian on top of the Riverbank hook and ladder and all marching bands in between. When I was in college, I drove a Model A, so I described the vintage cars in the parade while Tim described the horses.
After five years, I left KTRB just as it was moving from a music format to talk radio and I took another radio position in Sacramento. By now Tim was hosting a talk show and one afternoon it was Talent Day on his program where listeners would call in and display a particular expertise. So, I pranked him!
Tim and I had shared particularly filthy limericks in our various fits of juvenile diversion. On this day, I called the studio and told him I was “Fred” and that I wrote poetry. I asked if I could recite one of my recent creations and he said that I could. I began, “There was an old hermit named Dave…” and he quickly said, “You’re not gonna do that!” But he still hadn’t grasped the fact that I, not Fred, was on the other end of the line. When Tim finally got it, he collapsed in a fit of laughter on the air and yelled, “I’ve been had!”
Tim wrote letters to me while I was in the Air Force. He addressed my letters:
Major General Rick C. Myers Commandant, Minot Air Force Base General Delivery (What else for a General?) Minot AFB, North Dakota 58701 I was a sergeant. I was not impersonating a General. Honest. Somehow the letters always arrived. Is this a great country, or what?
After the military I returned to KFIV. Tim, in his office, instead of listening to my show would listen to Dan Sorkin on KSFO, San Francisco. He loved Sorkin who would ask listeners to phone in any question, and he would give a funny, instant reply (try doing that sometime). Tim called in a lot to “Ask Mr. Answer Person.” After a while, Sorkin started using Tim to set up questions. He’d say, “Hang on the line, and when the commercials end, ask THIS QUESTION…” Tim would hang on, then play the straight man. This merriment went on until management started noticing the long-distance phone bills.
Our last comments come from one of Tim’s closest friends, Ken McCall:
For the last 35 years, and probably more, Timmy and I talked on the phone at least every other day. Once a week he came to have dinner with Dina and me. There are a flood of memories and I can’t get him off my mind. Most recently he was helping me on a building project at the beach house. Finishing it without him will be emotionally difficult. He loved sitting and watching the waves roll in. Now he is gone. I don’t feel badly for him because he died peacefully in his sleep. It was his time to go………..and life for us goes on.
Each time he came to the house for dinner, we would go to the pool house and have a beer. As we would walk out the back door, I would always say “Timmy, walk this way” and he would always reply “if I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the talcum powder, I would still be a dance instructor” His health faded over the last year, but his sense of humor was always sharp. The night he died, he was talking on the phone to Warren Groschell, we were planning a golf trip for whenever Covid 19 ended. As Warren was talking to him, Timmy feel asleep and started snoring…..he never woke up.
In 1978 when Tim returned from Reno (and the rodeo circuit) to KFIV, he moved in with me for a while. As we have learned, when Dave Nelson needed a place to stay he moved in with Tim. Tim then spent the Holidays with the Nelsons, always welcomed. Over the last few years, he enjoyed weekly dinners with the McCalls. With Tim, social graces were automatic. Of course he could move in with you; of course he opened up his house to you; of course he was as welcomed as the closest relative.
Three weeks before he passed away, twelve of us radio guys had lunch. All retired, we hadn’t been together as a group in years. The memories were immediate, the stories non-stop. Tim, a master story teller, kept us in stitches. Reunions are like that; in an instant we were young again. Tim and I walked out together and had a manly goodbye hug. Maybe the clinch went a second or two too long, maybe not. We didn’t care; it was a 50-year hug. And then, he was gone.
These tributes and memories came in quickly after Tim’s passing. They were wonderful to read, genuine fondness was the resonance. It’s like we were nominating him to be canonized. No need for that; his name tells us he was born a saint.
I suppose I first became interested in radio back in the late 50’s when I would visit KTRB and sing on the Tots ‘N Teens program with my cousins John and Cheryl Wylie. I recall how friendly Cal Purviance was and also remember Glenn Staley who played the piano. But most of all, I remember how much the studio intrigued me. This was show business! I often wish that I would have had the chance to be involved during radio’s heydays when major productions were done in the studios.
My desire to pursue radio also got a boost from the visits that I made to Bob Pinheiro’s home as a child. Bob who is now the Modesto Radio Museum Webmaster lived near me. He was, and still is, very much into Ham Radio and he happily shared his knowledge with me. Little did he know that he was lighting a fire that would lead me into broadcasting. I also recall riding the bus to school while attending La Loma Junior High School and listening to Bobby Barnett, Gary Culver, and Fred Green on KFIV. I thought, man this stinks; I have to go to school and these guys are having a blast talking and playing music on the radio.
I became seriously interested in the field of broadcasting as a profession while a student at Modesto Junior College (MJC). Originally I had planned to major in Journalism but happened to visit the MJC radio station one day. I was hooked! My professors during those early days had a big influence on me, Bill Hill, Sid Woodward, Max Sayre, Harley Lee, and Donald Rowe. They really laid down a good foundation for me.
While I was attending MJC I obtained my Radio Telephone Third Class license and worked at KSRT, Stereo 101, a small station in Tracy, CA. There was an older fellow at KSRT, Ken Hill, who took me under his wing and mentored me. I’ve always been thankful for the direction that Ken gave to me at a time that I was pretty green and didn’t really have a clue. After our stints on the air Ken and I would go fishing in the Delta Mendota canal and he would answer all my questions about radio. Ken, wherever you are, thanks. I don’t really know how many listeners I had while at KSRT. I do know that my mom loved my show!
After spending some time at KSRT I realized that if I wanted to have a career in radio, I needed to get my Radio Telephone First Class license. I traveled to Long Beach with Mike Novak another local guy who went into broadcasting. We attended William B. Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School in the summer of 1969. I watched the First Man on The Moon telecast from Ogden’s classroom. I have lots of good memories from my time at Ogden’s. I made some friends with whom I still have contact, Bob Lang and Mark Holste (Taylor).
After returning from Ogden’s in 1969 Bob De Leon, who was program director at KFIV (K-5), hired me.
I started on the all night shift but eventually worked all of the time slots. I had some great times at K-5 at a time that the station was the only Top 40 rocker in the area. Some of the individuals with whom I had the privilege of working were Bob De Leon, Johnny Walker (Bob Neutzling), Tony Townsend (Tony Flores), Roy Williams, John Huey, Mark Taylor (Mark Holste), Mike Shannon, and John Chappell. Bob Fenton was the owner of K-5 at that time and when he spoke to us we were always referred to as “Kid.”
My favorite times at K-5 were when I got to count down the weekly top 40. There are also some funny stories that I could never share in public. Bob De Leon and I left K-5 at about the same time and went to KTRB. I think this happened around 1972. KTRB was an adult contemporary format which allowed us to insert more of our personalities into our programs. Bob Lang was doing mid mornings at KTRB, Tim St. Martin was doing the news, Cal Purviance was doing early mornings, Bob De Leon did the afternoons, and I had the evening shift. Don Schneider was doing mobile news from his car we called the “porcupine” because of all of the antennas. We even had an occasional report from the air. These were really good times in radio. I felt that the station was part of the community and we were part of a broadcasting team. Sam Horrell was the program director at the time. Sam’s influence created an atmosphere of camaraderie at KTRB.
There are also many stories from my days at KTRB. One of the things that I remember well is that from the production booth across the hall from the on-air studio one could talk into the earphones.
I have fond memories of Bob Lang interviewing my daughter Kristy on the air. She was a toddler at the time. Not only were the on-air personalities close, there was a special relationship with the sales staff and the front office personnel. We were a family. Around this time I also worked weekends at KJOY in Stockton. I remember getting off the air at KTRB at 11:00 p.m. driving to Stockton and going on the air at 12:00 midnight at KJOY working until 7:00 in the morning. My drives home after getting off were quite interesting. I’m happy to still be here.
In the mid 70’s KTRB was sold and the program changes that were made had a “not so positive” impact on the image and the morale of those working at KTRB. The on-air personalities were made to change their names. Bob Lang became Big Ben Boulder, Bob De Leon became Johnny Gunn, and my new name was the Godfather. Radio had changed; it was becoming impersonal and moving further away from its local audience. I can’t say that these developments single handedly pointed me in a different direction as far as my career was concerned but they played a major role. I went back to college and followed a path that eventually led to being a college administrator. Along that path I did work as a part time disk jockey for top 40, country, and talk radio because radio was in my blood, and it still is after these many years.