KTRB Demolition

KTRB Norwegian studios demolished January 25, 2016.

 

 

Demolition crews began demolishing the original studios of radio station KTRB on January 25, 2016 following the sale of the property. KTRB’s home for 75 years (1941-2016) sat on what originally was 40 acres of farmland station owner Bill Bates purchased on Norwegian Avenue just west of Coffee Road in 1940.

Three cylindrical antennas structures, a studio building and Bates home were constructed on the southwest corner of the property. The new owner has announced she intends to build an independent and assisted-living facility on the property.

Bill Bates died in 1969 and the station operated under the auspices of Bates estate administered by the Crocker National Bank from 1969 to 1973 when it was sold in 1973 for $675,000 to a corporation headed by the Pappas brothers (Mike, Pete and Harry) of Visalia (formerly of Modesto).

Other members of the purchasing group included Bob Piccininni (Save-Mart Super Markets) and Mike Sturdevant among others.

In 1981 Pete Pappas bought out his fellow investors for $1110,000 and operated the station until 1986 when he passed away of a heart attack while visiting in Price, Utah. The station was inherited by his wife Bessie who subsequently sold KTRB-FM to a Sacramento based broadcast company for 6.5 million in cash.

In October, 2002 Mrs.Pappas tired of the business and sold KTRB-AM to her brother-in-law Harry Pappas, the only surviving brother, who at that time owned several TV and radio stations across the country. The local staff was let go at that time and the programming for KTRB came from Harry’s news-talk station KMPH-FM in Fresno. The microwave programming feed continued from Fresno until September 2005 when origination control returned to KTRB on Norwegian. Satellite receivers were installed and the news-talk format continued.

In 2004 Harry Pappas applied for, and was granted, a permit by the FCC to move KTRB-AM 860 KHz to San Francisco and to replace it with KMPH, 840 KHz in Modesto. In preparing for KMPH in late September 2005, workers began repairing and remodeling the KTRB studios on Norwegian with the intent to return the building to it’s original appearance and design in 1941.

Once completed, it was to house the new KMPH and the Modesto Radio Museum, which was the brainchild of Harry Pappas. However, the economic downturn resulted in Harry Pappas being forced in bankruptcy and becoming unable to provide a home for the museum. The KTRB building and 1.5 acres of land on Norwegian was put up for sale in 2009. (Asking price $800,000) On June 18, 2006, KTRB in Modesto went off the air and was replaced on July 10, 2006 with KMPH on 840 KHz officially ending the history of Modesto’s Pioneer broadcast station.

 

OGDEN’s -Actor Richard Kiel taught math at Ogden’s in ’63

Those Ogden grads at the Burbank school location in and around 1963 were able to meet and be taught math by actor Richard Kiel who was just starting his acting career at the time. Ogden grad Denny Blair was one of those students with fond memories of those nights with Kiel .

Denny recalls:

“I attended Ogden’s in early 1963 when our math teacher was RICHARD KIEL, the actor who played “Jaws” in the James Bond 007 movies. He stood 7 foot 2 and that first night he walked into the class room….the whole room fell silent. We had not been warned ahead of time to expect him. Ogden’s little joke . He was a neat guy and we had some great times visiting.

One time, we went downtown with him in the front seat of a Jeep, his knees under his chin. You can imagine the looks he got from other drivers At that time he was doing the “Jolly Green Giant” at supermarkets and had done some Disney stuff. Kiel knew his math and was 24 at the time . He started acting professionally in 1960. It was a wonderful experience.”

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(Editor’s Note)   After receiving this information from Denny we searched on the internet and found Richard’s official fan club website.    We sent him an email asking if he had any information on Bill, Tally, Thora etc.  Here is his prompt reply:

“Hi Bob,

I am sorry to say that I do not have any information about Bill, Tally or Thora. The last time I saw Bill he was still on Olive Avenue in Burbank. I stopped by to see them the day President Kennedy was assassinated and went to work that day on The Man From UNCLE and never stopped.

I didn’t take algebra in high school and was terrified of the math part. I worked so hard at learning math that Bill said one day after one of the final exams, “I am mad at you Richard Kiel!” I wondered what I had done and then he said. “You’re the first student in the history of the school to ace the 75 question math final.” I guess it’s too easy and I will have to make it harder.

His son-in-law was teaching math at night when I attended and when the young man got a really good job at Cal Tech or some other similar institution Bill was left without a night time math instructor. He offered me the job and I worked from 7:00 – 10:00 PM every night for a couple of years except for Friday and Saturday nights when I worked as a doorman, I.D. checker and very rarely as a bouncer.

Acing Bill’s 75 question math final gave me a lot of confidence that if I worked hard enough I could accomplish almost anything. My Dad used to say, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” and it’s true! Many obstacles were put in my way as I pursued my career as an actor that weren’t nearly as challenging as Ogden’s 75 question math final and I overcame them and became a successful actor.

Richard Kiel ” (Clovis, California)”

From Wikipedia—Richard Dawson Kiel was an American actor and voice artist. Standing 7 ft 2 in tall, he was known for his role as Jaws in the James Bond franchise, portraying the character in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and “Moonraker.”   He lampooned the role with a tongue-in-cheek cameo in Inspector Gadget.

Denny Blair Remembers his days at Ogden’s in 1963

“I was employed at KCVL AM radio in Colville, WA when we had need of a First Class Operator. I was young, married a year with a daughter and one more on the way when I got on a bus and headed for Olive Ave, Burbank, CA. I rented a room in a private home close to the school and survived on 29 cent TV dinners for the two months I was there. Sometimes we splurged and went for a hamburger at this place close by that made burgers as big as footballs.

For a small town guy who grew up in Palouse, WA the 50’s, the whole California thing was a real culture shock. I saw a VW Beetle with “JUST DIVORCED” and trailing cans and streamers, what a sight. The Ogden’s were great. Thora was beautiful and reminded me of Harriet Nelson, everybody’s Mom, a real sweetheart.

I remember Bill was a friend of Moe Howard (The 3 Stooges) and he talked about him a few times. Our math instructor was Richard Kiel, the actor best known as “Jaws” in the Bond films. At that time he was doing the “Jolly Green Giant” at supermarkets and had done some Disney stuff.

I remember the first night he came into class (yes, NIGHT) classes were, as I recall, from 8 AM to 10 PM…something like that. Richard was so tall (7 foot 2 and 315 pounds) that he had to duck coming through the door. The room just fell silent when he walked in, we had not been warned ahead of time what to expect. Ogden’s little joke on us.

Kiel was very nice and knew his math. He was 24 at the time and had started acting professionally in 1960. One night some of us gave him a ride to LA and he was in the front seat of this little open top Jeep, his knees up under his chin. You can imagine the looks he got from other drivers. I really missed my family, but it was a wonderful experience. I remained in radio till 1979 when I went into real estate. I still have my Gold Pencil, ID card, and some great memories.”

Derek video clip of Solid Gold radio show.

MICROPHONE MAN-1

Note:    This page is under renovation.  We will  have it up in a few weeks. 

Part 1

Microphones have been around since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. In radio, television and recording, the microphone is the the very first instrument used in the process of picking up sound. So the “mike” is

The Microphone Man , Gary Avey.

pretty important and went through development from relatively primitive devices in the early days to units that could very faithfully reproduce the full range of humanly audible sound.

In this segment I want to concentrate on those broadcast-type microphones that had a huge impact on the industry from the early 1930s through the 1960s.

Here is one of the most recognizable broadcast and recording microphones made in the USA. The RCA model 44 series. These were first developed back in the 1930s by Harry Olson of RCA Labs in Camden New Jersey.

The first in this series was the 44A. The model 44 microphones were called “ribbon-velocity” microphones because the internal workings were comprised of a thin corrugated aluminum element, called a “ribbon” suspended in a strong permanent magnet field. This ribbon was the generating element taking sound waves and generating a tiny electrical current that was an exact representation of the sound. This small signal was stepped up by a transformer so it could be sent down the cable to the equipment it was connected to.

The basic ribbon-velocity microphone has a bi-directional pickup pattern. That means that it picks up sound equally well from the front and back of the mike but is relatively dead to sound arriving from either side. This pick up pattern was very useful in the so called “golden age” of radio…especially in dramatic programs where several actors could be grouped around the mike. There could be two or three actors facing the front side and another group facing the back side of the ribbon mike and all would be picked up equally well.

If the script called for someone to walk into a scene the actor would move from one of the dead sides of the mike to a live side providing a perfect “fade-in” The same could be done in reverse for a “fade-out”.

Radio announcers always loved ribbon mikes because they tended to make the voice sound more “bassy” or deep sounding when worked closeup. One of the problems with this is that the ribbon element was very fragile and could be easily stretched by a blast of breath from a close-talking announcer. This also caused a big “pop” in the audio. RCA recommended aworking distance of a foot or more for ribbon mikes….of course this was predicated on having a well designed studio with proper acoustics!

The RCA 44 series of microphones were manufactured from the early 30s to 1958. They went through several updates ending with the 44BX.

The RCA 44s were used by all the major radio and TV networks, local radio and TV stations, as well as recording studios. They were excellent for music pickup as well as voice. The 44 is a heavy weight in more ways than one….it weighed in at 8 pounds!! Obviously the 44 was not intended as a hand mike! Also it could not be used outdoors where wind was a factor and the big warning for any user of a ribbon mike was….”don’t ever blow into it”!

These mikes are still in demand and have seen a resurgence in recent years with digital recording. Although RCA stopped making microphones about 1973, there are ribbon mikes being manufactured new today by many makers here in the US as well as China and Russia. The ribbon mike has a very smooth, mellow sound that is very pleasing to the ear.

You can find old RCA 44 ribbon mikes selling on Ebay for up to several thousand dollars. This is a testament to the enduring quality of these units even after over 50 years since they stopped being manufactured. The amazing thing is you could have bought a brand new 44BX in 1957 for $129…of course, that’s in 1957 dollars!

“CBS modified this 44A with a Cannon “P” connector on the rear.”

There is a company in Pasadena, Audio Engineering Associates, that makes an exact replica of the RCA 44 called the AEA 44…..They sell for around $4,000. Some of the biggest recording studios are using these modern replicas in music productions of all kinds today.

So that’s the brief story of the RCA model 44. For more info on this and many other microphones, I recommend Stan Coutant’s website www.coutant.org. Stan has pictures and specs and also audio sound bites to give you an idea of how various mikes sound.

In future posts I’ll review other great broadcast mikes like the RCA 77 and the Western Electric/Altec 639 “birdcage” and several more.

Page 2

Our previous sessions have dealt with ribbon microphones by RCA, one of the two prime makers of broadcast and sound equipment in the mid 20th century. This time we’ll turn to the other of these major makers, Western Electric Company.

RCA and Western Electric were fierce competitors in this era. I think I am safe in saying that the majority of radio stations from the 1920s through around 1950 used either RCA or Western Electric equipment, or a combination of both. Western Electric was the manufacturing arm of Bell Telephone…but also made broadcast equipment designed by Bell Telephone Labs. In 1949 Federal anti-trust laws forced Western Electric to divest of their broadcasting equipment manufacturing. Both these companies made just about everything needed to equip a station from microphones and audio control to transmitters and antennas.

About the time RCA came out with the revolutionary ribbon microphone…Western Electric developed the first high-quality dynamic microphone. The dynamic uses the same basic principle as the ribbon….a moving conductor in a magnetic field to generate the audio signal from sound waves. Instead of a moving foil ribbon…the dynamic uses a round-shaped diaphragm that has a coil of wire attached that moves in the magnetic field…it’s a small electric generator. Another way of explaining a dynamic microphone is to think of it as a loudspeaker in reverse! A loudspeaker takes a signal from a radio receiver or amplifier and turns that electric signal into sound we can hear. A microphone, as we explained before, takes that sound we hear and translates it into an electrical signal so it can be amplified and sent to a loudspeaker, as in a PA system, or for broadcasting or recording.

Western Electrics’ new dynamic microphone was dubbed the model 618 and came out about 1931. The model 618 was an omni-directional…or non-directional mike that was relatively small in size and very rugged…making it excellent for studio as well as remote broadcasting, especially in the outdoors. This mike was not sensitive to wind and breath noises like the ribbon mike…and it was relatively insensitive to handling noises making it excellent as a hand mike for interviews and such.

The model 618 was a great improvement over the earlier noisy carbon and bulky condenser mikes of that era. The 618 was a big hit with the radio industry and these mikes were used clear into the 50s. RCA, of course, would not be left behind by Western Electric….so they shortly came out with a very similar-looking mike they called the model 50A. Internally the RCA model 50A used a slightly different way of embedding the wire into the diaphragm so as not to infringe on Western Electrics’ patents….but externally they looked very similar.

You’ll see both of these mikes in news photos and newsreels of the day…they were used for President FDR’s “Fireside Chat” broadcasts. If you look closely at these photos you’ll see that CBS and Mutual (MBS) used the Western Electric and NBC and the Blue networks used the RCA because NBC was owned by RCA.

A few smaller manufacturers also made mikes that looked very much like the Western Electric and RCA units but these smaller outfits could not compete with the two giants in the broadcast industry and their mikes were used mainly in PA systems and some smaller radio stations.

The dynamic-type microphone is one of the most used units up to this very day…and Western Electric was the start of it all. These pioneering mikes were all omni-directional….picking up sounds from all around…later a small company, at the time, named Shure Brothers designed the first uni-directional dynamic mike called the “Unidyne”. Most dynamic mikes today are uni-directional picking up sound from the front side of the microphone and rejecting sounds from the rear, thus preventing sound system feedback (howling) and eliminating background noises, and all based on Shure’s ground-breaking development of the late 1930s.

We’ll save that story for another session.

Spec sheet for the WE 618 4

 

page 3

Mel Freedman, 92

By -Derek Waring

Mel Freedman

The Modesto Radio Museum lost a very dear friend. Mel Freedman passed away January 11, 2017. He had suffered a serious stroke earlier in January. Uncle Mel, as he liked us to call him, was the engineer when I worked at KFIV. He was known for his cantankerousness which masked a loving and caring soul that subsequently became so evident. We remained friends over the years. I will miss our lunches and our drinks together Uncle Mel. I was privileged to have you as a mentor and such a big part of my life for so many years.   Mel was a Founding Board Member and the Secretary for the Modesto Radio Museum. He also belonged to the Central Valley Broadcasters (CVB). On behalf of the Modesto Radio Museum and the CVB, we dearly miss Mel.

Mel was was a veteran of World War II. He was laid to rest at the National Cemetery at Santa Nella, California.

– Derek Waring-
Modesto Radio Museum Board Member

Without Mel, we would all be silent. Top row, left to right: Dave Nelson, John Chappell, Derek Waring, Tim St. Martin, Rick Myers, Greg Edwards, and Wes Page. Front row: Bob DeLeon, Mel Freedman, John Huey, Kenny Roberts, and Bob Lang.

 

 

 

OGDEN’S- Neil Ross Remembers

“Accomplishment of the difficult tends to show what men are! “

By Neil Ross, Manhattan Beach, CA.

This piece was originally written for an LA radio website in answer to the question: Where were you when you heard about the Kennedy assassination? In my case the answer was 1150 West Olive in Burbank – The Ogden School.
______________________________

After getting my First Class License I worked twenty plus years in radio with stops at KGMB in Honolulu, KCBQ San Diego, KYA San Francisco and finally 710 KMPC Los Angeles. Then I left radio for voice-overs.

I went back to 1150 West Olive in 2008 for a recording session. What a strange feeling to stand, forty five years later, in a studio where the classroom had been. I told the guys at the studio a little bit of the history of their building. Then I told them this story.

On the morning of November 22, 1963 I was seated in class at the William B. Ogden Radio Operational Engineering School at 1150 West Olive in Burbank, California. The school was what was known in those days as a ‘ticket mill.’ It existed solely for the purpose of cramming enough knowledge into the empty heads of aspiring disc-jockeys to allow them to pass the FCC First Class License exam. A test which was infamous for its difficulty, frequently defeating even MIT graduates.

In those days most medium market radio stations were ‘combo’ – meaning the DJ would also be responsible for transmitter readings. Any station that was directional, or over ten thousand watts, had to have someone with a ‘first phone’ (as it was commonly known) on duty at all times. Major market stations had transmitter engineers, low powered small market stations usually didn’t require a first class operator. But in the medium markets the first phone was nearly always mandatory. A jock without one simply couldn’t move up. “We’d love to hire you but we had to go with a guy with a first phone – he ain’t half the talent you are, but he’s got the ticket.”

I only had to hear that a few times before I started making inquiries about the best way to acquire that ‘ticket.’ Without exception the old pro’s told me: “Go to Ogden’s.” William B. (Bill) Ogden was one of the most unforgettable people I ever met. Put five or six Ogden grads in a room together and they can talk about him for hours. An irascible, chain smoking little firebrand of a man with a razor sharp wit and a dazzling intellect, he was a true auto-didact. Continue reading “OGDEN’S- Neil Ross Remembers”

KTRB owner, Bill Bates, 69

April 3, 1969

Bill Bates Jr.

William H. (Bill) Bates, Jr. died Thursday April 3 ,  1969 of an apparent heart attack while at his daughter’s home in San Jose. He was 68 years old and had been ill and off work for the past three weeks. The apparent fatal heart attack occurred shortly afternoon at the home of his daughter, Delores Williams in San Jose where he had been staying following his release from a hospital where he had been several weeks. He was a native of Freedom, CA (Santa Cruz County).

Mr. Bates entered Oakland Technical High School in 1919 where he studied for his commercial broadcasting license he obtained a year later. He became interested in Amateur (Ham) radio and a year later earned one of the first Amateur radio licenses issued in the country. The call sign was 6KL, which, in later years was changed by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission ) to W6CF . He  belonged to the Century Wireless Association as well as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Hotel Covell , 1914 opening in Modesto, CA,

Mr. Bates worked for RCA corporation and as a radio technician for the Mexican Navy in the early 1920s. From 1925 to 1928 he owned and operated a radio repair business in the Covell building in downtown Modesto before building KTRB in 1933.

Mr. Bates, and his partner, Thomas R. McTammany, put Modesto’s first commercial broadcast station KTRB on the air on June 18, 1933 operating from studios at the corner of McHenry Ave and Sylvan Rd. in Modesto. A location, at the time, that was nearly 3 miles out in the country from the then city limits of Modesto. In 1941 Mr. Bates purchased 40 acres of wheat land on Norwegian Ave. in Modesto and built a new facility. In 1949 he added an FM station, KTRB-FM, to his business.

Mr. Bates had been heard on the station for more than 30 years with his “Old Time Tunes Program”  from 8:15 to 10:30 Monday through Saturday mornings.

He was active in the Elks lodge and the originator of the Fourth of July parade in Modesto. Through the years he remained as the general chairman of the event.

Bates is survived by his widow, Maxine Bates; two daughters, Delores Williams and Carmelita Lockbaum, both of San Jose, and six grandchildren. Final rights were held at the Franklin and Downs Funeral home April 7, 1969 with the Rev. Donald G. Weston of St. Johns Chapel of the Valley officiating. Interment was at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.