KMJC, KRJC, Pirate’s Radio
By John Giorgio
It is not known at this time how long radio classes have been taught at Modesto Junior College. We continue to research this question. In the interim the information we have indicates active classes at least as far back as 1945 when students enrolled in radio classes devoted their time working on the different aspects of radio presentations during the first semester. Script writing and individual speech difficulties were given attention and with the aid of a recording machine, students were able to hear themselves in order to improve their speaking voices. In the second semester regular weekly broadcasts over KTRB were given by the students. The broadcasts consisted of a variety of programs which included interviews, news, plays, round-table discussions and sports programs. Students had the opportunity to work on sound effects for plays as well as to announce on the program.
The 1946 radio class, under the direction of Ellen Thomas, was active with weekly broadcasts on KTRB from college studios located in the Little Theater. Students from different departments were interviewed and original skits, written by class members were broadcast. In addition, musical selections were presented by both class members and outsiders. A great addition to the group during the last semester was the return of several ex-service men from WW II who had had previous experience in radio work. Not only was this class active in presenting its weekly broadcast, but many times it provided skits and other entertainment for school rallies.
An innovation in the Spring semester was the programming aired on radio station KTRB-FM by MJC students two hours nightly, from 7 to 9 p.m. “Modesto Junior College on the Air” was broadcast every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon with Fred Beyer, Dean of Activities, as faculty advisor. Contests between the Freshman and Sophomore classes were featured on the program monthly. These broadcasts began late in 1947 when KTRB-FM came on the air.
In 1950 the college built and put on the air it’s own radio station, KMJC, operating o 660 KCs in the AM band. Actual signal coverage is not known but possibly all of Modesto could tune in. Studio was located in the basement of what was called South Hall on the east campus. The KMJC call letters were eventually changed to KRJC in 1955 because the original call letters were found to be already in use. The department was run by Edward L. McClarty.
With cooperation from various campus groups, KRJC was on the air from 8 a.m to 430 p.m. daily and operated by students interested in broadcasting. In November 1955 the station sponsored its annual D.J. Dance with the receipts used to pay for the news teletype machine purchased for KRJC by the Executive Council of MJC. KRJC broadcast auctions, basketball games, dances and an occasional radio telethon to benefit educational channel 6 in Sacramento.
In 1958 KRJC moved into (what was then) state of the art facilities when the auditorium building was finally completed. This facility also housed the television department as well. Bill Hill and Cid Woodward followed Ed McClarty as instructors. Max Sayre began teaching the radio classes sometime in 1967-68 before retiring in 1983.
Sometime during the late 1970s, the KRJC antenna and transmitter, located in the auditorium building, were altered to prevent the signal from going off campus. This may have been done during the time when educational stations started using the FM. In an effort to keep the college radio program alive, John Chappell, Wes Page and Eleanor Herriage agreed to assume teaching duties. All three are former students of Max’s. Time took a toll on the original transmitter and the AM signal deteriorated to the point where it was barely audible on the MJC campus; but interest in the program remained strong.
In 1991, Eleanor Herriage retired and Carol Benson and John Giorgio were brought in to augment the radio program. In 1992, KRJC’s programming began to enjoy increased exposure through MJC’s cable channel for the next several years. In 2000 the radio station began webcasting and dropped the KRJC call sign and adopted the name, Wavradio. Carol Benson retired in 2002 and Rich Dixon joined the team and was instrumental in the acquisition of a very low power FM transmitter which brought the station back to the airwaves in the FM band at 107.5 MHZ, but limited to the MJC East campus.
In 2003, Greg Edwards joined the radio department and brought the station into the modern era by incorporating a new computerized on-air system emulating commercial radio stations up and down the valley. The station has since changed its name from Wavradio to MJC Pirates’ Radio 107.5 FM and as of this writing is currently waiting to broadcast from new state of the art facilities as renovation to the 50 year old auditorium building wraps up in June of 2008.
The campus radio station programmed a variety of music and events from 1950 until 2005 when a single format was adopted. MJC Pirates’ Radio is now a Jack FM station and continues to be a proven training ground for future broadcasters. The actual number of students who entered radio with the help of MJC’s radio department is unknown but likely to be in the hundreds.