By Bob Sterling
From 1933 to his death in 1969, Bill Bates, Jr. was heard on radio station KTRB and KTRB FM which he built and put on the air. He called his daily program “Old Time Tunes” which featured his folksy on the air style punctuated by an occasional “Ah Huh” which became his on-the- air signature.
A mix of the days top news, his opinion on how our government was doing and weather conditions along the West Coast all interspersed with a tune or two and job listings. He hit the airways on KTRB around 8 am, give or take 10 or 15 minutes depending on what he had to take care in running his station.
Listeners knew when it was time for his program when his theme song, ‘Beer Barrel Polka’ modulated the 10,000 watt KTRB transmitter which during the day could be heard from Bakersfield to the Oregon State Line. Many dairymen wrote, or called, to tell Bill that their cows would not give any milk until they heard his one of kind voice on their milking barn radios.
Bill was an avid ‘Ham Radio’ amateur radio operator, W6CF . He was one of only a handful of ‘hams’ in those days who had a complete multi-band ‘ham radio’ installed in one of the many Cadilacs he owned during the years.
He featured his ‘ham radio’ colleagues weather reports each morning by forming the California Weather Net in the 80 meter amateur radio band. “Hams” from as far away as Alaska and Japan congregated daily from 5 -8 AM reporting weather conditions in their area which Bill would feature on his program that morning. It was a very popular feature of his program.
To facilitate the network, Bill had the station’s chief technician build a 1,000 watt transmitter which was installed upstairs in the Norwegian Ave. studios of KTRB.
No, the lights didn’t dim when the transmit button engaged, but everyone near a speaker or wearing a set of earphones in the building could hear the cross-talk audio from the ham transmitter mixing with the on-the-air audio downstairs.
Area hams marveled at the long wire antenna strung out the back window of the station and suspended from the center vertical KTRB tower in the pasture behind the studios. The 300 feet tower elevated the wire and made for superior reception and transmitted signal.
These sound clips are from my library and will surely bring back some fond memories if you are old enough to remember back then.
KTRB Announcer 1961-1964
(Bill’s theme song ‘Beer Barrel Polka.)
(Bill Bates on the air in 1967 featuring the “ham radio” weather reports.)