In 1977, 1978, I was a senior at Beyer High School in Modesto, CA. majoring in Art. At that time, Beyer was a brand new high school with many vocational offerings, one of them being a course of study in radio broadcasting featuring a 10 watt educational FM radio station. I had been taking the broadcasting classes and doing a shift at that station (KBHI) for two and a half years. I was prepared to graduate early in February of 1978, because I had completed extra credit in my Art major. I wasn’t fond of high school and was ready to go to work. The broadcasting instructor, Ron Underwood (Remembering Ron Underwood), approached me with a job opportunity in broadcasting as I got closer to graduation time.
I was interviewed by KTRB/KHOP FM Chief Engineer Randy Hill for a job that required nothing more than babysitting the new automated Album Oriented Rock (AOR) KHOP Rock radio station. KHOP FM had just changed from a religious format to the new Drake Chenault fueled AOR reel to reel automated format. The KTRB morning air personality Cal Purviance wanted nothing to do with the automation machine so they needed a person to be there at 5:30am to change the reel to reel tapes, clean the tape deck heads and monitor the automation machine for hiccups during Cal’s air shift. Needless to say, I got the job and started in March after graduating from high school.
The equipment was scary, but at the same time fascinating. The automation machine, lovingly named Athena was in a large barn-like room with the KTRB AM transmitter, an old crotchety thing that would arc and boom with impedance changes in the antenna system. I would sit up against the transmitter to stay warm, but was often frightened when it boomed and went off the air. My fascination grew and the fear dissipated when Cal Purviance would momentarily sign the station off to change the antenna pattern and transmitter power to daytime mode. He would have to tune the transmitter each time, which was a bit of a process involving buttons and toggle switches.
Eventually the job at KTRB became boring. I was spending my time sitting around reading novels until a tape had to be changed. So, I picked up the two inch thick manual on Athena, the Cetec Automation machine and started reading. Needless to say, when I left KTRB/KHOP, I was programming the automation system and became the on-call person
dealing with programming failures and stoppages. I often helped Randy, the engineer, while he would troubleshoot Athena’s innards and decided to get into the technical end of things at seventeen years of age. Randy encouraged me to go back to school to learn the electronics trade. I enrolled at Modesto Junior College (MJC) to do just that. My father had previously left our family and I had to attend college using the college financial aid work program. I worked for MJC Media Services under John Chappell while studying electronics. John was a fabulous mentor and very supportive throughout those troubled young adult years.
I majored in Electronics and Radio Broadcasting under the guidance of Max Sayer. Unfortunately, I was also working full-time as KTRB’s afternoon air personality and assistant chief engineer. Carrying a full-time class
schedule at MJC and working two jobs got the better of me so I dropped out of school after getting my First Class Radiotelephone license.
When I was eighteen Randy Hill hired me away from KTRB to help him put a new station on the air in Manteca. Jack McFadden who was country music singer Buck Owen’s manager at that time, decided to put up a new FM station at 96.7 on the dial. He purchased the newest Cetec 9000 automation system to run the Beautiful Music format. Randy and I wired the studio and transmitter facility located in the country west of Ripon, CA. I became the chief programmer of the automation often consulting with other stations who had also installed the Cetec 9000.
Like a lot of broadcasters, I eventually moved on to a bigger and better opportunity. There always seemed to be one. After a lucrative and very enjoyable career in radio and television broadcasting and at 30 years of age, I decided to think about the future and decided to change careers to something that would ensure me a pension. Broadcast Engineering was becoming a dying vocation due to the evolving technology of replace instead of repair. I saw the writing on the wall and got out. I continued to work as a part-time air personality for several years into my new career until each station switched into a foreign language format. I met a lot of great people, coworkers and celebrities alike. Those were some of the best years of my life and broadcasting will always be my first love.
The search for a pension led me to Cable Television and the very physical job of installing and repairing Modesto’s cable TV distribution and servicing its’ many customers. When I discovered that I probably would be unable to continue climbing poles and crawling under houses into my 40s, I followed my little brother into a career in law enforcement. After 19 years of supervising and transporting inmates, being the Sheriff’s Department spokesperson and supervising persons sentenced to probation, I was of age to draw my pension. We moved out of state to follow my husband’s employment where I spend most of my time fishing. I worked a couple years as an air personality at the town’s AM/FM station before becoming my Mom’s caregiver and fishing partner. Mom has since gone to Heaven. My mother was my biggest fan. She listened up until my shift sign off every day. Thanks for listening mom. If it wasn’t for her letting me use her car I would not have gotten to that 5:30 AM shift at KHOP each morning.
I now work every fire season as a contract driver hauling food and supplies during forest fires. I also volunteer at the local hospital foundation thrift store in the electronics department!