California Radio Dial 1928

by David Ricquish

It’s hard to imagine that within living memory, California once had only a little over 50 radio stations on the air. There was no FM radio and TV was also in the future. Hollywood had just introduced ‘The Talkies’, movies with sound. That’s California in 1928, when the population of the San Francisco-Bay area was about 1.5m and that of greater Los Angeles only 2m.

California Winter Outings, 1927-28 Season.
© Jim Heimann Collection in ‘California Here I Come’ by Taschen

The radio dial stopped at 1500 AM, there were no radio stations broadcasting north of San Francisco and only one station was on the air in the state capitol [Sacramento] which then had a population of just 100,000 people. There were still orange groves in Orange County.

KGER Long Beach artwork.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Almost half of the stations were located within the Los Angeles metro area alone, including one of the two strongest signals on the Californian radio dial, KFI 640 AM. At the time, KFI had regular listeners as far away across the Pacific as New Zealand, where radio magazines even published its program details and where older listeners still remember the KFI call.

The Los Angeles County Forestry Department had its own station [KFPR]. Newspaper owners included KMJ Fresno [Fresno Bee], KLX Oakland [Oakland Tribune], KPO San Francisco [San Francisco Chronicle] and KPSN Pasadena [Pasadena Star News].

Warner Brothers [the movie boys] operated KFWB in Hollywood, and another set of unrelated Warner Brothers owned KLS in Oakland. A small chain [KFRC San Francisco and KHJ Los Angeles] was owned by Don Lee Inc.

Religious broadcasters included the Echo Park Evangelistic Assoc [KFSG Los Angeles], Trinity Methodist Church [KGEF Los Angeles], Glad Tidings Temple & Bible Institute [KGTT San Francisco], Pasadena Presbyterian Church [KPPC Pasadena], First Baptist Church [KQW San Jose], First Congregational Church [KRE Berkeley] and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles [KTBI Los Angeles].

KFSG Letterhead © Jim Hilliker Collection

In 1928, the Californian radio dial was orderly, in stark contrast to the earlier years of the ‘Roaring 20’s’ when stations broadcast atop of each other in an unregulated and chaotic period of early experimentation with this fantastic new entertainment medium.

Just a few of these heritage radio stations remain today, still using the same calls that for 80 years have entertained, informed and provided friendly company to many generations of Californians. Most of these stations have simply faded away into silence, leaving just memories of old time radio, the performers, the stars, the sports and the music.

KNX Los Angeles.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

This reflection on the California Radio Dial in 1928 is dedicated to all those involved in bringing radio into the homes and hearts of millions of Californians since then.

FrequencyCall-SignLocationOwnerTransmitter Power [kW]
560 KFBK Sacramento Kimball-Upson Co. 0.1
570 KMTR Los Angeles KMTR Radio Corporation 0.5
590 KLX Oakland Oakland Tribune 0.5
640 KFI Los Angeles Earle C Anthony Inc. 5
660 KFRC San Francisco Don Lee Inc. 1
680 KFSD San Diego Airfan Radio Corporation 0.5
710 KPO San Francisco Hale Bros. & The Chronicle 1
720 KHJ Los Angeles Don Lee Inc. 0.5
KHJ logo Los Angeles.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
780 KGO San Francisco General Electric Co. 5
800 KNRC Santa Monica Clarence B Juneau 0.5
820 KMJ Fresno Fresno Bee 0.05
830 KFWB Los Angeles Warner Bros. Broadcasting Corporation 0.5
870 KWG Stockton Portable Wireless Telephone Co. 0.05
890 KNX Los Angeles Western Broadcast Co. 0.5
950 KPSN Pasadena Pasadena Star News 1
970 KYA San Francisco Pacific Broadcasting Corporation 0.5
1000 KFWO Avalon Lawrence Mott 0.25
1010 KQW San Jose First Baptist Church 0.5
1040 KTBI Los Angeles Bible Institute of Los Angeles 0.5
1070 KTAB Oakland Associated Broadcasters 0.5
1090 KFSG Los Angeles Echo Park Evangelistic Assoc. 0.5
1100 KSMR Santa Maria Santa Maria Valley Rail Road Co. 0.1
1120 KFWI San Francisco Radio Entertainments Inc. 0.5
1140 KGEF Los Angeles Trinity Methodist Church 0.5
1170 KRE Berkeley First Congregational Church 0.1
1170 KFUS Oakland Louis L Sherman 0.05
1190 KPLA Los Angeles Pacific Development Radio Co. 0.5
1200 KFQU Alma WE Riker 0.1
1210 KFBC San Diego Arthur W Yale 0.1
1220 KLS Oakland Warner Bros. 0.25
1220 KZM Oakland Preston D Allen 0.1
1240 KFON Long Beach Nichols & Warinner Inc. 0.5
1270 KFWM Oakland Oakland Educational Society 1.0/0.5
Verification stamp for KFQU 1200kc
1290 KFQZ Hollywood Taft Radio & Broadcasting Co. 0.1
1290 KFPR Los Angeles Los Angeles County Forestry Department 0.25
1310 KELW Burbank Earl L White 1.0/0.5
1310 KPPC Pasadena Pasadena Presbyterian Church 0.05
1330 KGEN El Centro ER Irey & FM Bowles 0.015
1340 KMIC Inglewood James R Fouch 0.25
1340 KGFH La Crescenta Frederick Robinson 0.25
1350 KFWC Ontario Lawrence E Wall 0.1
1350 KWTC Santa Ana Dr John W Hancock 0.1
1360 KJBS San Francisco Julius Brunton & Sons Co. 0.05
1380 KGDM Stockton EF Peffer 0.01
1390 KGER Long Beach C Merwin Dobyns 0.1
1390 KRLO Los Angeles Freeman Lang & AB Scott 0.25
1410 KGGH Cedar Grove Bates Radio & Electric Co. 0.05
1420 KFCR Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Broadcasting Co. 0.05
1440 KGFJ Los Angeles Ben S McGlashan 0.1
1440 KFVD San Pedro WJ & CI McWhinnie 0.25
1450 KGTT San Francisco Glad Tidings Temple & Bible Institute 0.05
1470 KGFO Los Angeles Brant Radio Power Co. 0.1
1470 KHAC San Francisco Flying Broadcasters Inc. 0.05
KFSD San Diego Airfan Radio.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
EKKO stamp issued by KFQZ Hollywood

This list is from the January 31 1928 Radio Service Bulletin, Department of Commerce, Washington DC.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also enjoy our mini-series about the turbulent history of religious station KFSG Los Angeles, the 80 years story of what is now KTNQ 1020 in Los Angeles, and the true story behind the Mexican bandit whose music was broadcast from KELW Burbank including audio samples.

The EKKO verification stamps have become valuable collectables, and we recommend as a good site to see more of them.

For beautiful vintage California graphics, we recommend the book “California Here I Come” edited by Jim Heimann.

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