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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
|Frequency||Call-Sign||Location||Owner||Transmitter Power [kW]|
|570||KMTR||Los Angeles||KMTR Radio Corporation||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|
|780||KGO||San Francisco||General Electric Co.||5|
|800||KNRC||Santa Monica||Clarence B Juneau||0.5|
|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|
|1010||KQW||San Jose||First Baptist Church||0.5|
|1040||KTBI||Los Angeles||Bible Institute of Los Angeles||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|
|1210||KFBC||San Diego||Arthur W Yale||0.1|
|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|
|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|
|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|
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 radiotribute.com 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.