by Tom Read
|That way, Clay
did not even have to buy an antenna, and I would check around to find
him a used transmitter, which I did. It was a GE 250 watt
transmitter. I arranged with Mr. Peck to rent the space on
the other side of the wall from my transmitter to Clay, so the two
transmitters could sit back to back and feed into the antenna on the
roof of the building.
Clay signed the application and we sent it off to the FCC.
NPB: Was it granted without any problems?
TR: Yes, I don't recall any problem with the FCC accepting our plan for diplexing two FM stations into one transmitting antenna.
I put together a little studio for Clay with minimal audio equipment and he went on the air at 106.1 on the FM dial.
We had one person run both stations from about 5pm to 10pm, which was usually me.
NPB: Do you remember how Clay got the KLAY call letters?
TR: Very well. When Clay received his Construction Permit, I told him that the FCC would automatically assign a call letter unless he applied for a specific, available call letter.
So we sat down and started kicking call letters around for Clay. Since I had used my initials as my call letters, Clay mention that maybe he should use KCFH if it was available. I told him those letters did not flow well when said over the air but if he wanted, I would check with the FCC to see if they were available.
NPB: Was KCFH available?
TR: I don't remember but I think there was a problem. They may have been assigned to a ship. So I mentioned to Clay that he should instead use his first name but change the C to a K, which was required for all stations in the western United States. At first he was not sure he liked the idea of using his initials or first name for his station call letters but relented to the point of saying I should go ahead and check with the FCC to see if KLAY was available. I did and they were. I told KLAY that those call letters looked good when printed and sounded very good when spoken and told him he should go ahead and apply for KLAY. He finally said OK and I typed up a letter to the FCC which he signed and the KLAY call letters were granted. I did use Clay's full name on the FCC license such that the station owner was always listed as Clay Frank Huntington from the very beginning.
NPB: Do you remember what sort of programming you and Clay did on your stations? Were they programmed separately?
TR: Yes, they were programmed separately. I think we made up some music tapes for Clay which played on an early reel to reel tape machine. We changed the reels a couple of times a night and had some station IDs recorded at the start of each one hour music tape.
The music was what you would expect for the day, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and a lot of good instrumentals.
KTNT-FM had worked out an arrangement to put receivers and speakers in the Tacoma buses as a way to find an audience for music on FM. I was trying to put local people on the air and promote that these programs were only available if you purchased an FM radio. I was trying to sell FM receivers with the KTWR programming. Once we got Clay's station on the air, he wondered what on earth he should do with his station. I explained what I was attempting to do and what KTNT-FM was doing and suggested since he knew a lot of people in Tacoma that owned a business, he should get some small table model FM receivers and ask to put them in their stores as background music and then sell the store commercials that would be rotated with those of the other stores who had KLAY FM playing.
NPB: If Clay basically played music on KLAY, can you be more specific on what type of local programming did you do on KTWR?
TR: I purchased a Marti microwave remote transmitter and started broadcasting live press conferences. I put a popular local commentator, Virginia Shackelford, on the air with a 15 minute daily program. We started a live program from the Cliff House Restaurant at 7pm each evening, Tacoma Conversation, with a different host each evening, including a member of the Tacoma City Council and Irene Sanders who later went to KOMO-TV as their first weather girl. We did a weekly, one hour live guest program from the original Johnny's Dock restaurant with Bob Copeland, a Tacoma attorney, as host.
NPB: Did the diplexing of the two stations into your antenna work out well?
TR: Yes and no. It worked but I told Ken that once we put KLAY on the air that KTWR did not have the coverage it had originally and KLAY did not have the coverage I thought it should have. So I encouraged Clay to think about buying an antenna and moving KLAY from the Peck Building at 1712 Sixth Avenue to a new site. I told him we needed to find another tall building on which we could mount his antenna and put his studio at the same location. In looking around for tall buildings, I spotted an apartment building and asked Ken to see if that location would work technically. Ken said it would and I suggested to Clay that he contact the owners of the building and see if he could rent an apartment on the top floor and put an antenna on the roof. That is what happened.
Through the years, Clay moved his transmitter and studio site a number of times. Unfortunately, in FM, especially in early FM, no transmitter site was perfect.
NPB: I will come back to radio later but tell me how the TV show started on Channel 13.
TR: KMO TV came on the air in August of 1953. It was owned by Carl Haymond who owned KMO radio and KIT in Yakima. KIT was an NBC radio network affiliate so Carl knew some key people at NBC in New York. There were only three stations on the air, KRSC (KING), KTNT-TV, and KMO-TV. KTNT-TV was affiliated with CBS and Carl got NBC for KMO, Channel 13. However, there was a six month cancellation provision in the affiliation contract and a six month cancellation notice was received by KMO even before they went on the air in August.
Knowing KMO would only have programming from NBC for the first six months of operation, Carl was