Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The History of KFRC, San Francisco, and the Don Lee Networks, Pt. 1

Originally published in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.(http://www.otrr.org/pg07_times.htm)

The History of KFRC, San Francisco, and the Don Lee Networks
John F. Schneider

The city of San Francisco had several stations that were among the finest in the nation during broadcasting's early years. Bay Area listeners could choose from a variety of fine programs, but one station they tuned to most frequently was KFRC.

Harrison Holliway
To tell the story of KFRC's first years is to tell the story of its Manager and Chief Announcer, Harrison Holliway. He was born November 3, 1900, the first son of a veteran San Francisco newspaperman, Captain W. C. "Cap" Holliway. Cap Holliway was well-known in San Francisco, and at one time had been the youngest newspaper editor in the state. He had since worked on news staffs at the Examiner, Call and Chronicle, and had been President of the San Francisco Press Club.

Young Harrison's first interest in radio appeared at the age of eleven, when he built a carborundum crystal receiver and first listened in on the airwaves. By 1920, he was operating his own amateur station, 6BN, and was very active in local ham circles. He was President of the Lowell High School Radio Club, and an officer in the San Francisco Radio Club. In 1920, he set a world amateur record for distance in voice transmission when he communicated with another ham in Vancouver, over 1,800 miles away. This brought him considerable local publicity. For a time, Harrison was on the air every day with 6BN, broadcasting record programs "for the sheer pleasure of it". He also worked as a part-time newspaper reporter, covering high school sporting news for the San Francisco Call.

The following fall saw Harrison Holliway enter Stanford University. He spent the next few years majoring in law during the winter months, and operating radio equipment on a trans-Pacific steamer during the summer. He took a leave of absence from Stanford in 1922, and, along with friend Harold Shaw, installed and operated KSL, the Emporium Department Store station. When that venture folded after less than a year, he went back to Stanford.


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