Friday, April 03, 2009

Early Broadcasting in the Bay Area, Pt. 6

Originally published in the March, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

Early Broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area: Stations that Didn’t Survive, 1920-25
John F. Schneider
Seattle, Washington Copyright 1997

The installation of the station in Oakland was completed in record time. Shaw desired to have the station on the air Christmas Day, and this gave the crew just over a week to complete the installation. The antenna was to be 135 feet long, suspended between two tall masts. However, Shaw's property was not big enough to accommodate both masts, so it was decided to put the other on a neighbor's property, directly up the hill. This property, it was found, was owned by a Santa Barbara man. Telegrams to Santa Barbara determined that the owner was on vacation and could not be reached. In desperation, Shaw sent Fred Anderson to Santa Barbara, where he learned the owner was vacationing in Los Angeles. Anderson drove on to Los Angeles the same day, found the man and had him sign an agreement for the use of the property. He returned December 18th and construction was begun the same day. The first test transmissions were made just four days later, and the station went on the air at midnight, Christmas Day, 1921. The initial program consisted of several hours of Christmas carols, and closed with an official announcement of the opening of the station.

KZY's facilities were quite elaborate, by 1921 standards. The radio room, which housed the DeForest transmitter and a receiver, opened onto a large music room where concerts of large groups could be held.KZY, the Rock Ridge Station, became one of the best-known coastal stations of the period. It had a large and loyal following in the Bay Area, and could be received clearly at night across all of the Western states. Live and recorded music programs were supplemented by news reports supplied by the "San Francisco Call" and the "Oakland Post-Enquirer".

On March 24, 1922, KZY made national history when the station's receiver picked up broadcasts from WGY, Schenectady, New York, marking the first time radio signals had been transmitted across the continent. The Rock Ridge station's programs continued for only about a year before the company lost interest in maintaining the station and it ceased operation. The City Council of Oakland considered the possibilities of obtaining the station and establishing an Oakland "municipal station". They had hoped to establish it as a publicity agent for the city, as well as to broadcast descriptions of criminals at large to police departments of other cities. But, the concept apparently never took hold, and KZY passed quietly into oblivion after a brief but colorful history.


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