by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Though the magazine Broadcast Weekly was published in San Francisco, it promoted itself as “The Leading Radio Guide Of The Pacific Coast,” even as most of its content was either general to the industry or specific to the Bay Area, especially with its advertisements. There was some material, though, relating to Los Angeles radio circles and the program listings, covering many stations on the coast, included several Los Angeles-area ones.
The featured object from the Homestead’s collection for this post is the issue of the magazine published on 20 April for the following week. On the editor’s page is a brief discussion about how it was unlikely that short-wave transmission would overtaken middle-wave broadcasting, basically because of “the tendency of short-wave stations to ‘skip stop’ certain areas, i.e., to leap over them.” It was noted that short-wave stations might “work across the world with greater ease than it can serve its own territory,” so the expectation was that it would be utilized international while normal bands would be maintained at a local level.
Given that commercial radio was still under a decade old, it is interesting to read how “a woman in Detroit, day after day, receives KFI in Los Angeles at noon on a standard receiver which will not work KFI at night,” but no one seemed to know why. Before commercial broadcasting, it was added, a telegraph operator on a Hawaiian ship was able to hear talk from a telephone exchange in Chicago, so it was felt that there were “minute currents [that] can be felt all over the world.” The piece observed that “radio is a field of many unsolved mysteries” full of examples of some “new and strange phenomenon” almost daily.
Another notable discussion concerned “super power” for broadcasting because of “the growing demand for more and more power to reach greater distances” and whether a “network service, rather than by huge power allotment” might be enacted. This, however, was said to affect telephone service and companies would fight any reduction that would affect its bottom line. It was stated that members of Congress would bring the issue to the recently inaugurated President Herbert Hoover, once he was well ensconced in office “and the legislative mill begins its annual grind.”
In Frederick Norwood’s “The Stargazer” column, which was said to be “A Peep Across the Music Firmament,” he made reference to the report that
The organization in charge of the delightful Hollywood Bowl concerts has begun its auditions for resident artists who are to appear this summer with the bowl orchestra. More than thirty-five sopranos alone appeared for the tests which are being conducted weekly until all applicants have been heard . . . It is an open opportunity for the selection of excellent talent on an eminently fair basis. It also gives even the poor working girl a chance, provided she has the voice.
In “Scientistics,” a column penned by Max Behr it was noted that the Federal Radio Commission determined that, as long as they were some 1,800 miles apart, radio stations of 500-watt strength could be on the same wavelength and not have to deal with interference, so the regulatory agency was considering a arrangement allowing for stations to be on the same band in that manner.
Speaking of President Hoover, Behr reported that he was only going to give three public addresses a year, with the first to be at an Associated Press lunch in New York on 22 April and the second at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day. Hoover’s address was carried locally on KFI, but it was moved to the 25th and the chief executive was joined by Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon and others whose topics were generally about how the federal government operated.
A feature on Don Thompson, a sports announcer for KPO, the affiliate of NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) in San Francisco, noted that former football lineman broadcast baseball games and he was praised for his abilities behind the microphone. It was added that, while his favorite game to play was obviously on the gridiron, he preferred watching action on the diamond.
The piece by Monroe R. Upton recorded that Thompson was a graduate of Redlands University (he spent some of his youth in that town as well as in Oregon) and then put in “a couple of years of hard work in the Huntington Beach oil fields,” where Walter P. Temple invested, before he joined a professional football team. The team wasn’t named, but it was the Los Angeles Buccaneers, which, though it was intended to have it play home games at the Coliseum, this was refused by the commission operating the venue, so the squad actually was run from Chicago and played all road games in its sole season, in which it posted a record of 6-3-1.
The Buccaneers did play two exhibition games in the Angel City in advance of the 1927 season, but it folded before the campaign was launched. Thompson played in all ten of the games and scored two touchdowns and then joined KPO in August 1928 and “began writing advertising continuity” before moving into announcing. Later, he announced football games including the Rose Bowl games at Pasadena from 1931 to 1934 and became a producer and executive with NBC until he retired in 1967, just a year before his death.
With respect to the broadcast schedules, they included stations from California, Utah, Oregon, Washington and the national stations ABC (American Broadcasting Company) and NBC and, while the listings were almost always as published, there were those occasions where the schedule was changed. The local stations included KHJ, owned by the auto dealer Don Lee, Inc.; KTBI, operated by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles or BIOLA, now in La Mirada; KFWB, run by the film studio Warner Brothers; KFI, under the ownership of another car dealer, Earle C. Anthony, Inc.; KFOX, a Long Beach station; and the Los Angeles Express newspaper’s KNX.
With the week beginning on a Sunday, there were, of course, religious offerings on some of the stations, with KHJ broadcasting services in the morning and evening from the First Methodist Episcopal Church in the morning and having a half-hour segment by Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, comprised of the largest Jewish congregation in the Angel City. KTBI offered limited programming in the evening including a studio vesper service, an “Old Hymns Hour,” and an hour-and-fifteen minutes of the “Church of the Open Door.” Other programming for the day included recordings, an hour show called “The Old Adobe,” an international news segment for fifteen minutes and two hours of late night music.
KFI broadcasted a morning service from Temple Baptist Church (best known for its Auditorium, which was the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra) and a program from the Los Angeles Church Federation, but it also offered “alternative” programs. These included one from the well-known Manly P. Hall, a philosopher who was known to be a specialist in ancient esoteric and mystical thought.
Another was from Genevieve Behrend, whose “Science of Life” broadcast was based on her instruction on Mental Science, under the New Thought spiritual movement, while Leila Simon Castberg of the Church of Divine Power offered her “Advanced Thought” teachings. Then there was Father Jerome Sixtus Ricard of the University of Santa Clara (where Thomas W. Temple II graduated in 1926 and where his brothers Walter, Jr. and Edgar would attend for the 1929-1930 year) and his weather forecast based on his work at the Ricard Observatory on campus with the “Padre of the Rains” fascinated with sunspots and their affect on the Earth’s weather.
Elsewhere on the Sunday schedule from KFI, though, were detective stories from the well-known Nick Harris, a former investigative reporter whose detective agency, founded in Los Angeles in 1906, still exists, along with music from the Packard Concert Orchestra (owner Anthony was, of course, the local Packard dealer) led by Wally Perrin with Jean Dunn as soloist, as well as programming from NBC, including the Atwater Kent radio company’s hour and a program from the Studebaker car company.
KFOX, owned by Hal Nichols and William Warinner, broadcast morning services from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and evening services from the First Church of Christ, Scientist, while the rest of the programming was from the Long Beach Municipal Band, local orchestras and singers, the playing of records, and organ recital by Dick Dixon. Nichols continued to run the station until his death in the early 1950s and it later played rhythm and blues and jazz and then country and western music through the 1970s.
KNX offered a variety of religious programming, including morning and evening services from the First Presbyterian Church and an evening half-hour from All Souls’ Church, as well as an hour provided by the International Bible Students’ Association. There was also an hour in the afternoon devoted to the “First Radio Church of the Air” and a half-hour presentation of the Hollywood Humanist Society’s Dr. Theodore Curtis Abell, a Unitarian minister whose son George became a prominent astronomer who studied at CalTech and taught at UCLA and, notably, was a skeptic.
Musical segments on KNX included one sponsored by the Los Angeles City Park Board, as well as a performance by the Luboviski Trio, led by violinist Calmon Luboviski, a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra and who was also concertmaster for conductor and composer Adolf Tandler’s Little Symphony in Los Angeles.
At 7 p.m. there was a “Famous personalities of the screen, Paramount Orchestra, etc.” listing, which featured the first west coast appearance of the comedians Moran and Mack, who were George Moran and the originator of the act, Charles Sellers, and, as the Two Black Crows, were among the era’s most famous “blackface” performers; that is, white men playing racist and demeaning caricatures of African-Americans.
Warner Brothers’ KFWB had a schedule that included three-and-a-half hours of a courtesy program of music and offerings from the studio, while most of the afternoon was devoted to the coverage of a Pacific Coast League baseball game. Evening segments included a concert orchestra, a ragtime review, a news report, the “Cheerful Philosopher,” Burr McIntosh, a Warner Brothers actor and former publisher of a photographic monthly magazine, but it also broadcast a short segment of the most popular blackface entertainers of the period, Amos ‘n’ Andy.
With respect to the national broadcasters, ABC had an early morning hour from the Bible Students’ Institute and an afternoon “Cathedral hour with orchestra” with much of the rest of the day devoted to music from orchestras, smaller ensembles, the American Military Band, singers, comedy sketches, the Majestic Theatre of the Air. NBC’s programming began at 2 p.m. with music and dance, including classical, operatic and popular pieces, a reading of an O. Henry story, and segments sponsored by Atwater Kent and Studebaker, as noted above.
A reader of Broadcast Weekly could write in their favored and desired programs in a “Best Bets Today” table with columns for the time, station and program and there was certainly plenty to choose from on this Sunday. Because the publication covers a week, we’ll look to return in the future and highlight offerings from the various local stations for other days during that period, so be on the lookout for other “The Spirit of Radio” posts featuring the magazine.