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Texas Radio - The Way We Were!

While rummaging through a fascinating store in Salado (Spring House) I recently found something that instantly took me back to my childhood when at age three I became enamored of radio. 

My Grandpa had an 1930s AM radio that ran on a six volt car battery which my mother took to town every Saturday to get it charged. 

Mom herself had a wonderful table model TRUETONE radio which came from our local Western Auto store.    

Included on those sold in this part of the country were the call letters of major southwestern radio stations printed at the frequency of each. Also shown were other clear channel stations that could be heard in Texas.

At age 10, I co-hosted my first radio show with Ben Laurie on his Dad’s KEBE in Jacksonville. 

Fifteen years later I became Program Director of one of the very stations shown on mom’s dial - Austin’s KNOW 1490.

I switched from being a deejay/PD to becoming its Chief Engineer a few years later. 

While gleaning through old technical files, I found KNOW licenses going back to their original 1924 authorization from the then new Federal Radio Commission. 

Curiosity got the best of me, so I spent the better part of a year researching KNOW’s history as Austin’s first AM station. It included talking to a government employee in Washington who had actually worked at the original station when it had been KUT-AM on the University of Texas campus.

So what was it in Salado that flipped my switch? 

I spotted a 222 page paperback book entitled MY MOTHER, RADIO AND ME by James Ray Haney (Alvason Press, Salado Texas).

Its cover had a picture of an early “cathedral” radio receiver.  When I pick up a book I test it by opening to the middle of the book and reading one page.  If it catches my fancy I buy the book.  I bought not one, but two copies of this one.

After I finished reading the book, I talked to its author by phone. James lives in Salado where he is an encyclopedia of Texas earlier radio and a collector of its artifacts.  I told him we apparently have lived in parallel universes ever since he was born in the same year that I was and were having similar experiences at the same times.

I should include the caveat that some current broadcasters may take offense at his comments about the modern-day radio operations which he views as having forgotten localism and public service.  But since when can we broadcasters not benefit by criticism from listeners?

I now have this paperback on my bookshelf of radio memorabilia including TEXAS SIGNS ON by Richard Schroeder, BORDER RADIO by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford, as well as the paperback SAN ANTONIO RADIO MEMORIES by Editor Vicki Worthington.  It includes 250 pages of photos and tales submitted by the people who lived them.

Dick Pickens (his 1950-60s air name was Dick Laine) is a Broadcast Engineer and Technical Consultant who, since the late 60’s has built, renovated or repaired numerous Texas stations. 
He is a graduate of the UT College of Communication, where he later served a Lectureship teaching Radio-TV majors the hands-on side of broadcasting.  He is a ham radio operator (K5UD) and is a member of the TAB’s Pioneer Club. 
A major activity for him these days is as an FCC ABIP Inspector for the Texas Association of Broadcasters.
Pickens was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2012.

Want to share some of your memories of Texas radio or television?

Email Teresa McAnally for publication in future issues of the TABulletin newsletter!

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