THE BIRTH OF KZUN
In 1955, the Spokesman-Review revealed that Art MacKelvie and Bob Swartz started the process to construct a radio station which would serve the Spokane Valley. The station was to be called the "The Voice of Spokane Valley," and would be assigned the callsign KZUN. On the air, the station was also called "Cousin Radio." After several weeks of testing the transmitter, the station signed on with regular programming on 17 November 1955 at 12:38 PM. Then on 29 December 1955, the FCC finally granted KZUN a license to transmit on 1270 kHz. Its first studio was located in a refurbished building at 15 South Pines Road in Opportunity, Washington and the transmitting facility was located in Chester, Washington, some two or three miles south of the studio. The FCC granted KZUN permission to transmit on 630 kHz on 30 July 1957. (See KZUN's first license below.)
This letter written by Robert Swartz to FCC announced
KZUN's first day of broadcast on 17 November 1955.
MOM AND POP STATION SERVING "THE VALLEY"
The station was what could be called a "mom-and-pop" station. I remember listening to the station in the 1960's and will not forget the local flavor to its programming. The station made every effort to serve the community called "The Valley," the suburban area located to the east of Spokane proper and west of the Idaho border. The three partners, Bob Swartz, Art MacKelvie, and Howard Olsen planned for the station to be a dedicated service for the 35,000 people in "The Valley" at the time, and intended that the station become an integral part of the community through public service programming. The program schedule consisted of music and features, news (local and newswire services), educational programs, and farm reports.
STUDIO AND OFFICES FIRST LOCATED AT 15 SOUTH PINES
The refurbished wooden structure at 15 South Pines Road in Opportunity, which served as the first building to house KZUN's studio and offices was located behind buildings which fronted Sprague Avenue. The new façade for the structure included a neon sign over the main entrance that boldly stated "Your Musical KZUN 1270 KC." Two fairly large sized pane windows allowed visitors on the outside to see the operations of the station. This building no longer stands. (See photos below.) In a July 2007 interview, Art MacKelvie related that Howard Olsen built the board for the station in New Mexico and hauled it to Spokane. This board served the station for many years.
The 15 South Pines Studio. This was
the first studio used by KZUN when they signed on in 1955. Note
the neon sign proclaiming "Your Musical KZUN 1270 kc"
and the large pane windows through which visitors could see the
happenings inside the station.
(Courtesy of Art MacKelvie)
STUDIO AND OFFICES MOVED ACROSS THE ALLEY
In 1958, KZUN moved across the alley to 21 South Pines Road according to FCC records. The address in the FCC records was changed to 23 South Pines Road in 1970. It was a small, one-story building which held two or three businesses at a time. There were large pane glass windows on the front. You could see the operations of the station through the window by looking through the windows while standing in the parking lot. Out back was an antenna mast on which was mounted a studio-to-transmitter-link (STL) antenna and an FM antenna.
My aunt and uncle were neighbors to Bob Swartz and his family, and my aunt took my siblings and me by the station a few times when she babysat us. I remember meeting Bob Swartz at least twice and that there was a bakery in the other part of the building. In my interview with Art MacKelvie, he stated that the building also had a doctors office. (See the pictures below.)
The 23 South Pines Studio. Note the large pane glass
windows, through which you could see the operations of the
station. The address number 23 is still showing above the door.
Picture taken in June 2005.
TRANSMITTER SITE IN CHESTER
The transmitter site, at Bowdish Road and Sands Road in Chester, is in a meadow. The first tower was 220 feet tall and the first transmitter at the site was a Gates BC-1J, according to the FCC records. (For further information regarding the transmitter site, including subsequent antennas and transmitters see the KZUN Tower Page.)
FM ADDED - INCREASED BROADCAST TIME
An FM station that transmitted on 96.1 mHz was added in 1961 and this allowed KZUN to transmit at night. Art MacKelvie noted that this allowed the station to expand its programming especially broadcast sports events at night. He also stated that the coverage of this transmitter was not good. The first FM antenna was mounted on a 100-foot mast behind the 23 South Pines building, and it had a negative height above average terrain (HAAT). Sometime later the FM transmitter was re-located to Mica Peak and the station on 96.1 MHz expanded its coverage area. The mast, upon which the original FM antenna was mounted still stands. You can see a picture of the mast and a studio-to-transmitter-link antenna still mounted on it, in a picture shown below.
This mast, located behind the building, was used as a mount
for an FM antenna and an STL. June 2005.
KZUN SIGNS OFF FOREVER IN 1982
On 14 Oct 1981, Alpha Radio purchased KZUN-AM and KZUN-FM from Bob's Swartz's estate. On 12 January 1982, KZUN-FM became KKPL-FM and on 9 September 1982 KZUN-AM became KGGR. Since then, 630 kHz has had several other callsigns on it since then. These include KGGR, KKPL, KHDL, and KXLI. KTRW is the current occupant of the frequency and the 630 kHz signal is now multiplexed from KXLY's transmitter site on South Regal. Radio station KQNT transmits from the old KZUN transmitter site using 590 kHz using a 404-foot antenna erected in about 1993 (under investigation). On FM, several callsigns have appeared on 96.1 MHz in Spokane since KZUN signed off. These will be chronicled later.
DEAN MARTIN'S TIME AT KZUN
I also worked at KZUN in 1975 as a part-timer. I was studying Radio/TV at SFCC and started at the station as a intern. My supervisor was Jerry "Jer the Bear" Anderson, but I worked with pretty much everyone at the station. My internship was in the evening, so I mainly re-wrote wire copy and gofered for the Gary Owsley the night announcer. He'd occassionally go next door to the bakery and bring back day old pastries for us. One night he boiled a couple sausages in the coffee pot! Sure, it was a little station out in the valley, but they had a scrappy attitute that epitomized what local radio used to be. Bob Swartz was one of the coolest guys I ever had the pleasure to meet. Local broadcasters would be invited to speak in one of my radio classes at SFCC and Bob made the best one by far about what it took to run a radio station. He even brought examples of FCC citiations the station had received over the years. (Something I could really relate to.)
I left KZUN in 1976 but maintained ties to it for a few more years. A friend of mine worked there and they would let me help out around the station when my schedule permitted. In 1979 Bruce Morse, their CE at the time, took me up to Mica Peak to see the new FM transmitter. Soon after that I moved to the Tri-Cities, my friend left KZUN, and my connection to the station ended. After KZUN was sold, Bob's son Jim moved to the Tri-Cities as well and worked on air for several years until his passing.
I never had the "pipes" to make a living in radio, so I moved on to other things and have worked in the software industry for the last several years.
BIOGRAPHIES OF STATION PERSONNEL
I will be adding to this section later
Bob Swartz passed away in 1980 and Art MacKelvie lives in Spokane Valley, Washington. The whereabouts of Howard Olsen is not known.
(Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image.)
Click on the image to see the collage of these great images
contributed by Jerry Anderson.
(Courtesy of Jerry Anderson)
- Anderson, Jerry. Spokane Valley, Washington. Interview by Bill Harms on 23 July 2007 and email follow-ups.
- Broadcast Station Application Records. Federal Communications Communications. Washington, DC. 1955.
- Consent to Transfer Control for KZUN, inc. from FCC, Washington, DC to KZUN, Inc., Spokane, Washington. 14 October 1981.
- Construction Permit and License Record. FCC archives, Washington, DC. From Xen Scott to Bill Harms 26 May 2007.
- MacKelvie, Art. Spokane Valley, Washington. Interview by Bill Harms on 10 July 2007 and email follow-ups.
- Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. 17 November 1955. Page 5.
- Swartz, Robert. Letter to the FCC, Washington DC, 18 November 1955. Retrieved from the National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
- Callsign Change from KZUN to KGGR. Telegraphic Message from the FCC, Washington, DC to Alpha Radio Inc., Spokane, Washington 99214. 8 September 1982.
- Callsign Change from KZUN-FM to KKPL-FM. Telegraphic Message from the FCC, Washington, DC to Alpha Radio Inc., Spokane, Washington 99214. 12 January 1982.
written by Bill Harms - updated on 18 August 2007
Chronology of callsigns for this station as told in the FCC records.
KZUN 1270 - 29 Dec 1955-
KZUN 630 - 30 Jul 1957-
KGGR 630 - 9 Sep 1982-
KKPL 630 - 3 Apr 1985-
KHDL 630 - 4 Mar 1989-
(Silent from 6 Sep 1993 until at least 7 Feb 1997)
KXLI 630 - 5 Nov 1999-
KTRW 630 - 24 Oct 2005-