Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Kiwanis Frolic

Today frolicking is something that antelope do in the tall grass on the Animal Planet channel. But in the early part of the last century it also was jargon describing a range of amateur stage shows the Great Depression's equivalent of open mic night. Many different civic groups held a frolic: the Rotary Club, Moose, Elks, Odd fellows... and the Kiwanis Club. This image below is from a newspaper covering a Frolic held in Ottawa in 1928. It sounds less dirty when you know it's Canadian.

So it comes as no surprise that in those early days of radio, so hungry for content that someone felt the need to broadcast them.  In the early days of KFOX-AM, then known as KFRN-AM, Kiwanis member Bob Muckler had an variety program. In 1927 he and fellow and Kiwanian Hal G. Nichols, devised a plan to let their local Kiwanis Club take over on Monday nights from 9:00 PM to midnight. It was called the Kiwanis Frolic. (It helps to have the station owner in your club.)

Starting on January 17th 1927 Bob Muckler was the Emcee of a Kiwanis Club radio talent show. His guests included budding local singers and musicians alongside more professional talent from vaudeville houses and theaters. Five minutes of each "program" was allocated to a member of Kiwanis who discussed the club's activities, objects, and objectives.

The Monday night Kiwanis Frolic popular program, drawing weekly letters from as far away as Alaska,  New Zealand and Australia. At the time the station broadcast on 1240 which was not too crowded in the bay area. KFOX-AM first broadcast from the Jergins Trust Building in Long Beach in 1924 on 1290 kHz. In 1927 it moved to 1240 kHz. A 1928 FCC frequency re-allocation resulted in a further move to 1250 kHz. They didnt' move to 1280 until the NARBA agreement in 1941.

KFOX still exists, though only as a christian zombie sat-caster. The Long Beach Kiwanis Club still exists as well. As of 2010 it still had 40 members, and that may sound small but that's actually above average. In other words, it's doing better than KFOX. Hal Nichols died in 1952, in the early 1940s Bob Muckler was booking acts for the State Fair. His career after that remains a mystery.