Monday, January 15, 2018

KVAN vs. The Volcano

It is my informed opinion that AM radio station KVAN has endured more engineering and administrative hardship than any other radio station in the contiguous 48 states. It is amazing that the station endured, more so that the license still exists today.... though that's complicated. More here.

The original 910 KVAN-AM in Vancouver, WA in 1939 and was shut down in 1976. The frequency is used today by KMTT.  But another KVAN was on 1480 AM from 1967-1980, in Vancouver which became KARO and is now KBMS.  From 1981-1989 and 1991-2003 a third station used the KVAN calls in Vancouver on 1550 AM. That one is now KKOV.  The fourth KVAN on 92.1 operated from Pilot Rock, OR from 2007-2010, which later became KUMA-FM. More here.

The original KVAN operated on 910 AM in Portland for 20 years. But our tale begins in April of 1955 Camas-Washougal Radio, Inc. applied to the FCC to build radio station at Camas, WA on 1480kc operating at 1 while kilowatt of power, as a day timer. The CP was approved on September 28th, 1955 and call letters KRIV were assigned. IT debuted on air on  February 2, 1956. Then things went down hill for about the next 40 years. So much more here.

On June 2nd, 1956 a severe flood of the Columbia River endangered the KRIV-AM transmitter site. The site was successfully sandbagged and KRIV broadcast 24 hours a day, to keep the community informed with the latest bulletins from Civil Defense and the Red Cross.  In 1958 they changed calls to KPVA for Portland Vancouver Area re-targeting the region for ad sales. They followed that up in 1959 by relocating their studios to downtown Portland in the "Washington Hotel" at 1129 S.W. Washington St. but the transmitter remained at Camas. On May 9, 1960 KPVA became KVANThe callsign was well-known in the area from it's time on 910 AM. 

In December of 1960 the FCC granted KVAN permission to change city of license from Camas to to Vancouver, but station management screwed up the paperwork delaying the process. It was not until late in December of 1961 that they finally moved the transmitter to Hayden Island, OR. The station got it's delinquent paperwork in order in October of 1965 and officially changed its city of license to Vancouver.The location was literally in the corner of a parking lot Jantzen Beach Amusement Park." The small studio had no running water or toilet. Disc jockey's used an outhouse about 20 yards away. The (ahem) crappy location had security problems too In 1966 they had a series of burglaries knock them off the air repeatedly. 
  • April 28, 1966 burglars broke into KVAN and stole some of relay tubes.
  • April 30, 1966 burglars returned and this time knocked KVAN off the air for 7 days by stealing four tubes from the transmitter. 
  • May 7, 1966 but was burglarized overnight again and had to postpone broadcasting until May 8, 1966. A cart machine and a tape recorder had been stolen, and the transmitter damaged
  • On June 7, 1966 KVAN was knocked off the air again for 5 days by burglars, after stealing equipment. 
  • On June 11, 1966 KVAN returned to the airwaves but burglars knocked it off the air that evening. 
In 1969 Jantzen Beach Park had closed down forcing a change of venue. Their leased land had been sold out from under them to developers to build a mall. The station shut down for a week in April to relocate to 18608 North Portland Rd. in North Portland. The new studio was located in a trailer again  with no running water or toilet facilities. There was no outhouse this time. DJ's had to use the bathroom at the St. Johns Gun Club & Dog Motel. (The Dog motel and gun club were separate buildings.) The station's transmitter lost it's tower and a horizontal dipole was flown between two trees down by the Dog Motel near Smith Lake. This was rectified in August then the FCC granted an STA operate with a 200 foot flat top antenna at 11665 North Portland Rd. through 11-25-69. This began a long series of special temporary everything...  They were permanently temporary.
  • Oct. 7, 1969 CP to change transmitter and studio location
  • Nov. 12, 1969  FCC extended STA thru 1-11-70
  • Jan. 8, 1970 FCC extended STA thru 2-6-70
  • April 29, 1970 FCC extended STA  thru 7-6-70
  • June 30, 1970  FCC extended  STA thru 9-30-70
  • July 6, 1970  FCC extended  STA thru 9-6-70
  • Sept. 4, 1970  FCC extended STA  thru 10-1-70
  • October 9, 1970  FCC extended STA to 12-15-70
  • Nov. 2, 1970 FCC extended STA and temporary site thru 2-4-71
  • Jan. 27, 1971 FCC granted CP to replace expired permit
  • February 4, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 4-4-71
  • April 1, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 5-4-71
  • April 30, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 7-2-71
  • June 29, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 10-1-71
  • September 30, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 1-1-72
  • December 27, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 4-1-72
It got worse. According to eminent Gerald Gaule, Portland Radio historian and broadcaster: "On March 15, 1972 the FCC announced that Wallace E. Johnson, Broadcast Bureau Chief recommended to FCC Hearing Examiner Millard F. French that the application of Cathryn C. Murphy for license of KVAN Vancouver, Wash. should be denied. Chief Johnson stated: "In the past, the Commission has been faced with licensees who have been seriously deficient in the operation of their stations and the Commission has also been faced with licensees whose candor has been found wanting. But we can safely say that never in the annals of this Commission has there been a licensee so deficient in the conduct of the affairs of her station as Mrs. Murphy. Nor has there been a licensee so lacking in candor. This total lack of candor by Mrs. Murphy and willingness to submit false statements in order to escape embarrassing inquiry by this agency require the ultimate conclusion that she does not possess the requisite qualifications to be licensee." The 50 page Recommendation showed that since 1960 Mrs. Murphy had been cited for 133 violations of Commission rules."  Highlights include:
  • The license renewal application was filed after the station license had expired. 
  • False representations were made about current public affairs and news programs 
  • False representations were made about public affairs and news programs 
  • An unauthorized change was made in the location of the transmitter. 
  • False testimony was given at a hearing about the location of the transmitter. 
  • Failure to provide program and operating logs for the station. 
  • Misrepresented true facts in an affidavit filed with the commission. 
  • Testified falsely regarding the matter at a hearing. 
The KVAN license was taken away from station owner Cathryn C. Murphy, and transferred to her own mother! Ada C. Brown. In general mom did a better job running the show than her daughter. In January of 1974, the FCC granted KVAN a permit for the transmitter move that had occurred five years earlier. Then in August of 1976, the FCC granted KVAN a CP to build a four tower array, so it could broadcast 24/7.  Then in June of 1979 mom sold it all, lock stock and barrel to Patten Communications Corp. The format flipped from acid rock to Top 40 overnight. The following January KVAN became KARO. But the nightmare wasn't over.

Less than 6 months later, on May 18th, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted. Volcanic ash 
was sucked into the 5kw Continental transmitter knocking the station off air. Geographically KARO was the closest radio station to Mt. St. Helens. Due to the proximity of the volcano and the eminent danger it created, the FCC granted KARO another STA to broadcast at 1kw non-directional nights from their Smith Lake studio site at 11197 N. Portland Rd. for a two year period. Dave Bischoff, Chief Engineer said it was the fastest STA he ever saw. More here.