Sandpoint and Surrounding Communities History
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Radio Stations In Sandpoint History

by Bob Gunter

Throughout Sandpoint and Bonner County, Idaho, the event had been awaited with much anticipation. People gathered around their receiving sets, tuned between 0 and 10 on the dial, and soon a voice was heard saying...

Throughout Sandpoint and Bonner County the event had been awaited with much anticipation. People gathered around their receiving sets, tuned between 0 and 10 on the dial, and soon a voice was heard saying, "Good evening, everyone. This is station KGKX in Sandpoint, Idaho, on beautiful Lake Pend d' Oreille, operating on a frequency of 1420 kilocycles by authority of the Federal Radio Commission. The first speaker on tonight's program will be Mayor H.E. Brown of Sandpoint who will officially open KGKX."

The voice was that of 21-year-old C.E. "Bud" Twiss, owner, engineer, manager, announcer, continuity writer, salesman, and janitor of the new station. The broadcast, heard by hundreds, was coming from the "lounging room of the Elk's Club." The permanent home of the new station was located above Gardner's Store, which later became The McFarland Office Building, located at 200 Main Street in Sandpoint. With Twiss was F.R. McCann who was in charge of the plant and equipment.

Throughout Sandpoint and Bonner County the event had been awaited with much anticipation. People gathered around their receiving sets, tuned between 0 and 10 on the dial, and soon a voice was heard saying, "Good evening, everyone. This is station KGKX in Sandpoint, Idaho, on beautiful Lake Pend d' Oreille, operating on a frequency of 1420 kilocycles by authority of the Federal Radio Commission. The first speaker on tonight's program will be Mayor H.E. Brown of Sandpoint who will officially open KGKX."


The program consisted of several speeches and a variety of musical numbers. Bub's Bubblodians, a five-piece orchestra directed by "Bub" Senft, gave a 15-minute program of popular music. Professor Owen Bandy, on the Hawaiian steel guitar, performed several numbers including Humoresque and Hilo March. There were vocals by Margaret Barnes and Stanley Bower. J.L. Nye presented one of the musical highlights of the evening when he played "Girl of My Dreams'" and "My Wild Irish Rose," on his musical saw. The Elk's Quartet gave a medley of popular numbers and the program concluded with a 30-minute program by the orchestra.

During the initial broadcast of KGKX the telephone was busy receiving the many calls reporting reception and offering congratulations. The Pend 'Oreille Review reported that the local telephone exchange experienced one of its busiest evenings since its establishment. People reported reception from as far away as Dover, Kootenai, Colburn, Cocolalla, and Murphy Bay. In October of 1929 the power of KGKX was increased to 100 watts. A local paper reported, "The present transmitter has been heard all over the United Sates and Canada."

Clinton E. "Bud" Twiss, who started KGKX, later went to NBC's Radio City in Hollywood as NBC's chief announcer. F.R. McCann went on to be in charge of the FCC in Portland, Oregon. In 1940 he and two other men constructed a facility capable of picking up Japanese radio broadcasts.

It seems that during the war years Sandpoint did not have a functioning radio station. No records could be found and many long-time residents do not recall a station in the area.

In 1947 KSPT AM was started by Norm Bauer and was located in the area now occupied by Precision Tire in Kootenai. Bauer called it the Radio Ranch and the old tower still stands and is in use. Barbara Blood, who has lived in this area for some time, remembers how the radio helped many people during the blizzard of 1948. She states, "People who were out when the blizzard hit could not make it home and they would stop at the nearest house. From there they would phone the radio station and ask that their families be notified. The announcer on duty would relay, over the air, the news of the person's safety to the concerned family."

Bauer started broadcasting the Bulldog football games and this practice is now in its 52nd year. Norm Bauer sold KSPT to Kim and Helen Benefield's Blue Sky Broadcasting in 1983.

Since that date there have been many advances in radio in Bonner County. Bob Witte, general manager of Blue Sky Broadcasting, gives the following timeline of the growth: KPND, 1,000 watt FM, went on the air the same day Mt. St. Helens erupted. The year was 1980. In 1992 the transmitter for Blue Sky Broadcasting was moved to Schweitzer Mountain with 100,000 watts which extended the coverage area to Canada, Montana and Washington State. The year 1994 saw the start of KIBR, 102 FM, a country station. It was in this same year that KBFI, a station in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, featuring news, talk and sports, was purchased by Blue Sky.

 

To see more great old photos of Sandpoint and the surrounding areas :: Click Here ::

 

All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.

 

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