CHRS Warms Up Its New Digs

It’s an auction preview at Radio Central!
Items on display at California Historical Radio Society’s Radio Central.
A record crowd gathered this summer at the California Historical Radio Society’s headquarters in Alameda, Calif. — dubbed Radio Central — for the annual Radio Day by the Bay. Attendees toured the facility, bid on vintage radios during the auction, watched live performances and cheered on inductees into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, all in support of the radio-focused nonprofit.

CHRS has been in a new building for a couple of years (this year’s event was the second held at this location) but is still putting the finishing touches on the place.

In part because CHRS now owns its own dwelling, the former Sunset Telegraph and Telephone Building, the event’s fundraising aspect is critical. President Steve Kushman told me, “There is a ton of work left at Radio Central.” He shared a long to-do list: making seismic upgrades, remodeling a bathroom, adding an elevator, building rooms to house various parts of the CHRS including the hall of fame, and working on the exterior to restore its “original 1900 architectural style, which is California Mission Revival.”

The nearly 400 attendees (twice as many as 2014’s count) probably didn’t notice the dust. They were largely fixated on the antique radios and vintage radio equipment that filled the main hall. Radio Day by the Bay attracts many radio fans because of its live auction of collectible radios and gear.

In addition to the auction, the event had an outdoor flea market full of electronics, radio manuals and old radio station equipment, including reel-to-reel machines. I also spied a 1970s-era tape deck with a jukebox motif.

A red radio/turntable is on display at Radio Central during auction preview.
A short jaunt up the street, the Kofman Auditorium at Alameda High School (a historic gem in and of itself, with a grand entrance framed by commanding columns) was the place to bid on auction items and to see live performances. There was a silent auction in the lobby, with a range of experiences and things to choose from, including private radio station tours by San Francisco Bay area-media luminaries like Cheryl Jennings, news anchor at KGO(TV) in San Francisco, and Stan Bunger, morning anchor on San Francisco radio station KCBS(AM).

We arrived just in time to catch the end of one phase of the live auction (there was intense bidding on a funky red radio/record player) and to see the announcement of the 2015 inductees into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame.

HALL OF FAMERS
Nearly six years ago, the CHRS and the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame realized that it would be beneficial to work together. The groups are now under one umbrella, along with the Bay Area Radio Museum. Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame inductees are announced live annually during the event.

This year’s inductees (http://bayarearadio.org/site/hof/) include program hosts Dusty Street, currently at SiriusXM’s Classic Vinyl station, and Lissa Kreisler of KBAY(FM). KCBS(AM)’s Mike Colgan in the news category and Coach John Madden in the sports category were recognized. Additionally, Gil Haar, former news director at KNEW(AM), KNAI(FM) and Magic 61, among other roles, and Elma Greer, former KSFO(AM) music director, were cited as radio pioneers. Harvey Stone, former general manager/president of KBLX(FM), was honored in the executive/manager category. Ken Nielsen was recognized as an engineer/educator; he was responsible for the San Francisco Unified School District launching KALW(FM), the first west coast FM station. And Peter Scott was inducted in the specialty category for his work at KSJO(FM) and KSFO(AM).

At the flea market at Radio Day by the Bay.

Honorees were also feted at a luncheon and ceremony in September.

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Old-time music fans then were in for a real treat, as the Golden Gate Radio Orchestra took the stage for a nearly hour-long set of live music, with guest vocalists singing hits like “Summertime” and “Time on My Hands.”

A Golden Gate Radio Orchestra performance in the Kofman Auditorium. History as seen on walls of Kofman Auditorium.

It’s a Radio Day by the Bay tradition to present a live radio drama re-enactment, but this year’s was a bit different. Former Bay Area commercial radio station KPEN(FM), which was also honored by the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame as its Legendary Station for 2015, played a starring role. Founders James Gabbert and Gary Gielow recounted a bit of the station’s history (they started KPEN in 1957 in an 1800s-era adobe hut when they were students at Stanford University) before launching into a recreation of a version of “War of the Worlds” that KPEN personnel had performed and broadcast in stereo on Halloween in 1964. The California Historical Radio Society’s Radio Dog Theater produced and performed the radio drama.

A schedule board for Radio Day by the Bay.
More than 300 people filled the auditorium for “War of the Worlds,” which had a cast of Bay Area radio luminaries, including Michael Bennett, Stan Bunger, James Gabbert, Gary Gielow, Steve Kushman, Monterey Morrissey, Celeste Perry, Kevin Radich and Kim Wonderley. Terry McGovern directed.

For those who missed the festivities, the “War of the Worlds” presentation, Golden Gate Radio Orchestra performance and the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame announcements are viewable on CHRS’s YouTube channel (http://tinyurl.com/ns834cr).

As he reflected on the event, Kushman said, “My favorite moments were seeing Radio Central and the Kofman auditorium packed with happy guests and the smiling faces of people carrying home radios and electronic treasures.” He added that “producing and acting in ‘War of the Worlds’” was also a highlight, telling me, “That was a thrill.”

A long-time college radio DJ, now at KFJC(FM), and co-founder of Radio Survivor, Jennifer Waits also works as a research associate on the Library of Congress’ Radio Preservation Task Force.



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