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A Western Electric 25B Console at KGY

If an audio console can be a work of art, the Western Electric 25B is certainly one of the most elegant consoles ever made. Its sleek lines hark back to an era when radio equipment was built like a tank and had the lines of a Chrysler Airflow.

The 25A console was introduced in 1942. Within two years, Western Electric advertised that it had sold more than 225 consoles, no small feat at a time when there were less than a thousand radio stations in the country.

The console was built into the included operator’s desk, with its passive components on top and the amplifiers below. It was designed for easy servicing — the operating surface opened like a clamshell and the electronics under the table hinged outward for easy maintenance. The power supply was separate and rack-mounted.

The 25B, seen here, was a postwar upgraded version that had improved audio quality for FM broadcasting. Its two audio busses could handle two stations simultaneously, which was convenient for operations with AM and FM under one roof.

In the 1950s, Western Electric was forced to divest of its broadcast products in an antitrust settlement, and Altec Lansing acquired all of its audio products. They continued to make a variation of this console for several more years as the Altec 250A.

(Continental Electronics acquired Western’s AM transmitter products, and the FM transmitters went to Standard Electronics.)

AM station KGY in Olympia, Wash., opened new studios on the tide flats of Puget Sound in 1960, and this photo was taken at the time of the opening. This console remained in operation into the mid-1970s. KGY’s RCA BTA-1R 1,000-watt transmitter is visible in the background.

One of the country’s true pioneer radio stations, KGY began in 1922 as 7YS, operating from a log cabin at St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Wash. Tom Olsen, a journalist and Olympia native, purchased it in 1939 and the station today is still owned by the same family. The station manager, Nick Kerry, is Tom Olsen’s great-grandson.

KGY operates on 1240 kHz with 1 kW. Its sister station, KGY-FM, began operation in 1992.

John Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. This is one in a series of photo features from his collection. See past images under Columns/Roots of Radio at