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Remembering the Early Days of KWTX

Long-serving Waco, Texas, AM station recently turned 75

KWTX(AM), Waco Texas, Beauford Jester
Beauford Jester and seven Waco businessmen started KWTX radio in 1946. (Associated Press Photo, 1946.)

The author worked at KWTX(AM/FM) in 1975–1979 as a board operator, announcer and DJ. He is a personal collector and preservationist of central Texas broadcasting memorabilia.

An application for a new Class 4 radio station (250 watts, unlimited broadcast hours) at 1230 “kilocycles” in Waco, Texas, was filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Beauford Jester in April 1941. Jester (1893–1949) was an attorney with political ambitions. He would be elected Texas governor in 1946 and again in 1948. He died before the end of his second term.

After submitting his FCC application, Jester realized he would need strong local support and financial backing to improve his chances of getting the Waco radio station. He recruited seven prominent Waco businessmen as investors. They formed a corporation and began acquiring the necessary equipment to build and operate the new station.

The FCC stopped approving new broadcast station licenses soon after World War II began. This was in an effort to help conserve raw materials, manufactured goods and skilled labor needed for the war effort. All Jester and his Waco investors could do now was wait until wartime equipment and construction restrictions were lifted.

M.N. Buddy Bostick, KWTX(AM), Waco Texas
M.N. “Buddy” Bostick was hired as KWTX(AM) station manager in 1946. He was the youngest radio station manager in Texas at the time. (Photo date and location unknown.)

The end of the second world war brought the news Jester had waited nearly five years to hear. The FCC granted the license for the new Waco radio station in January, 1946. Jester and associates turned their attention to getting the station on the air as quickly as possible. But first they needed someone to oversee construction and management. This task went to M.N. “Buddy” Bostick (1918–2017). Twenty-eight year old Bostick was the youngest radio station manager in Texas at the time.

“I knew radio was going to be my life,” Bostick told this author during several interviews between 2010 and 2012. “I went through Baylor University in Waco studying to be a radio announcer.”

While in college, Bostick began his own radio program, and became Baylor’s publicity man, scheduling broadcasts on Texas radio stations to promote the university’s professors, musical groups and sporting events. “I was ready for radio when I got out of school,” Bostick said.

KWTX(AM), Waco Texas
KWTX radio advertisement in the 1946 Waco City Directory.

After graduating in 1939, Bostick worked at radio stations in Little Rock, Ark., Memphis, Tenn. and Dallas. During World War II, he trained as a fighter pilot, but the war ended before he saw action. Bostick dreamt for years of starting his own radio station in Waco, and after learning that Jester had applied for the license, Bostick contacted him many times in hopes he would be considered for a position once the license was granted.

“[Jester] called me, and said he wanted me to make my presentation [to the investors],” Bostick said. “I told them how good I was, and what a big operation we were going to have, and how it was going to be highly successful. They believed me, and said go to work.”

Bostick may deserve credit for selecting KWTX as the station’s ID. The call letters K Waco TeXas were selected not only for the station’s locale, but also to let Wacoans know they now had a new station at 1230 kHz on the radio dial to listen to besides the one with the city’s namesake — WACO at 1460 kHz.

KWTX, Waco Texas, 108 S. 6th Street
Two-story building at 108 S. 6th Street in downtown Waco was the original of KWTX radio from 1946 to 1952. The radio studio and offices were on the upper floor. (2012 photo.)

“We had our first office and studio upstairs at 108-1/2 South 6th Street,” Bostick said. The second floor included a control room, 78 rpm record library, offices for sales, copy and bookkeeping, a reception lobby, along with the studio.

“The large, wood-paneled studio had no parallel walls. They were cylindrical,” Bostick said. He recalled that Jester, who had served on the University of Texas Board of Regents, asked University of Texas professor Dr. Paul Boner to design the studio. The professor was an expert in architectural acoustics, and had planned similar studios at several Texas radio stations. Dr. Boner had developed a thin soft plywood panel that could be curved into half-circle shapes. These rounded shapes resembled long pipes of different diameters stacked one on top of the other and attached to the studio walls. The design helped eliminate echo and evenly absorb low- and high-pitch tones. “The acoustics were wonderful,” Bostick said.

KWTX’s inaugural broadcast occurred at 11 a.m., May 1, 1946, at “1-2-3 on the dial.” KWTX broadcast from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Bostick interviewed more than 150 announcers — many of them with network experience — and chose four to represent KWTX on the air and spin records of popular tunes. The station presented numerous shows using local talent. Nationally known orchestras, drama shows and commentators were picked up from the Mutual radio network.

To help promote the new station, Bostick could be spotted driving around Waco in a Willys Jeep station wagon equipped with a public address system and loudspeakers. He announced what program was currently on the air and the schedule of upcoming programs. When he took a break, he placed the PA microphone next to the Jeep’s radio speaker to pick up the live KWTX broadcast and amplify it throughout the neighborhood.

KWTX moved to 4520 Bosque Blvd. in 1952. This new facility was designed specifically for radio operations. After the building was expanded a couple of years later, it was known as Broadcast Center with AM radio sharing space with KWTX(TV), Channel 10, in 1955 and KWTX(FM), 97.5 MHz in 1970.

KWTX(AM), M.N. Buddy Bostick, Willys Jeep station wagon, Waco Texas
Station manager Buddy Bostick drove around Waco neighborhoods in 1946 announcing the KWTX program schedule in this Willys Jeep station wagon equipped with a public address system and loudspeakers. (Photo circa 1946. Courtesy of Ellen Deaver.)

The AM station’s transmitter building and 200-foot-tall tower are still at the original location near South 17th Street and Primrose Drive in Waco. The FCC granted a daytime power increase from 250 to 1,000 watts in 1962, while nighttime power remained at 250 watts. Today the station broadcasts 24 hours at 1,000 watts.

KWTX(AM/FM/TV) moved to a new facility at 6700 American Plaza in 1986. Both radio stations were sold to GulfStar Communications in 1996. Today, KWTX (AM) “Newstalk 1230,” KWTX(FM) “97.5 FM #1 Hit Music” and other Waco iHeartMedia stations are located at 314 West State Hwy. 6. KWTX(TV) was sold to Gray Communications in 1999 and remains at American Plaza.