A close-up view of the former KGFJ/KYPA inverted L flat-top antenna. The north end of the antenna is close to the center of the picture. Even though KGFJ(AM) had been transmitting from atop the Odd Fellows Lodge building since Feb. 5, 1927, I did not discover the site until sometime in 1956.
I was making my daily drive to my classes at the University of Southern California when, via my ham radio mobile rig, I heard a strong signal on the 10 meter ham band. I soon discovered I was talking to the on-duty engineer, Jack Gillis, at the nearby KGFJ transmitter site. Jack had his portable ham rig on the air from the transmitter room. At his invitation, I exited the Harbor Freeway for my first visit of the KGFJ site at Oak Street and Washington Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
A few years later the Santa Monica freeway was constructed and now the site can be identified as at the junction of the Harbor (110) and Santa Monica (10) freeways.
At the time of my visit in 1956, KGFJ was operating with an old but interesting composite transmitter, which was capable of 100 W output. Later the power of KGFJ was increased to 1,000 Watts. The output fed a flat-top antenna, actually an inverted L with an impedance of 15+j58 at 1230 kHz, on top of the Odd Fellows Lodge building.
The south end of the antenna atop the former IOOF Lodge building in Los Angeles. This antenna was on the air from 1927 until Jan. 14 of this year. Little did I know that later in 1965 I would do some summer relief work at KGFJ. By 1965 a new RCA BTA-1R1 1 kW transmitter was on the air and the composite rig was a standby transmitter. I remember thinking about the history of that old composite transmitter as I tested it into the dummy load.
KGFJ was licensed to Ben McGlashan on Feb. 5, 1927. It is my understanding that Ben and his high school friend Cal Smith built KGFJ. Later Smith became general manager of KFAC, 1330 kHz, a position he held for more than 30 years.
It was not too long after my 1965 summer relief job at KGFJ that, via ham radio Teletype, I became friends with Freeman Lang, who was living in Honolulu. I soon learned that Lang had lived in Los Angeles and had been a prominent radio personality in the 1930s. My ham radio contacts with Lang led to my becoming friends with McGlashan, Smith and Loyd Sigmon of Sigalert fame. We were all ham radio operators. Smith and McGlashan remained life long friends.
By the time I met Ben McGlashan he had sold KGFJ. During a visit at his home he told me he sold KGFJ for $ 1 million. By today’s standards, a million dollars for a Los Angeles radio station does not seem like much. After Ben passed away, Cal married Ben’s widow Kay McGlashan.
The KGFJ flat-top antenna has been used on more than one frequency. The Class IV local station has served Los Angeles on 1375, 1440, 1410 kHz between 1927 and 1928, then was assigned to broadcast on 1420 kHz on Nov. 11, 1928, then 1200 kHz on Nov. 15, 1929 and finally the current 1230 kHz on March 29, 1941. KGFJ was the first station in the United States to broadcast 24 hours per day.
The author stands next to the KYPA transmitter, now located at the KBLA transmitter site. The station had the call sign KGFJ, “Keeping Good Folks Joyful,” from Feb. 5, 1927, until Oct. 10, 1977, when it became KKTT, “The Katt.” On Oct. 15, 1979 the station returned to KGFJ. On May 1, 1996 KGFJ became KYPA, “Your Personal Achievement.”
A number of years ago the Odd Fellows Lodge hall was sold. Recently the new owners increased the rent for the KGFJ/KYPA transmitter space by a factor of more than six, perhaps feeling that KYPA had no other place to go. The owners of KYPA, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., recently purchased KBLA, 1580 kHz, a 50,000 watt six tower directional station in Los Angeles. Thus it was a good business decision to move KYPA to the KBLA site and stop paying high rent at the historic KGFJ site.
KBLA operates 50 kW, six-tower directional, on 1580 kHz. KYPA operates 1 kW on 1230 kHz feeding KBLA Tower No. 6.
It is believed that this move terminates the use of the last full-time flat-top antenna in the United States and the end of an era for this type of antenna. The inverted L antenna was in service from Feb. 5, 1927 until Jan. 14, 2009, a few days short of 82 years.
Marvin Collins, W6OQI, is the retired chief engineer of KFI(AM)/KOST(FM) in Los Angeles. He has been in broadcasting since 1954 and is still doing part time work taking care of the KBLA Los Angeles transmitter facility.