Sometime in 1955 I became interested in FM radio broadcasting, which at that time most people had never heard of. I found out that a small church, Maple Chapel in Glendale, CA had constructed an FM station with very limited funds and needed help. The acting Chief Engineer, Howard Bollenbach, did not have the required FCC First Class Radiotelephone license as he had gained his electronics expertise in the U.S. Army on Guam. The station only had enough income to pay a small salary to the General Manager and all the other help was volunteer. I gave Howard a job in my shop and after a bit of studying received my First Class ‘Phone FCC license to hang on the wall at KHOF-FM. I also did a volunteer board shift at the station once a week. The Maple Chapel pastor, Ray Schoch, was a protégé of Dr. Claire Britton, the founder and long-time pastor of Bethany Church of Alhambra where we were members. Pastor Schoch and his Board of Directors were raising funds to increase the power and outreach of KHOF-FM and to this end they had purchased several hundred feet of expensive copper coaxial transmission line which was then severely damaged in shipment and was uninsured. I was able to make some special tools to salvage the valuable line, which sufficiently impressed Pastor Schoch and his Board so that years later they entrusted me with the job of building a television station for them.
It was at this time that I became acquainted with Jim Lawrence, a talented electronics engineer who had been involved with the construction of KUSC-FM for the University of Southern California. Jim had also done some volunteer engineering for KHOF-FM and was developing some adapters for converting the many General Electric FM transmitters to use less expensive Eimac transmitting tubes in place of the original GE tubes. I made the parts for Jim’s conversion kits and thus started a relationship that lasted for a number of years. My first job for Jim was making the parts required to modify the 3 kW KHOF transmitter to an Eimac tube that was far less expensive than the special GE tubes whose price had sky-rocketed. After the FCC had authorized FM transmission on the 88-108 MHz frequencies GE had sold a lot of FM transmitters in 250 watt, 3 kW and 10 kW versions, each in a separate cabinet. The cabinets could be combined to form complete
3 kW and 10 kW transmitters. After an initial surge in interest FM stations had declined to mainly co-programmed affiliates of AM stations. There were just not enough FM receivers out there in the listening public to justify separate operation and therefore no way to make money from FM. FM was in the doldrums.
When I first became involved with KHOF-FM the station had been on the air about a year, with a used GE
3 kW transmitter feeding a 6-bay Jay Tapp antenna with 1-5/8” rigid transmission line and an effective radiated power of 30-some kW. Pastor Schoch and the Maple Chapel Board were hoping to increase the station’s power to 100 kW by adding a used GE 10 kW amplifier and new 10-bay Tapp antenna. This required replacing the 1-5/8” transmission line with larger 3-1/8” line to handle the higher power. They had purchased over 200 feet of used 3-1/8” rigid copper coaxial line from a source in Texas and had it shipped to California by air, but unfortunately uninsured. When the connector flanges are brazed on the copper lines it anneals (softens) the tubing adjacent to the flange. The twenty foot line sections were lashed together in bundles with the edges of the flanges touching the soft area of the adjacent piece of line. It must have been a rough trip because all the line sections were damaged enough to be unusable. I made some special tools and was able to salvage the line, earning the confidence of the Maple Chapel Board that about ten years later led them to trust me to build a television station for them. I moved to Bakersfield shortly thereafter in 1958 to go into the FM radio business myself, continuing an association with Jim Lawrence that lasted many years. KHOF-FM was able to complete its increase to 100 kW with Jim’s help.
After selling KQXR-FM in Bakersfield in 1964 and returning to the San Gabriel Valley I received a call from Jack French who had recently become General Manager of KHOF-FM. Jack was unhappy with the Chief Engineer that he had inherited with the job and wished to fire him and begged me to stand by as interim chief until Byron Mobus could wind up his affairs in Santa Clara, CA and take over as Chief Engineer. This I did and it led to my resuming relations with Pastor Ray Schoch and the renamed Faith Center. After Jack made the management changes that put the station on a good financial footing Byron was able to replace the tired old GE transmitter with a new 20 kW CCA unit and a new Shively 10-bay circularly polarized antenna.
Jack French, KHOF-FM General Manager
© 2012 W. Bernard Marston
Howard Bollenbach kneeling in front of the GE transmitter for KHOF-FM with General Manager Jean Carpenter holding the meter.