At the time I was a Criminal Investigator for the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office in San Jose. I had been in law enforcement for 9 years as a police officer, deputy sheriff and now as a DA’s investigator. While a police officer for the City of San Carlos, I worked part time moving antique furniture with a small parcel service during the days when I was on the midnight shift at the police department. On one trip to San Francisco, we were to deliver some antiques to a business near the Embarcadero on the water front. We had to wait for a couple hours before we could deliver the furniture, so I took a stroll down the street. I came to the Customs House and went in to look around. There was a sign by the stairs that said that the Federal Communications Commission was located on the 2nd floor. I was a licensed ham radio operator for many years so I went up to see what was going on up there.
When I came to a desk, the woman asked if she could help me. I said that I was just looking around and she asked me if I would like to take a test. She said that they were administering tests for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Radiotelephone licenses. I was just killing time so I said that I would take the 2nd Class test. I took the test and passed and by the end of the week was in possession of a brand new license. I had absolutely no need for it.
When I mentioned to Jack that I had a 2nd Class license, he asked what I would have to do to get a 1st Class license which was required for Chief Engineer of an FM radio station. I told him that I would have to take and pass an exam for Element 4. He implored me to come to work for him in Glendale as his Chief Engineer. It was quite a leap to consider a change from Criminal Investigator to Chief Engineer.
I had become disenchanted with law enforcement and had, in fact, applied with the Far East Broadcasting Company, a Christian organization with radio stations worldwide, as a technical missionary. They were looking for people to build a radio station in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. This application never worked out but the seed was planted for a change.
I prayed about such a momentous decision and discussed it at length with Charlotte, my wife. I felt led to accept Jack’s offer. I went back to the FCC office and passed Element 4 and soon had my 1st Class license. I never prepared for either test and was surprised when I passed them. I resigned from the District Attorney’s Office and left to start to work at KHOF-FM. I moved into Jack’s garage and commuted back and forth between Glendale and Los Gatos while we sold our house and bought one in Glendale.
The studios for the station were located on the 3rd floor of Faith Center which was the former Insurance Building for Forest Lawn Cemetery. It had been bought by Maple Chapel and a sanctuary added on the east side then renamed Faith Center. The 1st floor was a Christian Day School and the administrative offices for Faith Center were located on the 2nd floor. The 3rd floor was occupied by the offices and studios for the FM station and some offices for the TV station. The transmitter was located on Eagle Rock in Los Angeles near Glendale. It was controlled by remote control from the studios by broadcast quality telephone lines.
KHOF-FM 1966 – 1971
In 1966 I met Jack French at a church in San Jose. As we talked, he told me that he had been with Family Radio for many years but had accepted a position with Faith Center in Glendale, CA as General Manager of their FM radio station, KHOF FM, 99.5 MHz. It was a Christian radio station, broadcasting Christ to the Los Angeles area from a site located in Eagle Rock, near Glendale in Los Angeles. We met several times and he eventually left to start his new position. He came back to the San Jose area several times and reported how he was doing. He said that he needed some engineering help as there was a lot of work that needed to be done to improve the reliability of the equipment. During one of our conversations, I mentioned that I had a 2nd Class Radiotelephone license I had acquired several years before but had never used.
The studio audio equipment was also old and no longer able to meet the requirements for the yearly Proof of Performance required by the FCC. Tubes were always burning out and the required spares mandated by the rule and regulations consisted of mostly empty tube boxes or burned out tubes. The burned out tubes came from those that would make repairs on gear by using the tubes in the spare tube inventory and then leave the bad tubes in the boxes. The studios were not really sound proofed for quiet operation and quiet periods were required when operating live in the studios. Mechanically, things were on the ragged edge.
Finances can be a problem at times for any radio station, Christian or secular, and driven by any number of economic factors. The station license was commercial so the support for the station was a combination of listener support and commercial ads. This can be difficult at times if one or both is down. While trade agreements (e.g. The trading of office furniture and equipment for air time) have been typical for all broadcasters it in itself doesn’t generate cash to pay operating expenses. And we found ourselves with several of these trade agreements. This in addition with program suppliers that were delinquent in paying for their air time meant we had an increased reliance on the contributions of listeners and the church congregation.
Accounts at parts suppliers were in arrears and they would not even sell us parts until our accounts were current and then we were COD when we bought things. This contributed to the lack of maintenance on the equipment or even hiring outside technicians to come in to make repairs. Repairs were haywire and just enough to get by and stay on the air. However, as Pastor Schoch used to say, “But God!”
I contacted Bernie Marston in South Pasadena where he was still making French horn valves at his business, Marston Mechanical Specialties. I had known Bernie from my home town of Bakersfield, where he and Elward Robertson had an FM station down the road from my home. Elward also attended the Full Gospel Tabernacle where our family went and had been a mentor to me in electronics while I was growing up. Bernie very graciously agreed to back me up as I was in way over my head as Chief Engineer of the first radio station I had ever worked for. He bailed me out numerous times in keeping KHOF-FM on the air.
All the equipment was problematic, being run down and prone to failure. It was a constant battle to keep the transmitter on the air. It was an old General Electric transmitter that had been bought used and had been modified by Jim Lawrence to use newer tubes. The exciter had been replaced with a solid state Gates version so that the sub channels could be used for broadcasting background music. The exciter drove a 3 kW amplifier which then drove a 10 kW grounded grid amplifier. The old components tended to fail, usually in the middle of the night.
As the finances improved we were able to start upgrading the equipment for more reliable operation. New control consoles were installed, new microphones were bought, the studios were rebuilt and, eventually, a new state-of-the-art transmitter was bought and installed. In one case, the big walk in safe that was for the former insurance company, was converted into a studio with a soundproof window looking into the control room. This was very sound proof with it’s foot thick concrete walls and large safe door. An application was made and approved to change our antenna polarization from horizontal to horizontal/vertical, effectively doubling our effective radiated power. The vertical dipole antennas and power dividers were designed and manufactured by Bernie Marston. I installed them on the 300’ tower on Eagle Rock. Test equipment was bought to better monitor the station operation.
With the support of Faith Center leadership, Jack and I launched into a program to turn this around and also upgrade the equipment for more reliable operation. We started taking programs off of the air that were not paid current and billing for past due accounts. I guess you could say we got the same money for playing Christian background music as we did for non-paying programs, which is nothing. Many program suppliers brought their accounts current and started paying for their air time when the program material was delivered. This immediately provided an infusion of money for our operations. We contacted trade out accounts and told them that we were not going to provide any more air time traded for products that we did not possess. This, in turn, opened up a lot of air time that could be sold for cash.
Left: KHOF-FM Chief Engineer Byron Mobus in the maintenance shop
A stewardship program was also started in which people could invest their estates with the station so that the income generated could be used to provide income for the station operation. In some cases, the estate would revert to the station upon the death of the person.
Share-A-Thons and Praise-A-Thons were utilized to lay out our needs to our listeners so they could donate money to the station for our operation. This also required a backing away from commercial sales which are incompatible with fund raising over the air. On the air personnel were replaced when they began to exalt themselves instead of Jesus Christ. The music and programs were to provide spiritual help thru lifting up the Lord, not to make a name for the operators. Close control was maintained on the content of the programs being broadcast and the type of music that was played.
Right: KHOF-FM General Manager Jack French
© 2012 Byron Mobus
When the TV transmitter was built and installed on Sunset Ridge, we contracted with Lenkurt Electric to put in a microwave system from the studios in Glendale to Eagle Rock and on to Sunset Ridge. This not only supplied the TV signal for transmission from the TV transmitter but gave us channels for the programming and remote control from our studios to the FM transmitter, saving the monthly telephone line costs. The original engineering for the microwave path was done by Lenkurt and they didn’t notice that the signal path ran right into the side of a hill in Forest Lawn Cemetery, right in the way between the studios and Eagle Rock. We would have had to erect a very tall tower to get the signal direct. The path from the studios was re-engineered by Bernie Marston to bounce off of a passive reflector mounted on the top of the Bekins Storage building in downtown Glendale to bounce the signal to the FM transmitter site on Eagle Rock.
Crew installing the passive reflector on top of the Bekins building in Glendale
Byron Mobus seen at the top left peering over the reflector
Enlargement of Byron Mobus from the photo on the left
With God’s help we saw the reversal of our finances back to a positive cash flow and we were able to contribute to the construction of the TV station. With the positive cash flow and the faithful contributions of the congregation, Faith Center was able to move forward with the opportunities God was bringing to them. Praise God!"
Jack left in 1969 to start a successful Christian radio station in Las Vegas and to eventually start other Christian stations and translators all over the country. I left in 1971 after assuming General Manager of the FM station. I hired Burt Lehman as my Chief Engineer when he was released from the Army. He and others continued on with the TV station, putting it on the air and running the programming under the leadership of Bernie Marston.
Many people were brought to the Lord thru the ministry of KHOF-FM during our tenure and when I left, the station was on sound financial footing.
Byron Mobus, KHOF-FM General Manager, 1969 - 1971