About 1962 a Bakersfield, California promoter named Hal Brown persuaded two southern California business men to provide funding to construct an FM radio station in Bakersfield. One was Joel Greenberg, who owned the Joel’s dress shop chain and the other was the owner of Ajax Hardware Company in Baldwin Park, CA, a company that manufactured cabinet hardware; knobs, hinges, latches, etc. The station was put on the air on 96.5 MHz with a studio in the Valley Plaza Mall in southwest Bakersfield; transmitter and antenna at the old Channel 29 building and tower in Oildale.
After about eight years of money-losing operation and unsuccessful attempts to sell it the backers decided to cut their losses and shut down the station. Unfortunately, they did not get the necessary permission from the FCC to go dark. They dismantled the studio to save rent but fortunately left the power on at the transmitter to keep the tower lighted. I don’t remember how Ray Schoch found out about it but in due course it was arranged that the owners would give the station to Faith Center in exchange for a tax-deductible receipt. I had been involved in the negotiations previous to acquiring the station and after the deal was completed the whole project became my responsibility.
The Oildale transmitter site provided several surprises. When originally put on the air Bakersfield TV Channel 29 had built a large concrete building containing studios, offices and transmitter with a locally manufactured 450 ft. tower. After Channel 29 moved its transmitter from the Oildale site to Mt Breckenridge the buildings, sitting isolated in the middle of an oilfield, were continually vandalized. When the 5kW RCA FM transmitter for KIFM was installed in the centrally located transmitter room that area had been reinforced to prevent intrusion. On my first visit I found the door standing open. Someone had opened it with an axe! Not only had the single-phase power for the tower lights been left on but so had the three-phase power for the transmitter; in fact the transmitter filaments were still turned on and glowing! It would have only required pushing the plate “ON” button to put it on the air! It was probably a good thing that the power was on, as the glowing tubes, humming transformers and high voltage warning signs probably saved the transmitter from serious damage. As it was only the glass in all the meters was smashed. I was able to obtain replacement cases for all the meters from Metermaster in L.A. The meter style was by then obsolete so I got the parts for $1.50 each. I noticed in the transmitter logs that the station had been running on reduced power for several months before the shutdown and found that one bank of the high voltage bridge rectifier had failed. A new stack had been purchased from RCA but never installed
My next project was to appease the FCC by getting the station back on the air as soon as possible We needed space for a studio and someone to manage the station and start some local promotion. A Foursquare minister from Taft, CA named Coy Edwards was hired as manager after being interviewed by the Faith Center Board. I located a small office on south H Street in Bakersfield and installed the meager studio equipment salvaged from the original KIFM studio. As I remember it consisted of a console, a couple of turntables, a microphone, cart machine and transmitter remote control.
It was intended that KIFM would re-transmit a large part of the programming of KHOF in Los Angeles by relaying it to Bakersfield by microwave from an off-air pick-up on Frazier Mountain. To that end I purchased an old Telco 950 MHz Budelman microwave that we installed in rented building and tower space on Frazier. When we first turned it on we discovered that the Pappas brothers were relaying programming from KTLA Channel 5 on Mt. Wilson to their Channel 26 in Visalia. The frequency of a multiplier in the Budelman transmitter fell into Channel 5 and wiped out their reception. I had to replace the Budelman with a new 950 MHz transmitter but continued to use the Budelman receiver at the studio. The relay proved to be fairly reliable but it was not too long before most of the KIFM programming was being produced locally in Bakersfield.
As the station began to grow it became obvious that larger studio space was required. A small house on south H Street was purchased and turned into a studio. I had been looking for local engineering help, especially after several midnight trips to Bakersfield to fix transmitter problems. About this time a young man named Steve Pair showed up at the H Street studio and volunteered his help. He had heard of the station through notices posted at many of the local churches. I had known Steve’s father when I lived in Bakersfield and he had been in a Sunday school class with my son John. Steve had no broadcast experience but had an interest in radio and audio so he was hired. He acquired an FCC license and was able to handle a lot of the equipment installation at the new studio. After a few trips to Bakersfield to break him in on the transmitter’s idiosyncrasies he could take care of all but the most complex problems. Steve later moved to Los Angeles and worked for me at the Faith Center radio and television stations for a couple of years. About 1974 he went to KABC Channel 7 as engineer in charge of their ENG microwave equipment. He didn’t know a lot about microwave and I got several calls for help from him over the next few months but he was a quick study. He worked his way up to Chief Engineer and then became Chief at Channel 9. At this writing he is Vice President of Engineering for WCBS-TV New York.
Back to KIFM: All the Faith Center stations were doing well in 1973 but the church itself was in financial difficulty because of mismanagement of development funds and was desperate to raise cash to pay off some 30-day demand notes. A deal was made to sell KIFM to the Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Application for the license transfer had been filed with the FCC when Dr. Gene Scott got control of Faith Center. Scott tried desperately to cancel the sale but eventually had to let it finalize. Foursquare operated KIFM as KHIS-FM for several years but later sold it.
© 2010 W. Bernard Marston