Irvin W. Hubbard at KCRJ
From: frank hubbard
Subject: Hubbard KCRJ Bio
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 12:35:02 -0800
Irvin W. Hubbard wrote in his biography in 1960:
We got into Prescott about five in the morning and there they
introduced me to a fellow who drove a truck over the mountain
to Jerome. We left for Jerome shortly and arrived there about
seven thirty; the date was June 13,1935.
Jerome was a copper mining town. It hung on the side of a
mountain just a mile above sea level. The main street was empty
as we pulled up in front of a row of stores. A sign on the
plate glass window of one store read, "Charles C. Robinson,
Jeweler". The truck driver pointed it out to me and said, "That's
your place". I got out with my suitcase, thanked the driver
and went stiffly toward the place indicated. I was unshaved, my
clothes wrinkled from sleeping in them and I felt anything but
ready to meet a prospective employer.
The door of the store was locked; I rapped loudly and a
short, fat little fellow in his shirtsleeves emerged from
the darkness in the rear of the store. When he had opened
the door I asked, "Is this the broadcast station"? "Are
you my new operator "he asked without answering my question.
When I said I was his face changed from a worried look to a
broad smile. "Boy you're just in time, we're having trouble,
can't get the thing on the air.
I followed him to the back of the store where we entered a
small room that contained the biggest batch of hay-wired
instruments I had ever seen. To my left was a panel about
five feet in height containing an assortment of large and
small meters. This I assumed was the broadcast transmitter
panel. Then I glanced to the right. There was a stand
about six feet long upon which were mounted a pair of 78
RPM turntables and one large turntable for playing 33 1/3
RPM records. A tall skinny young fellow was seated just
behind the turntables, evidently waiting for my new boss,
Mr. Robinson, to get the transmitter on the air.
"Just can't get her to radiate", said Mr. Robinson as we
stood there looking at the panel of meters. I could hear the
hum of an electric motor somewhere so I asked, "Where do you
your power?" He led me into the toilet just off the "studio"
and pointed to a hole in the floor. I looked down into a hole
4 feet square and 8 feet deep. There was a light burning down
there and I could see what appeared to be two motors, their
shafts connected and they seemed to be running. "What's the
function of these motors?" I asked. "Well", said Robinson
pointing, "That one there is a 110 volt motor; it runs the big
generator connected to it. From one end of the generator we
get 6 volts to light the tubes, the other end 1500 volts for
our plates; we ain't getting any plate voltage." I didn't know
much about shooting trouble in a radio transmitter but I did
know a little about motors and generators. I knew that if the
brushes and commutator of a generator were dirty they would
produce no voltage so I got a stick a little larger than a
lead pencil and a small strip of sandpaper and climbed down
into the hole. After I applied the sandpaper gently to the
revolving commutator on the 1500 volt side for a minute I
called to Robinson to look at the plate voltage meter. Soon
he yelled down, "It's OK, everything is OK, come on up"
Page #3 (1/24/03)
By the time I was out of the hole Robinson and the young
lad were arranging some records onto the turntables and
getting ready to broadcast the morning program. After
waiting ten minutes for the transmitter tubes to warm up
the skinny lad opened the microphone switch, tapped a
musical gong a few whacks over the background of a recorded
theme song, and said, "Good morning everyone; this is radio
station KCRJ in Jerome, Arizona, operating on a frequency of
1310 Kilocycles, by permission of the Federal Communications
Commission, Washington, D.C., your announcer is GIL LAWRENCE."
Robinson had introduced Gil and he explained that Gil played
the piano on some programs and since the operator had quit
suddenly Gil was pinch-hitting for him. Gil didn't have an
an operator's license but as long as the F.C.C. didn't know
about it there would be no trouble.
Gil asked me if I wanted to take over but I said no I would
watch him the rest of the day. This gave me an opportunity
to look over the list of business firms advertising over the
station. There were ten; the amount each firm paid monthly
was typed after each name and the grand total was less than
$200.00. Three other firms had 15 minute programs twice a
week which amounted to another one hundred dollars.
The advertising brought in about $300.00 a month. I was
receiving $135.00 salary out of that. The future didn't look
very promising but I was in and had to make the best of it.
Gil signed of the air at noon, which was regular procedure,
and Bob told us to go over to the English Kitchen and eat
lunch on him. The English Kitchen was a Chinese restaurant
and one of our advertisers.
After lunch Bob (Mr. Robinson) loaned us his ford and
Gil and I drove to Clarkdale where we called on various
merchants. Then we drove to Cottonwood where I was
introduced to merchants as the new operator and manager
of KCRJ and received by most of them with very little
enthusiasm. Gil reminded me we had to get back to Jerome
by three-thirty to warm up the transmitter for the After-
noon program. We went on the air at 4:00 o'clock with
more recorded music. It was then I noticed a little Mexican
girl, about fourteen, standing at a table in one corner of
the studio opening a stack of mail. Out of each envelope,
when opened, fell dimes and notes on slips of paper. I looked
at Gil for an explanation and he merely said, "That's Cucua,
Joe's girl, she gets his Spanish program ready." Then he
added, "Joe goes on from four-thirty to five; the dimes are
for the dedication of a record, from one person to another."
I introduced myself to Cucua who was very shy at first but
soon thawed out enough to explain that it was a way for the
Mexican boys and girls to get acquainted and to express their
affection for one another. A boy would dedicate a certain
musical number to some girl he fancied, "I Love You Truly."
Each dedication cost a dime and the dimes rolled in daily.
Joe, was Jacinto Orosco, who put on the Spanish program in
exchange for the dimes. Joe worked days in the mine and was
through at four o'clock. When he arrived at the studio
Cucua would have the records for dedication stacked high and
in order with his theme song, Zacatecas on top. There were
times when the theme song was playing as Joe came down the
Joe was more at home at the microphone than anyone I have
ever seen. You could hand him a slip of paper with a firm
name of an advertiser and he would glance at it and ad lib
at great length about the merits of the business, the bargains
and the courtesies you would receive if you traded there.
After the Spanish program we had a half hour English program
and then signed off for the day.
Tomorrow, June 14, 1935, would be my first day alone on
my new job.
It was in the fall of 1935 Bob got the idea to build a
complete new transmitter and of increasing the power to
250 watts. I was incapable of building a transmitter so
it was agreed I would quit when the engineer who was to
build it arrived. The new man's name was Dick Sampson
and I later came to know him quite well. He was one of
the nicest chaps I met in the radio field. It was early
December when I left Jerome, the weather was getting quite
chilly, and I was glad to be heading back to California.
In January 1937 I received a letter from Bob Robinson
asking me to come back to run the station again. I called
Bob long distance and told him I would return and bring my
son Frank. The first thing we did upon arrival at Jerome
was find suitable living quarters. This we found at the
old Central Hotel. Dick Sampson the engineer Bob had hired
was working on the construction of the new transmitter. In
the mean-time we were still operating on 100 watts and they
were building a new studio across the street from the High
school. Joe Orosco was still putting on the Spanish program
and his daughter, Cucua, was his assistant as before.
I broke Frank in on the mike and his voice was so like mine
no one knew the difference. He enjoyed writing continuity
and announcing and it allowed me time to sell advertising.
Frank and I ran KCRJ until the fall of 1937. In October I had
enough of Jerome and packed up and we returned to Oakland.
>From November 1937 through January 1938 I was attempting to
earn a living as a salesman, but not very successful.
Early March 1938 I received a long letter from Bob Robinson
stating, "come on over and run the station again", "We are on
250 watts and now using our new studio." Once again I said
"I'll be there." And Frank and I again headed back to Jerome.
Frank and I took over the station with its new studio
which was a great improvement. A small viewing area
with double glass and soundproofing and a studio that
allowed us to have live performances. At one time the
local townspeople produced a play furnished by the
Works Progress Administration. With Frank at the mike
and me selling advertising all was going well.
One day Bob told me he had been trying to sell the
station through advertising in out of state newspapers.
This seemed like a challenge to me and I told Bob he had
been seeking gold in foreign lands while it was in
his own back yard. He had been asking eight thousand
dollars for the station and would give me all over that
amount if I could sell it. We shook hands on it.
The next day I went to Prescott and had a talk with Bill
Stuart, owner of the Prescott Courier. I knew Bill had
been trying to get permission to erect a broadcast station
in Prescott and had been denied this by the FCC. I told him
that KCRJ could be bought for ten thousand dollars; that I
had two thousand dollars to invest in it and would consent
to manage it. Mr. Stuart conferred with his wife who was
the former widow of the late meat packer, Phil Tovrea.
Mrs. Stuart and her son, Phil Jr., were interested and I
returned to Jerome with a ninety day option to buy and a
good size check to bind the bargain.
The option was to give us time to incorporate and to get
the FCC's permission to transfer the station license. Bob
was one surprised fellow when I handed him the check and
the option for his signature. His respect for me as a
salesman went up considerable. Bob gave me a receipt for
my two thousand commission to be applied whenever the deal
Then began a continuous chain of negotiations that lasted
the full ninety day period of the option. Bob had a
lawyer representing him in Washington for the transfer
and I was sent to Washington to represent the buyers at
a hearing before the Federal Communications Commission.
Meantime we had incorporated under the name of Central
Arizona Broadcasting Company. I conferred with Bob's
lawyer in Washington and called on Senator Hayden from
Arizona. The Senator assured me that he would put in a
good word for Bill Stuart with the FCC and I am sure he
did because the board assigned to try our case was very
considerate. They took my testimony before a microphone
and it was recorded. I Testified as to Bob's reason for
selling the station and told about the new company's plans
for the future
Two weeks after my return to Jerome we received word that
permission to transfer the broadcast license had
granted. One of the first things I did upon my return to
Jerome was to ask for a meeting of the new company's stock-
holders so I could discuss improvements in the station and
ask for funds to be put at my disposal. When the funds were
available I hired two carpenters, Charlie and Fred
Wreisinger, and together we drew up a rough plan for a new
building to house the newly formed company. I paid two
hundred fifty dollars for a lot on the Hogback, across the
road from the Jerome High School. Charlie and Fred got busy
on the building and I sent for Dick Sampson to come over from
San Bernadino, California to superintend the shifting
transmitter into the new quarters. Such an engineering feat
was beyond my ability.
When the job was complete it was the neatest and perhaps the
most unique radio broadcasting station in the United States.
Although the building cost only twenty five hundred dollars it
contained office space, a music library of about 2000 records,
a studio for live programs, the transmitter room and basement
apartment for use by the operators. In all my life I do not
believe I ever accomplished anything I was more proud of than
I was of that little broadcast station. We had a Neon sign
out front with large letters....KCRJ Dial 1310.
My elation over the new station was soon dampened. First,
we got a letter from the FCC stating we must add three
feet to the height of our antenna. The antenna was 147
feet high; a three-legged, uniform cross section, guyed
steel mast. My brother Claude, who was then doing some
announcing for me, said he would climb the mast and fasten
a three foot length of pipe to the top for twenty dollars.
So we solved that problem. Then another letter
from the FCC complaining that on our last frequency check
we were off our assigned frequency in excess of ten cycles.
I wrote to Dick Sampson again. He came over and played
with the crystal in the monitor for a couple of days
and decided it was cracked and we would need a new one.
I had him set it as near on frequency as he could and let
it go at that. The FCC generally checked our frequency
about every three months. This was always done at two
O'clock in the morning. If they were busy and missed it
they would let it go sometimes for six months. I took a
chance they'd miss it and let it go for six months and as
luck would have it they did. A new frequency monitor
would have cost about six hundred dollars and the fund the
company had advanced me was exhausted. I couldn't seem to
sell enough advertising to fatten our bank account.
I began to feel guilty whenever I made out my own paycheck.
I paid myself one-hundred twenty five a month, my licensed
operator one-hundred and the apartment, and the girl in the
office part time twenty five a month.
The Stuarts began to needle me and I got mad and told them
they could have my stock for half the two thousand I'd paid
for it. They jumped at the opportunity and before I knew it
I was on my way out with a certified check for one-thousand
dollars. It was October 1939 and once again I was on my
way to California.
to be continued!