May 5, 1933 someone inside the Leo J. Blanchard Sporting Goods Store
(located in the old Dietz Bakery building) threw a switch. I've probably
watched too many Frankenstein movies, but I like to think that the
lights dimmed and sparks flew. There was a faint but noticeable humming
sound followed by the smell of something burning. Seconds later Fredericksburg's
first radio station was on the air.
The 1930s were depression years, but they were also radio's golden
age. Stations were popping up all over the country. At the same time
radio sets were becoming smaller and more affordable.
Radio was the gin and tonic that helped many Americans forget their
economic troubles. Radio brought music and laughter and lessened the
feeling of isolation in rural communities like Fredericksburg.
People who had never been out of Gillespie
County could, with a radio and a little imagination, have box
seats at Wrigley Field or be front row center at Radio City Music
Americans loved radio. Every town, large and small, wanted its own
first station, call letters WTTH, reached Kerrville,
City. The station operated during the daylight hours. A lot of
the programming was live music and local news.
But the early radio business was precarious, and by 1937 radio station
WTTH was gone. John Segner's opened a watch and jewelry repair shop
in the vacant space.
9 years Fredericksburg had no local radio station. Then in 1946 the
Federal Communications Commission approved the plan of the Gillespie
Broadcasting Company to build a 250 watt station in Fredericksburg.
Stockholders in the company included local businessman Walter McKay,
attorney Arthur Stehling and Jerry Fisher, an experienced radio man
who doubled as station manager.
| Alene Fritz
at the microphone at KNAF. Behind her are DJs Jimmy Dunne and Curtis
Short. Photo taken February 5, 1959.
Gillespie County Historical Society.
| The studio,
control room and office complex of the new station were located in
4 former Plaza Hotel rooms on the second floor of the Security State
Bank building at the corner of Main and Crockett Streets. The 150
ft. transmitting tower was 2 miles to the northwest.
Work on the new station began in September 1946. At the studio and
office complex, technicians installed soundproofing, a Gates console
with 2 turntables and an Associated Press teletype machine. The teletype
operated 24 hours a day transmitting news from all over the world
at 60 words a minute.
Workers completed all remodeling and construction in November. After
testing the system and getting final approval from the FCC, station
KNAF, "The Voice of the Texas Hills," 1340 on your radio dial, began
broadcasting on November 26, 1946, 2 days before Thanksgiving.
The broadcast day at KNAF began at 6:30am and ended at 10pm, Monday
through Saturday, with slightly shorter hours on Sunday. Programming
featured a fascinating lineup of music, drama, sports, comedy and
Music programs, in 15 minute segments, included Kate Smith. Bing Crosby,
The Andrews Sisters, Two-Ton Baker The Music Maker, The Texas Drifter
(real name Goebel Reeves) and Polka Time.
Thirty-minute dramas featured Sherlock Holmes, Tom Mix, True Detective
One of the most popular local shows was the Trading Post where listeners
could "buy, sell or trade anything."
On January 23, 1959 KNAF increased its power from 250 watts to 1,000
watts and transferred its frequency from 1340 to the now familiar
910. At the same time an addition to the tower took it to a height
of 245 ft. allowing signals to reach listeners in San
Antonio, Austin and
KNAF became a part of daily life in the Hill
Country. DJs Jimmy Dunne, Curtis Short and "The Girlfriend" Alene
Fritz were like family.
There were worries that television would kill radio, but that never
happened. There is something about radio that is still powerful and
Radio is intimate and personal. With radio you can be all alone and
still have a friend in the room. Close your eyes and it's easy to
imagine you are at Carnegie Hall, Broadway, Yankee Stadium, the Ryman
Auditorium or Woodstock.
The magic of radio comes in through the ears. The listener supplies
the video with his own imagination.
"Station KNAF Begins New Era In Radio Broadcasting," Harper Herald,
January 30, 1959.
"Segner's Jewelers Celebrating 40th Anniversary With Sale," Fredericksburg
Standard, October 12, 1977.
"KNAF Fredericksburg Begins new Era," Llano News, January 29, 1959.
"Fredericksburg Radio Station Being Installed," Fredericksburg Standard,
March 24, 1933.