Here is a picture of the earliest days of KTKT in the late 1949 0r early 1950. The picture of me was taken for an article in the Tucson newspaper showing a typical day of the DJ of the day.
Note the four push buttons on the desk that started the turntables.
I was the first voice to modulate the new KTKT transmitter after installation in Tucson for field strength testing before official opening day. After opening I had a time slot in the programming schedule.
Attached (below) is an excerpt from my remembered diary for this time slot as remembered a few years back.
Those were the best years. Loved 'em.
PRELUDE To ‘49
by Bob Matteson
I graduated from Burbank California High School June 1946 and was preparing to enter college in September. My father suggested that try a trade school in LA, National Schools, starting July 1, for radio and TV repairmen. This was probably a very good idea because TV was just becoming popular and as it turned out the repairmen really made out. The school was very good and one of the courses was devoted to radio station operations. It hooked me. I got a Radio Operator First Class license and was told about a station in Merced that was looking for a “Combination” man. I took the Greyhound to Merced and was WORKING. I didn’t last long though- too young and no good. Back to Burbank and see if I could find another station. I checked with Broadcasting News, a weekly newspaper, which listed openings around the radio stations and found an opening in Reno, Nevada, and applied and was accepted. Another Greyhound to Reno, found a room, and reported for duty. Another adventure was under way. KXXL in Reno Nevada was unique. The station was located on an island a mile or so from the city, in the Merced River. It was really a home made station. I mean it had all the essentials, a transmitter, studio with a console and audio equipment, an antenna and a permit to transmit in the most rudimentary ways. It was also on the list for free records from the record companies, so it had program material, like Twelfth Street Rag by Pee Wee Hunt, Underneath the Arches by the Andrews Sisters and Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore. The management here didn’t mind talking with listeners on the phone, in fact, take requests and play what they want. Keep them listening. One day I walked to work and the station was missing. The night before the station burned down completely. There were only ashes left. Nothing was saved. The reason for such complete wipe out was because the bridge to the island was a wooden single lane. Not much more than a couple of planks. The fire trucks couldn’t get close enough to help. There was a cloud of suspicion in my mind about how much a tragedy it was for the owner because the owner’s wife said to me her greatest sorrow was that I lost that wire recorder I had in the back room.
Back On The Bus To Burbank
National Schools did not have a placement service for radio stations. But there was an announcer school in Hollywood that I had heard of but never attended (but should have) that had such a service. I went to them and asked what was available. I didn’t mention that I wasn’t one of their graduates. There were a couple openings and one now, with a fellow listening to auditions today at two o’clock. A few showed up and got “We’ll let you know.” Next day I got a call and asked if I could be ready to start in KTKT in Tucson on the first of the month. A week was more than enough time. The old bus trip again to the desert, got a room close enough to walk to the station, and showed up at the station site. And it was a sight alright. Not fully operational as yet and the assigned program director asked, “Who are you and why are you here?” I told him I was hired and was told to show up today. No. No. No. We didn’t have anyone in California doing any hiring yet. You must be mistaken; we won’t need anyone for a couple of weeks. Except another guy showed up with the same story so he decided to have the two of us help install equipment and wire up the transmitter and the studio. In a couple of weeks we finished testing and a week later there was a celebration when the official on air programming started. The Governor, Mayor and other local big wigs were there to start the turntables turning. The Owner/Manager was a Tucson lawyer and had invited all the politicians and business men of town. There was live music provided by Harmony House, the local Hammond Organ Music store. The owner of the store, his son and an organ player were there.
The son was about my age and joined in with the celebrating and suggested I stop by the store and look around and maybe take organ lessons. With nothing else to do in town that I knew of, I stopped by and found out that he was a salesman at the store and the organ player at the opening gave lessons and I started taking some. The player’s name was Clarence and the owner’s son’s name was Dick. I always introduced him as Dick - from the organ store. Clarence had a night time job playing at the Pago Pago Night Club/Bar which was about a half a mile from the radio station. Dick and I would go and help Clarence by indulging in Moscow Mules, our favorite Pago Pago drink. Dick had a girl friend, Peggy, who liked to help with the Mules. The station was not affiliated with a network and didn’t really have any programs other than playing records and reading the news. Our new program director, Larry Dietz, put on a kiddies program at the time school was out in the afternoon and we had a remote with the live music from The Spanish Cantina and Jimmy’s Chicken Shack as well as the Pago Pago. Sometimes “Uncle Larry” didn’t show up and I had to fill in for him. I persuaded the powers that we should try being on the air 24 hours. I always wanted to be an all night jockey. They let me for awhile but lacked sponsors and didn’t last too long. But with my fill in experience for Uncle Larry I contacted the Tucson Newspaper and requested permission to read the Sunday funny papers on Sunday morning. So I stayed on after the Saturday night stint to read the funnies. Dick had been coming around once in awhile as guest on the all night shift to make requests and comments. So I would record the funnies readings and the go to a coffee shop and have a hilarious time listening to the funnies. We thought they were hilarious anyway. I never once heard a comment from any kids or parents - or from KTKT management. However they decided to stick to only days and evening. The crew at the downtown hotel was probably the biggest (only?) all night listeners and they made a futile post card barrage to the station to keep it on all night. No go.
One fringe benefit at the station was the free records the companies send to the station. Some of the records the station doesn’t want because it doesn’t fit into their format. Also often they send more than one copy. All these are up for adoption. I adopted many and boxed them and made them ready for mailing and stored them under the kitchen sink in my little one bedroom house I found near the station. I was in my bliss, I had an on air job as a DJ, getting paid for paying records and had a buddy to accompany me about town. I had even saving a little toward the day I could afford some transportation of my own.
Uncle Larry hangs around wanting to be the big newscaster and impress the secretary with how the kids all love him. However quietly he wanted me to give him a temporary loan because he was moving and couldn’t get in to the new place until the end of the month and needed $200. Hey, he was my boss so I helped out even though he undoubtedly made more money than I did.
I should have given this more thought. At the same time the secretary/receptionist at the station told me one day that her younger sister from Bozeman, Montana was coming to visit for the summer. She showed me her picture and said you (me) would really like her. The picture did look good. She came to town and we met and chit-chatted and were moderately compatible. But things didn’t progress very fast. In fact were completely derailed when Uncle Larry disappeared along with the young sister, my $200 and all of the records stored under the sink. I was really pissed about those records. One Sunday morning Dick and I had some reason to go to Harmony House but didn’t have the keys because they had been left with Clarence the night before at the Pago Pago. So we were going to stop by Clarence’s apartment and pick them up. Poor old Clarence had worked late on Saturday and we didn’t want to wake him. So we just climbed in a window and got the keys and left him and his buddy in bed undisturbed. We had suspected as much before. We got the keys and picked up an organ which we had to deliver to Pasadena. We took turns driving the truck but we didn’t bother to stop to change drivers. We changed as we drove. We made it round trip and dropped the organ off as planned. A short time later Clarence, Dick, Peggy and I drove to Nogales, Mexico where Dick and Peggy got married and lived happily ever after. I was planning to take a short trip back to see the folks over a long weekend. Payday was that Friday - except the checks didn’t come out on my shift so I went to the office to see if I could pick mine up. No. I waited around for a couple of hours and was later told they may not be available until tomorrow. I left a note saying, “It doesn’t cost any more to pay us on time.” This did not please the sensitive owner/lawyer. Who the hell does this punk upstart think he is? While I was home I received a telegram saying I need not return for my check - it will be mailed to me. I did not even to go back to pick up my other pair of undies since my records were already gone. It was back to Burbank for me.
I went back to Burbank and UCLA and graduated from the Engineering College. I worked in the Apollo Space Program at the Cape in Florida and also Houston Texas. I also continued in radio on weekends at all of these locations. I loved those days in radio.