It was Flag Day 1987. I was opening the mic for the first time as a new announcer on KTBB AM 600. It was the early part of my radio journey, and I was excited to be moving up in the industry.
KTBB was the second radio station to be licensed in Tyler, Texas. A station located at 1490 on the dial was the first, but KTBB would ultimately dominate the market. A strong award-winning news department, excellent on-air talent, and a good sales team complimented the fact the station was locally owned, so it was programmed for the benefit of East Texans.
I served as the station’s sports director and did an afternoon talk show. After a couple of years there, I moved on to KNUE, where I would finish my radio career.
But radio is a small family, and 35 years later I wasn’t forgotten when a big event took place. The owner of KTBB, Paul Gleiser, told me that a celebration was planned and that I would be invited.
On November 10, 2022, I attended the stations’ 75th anniversary party.
I was honored. And older.
So were those I ran into. Some I hadn’t seen in decades. Others, I frequently encounter since I stayed in East Texas instead of moving to a bigger radio market, which was my original intention.
And the venue couldn’t have been more appropriate. The celebration was held at the Texas Broadcast Museum in Kilgore. The Texas Broadcast Museum features some of the earliest, rarest, and best broadcast equipment. Not just in Texas, but in the country.
Not only did some of the attendees belong in a museum (present company included), so did the equipment that’s on display. There are several historical pieces of equipment, including the TV camera that was present when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot.
But there’s more than broadcasting equipment. Different models of radios and television sets are represented, all the way from the beginnings of each medium, through the 1970s and 80s.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only attendee who felt this way, but it was both amazing and eye opening to see equipment in a museum that you once used in both your broadcasting job and your living room.
But making available all types of vintage radio and television equipment (and some of the people who operated it) is the purpose of the Texas Broadcast Museum.
Today, you can shoot a movie on an iPhone. But for the first 100 years of radio and television it took a lot of equipment, often very large equipment, to deliver a simple broadcast to local or national audiences.
The mobile TV unit that covered the JFK assassination in Dallas was rescued from certain demise and was restored to its complete original condition. Today, it sits inside the museum, and you can walk through it and see each facet of the unit up and working.
An original working radio control room is in the museum, and visitors are allowed to give playing DJ a try, complete with vinyl records and turntables.
Early television sets are on display, as are some excellent radios, some of which came from my collection, which I donated to the museum a few years ago. Like many in the broadcasting business, I’ve collected old radios for years. When Chuck Conrad, who put the museum together, first opened the facility, I made the decision to donate some of my best pieces.
When you run out of room, you can either sell your collection or donate it. That’s the great thing about years of hide-and-seek collecting. If you give it to a museum, you can still go see it anytime you want.
People who worked in the industry not only have given items to the collection, they also volunteer to help explain to visitors how what they grew up watching was made behind the scenes.
But on November 10, 2022, it was all about the broadcasting present. Jimmy Failla of FOX Radio was the special guest. He started as a standup comic, and he’s still got it. He did a great comic set, but now most of his comedy appears on his radio show and on TV programs on FOX News where he guests.
He’s on Gutfeld fairly often, and on some of the other network programs. That’s one of the great things about broadcasting. It’s not school that is required for you to succeed, it’s talent.
Just a few years ago, Failla was driving a New York City cab.
It was an honor to attend an event for the station that brought me to Texas, and to once again visit the Texas Broadcast Museum. A visit everyone should make. The Texas Broadcast Museum website includes ticket information (it’s very affordable) and the hours of operation. They even host parties if you want to book one.
When you go, be sure to look for the Pepto-Bismol pink, 1950s clock radio I donated. Both the museum and that radio offer great receptions.
By John Moore