Radio museum moving to Alameda

Radio museum moving to Alameda

Dave Boitano

Photo from the California Historical Radio Society website.

In an age of e-mail, high definition television and tablet computers, an older form of entertainment still enlightens and entertains the public: radio.

Whether it’s a morning newscast, the familiar voice of a baseball game announcer or the latest from Daft Punk over the FM airwaves, radio is very much a part of modern communication. And a group that's working to preserve the Bay Area’s radio heritage is moving its museum to Alameda.

The 400-member California Historical Radio Society, which operates the Bay Area Radio Museum and Hall of Fame, is in the process of buying a former preschool building at 2152 Central Avenue to house their vast collection of vintage equipment and broadcast memorabilia. The museum is now housed in the former old KRE radio station building in Berkeley, but new owners have asked the group to vacate.

The radio society has already raised $700,000 of the more than $1.1 million needed to buy the property and convert the new building for museum use. Supporters must raise an additional $450,000 to close escrow by April 14.

Steve Kushman, the society’s president, is confident that radio’s timeless appeal will encourage the public to help make the fundraising goal a reality.

“Radio has touched everybody’s life,” Kushman said. “Everyone has some connection to radio. It got them through hard times. Now we are telling them it’s time to give back.”

The new building would be dubbed “Radio Central,” and Kushman said the group will need time to move the thousands of artifacts that make up the collection.

Though the group has not formally taken over the building, some boxes are already being moved to the site with permission of the real estate company representing the seller, according to San Jose State University professor Mike Adams.

Along with vintage broadcast equipment, the museum houses an extensive archive of old radio broadcasts and a working 1950s studio and is used for a variety of classes, including one teaching participants how to restore vintage radios.

The hall of fame pays tribute to broadcasters who informed and entertained audiences over the years including station KFRC’s, Dr. Don Rose, longtime KSFO disc jockeys Carter B. Smith and Don Sherwood and KCBS newsman Ken Ackerman.

The Bay Area was also a key locale during radio’s early days.

Charles Herrold built an experimental station in his San Jose “School of Electricity” in 1909, broadcasting music and voice transmissions. Though primitive by modern standards, the broadcasts were considered revolutionary to radio listeners who had previously heard only Morse code over the medium, Kushman said.

Herrold even had commercials on his airwaves, though they were limited to the nearby record store that provided the music played on the air.

His station would later become KCBS, known to listeners as the Bay Area’s all-news station. The “School of Electricity” would later become the headquarters for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain.

San Francisco was the West Coast's broadcast hub during during the 1930s and 1940s, which are considered the golden age of radio, Kushman said.

NBC’s red and blue broadcast networks were located here though by government order - one of two networks would later become the American Broadcasting Company or ABC.

In addition to the hall of fame, the group's new Alameda digs will house the Maxwell Communications Library, the Society Of Wireless Pioneers archives, and the society's vintage radio museum.

Anyone interested in contributing to the society's effort to purchase the building can do so on its website.


Kimberlee MacVicar's picture
Submitted by Kimberlee MacVicar on Thu, Jan 30, 2014

Is sports broadcaster Bill King in the Hall of Fame? He should be by now. I recall when he died basically the world was stunned to learn that this great man had not been elected to a single hall of fame anywhere, especially the baseball one. If he isn't in this local one, how can we get him in? Thank you.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Thu, Jan 30, 2014

Some old radios were works of art.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

This is great news. Our community should pitch in an help with the effort.