Monday, February 16, 2009

Stereo Comes to Pullman!

Pullman, Washington, 1962. Well into my freshman year at Washington State University and blowing the opportunity for railroading all around me! Both the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific passed within blocks of my dorm, yet my mind was elsewhere – besides classes – if you know what I mean!

I read in the news the other day that an outfit named Magnolia HiFi is one of the latest causalities of eight years of GOP shenanigans. Reading about the changes at Magnolia HiFi got me to remembering my first high fidelity equipment, and the entry of stereo into my life.

Magnolia HiFi was located in the Magnolia District of Seattle and was both HiFi and camera dealer in their early years.

A gentleman by the name of Len Tweetin hit upon the novel idea of offering a customer oriented HiFi store, with high-end discrete (separate components) and integrated high fidelity equipment. I spent my first hifi dollars at Magnolia, purchasing a Grundig turntable, which as I recall, needed a dinky pre-amp for the pickup!

In 1958, the first rudimentary stereo receiver, the budget busting Harmon-Kardon TA 230, hit the market. It was a complex puzzlement with two tuners (look carefully at the photographs) that received Channel 1 from an AM (Amplitude Modulated radio station) and Channel 2 from an FM (Frequency Modulated radio station.) This required, obviously, that your radio market have an AM/FM station to pull off this aural wonderment!

On April Fool Day in 1962, two of the Inland Empire’s finest radio stations teamed up in a heavily promoted experiment in stereo broadcasting. KOFE-AM, home of Pullman’s “Lorenzo Toad of Toad Hall,” and KRPL-AM, home of Moscow Idaho’s seductive “Date With Shirley,” show did a simulcast from Pullman Music, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

All day Saturday before the big broadcast, dormitories became a beehive of activity as radios and speakers were moved around for the big experiment. Two radios and their attendant speakers needed to be placed just so, with one radio tuned to each station: KOFE AM Pullman broadcast Channel 1 on 1150 kilocycles, and KRPL AM Moscow Idaho broadcast Channel 2 on 1400 kilocycles.

I can’t remember how it sounded. It was a two or three-hour nightmare for both stations, and because Channel 2 was sent by land line the 5 or 6 miles or so over to Moscow transmitter site, there were timing errors, resulting in a hollow sound. Manager’s Bill Wipple (left) and Gub Mix (right) put heart and soul into the experiment, but it was never replicated. Frequency Modulation Multiplex was just over the horizon.

HH Scott premiered the first FM Multiplex Model 350 receiver in 1961, where upon a single signal with offset channel modulation could deliver honest to gawd stereo. If you are old enough to remember those days, you also know that a true apprentice of stereo always removed the case.

Why? This allowed just enough light from the tubes glowing in Scott, Fisher and Harmon-Kardon and other receivers, to bath the living room or rumpus room in a seductive level of lighting, which the ladies found irresistible, demonstrating that you were a true stereo aficionado!

And the “Seductive Date With Shirley?” Well a couple of us were her guests one evening over at KRPL. Just behind Larry Aire, the DJ on duty, is a cube like device with a meter on it's face. This was a relatively new tape recorder/player manufactured by Gates, called the ST-101 Spot Master.

A marvelous piece of machinery, it had a tape 13" wide, and could record up to 101 audio tracks at 5 1/2 ips. On it we recorded commercials and jingles. Damn near every radio station had at least one of these marvels. It could only play one track at a time, and took up to 6 seconds to rewind. You can make out the indexer just below the VU meter. One NEVER rewound it while the mic was open, as it sounded like an old fashioned Sears Roebuck washing machine when it was reversed!

We watched in awe and wonder as Shirley Mix, the station owners wife, turned the studio lights down, and in her creamy deep voice, announced that she had a few hours to spend on her “date” with us.

I know toes were curling and hormones raging at the men’s dorms at the University of Idaho and Washington State …

1 Comments - Click here:

SDP45 said...

This was a fun read. I learned a bit about the early days of Pullman radio. Sounds pretty loose compared to the NPR feed out of there now.


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