First Waco radio station was Jackson’s hobby

Waco Tribune-Herald

October 30, 1949

Many Wacoans, and a great many other people besides, undoubtedly remember WJAD, the first radio station to operate here, and one of the first licensed to operate in the United States . Frank P. Jackson was the radio pioneer who brought the new medium of communication to Waco .

A telegram from Washington on July 25, 1922, put Jackson in the broadcasting field. It couldn't be called a business, because at that time there was no such thing as radio advertising.

There hardly was such a thing as radio.

Jackson 's permit to broadcast antedated by three years the starting of the present Federal Communication Commission. But there was still a federal commission in charge of trying to regulate the strange new gadget—radio.

The telegram to Jackson , addressed in care of Jackson Radio Engineering Laboratories, 908 Franklin Street , Waco , said:


It meant that Jackson 's application to broadcast with a power of 15 watts had been granted. It meant that he could try to make himself heard on the primitive receiving sets of that day. He was soon amazed to discover than a number of people were listening to their crude little receivers from time to time the only broadcast three hours a day.

In January, 1923, Jackson received a new license, signed by Herbert Hoover, secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge, granting permission to boost his power to 150 watts on 360 meters (850 kilocycles).

Many people everywhere were getting radio sets and beginning to learn how to tune them. There still were not very many broadcasting stations, and the government had only mixed success in trying to keep broadcasters from jumping out of their assigned wave lengths. But on all the lists of stations that behaved themselves (published periodically in the New York Times) the call letters WJAD always were to be found close to the top of the ranking. Jackson was proud of his station.

He had a right to be proud. In the autumn of 1924, he was granted permission to jump up to 500 watts power. By this time, he had moved his station from the Franklin Street laboratory to [the] Hotel Raleigh.

The first message broadcast by WJAD in its dedication program at the new quarters on Dec. 12, 1924, was “Waco Wins.” It meant that the Waco High Tigers had trounced the Royal Purple of Beaumont in a high school play-off game and were in the finals for the championship.

Jackson offered prizes for the listeners reporting reception of the broadcast at the farthest distance from Waco . The farthest response was Wyoming . Telegrams poured in from every State in the nation. WJAD was reaching out there with 500 watts.

The archives at radio station WACO, successor to WJAD, are full of yellowed fan mail from North Dakota, Michigan, Mexico, the South Sea Islands, Illinois, New York, Indiana, Arkansas, Nebraska, Denver, California, Florida, and virtually everywhere else. The cards and letters came from radio listeners who picked up WJAD out of Waco .

The Waco News-Tribune sponsored a number of football broadcasts over WJAD the next few years in lieu of traditional scoreboard service in front of the newspaper offices.

On Christmas 1924, Jackson made more history by broadcasting a midnight mass from Waco 's Church of the Assumption. Again the fan mail was terrific, and from all parts of North America .

All this time, and until July 1925, Jackson paid all the expenses of the broadcasting station out of his own pocket, without any income from the programs at all.

He was having fun and beginning to perform a notable community service, but nobody had yet figured out how to make it pay.

In 1925, Jackson made a commercial connection with the Barton Manufacturing. Co. , maker of Dynashine. For something thereafter, WJAD called itself the Dynashine Station. More licenses with different provisions kept coming along.

The local radio archives are full of old Federal permits, milestones of the swiftly-changing regulations.

Things were never dull around the broadcasting studios of WJAD. One December night, Jackson brought in C. F. Smith of Whitney with his string band.

Smith had spread the word all over his home town and they were tune in waiting. The band ripped off six numbers in good style, and then, as the musicians changed their positions to switch over to Hawaiian songs, said an old newspaper account, “The Cyclops of the Saxet Klan No. 3, KKK” took over the microphone and made a speech.

The angry musicians made enough noise to drown him out, listeners reported later. Smith, dumbfounded and insulted, marched his band out of the studio, brushing aside Jackson 's profuse apologies.

Anything but a KKK supporter, Jackson was as distressed as Smith over the unscheduled interruption.

In 1928, Jackson again upped his power from 500 to 1,000 watts, and he moved his studio to the Amicable Life Building . He was beginning to sell radio time, but it still was largely a one-man station.

He built a news transmitter on Speegleville Road . In 1929, Orville Bullington and J. M. Gilliam became partners with Jackson . In December they changed the call letters to WACO , buying out Jackson 's interest.

WACO is the only radio station in the world with call letters identical to the name of the town in which it broadcasts.

Incidentally, the present manager of WACO , Lee Glasgow, says he was 13 years old, living in Cleburne , in 1924, he built a little crystal set and the first broadcast he received over it was from WJAD of Waco.

About the time Jackson left the station, which he had made well known as far away as London and the South Seas , radio began to take the form it has today.

The local broadcasting concern has been through a number of ups and downs, and did not become a full-time station with 17 hours of daily programs until November, 1934.

By that time it was part of the Southwest Broadcasting Co. In 1938 it was sold to Frontier Broadcasting Co., its present owner. From 1937 to 1945 its general head was Elliot Roosevelt, who originated the present Texas State Network.

About three years ago, a second station was established here, KWTX, by the late Beauford Jester and a group of Waco associates. Television is expected to be the next step for the two local radio stations, but no one is able to say when it will begin or what form it will take.

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