In 2019, KFJC will roar into its 60th year of existence! To celebrate this impressive and improbable milestone, we’ll be taking a look back at the station’s history in this series of posts. Here, you’ll find stories about the station’s defining moments, interviews with alumni and listeners, and photographs, press, audio, and other paraphernalia exhumed from the sprawling KFJC archives. In this opening entry, we’ll take a look back at when the mayhem began, all the way back in 1959.
KFJC sent its first transmission over the airwaves on October 20, 1959, from a studio on the temporary campus of Foothill College, then located in Mountain View on El Camino Real. At first, the station operated only 2 hours a night, from 8 to 10pm, Monday through Thursday. The 10-watt transmitter beamed the evening programming over a broadcast range spanning from San Mateo to San Jose. Broadcasters selected from a record library consisting of 365 albums (as of this posting, our library currently holds 75,000+ items!). KFJC sounded very different from the programming you hear today: the focus was on classical and jazz music, educational programs, and news. It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that KFJC adopted the adventurous, heavy airsound associated with the station today – more on that in future posts!
KFJCs first General Manager was Bob Ballou, a student at Foothill College. Ballou set the standard for the station’s DIY spirit right from the start. He and his father built the first consoles for the broadcast equipment on a shoestring budget in their garage workshop in Palo Alto. Ballou had the station up and running with a small staff within a year and half, and when he stepped down from GM in 1960, he was praised by the Foothill Sentinel for his efforts: his activity as “one man, with a backbone, did more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone.”
We’ll hear more from founder Bob Ballou in our next post…