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KXOK Signs On In 1938

Elzey Roberts had every reason to be proud, and a little nervous, on Monday, Sept. 19, 1938. That was the day his new radio station, KXOK, went on the air. It was a long time coming.

The station was officially owned by Roberts’ newspaper, the St. Louis Star-Times. By the time they signed on, three years had been spent fending off challenges of competitors that had been filed with the Federal Communications Commission. Thousands of dollars had been spent building new studios and offices on the second and fourth floors of the Star-Times Building at 800 North 12th Blvd.

The paper touted its studios in an article on Sept. 9, just prior to sign-on: “The studios, three in number, are located on the fourth floor…The reception room will be decorated with a chocolate brown floor trimmed in white, with buff walls and ceiling. Opening from the reception room will be an observation alcove where programs originating in studio ‘C’ may be observed. The studio will be decorated with a jade green floor, sea green walls and a buff ceiling.

“Studio ‘A,’ the largest of the three, will be furnished with varying tones of terra cotta, ranging through three shades from the dark floor to a lighter ceiling…[The] observation room for this studio will have theater seats arranged in tiers for the accommodation of visitors.”

The new station was born near the end of what was called the “press-radio war,” during which the nation’s newspapers flexed their collective muscle in an effort to prevent radio stations from broadcasting news. As it was becoming obvious that the effort was a failure, the Star-Times felt it would be advantageous to promote the working relationship KXOK would have with the newspaper: “As edition after edition rolls off the presses the news will be rushed to the radio newsroom on the second floor of the Star-Times Building, there to be edited and put into the fast, clear bulletins the air requires.

“If news is breaking even faster, if the radio deadline is near, Bruce Barrington, news editor, will dash into the city room to get the stories as they come ‘take by take’ or paragraph by paragraph from the typewriters of the reporters and rewrite men. From the point at which the news breaks to the broadcasting microphone can on occasion be a matter of less than five minutes.”

Management put a lot of thought into the station’s programming. Like other, successful stations, KXOK offered a wide variety of shows. Several singing groups were hired, as were different program hosts for shows featuring advice to women, news analysis, a solver of “life problems” and locally produced dramatic presentations. Weekly live broadcasts of college football games were scheduled, along with wrestling, hockey and boxing matches.

So it was, with sufficient fanfare, that KXOK signed on at 6 a.m. with “Rudy Ramsworth and his ’Sunrise Round-Up,’ a program of music, time and interesting facts for those who must leave their homes for work.” The added gimmick was that the program originated live from the studios of KFRU in Columbia, Mo., a station also owned by the Star-Times.

The readers of the paper were also treated to an interesting demonstration of class in the form of a large ad the day KXOK signed on. The ad copy read, “KMOX and the Columbia Broadcasting System congratulate the St. Louis Star-Times on the opening of Radio Station KXOK.”

(Reprinted with permission of the St.Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 12/07.)