Radio History

KJWL radio provides smooth sounds to the Fresno/Clovis area and beyond. But did you know its owner, John Ostlund, is also collecting material for a radio museum? On a recent Art Born of Graffiti tour we were treated to John’s passion for radio history first when he showed us the loft area of the station and described his plans. Later came the infectious enthusiasm as he regaled us with treat after treat in the basement.
In this day and age of digital everything the history of early radio tends to be lost quickly. If John has his way, that will not happen. Not only old records of days gone by, but fully restored equipment of the various eras are in the works. But I get ahead of the story….

After touring with us the art gallery in the studio foyer and beyond, John was delighted to share with us his plan for the loft space within the historic building, now re purposed. Atop the beautiful Art Deco staircase sits an open loft space overlooking the entire studio. John walked out this space for us, even asking we “imagine, if you will, over here a glassed in DJ booth…playing Beetles music of the 60’s” he smiles, “as you host your event for the evening”. In another area, various stations of each era in radio, with working equipment to listen to past historic broadcasts. He goes on to ask if we recalled some common phrases of radio days gone by such as Top 40 hits. John explains the concept of playing the top 40 all day and nothing else, came from a Fresno personality.

All too soon, it seemed our visit was at an end. As we prepared to leave John happened to ask if we wanted to see some of the newest items he obtained for the museum. Certainly!, so down to the basement we headed. (Mind you, the tidiest storage area I have ever seen) Now John’s true passion became evident as he guided us among the various items stored: here, consoles from the 60’s, there, old reel to reels, recording decks and such. He even has a piece dating back to the 20’s but he’s not sure they can get it working again; he hopes however. Records of various eras, even paper programs from the stations past. Then, the WOW moment. “I got a call recently from some person in nearby town. He was cleaning out a storage locker of his father’s and found some old stuff with KJWL on it. Did I want it, he asked” shares John. Not certain if it was worth it, he decided to say ‘sure’ and arranged to pick it up. John reaches down to the box at our feet as he continues, “I found a few old station programs and such but not much else.” Moving the box he continues, “then I saw this….and my heart stopped”. Inside, what looked like video cases labeled 1, 2, 3 etc.; John takes one out and explains it is an original daily recording from the station which the host would use to play the hits every hour of the broadcast “and here, are even the commercials of the day” exclaims John. You never know when one man’s trash turns out to be a treasure!

The task ahead is enormous and expensive as John, and others who share the vision, restore equipment. There is much to do: finish restoring items, listen to every one of those daily’s to figure out what era they are from, collect more records from other stations and so on. The result will be priceless. KJWL is always a favorite stop on a few of our tours; it’s guaranteed to be fascinating.
Your next opportunity to join in as we step back in time while enjoying the cultural art districts murals is Fri evening May 13 or Sat morning the 14th. Only $25pp including food stops along the way! Contact the office for the details and meet location. or 559.392.4471


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