By Patti MacRae '71
Reedies like a good challenge. They love problem-solving under
pressure, they like to think they can overcome any obstacle, and they
especially love to hear themselves talk. Conversely, they tend to procrastinate,
they aren’t big fans of regulations and authority, and formal organizations
make them nervous.
The birth of KRRC and its survival for nearly 50 years is a living example
of what happens when these opposing forces get thrown together for some
The Reed Radio Club was organized in 1954 by a group of students with
the goal of pursuing “the technical and programming aspects of radio
broadcasting.” Picture several physics majors with ham radio or
electronic tinkering in their pasts seeking an outlet. The club was popular—it
regularly had more members than any other campus club—and it quickly
jumped from the theoretical to the concrete. In October 1955 KRCB-AM,
the Radio Voice of Reed College, debuted at 660 AM on the radio dial to
the delight of on-campus Reedies and a few local Eastmoreland residents,
and a new Reed tradition was born.
From the beginning, Radio Reed played the music no one else was playing.
Classical music was the focus in the early days, filling a cultural void
in the lives of those lucky few who could pick up the station. Other programming
included daily campus news, regular poetry readings, music broadcasts
that coincided with assign-ments in the music department, jazz, live panel
discussions, and “humorous student variety shows.” The station
used a “wired wireless” or carrier-current broadcasting system
that trans-mitted the signal through existing power lines in the area,
thus avoiding the need for an antenna. Equipment included a 40-watt transmitter
built and financed by half a dozen Reed students, mostly in the physics
department. Apparently, FCC licensing was not an issue. Station head-quarters
was the basement of Doyle dormitory.
After three years of planning, FCC negotiations, and overcoming financial
limitations, the Radio Club reached its goal of starting an FM station.
KRRC-FM began broadcasting at 89.3 FM on May 14, 1958, with the objective
of providing “radio programs of a high cultural quality.”
A 10-watt FM transmitter was designed, financed, and largely built by
Roger Wiesenbach ’58, with help from Karl Poehlman ’59 and
Ed Thomson ’58. Other equipment and supplies, including an 80-watt
antenna, were donated, borrowed, purchased, or built by radio club members.
The station broadcast for only a few weeks that spring, a major achievement
being the live broadcast of the spring student concert in the Reed chapel.
KRRC returned to the airwaves the following fall, and on October 12, 1958,
its inaugural broadcast featured recorded messages from Senator Wayne
Morse and other Oregon notables.