A group of radio buffs is transforming a 1930s radio station in Berkeley from a building of a bygone era into a museum housing radio antiques dating back to the turn of the century, Doug Oakley of the East Bay Daily News reports. The California Historical Radio Society has been restoring the KRE radio station off Shellmound Street at the south end of Aquatic Park for three years.

Pictured is Steve Kushman, president of the California Historical Radio Society. Photo by Doug Oakley.

The story continues:

    “Our purpose is to present in an educational way the history of radio and the importance of radio to people who don’t know anything about it,” said Steve Kushman, president of the society. “There may be six generations of people who don’t know what a vacuum tube is and who Marconi is. They don’t teach this in schools.”

    (Hint: A vacuum tube is a glass instrument used inside old radios that modified signals and was later replaced by transistors in integrated circuits; Guglielmo Marconi was best known for his development of the radiotelegraph system.)

    The building’s control broadcast room was the location for Wolfman Jack and Richard Dreyfuss’ scenes in the 1973 movie “American Graffiti.”

    The building is owned by Inner City Broadcasting, which uses a room full of equipment and an outside radio tower to transmit signals for its radio stations that broadcast from other locations.

    The rest of the 4,600 square feet was left to the society.

    The group negotiated a free 10-year lease to build the museum. Since the group’s formation, it has cleaned up the outside of the building and restored much of the interior, and brought in loads of memorabilia, including vacuum tubes, ham radios, AM and FM radios, televisions, phonographs, teletypes and a complete broadcast control room. Kushman said he has no idea how long it will take to open the museum. In the meantime, anyone who wants to join the society can get a peek at the old gadgets and equipment at society events like the radio restoration classes that start March 10 or during weekend volunteer work days. The next two are slated for March 19 and April 7.

    “We move very slowly, but we’re making great progress,” said Kushman, who added that all the work is done on a volunteer basis. “Our goal is to have a radio, television and audio exhibit, a museum store where we sell restored radios and publications, and a recording studio where people can record on digital or audio tape and cut a record.”

    In addition, the museum will have a ham radio display with printed communications materials dating to the turn of the century and a vintage radio repair shop. The group recently made a presentation to the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission on its progress.

    “We want the city to know who we are,” said society board chairman Mike Adams. “We didn’t ask for anything. Some day we may. We want to be good citizens of Berkeley. We wanted to show what we’ve done with the property. It really was an eyesore; gangs had covered it in graffiti before we started.”

    Adams said it would be great if someone came along and donated a pile of money to fund the museum.

    “We want someone who is interested in the history of broadcasting,” Adams said. “Everybody thinks it’s a great idea what we are doing. We want to make it something the public would benefit from.”

SF Press Club News

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