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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Phone Rat's Memories of KGIL

This SKYWATCH button brings back a lot of fond memories of growing up in the San Fernando Valley back in the 1960s. The radio station was KGIL which broadcasts from the San Fernando Valley on 1260 AM. KGIL was the station my parents listened to most of the time. My Mom would have it on almost every morning and evening. At the time, a disc jockey named Chuck Southcott took callers requests up to midnight. The request line was Empire 4-9191. My friend and I were always calling in to make a request and Chuck would play the song sometime during that evening. It was usually a Chad and Jeremy, New Christy Minstrels or Peter Paul and Mary song. Sometimes I requested a John Gary or Floyd Cramer song for Mom. That phone number was also used for radio station contests. Announcer would say "I'll take the third caller at Empire 4-9191 to win a 4 pack of tickets to see the Musical Sound of Music at the Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills courtesy of the House of Sight and Sound in Van Nuys, “start dialing now". At that time with rotary dial phones, you would have already dialed the EMpire {36} 4 919 and let the 1 go on the announcers command.

During that era, Dick "Sweet Dick" Whittington, Dudley Williams, Doug James and other DJ’s were on during the morning hours. Sometimes Sweet Dick would broadcast live from somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Des anyone remember one of those remotes and the phrase "Buffalo Chips"?

Also during the middle to late 60s, The KGIL jocks would play rival radio station DJ’s in baseball games which were played during the evening hours at North Hollywood Park. This was at a time when the 170 freeway wasn't yet complete. The park was located near Victory Blvd and Laurel Canyon Blvd. close to the J.C. Penney Store, Kinney Shoes. Radio fans would come out to watch their favorite radio DJ’s play baseball, get a few autographs and have fun. I mostly remember the KGIL and KMPC games.

But getting back to the SKYWATCH button, one weekend, KGIL had their SKYWATCH airplane on display at the Van Nuys Air Show. When I first saw the plane, it was a Cessna 170. The traffic reporters were Jim "Sky" Key and Maj. Bruce Payne. Bruce flew C-97s and C-130s out of the Van Nuys 147th Air Lift Wing. Not long after meeting them both at the airport and nabbing a button and some pictures, I decided to call up the station and ask if they gave rides to listeners. Someone at the station said yes they do and they gave me a date to show up at the airport. I was to meet Maj. Payne at 3:45pm sharp on the Roscoe Blvd side of Van Nuys Airport. The SKYWATCH plane was parked just on the other side of the fence. I was pretty nervous about all this. It was a big deal for a 13 year old. Bruce was a real professional. He gave me some basic instructions and told me where we were headed, how high we would fly, what to expect, and what time he would give his live traffic reports. After all that, I didn't feel quite so nervous. The trips took a little over two hours and we covered the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica. Maj. Bruce steered clear of Los Angeles, probably due to KGIL's signal not reaching much past Hollywood. So, I buckled in, closed the door and we taxied to ONE-SIX right for takeoff.

Soon we were airborne heading south and climbing to 1500 feet as we banked left to follow the Ventura Freeway. We followed most of the freeways as well as Box Canyon Rd. At the time Box Canyon was the only road from the San Fernando Valley to Simi Valley. I remember Following Box Canyon a few times because for one, it was a bit turbulent over the Santa Susanna Pass, and two, because of the number of accidents. Box Canyon not being a freeway, but a two lane highway made it difficult for emergency crews so an airplane provided a great eye in the sky. I remember sitting there looking at the scenery when Bruce turned to me, handed me an air sickness bag and said “tighten your belt, there's an accident down there and I need to take a closer look and notify the CHP”. He skillfully maneuvered the plane down close to the accident where he assisted the CHP and followed up with a live traffic report. I Wish I had a video camera for that trip. I'd have a great YouTube entry for sure.

KGIL had their news promos "news live at 55". At 30 past the hour, the station would echo "Dateline dateline". Also at that time, I believe that KGIL used RADIO PARK as their station signature. News reporters included Jim Martin, Frank Bingman, Stan Warwick, and Howard Culver (who also appeared on the Dragnet series). If I remember correctly, the SKYWATCH reports were given 4 times an hour. During the news and twice during the morning or evening drive shows 7-9am or 4-6pm you would hear this: "next service center news when it happens on K-G-I-L San Fernando (Pause) K-G-I-L service center news, a sound service to the southland. [ascending trumpet music and a female voice] at the tone KGIL Music" [tone]

For the next several years, I continued to call the station to see if I could ride with the SKYWATCH airplane. By this, time a gentleman named Bill Smith, who was the public relations director and soon to be KGIL disc jockey, would set me up for another 4pm ride. You probably know Bill Smith now as a KTLA Channel 5 news reporter. His radio shows were very creative with his unique, humorous perspective, much like his current television reports. So again Mr. Smith, I thank you for those fun trips. When I took to the air again, Bruce Payne was now promoted to Col. Bruce Payne and the KGIL plane was now a Cessna 177 Cardinal. I remember this because the Cardinal was a high-winged aircraft without struts, which allowed you to see more. On that trip, Col. Payne brought along a friend who was also a pilot. Between traffic reports, we did a couple touch and go maneuvers at Whiteman Airfield in Pacoima, and a fly over along PCH.

By the time I was in high school at Van Nuys High, I was able to fly one more time on the SKYWATCH plane. This time I flew with the famous Francis Gary Powers. The only thing I remember about this trip is that we flew along Ventura Blvd. over the Cahuenga Pass into L.A. where we circled the four level interchange and made a live report.

A year or two later, KGIL stopped giving rides to listeners due to insurance reasons unless you were a pilot and could be an observer for other aircraft. I will always remember those trips and the wonderful people at KGIL.

This memory was posted by Guitar Rat for Phone Rat as for some reason he could not access his account.


Guitar Rat said...

Thank you Phone Rat for these great SF Valley memories. I also have one sad memory of Francis Gary Powers from back in August of 1977 when his KNBC plane crashed in the Sepulveda Basin. A co-worker at Builders Emporium related to me that his brother was at the crash site when it happened. Many years have passed so I forget why he was there. At the time there were people using the park where he crashed so it could have been that or he might have been part of the rescue team. The latter seems to stick in my mind.

The FG Powers U2 incident happened in 1960. I do not have memories of that but I do have memories of the aftermath and I do recall when he was released by the Soviets.

The other sad thing is I have mentioned Francis Gary Powers to 2 people since Phone Rat and I discussed his post. Neither of them knew who he was or knew of the incident. It seems our history has crashed as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me about Sweet Dick. I was listening to him in the 70's and was amazed to find that Winneka offramp, was actually a city in San Fernando Valley when he aired his show there a few times. I was able to get an autograph of him at the Palamino and still have it to this day. Just found your blog and am reading it. I live in Sherman Oaks, and it's been fun looking at it tonight. Lisa lam_1126@att.net

Don-O said...

Thanks for the SFV and the KGIL memories, too. I personaly remember Sweet Dick myself. In fact, I opened a web site on Sweet Dick at geocities.com/oddlystupid/sweetdick.html


Anonymous said...

Wow! I just posted on a different thread. You've got so much here!
All through elementary school me, my mom and my brother would sit at the breakfast table listening to Sweet Dick. Those were the best memories.
I remember sending him a birthday card. Who was that girl who use to call in all the time?

thanks! Trisha

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

As with all the others, thank you for these memories. And what memories! Good and bad. KGIL was on all the time in our home. I remember after the 1971 Sylmar Quake, what as awesome job all the guy's at KGIL did to keep us informed. I went with my father to the Olive View Hospital in order for him to help out, as he was (and still is) an MD. They were in desperate need of doctors. It was there as an 11 year old kid that I met Chuck Southcot. He took a few minutes out of his busy reporting to talking with my older brother and I, and he made us feel at ease. In fact, I just talked to Chuck on the phone about a year ago and thanked him for that memory, now nearly 40 years ago. Wow, time files and the Valley has changed. "That" KGIL is surly missed.

Kathleen said...

LUUUUUUUVED Sweet Dick! Somewhere I have pictures (and original invitation) of the Marriage of the Queen Mary to the Catalina King which he hosted! Two of my girlfriend and I attended, along with our massive pack of birth control pills as a wedding gift. We came in our doctor white coats, and Dick interviewed us (Dr. N.O. Conception, Dr. G.I. Will, etc.) then he popped one of those huge pills (Salvo soap tablets made by Proctor and Gamble) into an open steam pipe exclaiming that Queen Mary already had too many dinghies!

I would love to hear a recording of just one of his shows today! So many funny memories!

Rob said...

I met Bruce Payne in 1971 at Jack in the box on Balboa at Roscoe, he invited me to come and fly, The other kids made fun of his gold camaro with KGIL and stuff all over it. Me, I was there at the airport 6:45 and 3:45 on my bike, and we went flying, seems like almost every day that summer, we flew everywhere, it was amazing, he was an awesome pilot, and has that blue Cessna 172 wrapped around his finger. On the days that Frank Powers would come along, I would sit in the back, still very fun. I knew who Frank Powers was, even at 10 years old, he was a genuine cold war hero. I have no idea how many times I went flying that summer, but every time was special and I will never forget it. Bruce was a super guy. I also remember when Frank Powers crashed the NBC helo in the baseball fields, how tragic for a man who survived so much.

Sarah Paul said...

Thanks for sharing this great content, I really enjoyed the insign you bring to the topic, awesome stuff!

Watch Repair Shop Sherman Oaks

Anonymous said...

The singing ad for KGIL from the 50's!

"KGIL in the Valley,
KGIL 1260,
Serving the San Fernando Valley
in the Golden West"

I know the tune but don't know how to convey it to you.

Anonymous said...

I met Francis Gary Powers when he autographed his book, "Operation: Overflight" at a book signing at the Broadway store in Panorama City. His tragic crash in the Sepulveda Flood Control, occured upon returning from a news story in Santa Barbara, while piloting the KNBC Telecopter. Supposedly, he "ran out of gas." In his book, he wrote of those who had preferred he had used the U2's ejector seat when his spy plane was hit. He didn't because he, and the other U2pilots, believed the seat was rigged to explode to obliterate the plane so the Commies couldn't detect the aircraft's technology.

calchick82 said...

There was on YouTube for a brief while(can no longer find it)a clip of I think it was Jess Marlow when he was at KNBC, reporting on the tragic helicopter crash that killed Francis Gary Powers. He was breaking down on the air. It was very sad. I don't know why the clip no longer shows up on YouTube.

Robbin said...

Thank you for remembering my dad,Col.Bruce Payne.He continued to fly for many years after that.Mostly flying airplanes all over the world for delivery.He also did sky typing and cargo deliveries to Danag during the Vietnam war.He also flew in a couple of movies.Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn and The Winds of War mini series.Because of you I can goggle his name and he comes up.Your memories remind of life in the valley when I was young.Thanks

Anonymous said...

Wow, the Internet is amazing -found this blog fairly randomly...

I was about 11 years old when I learned that the KGIL traffic report pilot would take kids up in his plane. I honestly don't remember for sure if it was Francis Gary Powers (I think it was) or if it was Bruce Payne that flew the day I went.

I will never forget that we passed near Dodger Stadium (I was a HUGE baseball nut at that age) and the pilot did a lazy turn around the area with my side of the plane tilted down toward the stadium so I could get a good look.

To this day (over 40 years later) I remember that wonderful flight and the incredible generosity extended by the KGIL pilots.

Nick Campbell said...

Wasn't Ken Griffin a deejay at KGIL Radio? I remember walking over to the radio station with my brother, Mike, and hanging around there. Griffin let us watch and listen because I was once a deejay at KIOT Radio in Barstow. He was the firs to play Glen Campbell's recording of "A Beautiful Love Song" that was later to be released on Glen's "Houston, I'm Coming To See You," LP. We lived on Fulton Avenue in Van Nuys. Mike, my mother, Ann Yatsko Campbell, and me. It was a great time. If anybody knows what happened to Ken Griffin, it would be greate to know. All of the salesmen at KGIL had bottles of bourbon or scotch in one of their desk drawers. It was hilarious.
Nick Campbell

Michael Bennett said...

I could see the blinking light atop the jail Antena tower on plummer st,from my back door in arleta in 1965. There were "Stamp Out Rock and Roll billboards on van nuys blvd. Visible from theplayground.

Michael Bennett said...

I could see the blinking light atop the jail Antena tower on plummer st,from my back door in arleta in 1965. There were "Stamp Out Rock and Roll billboards on van nuys blvd. Visible from theplayground.

Steve Sailer said...

Great stuff.

I remember Ken Griffin on KGIL. He was a very witty evening man. And then one day he was gone. Tough business, radio.

Bill Smith was slyly hilarious.

Bruce Payne and Francis Gary Powers ...

Whittington was some kind of genius (e.g., The Invasion of Catalina), ranking with Al Lohman of KFI's Lohman and Barkley as the best morning man of his era in the second biggest radio market.

It's kind of unfair that the work of funny disk jockeys like Whittington and Lohman has pretty much vanished while, say, the musicians they played on their shows live on on the Internet.

H Brown said...

My father, Stan "The Animal' Brown announced sports for KGIL in the 1960s and 1970s - sadly he died of cancer at the age of 45 in 1984. I have such great memories of that station and all the great folks that my dad worked with. It seemed like one big family. With KGIL my dad worked closely with the Dodgers, the Rams, the Lakers and was able to interview so many iconic athletes of days gone by...Muhammad Ali, Jack Nichlaus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and all the wonderful Dodgers...Cey, Garvey. Lopes, Mota and Drysdale. Stan Brown loved KGIL. He loved LA - where he was born and raised and he always LOVED his Dodgers.