I would like to write that my career began in Boise, Idaho, and actually it did, as my time behind the microphone began in 1963 when I had what was probably Boise’s first sound “truck.” Okay it wasn’t a truck, but a 1955 yellow and black Mercury Monterey with a couple of large coned speakers strapped to the roof. Amplifier was an “old” car radio that I had modified so I could use an even older WWII vintage push-to-talk carbon microphone. The Boise Braves Baseball organization was looking for a way to boost attendance at the local games and hired me to drive around Boise’s neighborhoods “hawking” the night games. That might be considered my first job in “broadcasting.”
My time in radio and television broadcasting actually started in 1965 at Spandalhem AFB, Germany, at an Armed Forces Television Station, UHF Channel 22, where I was an engineer there for almost 3 years. (We weren't called Television Engineers, the military referred to us by our specialty codes). The video chain including the cameras were Ratheon-Dage and the sync-generators were awesome devices with 31 tubes as I recall, all dividing down to generate 60 cycle based American NTSC sync rates. Telecine was a couple of Bell & Howell projectors where maintenance consisted of primarily replacing the film pull-down assembly arms and keeping the gate clean. Transmitter was a Continental Electric UHF rig, all tubes. The entire station, except the lights, was powered from a motor/generator set that provided 60 cycle power for the TV equipment. Once, when the bias power supply failed, I gerry-rigged a bunch of aircraft batteries from the flight line to keep the transmitter on the air, directing all this from a hospital bed as it was reported in the Idaho Statesman that year. I do remember the bios supply failing and the battery solution but I don't remember doing it from the hospital bed but in the military, you sneeze and they put you in the hospital, maybe. I left the Air Force in May of 1967 and returned home to Boise.
In January of 1968, I passed my 1st Class License exam in Portland and immediately on my return to Boise with FCC 1stClass ticket in hand, January 8th or thereabouts, was hired by KGEM as the Evening Disk Jockey where I followed Marty Martin and was privileged to work with Jon Duane and Milt Daniel, who was the station's Chief Engineer. I will never forget my first board shift there where I was taken into the on-air studio, pointed to this awesome looking giant audio console with big knobs, buttons, turntables, cart machines, a copy book for those live ads, handed some logs, and told there you go... I was all alone! I stayed with KGEM several months and will always remember my time at the Cassia street location.
In February of 1968, I was offered the position of Contract Chief at KYME on condition that I wouldn't quit my job at KGEM. Part of my job at KYME was being a DJ and since I was using my real name on KGEM, I took the name of Clint Thomas, as a "Jock in the Box" at KYME. I had a lot of fun at KYME as I worked with “the Deacon” Del Chapman, Dick Stott, and Doug West (Westervelt). KYME had its studio's located in Hillcrest Mall at the time, and the transmitter was located in a field off the end of Preece Street, before Milwaukee existed, and I had to walk across the field to get the little building that housed the transmitter. Memories at KYME include the implementation of the CBS Audio/Volumax equipment that allowed us to modulate the transmitter at 105% on positive peaks and made us sound louder and go farther than any other radio station in town. Little known fact: At some point the modulation transformer failed in the transmitter and since it was rated at 1000 watts for a 500 watt transmitter, I don't think it was a result of the 105% modulation. I hauled the transformer down to the old Idaho Power Transformer facility (now an event center next to the interstate), where they did a great job of rewinding the transformer and submersing it in mineral oil, getting us back on the air. Most memorable morning air shift was during a rip and read news off the teletype wire service, some college student at the news service decided to put in a fifty cent word, acrimonious!
One sidelight of working two stations in the same day, mornings at KYME and evenings at KGEM, I did have different identities, but my voice was pretty much the same. We all had our "girls" that would call us on the phone and this one particularly would follow me from station to station during the day. I actually met her a few years later, where she was working in an insurance office. Name was Wanda and she was no fish.
In the summer of 1968, I joined KBOI as television transmitter/studio engineer where I would spend one week on, one week off, on the hill, and spend the one week off at the studio where tasks included the disassembly of the old AM 950 site. I still remember the blue painted home like building and the transmitters inside along with the huge towers. Memories there include swinging the rope on the TV tower on the hill to knock the ice off, and watching the VSWR "go through the roof” while we pumped maybe 10 watts into the antenna and still covered Ontario with the FM signal. The FM transmitter, at that time, was the old Channel 6 Aural transmitter from Nampa and sat in the "garage." The TV transmitter was very awesome, took up an entire wall, and somewhat quiet (much quieter than channel 7's), and you could sleep in the same room if you were so inclined. With the reclining lounger chair sitting in front of the control console being warmed by the transmitter and its sound, I found myself more than once so inclined, especially when we turned operations over to the studio in the afternoon.
In November of 1968, Lenkurt Electric came to town recruiting technicians with FCC licenses and were paying top dollar (a whopping 3.10 an hour) to go down to California and bounce around the countryside installing point-to-point Microwave systems, so I bit. I made a ton of money with double and triple time, almost $10 an hour in 1968, plus per Diem.
I came back in late January 1969, enough of the nomadic life, banked the money, bought a couple cars, went to college at then BSC, where I worked with the College radio station, met Doug Raper, and I'll never forget Bernie, a girl there, that actually took the heavy end of an old Gates pedestal turntable that KGEM was donating to us. Bernie and I hauled that puppy out of the basement at KGEM!
I met my wife-to-be that spring of 1969 and we married on July 7th. The father-in-law suggested it would be good if I had a job. I knew Ralph Frazer of KATN/KBBK was looking for a Chief Engineer and began a relationship with Ralph that continues until this day. Side note to our marriage, we had wonderful honey moon as we were married in Fallon, Nevada, spent our first night there and then made the loop west for our final night’s stay at Lake Tahoe; but I had to call in regularly to KATN to make sure all was well. I was the station’s chief engineer the entire time I was there as well as doing stints as DJ, talk show host, Program Director, and installing/maintaining background music systems around the valley for Ralph’s other business, Valley FM Background Music. We pioneered talk radio at KATN with Bob Salter and Tom Fairchild. I designed a device which allowed us to talk to the callers while never touching the phone, everything integrated with the Gates State-of-the-Art Solid State 3 Channel Simulcast Audio Console. I wrote a two part article for Broadcast Engineering Magazine on that device that included a cover shot on the magazine, taken from behind Tom Fairchild, and looking out on the cow field across Fairview from the "Control Tower" on top of the KATN Building. When the article hit the streets, it received international acclamation by virtue of the reader replies. It also resulted in AT&T trying to tell Broadcast Engineering that they couldn't publish that information (BE said “Say what?” This was post Carterphone). There was also a visit from the local phone company to the station, who actually took a schematic of the device, saying they would be back but never came. I wrote two more articles for Broadcast Engineering while at KATN, featuring innovations implemented there. Besides the fun things we did with the white KATN mobile van around the valley, I built a red wooden KATN broadcast booth for use on the midway at the fairgrounds with a raised platform for the DJ where he had two turntables, a cart machine, and a 5 channel mixer. It was designed so that the mobile van could park behind it and we could tie into the Marti for the feed to the station. The upper platform as well as the lower "display" area where we had appliances, etc, was covered by a custom candy stripped canvas we had Pioneer Canvas make for us.
When I joined the KATN/KBBK staff in 1969, we were simulcasting KATN during the day and then continuing in to the night on KBBK since KATN was a daytimer. Paul Rider started doing his “Cross Country” format on KBBK during the “slave shift” (Midnight to 6AM) and with more than a little glee in his voice, would call me at 3 AM, just for fun, but I digress. I proposed to Ralph Frazer that we “automate” the FM during the day using a couple of Seeburg Librarian 45 RPM record systems that we could obtain from Mr. Wood at Automatic Amusement House in Garden City for a couple hundred dollars. With those two Librarians, and some nuts and bolts electronics to tie it all together, plus a cart machine behind the receptionist Phyllis Weiss' desk for commercials, we had Boise’s first FM “Automated” Radio station. You could walk into almost any convenience store in Boise and you would hear KBBK playing. And anytime a needle skipped or there was too much noise at the end of the record for the silence sense to kick in, we would know it because the phones would light up. We later replaced the “Clint” automation system with a real SMC system with its tape and carousel cart machines.
While as PD at KATN/KBBK, it was my good fortune to work with notables like Lon Dunn who came over from KIDO before joining KBOI, a college kid named Larry Chase, and a youngster named Bill Bailey. Paul Rider was a close friend during the years I worked there.
While at KATN/KBBK, KYME 740 needed some help; so, with Ralph’s permission, I rejoined them as their contract chief engineer. They had moved at some point from Hillcrest Mall to a double-wide mobile home situated on the acreage next to the tower. In 1971, in commemoration of their first anniversary of being the “Pacific Northwest’s solid gold radio station”, they had a record album (33 1/3) released “74 KYME presents Hits of the Solid Gold Bowl.” It was a two record set and on the inside were pictures of the World’s Oldest Living Teenager, PD Larry Barwick, along with the other air personalities of the day - Kurt Bolinder, Charlie Mann alias Aunt Matilda, and “Dirty” Pat McCurdy, all preserved for posterity. That album was much more successful than my own where while at KATN/KBBK as PD, Mega Records and Tape of Nashville, Tenn., released an Album titled “Clint Tinsley Sings His Greatest Hits” featuring tracks like “We’re playing nothing but oldies this week” and “The Manager doesn’t like country.” So many memories.
During the years I worked in the Boise market, I would also like to name a few of the outstanding engineers that I had the pleasure of either working for or with: Jim Johntz, Milt Daniel, Don Cederstrom, Tom Hill, and John White.
In the summer of 1973, Channel 6 (KIVI/KPVI) was starting up here and in Pocatello. Their Chief Engineer, Ken, was in a very bad motorcycle accident, hospitalized, and they hired me to work in his stead on the Boise facility under Ray Swenson, the Director of Engineering. When Ken recovered and returned to work, the corporation packed me, my wife, the cat, and the mobile home we lived in, all off to Pocatello to assist in the construction of the station there, where I spent most of my time on hill overseeing the transmitter facility as well as assisting in building the temporary studio in the lumber shack behind the old Bistline Lumber Company building. The Bistline building had a somewhat dubious past including, the still-in-place, "cat house" rooms on the second floor next to the alley. On the same floor, and this is not to say they were related, were the offices of some door-to-door appliance salesman. At one time in Pocatello's history, the building had also housed the post office, and a movie theater. It was while installing the transmitter, I learned the RCA term for a shipping box was “one suitable container” and “RCA precision” was defined as a round screw, in an eccentric hole. We had an incident on January 2nd, 1974, when our 600 foot stick (a substitute for a real mountain to put the antenna on) came tumbling down, missing the transmitter building but catching the tip of the RCA turnstile antenna as it fell. The antenna had to go back to RCA Camden (New Jersey) for tweaking and the tower had to be rebuilt. While that was being done, I came back to Boise for two months to help doing the finish work in the trailers at the Nampa Studio location and was present for the "turn on" as Channel 6 went on the air February 1, 1974.
Without going into detail, I was not comfortable staying with Channel 6 after observing some rather foretelling things in Boise. On my return to Poky, I left Channel 6, and ran an established TV repair shop just down the street from the Bistline building for a year until a position opened up at Channel 12, which was KBGL, on the Idaho State University Campus. At KBGL, some pioneering was still to be done with innovative solutions, and I wrote up one for publication in Broadcast Engineering. “Festival,” or fund raising weeks were always something to behold, as we showed all our best shows. We had a pretty nice facility including a good sized studio, a top of the line video switcher, 3 tape machines, telecine, and studio cameras, all tucked away in the basement of the Education building. We did have an earthquake while I was there which sent us running for the doors out of the basement.
After 3 years with KBGL-TV, I took the position of Chief Engineer at KIFI-TV in Idaho Falls where they were trying to get a new Harris Intertype BT35 transmitter to stay on the air for more than a few minutes at a time. I was successful in resolving the issues and performed the first proof on that transmitter. I don't know if BT stood for Bad Transmitter, it sure was noisy, and one needed to be careful when tweaking it, but it was pretty reliable after the maiden voyage. We kept the old GE in readiness and it was sure quiet, purring away when we would bring it online. Another one of my “first tasks” at KIFI was to put a procedure in place to assure that the studio cameras were “matched” so the faces of the news staff wouldn’t change from pink to green as cameras were switched during the evening newscast. I had some interesting times there working with Herm Haffle and Jim Brady as well as the news and production crew.
One side note to the Pocatello years, was that for a time, I did a board shift at KWIK-AM, which was located next to the parking lot of the Grand Central store. KWIK was housed in a mobile home, or "manufactured housing," which contained the studio, offices, transmitter, and the tower was in the back. I think that was one of the funnest jobs in radio I had because it was a stand-up board and you were ensconced in a small room where you could get into the music and have a great time. I was all alone there too! The music was a mix of 60’s and 70’s country.
In December of 1977, I completed a degree program at ISU with a major in accounting and was hired by FMC as an entry level staff accountant for a few dollars less than I was making at KIFI, which reportedly was an excellent salary for being a CE in Idaho. I spent the next three years working for FMC, getting my Idaho CPA License and NAA CMA certifications, before realizing Accounting was not where it was at, at least for me. Having been relocated by FMC to Philadelphia, PA, I took a position as staff engineer with a fledgling Television Post Production House in Center City.
During my first year at Center City Video, I came up with an Video Editing integration solution where the CMX video editing system could control the video transitions on Grass Valley 300 Video Switcher, a capability that no other television production house had in the country, and made us a premier production house in the Mid-Atlantic region including the big boys in New York. That afternoon, following the implementation of that device and our first live edit session with it, the bosses called me up the office, gave me a bonus check of $2700 and said by the way, you are now the Director of Engineering, a position I would hold for the next seven years as we grew to 3 edit suites, 13 tape machines including the latest Sony Beta machines, lots of toys including a Quantel Paint box which we deployed at the first Live Aid Concert in Philadelphia, ADO's, Abekas A-62, Dubner, Ampex Cubicomp, and my final project was a $750,000 Davinci Color Correction Computer driven film correction suite featuring a Bosh FDL60 and Ampex X-Y Zoom ADO box, the same stuff Turner and others were using to restore and colorize films. I also oversaw the manufacturer, distribution and support of that “Scott Box” which was a time lapse recording control system that you would connect to a Sony VCR and could make time lapse photography of the skies overhead for use during the weather part of the evening’s newscast. I recall that we sold at least one each of these into the Twin Falls and Boise Markets.
When we first moved to Philadelphia, we bought a house 37 miles out “west” from Philly and the joke in the Center City office was Clint moved in from the west and still lived there (for most Philadelphians, the west began just west of City Line Avenue). Close by to us in Coatesville, PA, was WCOJ-AM where I found part time employment as an Engineer and Cable TV engineer. Interesting thing about Philadelphia radio is they hadn’t discovered “remotes” and remote vans in 1979. At WCOJ, the closest thing we did to remote was that we had a small studio on the back corner of an old General store at four-corners, Delaware. It consisted of an old Gates pedestal turntable, cart machine, and an audio console, used only on Sundays as I recall. I also worked part time and then as a consultant for LPB (Low Power Broadcast) in Frazer, PA, where I helped design and fix manufacturing issues with their audio consoles as well as “invent” a serial to parallel addressable decoder connected to an Epson parallel printer, that was connected to a FM-SCA channel receiver to provide the latest construction news to building contractors in the Philadelphia region. We also provided the audio consoles for the National Black Radio facility located in the Rockefeller Center, New York City, so I was to spend a day in there fixing grounding problems so that the equipment would pass proof. My most memorable part of that day was at the end of the day, the owner of LPB tossed me the keys to his Cadillac so I could take a cab across Manhattan, retrieve and drive the car back to Rockefeller station and pick up everyone. Here I was, “fresh off the farm in Idaho” driving a Cadillac across Manhattan at 5PM, all alone…
When I returned to Idaho in November of 1988, I thought I had a position in Television to return to, but it would not be so. While sitting at the Airport for return flight to Philadelphia that November day, I fired off a hand written letter and resume to Computerland of Boise, and as they say, the rest is history. That was the start of what continues today to be a very successful career in IT. I have worked as a computer network engineer, a Novell CNE, a Windows System Engineer, as well as doing PC Repair, user support, application support, and programming. My involvement with computers, PCs, and programming began in Philadelphia at Center City Video where I wrote an extensive shoot to ship video tape library program in Dbase III and Clipper (Summer 1986 release) that did everything but turn on the coffee maker in the morning. I still have my first computer, a 1977 Radio Shack Model 1 and first PC, the Compaq “sewing machine” portable. It has been a rewarding 21 years in IT, always something new to learn and do, and it is still a work in progress.
While working at Computerland in 1989, KTVB hired me as the EIC (Engineer-In-Charge) for one of the video trucks brought in for the Idaho Celebration of the Century, the 1990 Idaho Centennial event being held at Julie Davis Park. I have stayed connected to Broadcasting to some degree, primarily by my involvement in the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation. Also 1990, or thereabouts, I did do some on-call work for the former KATN-AM radio facility, then known as KJHY-AM, where I got to see my hand written transmitter maintenance logs scrawled inside the cover of the manual of the CCA 5000 AM watt transmitter; it was a fun flash back to 1969!