The History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation
mourns the loss of our good friend, member,
and a true pioneer in Idaho Broadcasting.
We offer this historical tribute to
Ralph F. Frazer
Ralph Fennimore Welch-Frazer was born March 1, 1920 in Oakland, California. His birth father George Welch, and his mother Myrtle, divorced when Ralph was just 18 months old. Ralph’s Mother moved the family back to Salt Lake City, where she met Ernest Frazer. They were married in 1928 and Ralph and his younger brother Clary changed their name to Frazer.
Ernie Frazer moved the family to Boise in 1937. Early in life, Ralph had developed a fascination with radio, and while attending high school, Ralph obtained his Class A “Ham” radio license. In 1938 he graduated from Boise High School, but soon after, the family fell on hard times and was evicted from their home. This had a profound effect on Ralph, who from that moment on, decided “no more am I going to be broke or hungry!” He went to work on a farm near Caldwell for 25 cents an hour, and later that year got hired as an extra in the movie Northwest Passage which was being filmed in McCall.
Ralph enrolled at Boise Junior College in 1941 and sold ads in the yearbook. One of his accounts was Harry W. Morrison, founder of the Morrison Knudsen Company. After learning of Ralph’s interest in radio, Morrison offered him a job. So in 1941 Ralph found himself in the Pacific on Midway Island working for MK. On December 7th Pearl Harbor was bombed and United State entered WWII. The draft board told Ralph he would soon be drafted. So, he flipped a coin and joined the army right then becoming a “radio man” in U.S. Army Air Corps. In 1946 Ralph was honorably discharged from the Army as a Staff Sergeant. He returned to Boise and enrolled at Boise Junior College, where he soon graduated with his brother Clary in 1947.
Ralph and Clary traveled to South Africa in the fall of 1947 to get their degrees in International Business from a University in Johannesburg. Ralph soon discovered there was no place to buy an American style hamburger in South Africa. So he and his brother opened Ralph & Clary’s “Hamburger Hut.” Soon they owned 5 Hamburger Hut restaurants and their own bakery which baked hamburger buns for all of the restaurants. In South Africa, there was no such thing as sliced bread. So Ralph sent Clary back to Boise to work for Eddy’s Bakery where he learned all about bread making. When he returned he brought back a bread wrapping and slicing machine. It proved to be so popular the townspeople would line up waiting for the bread to be delivered. When Ralph and Clary raised the price of the bread to cover the cost of the new equipment, the South African Government refused to let them do so. So Ralph rented a vacant garage, unloaded the wrapping and slicing machines in there, closed the door, put the key in the lock, and never came back.
Ralph Married Patricia Sutton on June 25, 1950, and the happy couple returned to South Africa as husband and wife. In 1953, Darcie, the first of their 4 children, was born and was a South African citizen. However, the South African Government wanted Ralph, Patty and Clary to also become citizens, and unless they did, they would never be allowed to expand their business. So Ralph, Patty, and Clary decided to sell their Hamburger Hut restaurants and return to United States, which they did, in 1954. For a time they lived with Patty’s parents in Idaho Falls, where Ralph set out to pursue his dream career, which was radio!
Working for KBOI Radio and Television
n late 1954, Ralph tried to buy stock in KID-AM in Idaho Falls but they weren’t selling any. In January of 1955, Ralph and his family paid a visit to his Mom in Boise and ran into realtor Paul B. Larson who, who upon learning that Ralph wanted to invest in a broadcasting station, took him down to KBOI to meet H. Westerman Whillock. Wes asked him “can you raise ten thousand dollars?” Ralph said yes and, and as part of the purchase agreement, was also hired as a time salesman to sell television spots. He was very successful, and sometime later Wes came to Ralph again asking him to buy $15,000 in additional stock, which he did. In the meantime, the Frazer’s were blessed with two more children, Zebby (named after a South African orange grove called Zebedelia) and Laurie. Ralph bought a 3 story apartment house located at Broadway and Warm Springs and the family lived there, renting out the rest for income.
The Initial Idea for KATN
According to Ralph, the idea for KATN initially came from Jim Johntz. Ralph instantly saw the opportunity and went home and talked to his wife Patty about it that very same day who said “Good idea. Let’s go ahead and do it!” Ralph’s initial application was for a new AM station licensed to Meridian. It was filed in December of 1958. When Wes Whillock at KBOI found out about the application, Ralph was immediately fired. He soon went to work as a time salesman for KCIX-TV (Channel 6), and when they went off the air in early 1960, sold cars for a few months for Larry Barnes Chevrolet in Boise.
Constructing the Station
The Construction Permit for KATN-AM was granted on October 12, 1960. The studio building won an award for originality and its unique design and was America’s first and only airport-control-tower-style radio station. Ralph bought a new Gates Yard control board and other studio equipment, but saved money by buying a used 1 KW Western Electric transmitter from KSRV in Ontario. KATN signed on at 10:10 A.M. on April 8, 1961 with Mayor Bob Day and the Boise City Council flipping the switch to put the station on the air. The idea of a radio station playing just one kind of music from sign-on to sign-off was something new to Boise radio in 1961. According to Ralph, hiring Ken Bort was the main reason KATN went full time country. There weren’t that many stations playing country & western music on a full time basis, and K-10 was one of the first in the Intermountain West, and the first in Idaho.
Talk Radio Comes to Boise
Bob Salter was a popular disc jockey in Seattle before coming to Boise. Bob was a musician and played the piano during his show on KBOI radio in the early 1960s, while member Marty Holtman ran the board. Bob then worked for Keith Patterson at KYME for a short time. Bob Salter’s first talk show on K-10 was in February of 1964 and was called “Chuck Wagon Coffee Time” and covered local, regional, and national issues openly. Bob also was famous for his live commercials which were incredibly powerful.
The Station of the Stars was also “The Great Promoter”
Many prominent cowboys, musicians, television, and movie stars visited KATN radio during the 11 years Ralph owned the station. KATN did a lot of live remotes and ran a lot of contests and promotions. The station was always doing “something” and looking for ways to get their listeners involved. The Fairbanks, Alaska “Diaper Derby” was an extraordinary event that happened in August of 1967. Former KATN Announcer Paul Rider was working in Fairbanks, Alaska when he called Ralph on Wednesday August 16th at about 10:30 in the morning with an urgent request. A flood had devastated Fairbanks and about half the town was being evacuated. Paul told Ralph the thing they needed most was baby diapers! Ralph recorded the call and immediately put it on the air at 10:47 A.M. during Bob Salter’s show. Bob urged folks to get involved, and minutes later the first cars started to show up at the K-10 studios bringing diapers and other baby supplies. K-10 News Director Chuck Britton contacted the Red Cross, Civil Defense, and The Idaho Air National Guard, where General James Trail offered to fly the diapers to Fairbanks in a C54 Transport Plane the very next day! After a caravan of cars and trucks delivered the diapers to the airport, a C54 took off for Fairbanks loaded with 5,500 pounds of diapers, with another 2,600 pounds left on the runway because the plane was too full to take them! United Airlines flew the rest of the diapers to Seattle, and Alaska Airlines flew them on to Fairbanks. KATN’s “Diaper Derby” shows “the power of radio” and the tremendous impact broadcasting can make in people’s lives.
Increasing Power to 5 KW
With KBOI being granted 50,000 watts on 670, the 950 frequency would become available once KBOI made the switch. So in August of 1966, Ralph filed an application with the FCC to move KATN to 950 with 5,000, daytime only. The application was granted, and once KBOI made the switch to 670 at 8:00 A.M. on June 25, 1968, KATN received permission to make their switch. So, at 7:00 P.M on June 25th, the old Western Electric transmitter was turned off and the new CCA transmitter installed, tested, and was on the air the next morning at 6:00 at full power.
Boise’s First FM Stereo Station
The application for an FM was made in 1966, and according to Ralph, was granted by the FCC just a few weeks after it was filed. KBBK first signed on August 1, 1968 and Valley FM Background Music started operating on KBBK’s sub-carrier about a month later. KBBK started with an ERP of 29,000 watts with its antenna mounted at the top of the AM tower at 9400 Fairview in Boise. A new Gates Stereo Statesman board was installed in the main control room and the old Gates Yard was moved downstairs. From the beginning, KBBK simulcast KATN’s programming from 6:00 A.M.-7:00 P.M. Then at 7:00 P.M., KBBK-FM ran separate programming until 1:00 A.M. each morning.
Ralph Frazer the Community Servant
Ralph Frazer did a lot more than run radio stations. He ran for City Council! Indeed, Ralph Frazer was a well liked and respected individual in the Boise and was elected to the Boise City Council in 1966. Throughout his life, Ralph was a dedicated community servant, and served as both President and Secretary of the Great Boise Auditorium District, the organization responsible for building Boise Centre on the Grove. In addition, he was on the Board of Directors for Meridian Savings and Loan, the Boise City Centennial Celebration Committee, and was a member of the Ada Planning Association, and the Boise Ad Club. In 1963, Ralph allowed the Boise Boys Pony League to develop the land round the K-10 transmitter site as a baseball field. The park was known as “Kay-Ten Field.” On April 15, 1990 The Statesman honored Ralph with their prestigious “Portrait of a Distinguished Citizen.”
The Decision to Sell
In the early 1970s, competition in Boise radio was really beginning to heat up. Most of the full time AM stations were now broadcasting 24 hours a day, while KATN was still a daytimer. According to information published in the book written by his granddaughter “A.P,” Ralph received an offer for the stations that “he couldn’t refuse.” So, Ralph accepted the offer from Magicland Broadcasting Co., of Idaho and sold the licenses and equipment for KATN and KBBK. Ralph retained ownership of the studio building and the transmitter land. The official transfer of the stations took place on Monday October 16, 1972.
Some Final Thoughts
On January 18, 2008, (Click on date to follow the link) The History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation held our monthly meeting at the former K-10 and KBBK studios and Ralph, along with many of the people you have been reading about in this article attended and heard tapes of actual broadcasts made from the building. Almost 47 years had passed since KATN first signed on the air in April 1961. However, we all felt something “magic” when we heard Paul Rider, Tip Goss, and Bob Salter speak, and for a moment were taken “back to the 60s” and early 1970s as we talked about the many amazing things that took place at KATN and KBBK. We went on to honor Ralph in issue #11 of our newsletter As the Turntable Turns, published in May of 2008, and Tip Goss and I had the pleasure of having lunch with Ralph and Patty Frazer in October of 2010 (when the 2 photos you see below were taken) and again in April of 2011, which was our final meeting with Ralph. In closing, I know I speak for everyone else when I simply say…Thank You Ralph. We will miss you, but we will never forget you.
President and co-founder
The History of Idaho broadcasting Foundation, Inc.
Funeral services were held Saturday, July 28th at 12:00 noon at the LDS Stake Center, 1111 S. Cole Rd in Boise.
Burial was at Morris Hill Cemetery.