Radio station KCHA celebrates its 70th anniversary on Wednesday, November 27, with a series of three minute long features highlighting its history.
Charles City’s radio station premiered on Sunday, November 27, 1949, as an expansion of the Milwaukee-based Bartel Broadcasting Company, a family-owned business that later operated stations in such cities as New York, San Francisco, and Miami.
In 1949, however, KCHA was one of four Midwestern stations in the fledgling Bartell group. Other Bartell stations were Milwaukee, Stevens Point and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Its first studios and offices were housed in a converted army Quonset hut, located at the base of its tower on Stony Point Road on the south edge of Charles City. It broadcast on 1580 AM only, during daylight hours, with 250 watts.
Today, the Main Street station features Oldies music and provides Comet sports, local news, severe weather coverage, farm news and much more. The station has grown to include KCHA AM 1580 & FM-103.3 and KCHA-FM-95.9, with a companion FM station, 95.1 The Bull in New Hampton. The stations are part of the 12 station locally owned Coloff Media Radio Group, with radio stations licensed and located in Osage, Mason City, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Forest City, Britt and Manchester.
The historical features were originally prepared and aired for KCHA’s 50th Anniversary in 1999. They are hosted by former KCHA announcers David McCartney and Carol Byrne. They look back at early programs and some of the stations personalities through the years. Interviews with former owners, including Charles Ellis and L. J. ‘Vern’ Bromberg, will highlight reminiscences of an earlier time in radio.
Samples of announcements and commercials dating back to the 1960s will also be featured, as well as excerpts of the stations emergency broadcasts following the May 15, 1968, tornado.
The features will air on KCHA (AM-1580 & FM-103.3 and KCHA 95.9 FM) through Friday, November 29. Also as part of the anniversary celebration, KCHA will give away ten 70th anniversary cakes to listeners on Wednesday, November 27, by asking questions featuring 1949 trivia.
McCartney, producer of the series, is a 1974 graduate of Charles City High School and worked at KCHA from 1972 to 1974. He has masters degrees in history and library science from the University of Maryland and is an archivist for the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Byrne, a 1982