OregonScape: Fall 2018

Issue 119:3

In 1922, the U.S. Department of Commerce granted the Oregon Publishing Company, publisher of the Oregonian newspaper, the ninety-eighth radio license in the country. On March 22 that year, the station began broadcasting for the first time with the call letters KGW — the first station in Portland used for commercial purposes. Located in the Oregonian Building Tower at 537 SW Sixth Avenue in downtown Portland, KGW was notable for its early variety shows, quiz shows, and debates.

One of its most popular shows was  the “Hoot Owls,” a variety show broadcast to over a million listeners. On April  5, 1972, the Oregonian published remembrances  from former employees to celebrate KGW’s fiftieth anniversary. Stephen Gaylord,  a member of the Hoot Owls, recalled stories about his former colleagues and how  each show included “singing and jokes of the current.”

The above undated photograph shows the KGW broadcasting  studio. Andy Anders, a radio station engineer during the 1920s, describes the  broadcasting process: “There were two studios with a small booth between, where  we announcers sat before a dome-shaped contraption, slotted. By moving what we  called ‘The cheese knife’ from one slot to another, we turned the mikes on from  booth to studios.” KGW was located in the Oregonian building until 1943, and the station was sold in 1953.

— Matthew Cowan, OHS Moving Images and Photography Archivist