Radio has been a part of most Americans’ lives for more than 100 years. From the earliest experiments with electrical sparks to transmit signals, to the smart phones of today, radio is the cornerstone of all forms of modern wireless communications. Yet few people today know much about the history of this vital technology, much less the pioneers -visionaries like Marconi, De Forest, Charles “Doc” Herrold and David Sarnoff – the men who invented and nurtured radio. The California Historical Radio Society (CHRS) strives to keep this important history alive by creating an environment conducive to sparking interest in radio, in young and old alike. We are filling the information gap between “wireless” in 1899 & “wireless” more than 100 years later.
CHRS is a non-profit, educational corporation chartered by the State of California in 1974 to promote the research, restoration, preservation and presentation of early radio and broadcasting. Our goal is to provide a forum for exchanging ideas and information on the history of radio and broadcasting, particularly in the West, with the emphasis on collecting, restoring and displaying vintage equipment, and related materials. We are dedicated to the study of early radio and to the importance of this first wireless medium to the San Francisco Bay Area.
In the early 1970s a group of dedicated people, mostly electronic engineers who were also antique radio collectors, realized that the importance of radio technology and broadcasting history was beginning to fade among the general population. They founded CHRS to preserve and protect the artifacts, ephemera and programs of the radio age. The Society has expanded its AM radio focus to include wireless telegraphy, FM radio, Hi-fi, amateur radio, commercial and military broadcasting, phonographs, television, and other devices used for sound reproduction or transmission. Also, included are the advertising, periodicals and publications relating to radio and radio history plus the audio clips and histories of Bay Area radio stations and personalities.
CHRS has nearly 400 members. We are preservationists, restorers, collectors, historians, researchers and educators. We are also very passionate about vintage radio. Our Society has hosted vintage radio collectors’ events and presented vintage radio displays for over 35 years. CHRS has participated in exhibits at the S.F. International Airport Museum, the Monterey Co. Airport Museum, The Gavin Convention, Burlingame Historical Society and the S.F. Beat Museum.
CHRS has an agreement with Inner Cities Broadcasting Corporation to occupy and restore the historic KRE radio station building located at 601 Ashby Avenue in Berkeley, CA. Originally constructed in 1937, the KRE station was one of the first facilities built specifically for broadcasting and was also the venue for the famous scenes featuring “Wolfman Jack” and Richard Dreyfuss in the 1973 George Lucas film, “American Graffiti”. We are extremely fortunate to be in this historic building. We believe that CHRS is the only vintage radio society to have an historic radio station as its home. Almost all the work on this project is being done by a dedicated group of volunteers who give countless hours to CHRS.
The KRE site has been transmitting AM radio signals for over 70 years and still operates today as KVTO, making the KRE station an important landmark in S.F. Bay Area radio history. The restoration of the station and creation of a museum and educational center gives us an environment to share our knowledge and love of radio. It allows us to create a level of appreciation and understanding for a new generation of antique radio collectors and historians.
The members of our organization are the people with the knowledge needed to perpetuate the fascination for vintage radio. We endeavor to impart their knowledge to the young, to foster the interest in collecting and preserving radios and to teach the historical information that enhances the collecting experience.
CHRS has merged with the Bay Area Radio Museum and its Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. The BARM celebrates the personalities and the programming that have made Bay Area radio great. This online program of CHRS contains thousands of audio clips and information on the people and the stations of Bay Area radio.
CHRS / KRE Restoration Project
- The CHRS Vintage Radio Museum and Museum Store
- The James A. Maxwell Historical Communications Research Library
- The Russ Dillberg Vintage Radio Repair Shop & Teaching Facility
- Amateur Radio Station W6CF
- Radio Control Room Restoration – to vintage 1950 on-air working condition
- Audio Transfer Service – CHRS digitizes vintage recordings
- Studio “A” Restoration – to a working recording and on-air studio and the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame Gallery
CHRS plans to purchase this historic building and site to create a permanent legacy to radio and its rich history. You can help by making contributions to our funds, donating radio artifacts, setting up an endowment, becoming a member and volunteering some time to this worthwhile educational and historical organization.
CHRS Activities & Resources
- Vintage radio swap meets & auctions
- Volunteer work days at KRE
- “LIVE! At KRE”, annual July fundraiser -Live Music, Live radio plays performed by local Broadcast Legends, vintage radio auction and electronic flea market
- The CHRS Oral History Project
- Vintage radio repair classes and clinics
- Special presentations and guest speakers
- Technical assistance and advice
- Schematic re-print service
- “Hints & Kinks” – 20 Year Anniversary radio restoration & repair manual
- CHRS Email Updates
- The “CHRS Signal” – online newsletter