CHRS is 41 years old this year! We are building our new museum at 2152 Central Ave on Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay.
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 501(c)(3) corporation chartered by the State of California in 1974 to promote the research, restoration, preservation, publication 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 broadcasting plus the audio air checks and histories of Bay Area radio stations and personalities.
CHRS has nearly 400 members. We are preservationists, restorers, collectors, historians, researchers, writers 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, S.F. Beat Museum and the Academy of Art University main campus.
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 Programs, Projects and Activities:
- The CHRS Vintage Radio Museum built within CHRS Radio Central, 2152 Central Avenue in Alameda. In this 115 year old telephone building we are creating a unique West Coast center devoted to all things … Radio, as we celebrate the dramatic impact that radio had on our history and culture. Here, artifacts from the late 1800’s through the 1970s are on display as reminders of the technology that shaped our modern communications. And we celebrate radio broadcasting with our vintage operating radio production control room, transmitter display and studio re-creation. CHRS raised over $1 Million to purchase this building. We own it free and clear.
- The Bay Area Radio Museum (BARM) on-line, presents archival broadcasts, historical documents, photos, music surveys and biographies that tell the stories of Bay Area Radio. We trace the history of radio in the San Francisco Bay Area from its origins in the early 20th Century through its development into a network powerhouse in the 1930s and 1940s and a thriving source of entertainment, news and sports today. We have a continual program of digitizing and archiving vintage radio audio.
- The Bay Area Radio Hall Of Fame (BARHOF) celebrates and recognizes the men, women and legendary stations that have made Bay Area Radio so special and important to the development of Bay Area history and culture. BARHOF, is now on line and the physical Radio Hall Of Fame will be re-built inside CHRS Radio Central in Alameda. BARHOF is the only Radio Hall Of Fame in the Western United States.
- The Society Of Wireless Pioneers (SOWP) represents the backbone of the commercial communications industry for almost 100 years… the CW or Morse Code Operators. They at one time numbered about 5000 men and women. CHRS is preserving the SOWP Archives and other material for research, some pre-dating 1900.
- CHRS Publishing – We publish 2 per year, high quality full-color 36 page periodicals, the “CHRS Journal”. CHRS co-authored with radio historian John Schneider the Arcadia publication, “Bay Area Radio”. We have also reprinted, with permission, “Behind The Front Panel”, a book revealing the inner workings of 1920’s radios. And recently donated to CHRS is “The Story of KPEN”, a new book by KPEN co-founder Gary Gielow.
- CHRS Radio Dog Productions has created the CHRS Living History Series posted on the CHRS YouTube Channel. These are video interviews with Bay Area Radio Hall Of Fame members and other people with a story to tell about Bay Area Radio. The CHRS Radio Education classes we offer at Radio Central are recorded, edited and posted. Also in production is “KSAN Jive 95: The Movie”, the definitive film documentary about the San Francisco progressive rock, free form radio station that changed the world. We feel strongly about preserving the history of this pioneering station. We also own and sell “KSAN’s Live Jive” a nostalgic CD pulled from an incredible music archive that includes hundreds of KSAN live broadcasts. Proceeds go to CHRS and our Bay Area Radio Hall Of Fame.
- CHRS Radio Dog Theater is a group of Bay Area radio personalities and voice actors who perform old time radio productions live on stage. Most recently, “War of the Worlds”, directed by Terry McGovern, was performed at Radio Day By The Bay 2015 – LIVE! In Alameda. Our players featured Michael Bennett, Stan Bunger, James Gabbert, Gary Gielow, Steve Kushman, Monterey Morrissey, Celeste Perry, Kim Wonderley and Kevin Radich.
- CHRS Radio Day By The Bay is held each July and is our biggest fundraising event of the year. We offer a huge live auction of antique radios, a live orchestra concert by the Golden Gate Radio Orchestra, a live radio play by the CHRS Radio Dog Theater, announcement of the annual Bay Area Radio Hall Of Fame Inductees, silent auctions and food service.
- CHRS Vintage Radio Collectors Events are held at Radio Central and elsewhere several times a year. These events give our members an opportunity to buy, sell and swap radio gear with other collectors and radio enthusiasts. Plus they open dialogues for the exchange of historical information.
- CHRS Electrical Transcription Project – We digitize and upload 16” Electrical Transcriptions from the 1930s through the ‘50s. These are recordings of generally ½ hour radio entertainment programs. We specialize in uploading ETs that are not currently posted and especially ETs originating in the SF Bay Area. These programs are a great glimpse into the history of the mid 20th century.
- CHRS Radio Education – CHRS provides classes to our members with topics such as Radio Broadcasting History, Bay Area Radio History, Radio Electrical Restoration, Radio Cabinet Restoration, Test Equipment and more. We host popular Radio Clinics where members bring in a radio for repair and together with an expert, fix the set together as other members observe.
- The James A. Maxwell Communications Research Library is a comprehensive communications archive spanning the entire 20th century. The Library is available for research on topics of radio, radio history, amateur radio, radio broadcasting, commercial radio and other early communication.
- Amateur Radio Station W6CF is operational and will be equipped with several vintage and modern ham radio sets used to train and interest people in ham radio and emergency service operations. Also CHRS at Radio Central will become part of the Alameda Emergency Services net.
- Garden of Communication Pioneers – Will be created in the open space behind Radio Central. It will feature busts of Samuel Morse, Alexander Bell, Charles D. Herrold, Guillermo Marconi, Lee De Forest, Nikola Tesla, Edwin Armstrong and others. These men are the original architects of today’s modern communications and CHRS will proudly preserve their images and legacies at Radio Central.
- The Radio History Mural – We will construct an eight-foot high by thirty-two foot long mural as a backdrop for the Garden of Communication Pioneers. It will depict important scenes in the history of radio and broadcasting.
- The Six Museum Alliance of Alameda – CHRS is proud to be part of this Alliance dedicated to highlighting and preserving the culture and history of our times. The Alliance is comprised of CHRS plus the USS Hornet Museum, the Alameda Naval Air Station Museum, the Alameda Museum, the Meyers House and the Pacific Pinball Museum.
- Future Services Offered by CHRS – We will offer to the public a full service vintage radio and audio repair and restoration service. We will also offer an audio standard transfer service. CHRS will convert reel-to-reel tape, cassettes, wire, LPs, 78s, ETs and more to CD, thumb drive or hard drive.
- Radio Central Façade Restoration – 2152 Central Avenue in Alameda was the first telephone exchange building in Alameda. In the 1960s a flat, ‘modern’ facade was attached to the front of Radio Central. Our plan is to remove this false front and restore the building to the original 1900 Sunset Telephone and Telegraph architectural design, which is California Mission Revival style. Along with this project we will add an Accessible elevator.
Sunset Telephone & Telegraph 1900 CHRS Radio Central Today