« Sioux Falls Radio History

Jon Michaels, 50 years of Sioux Falls radio history from JFK to today.

by Jon Michaels

My very first radio broadcast wasn't on a commercial radio station in Sioux Falls. I was sending a signal from a transmitter I was building in Radio class at Washington High School.

There wasn't a class that you could take to be on the radio back in 1963. My brother was an electrical engineer so a three hour daily high school class on radio transmitters and receivers was close enough. Gordon Hale was the instructor of the two year college level course. We took old radios and TVs and gutted them for parts. TVs donated from local bars had so much thick tar on everything from cigarette smoke that we had to use paint scrapers and gallons of carbon-tetrachloride to soak and clean the metal and vacuum tube sockets.I found out later that the chemical I smelled in classfor two years had been banned from use because it was highly toxic and directly caused cancer when inhaled (worse than DDT). I'm still knocking on wood.

I studied the new technology of something called transistors and lasers while I built from scratch, a superhetrodyne push-pull vacuum tube receiver. We then studied and built a low power transmitter to broadcast to our receivers. It was when I was tuning my receiver to find the signal I was broadcasting, I listened to a KELO-AM newscast and stopped to hear something about our President being shot. I quickly gave the headphones to the instructor as everybody thought I was playing a joke on them. Gordon ran to the Principals office and came back to say it was true. President Kennedy had been shot. All 3,500 of us at Washington High were immediately dismissed as Camelot had just ended and my experience of the affect of radio on our lives began.