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Observing KSST Anniversary: ‘My First Real Boss’ by Harve Argenbright, Radio Workshopper

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Bill Bradford in 1972 on the dam at Century Lake in the red KSST News station wagon. Photo courtesy of Don Mitchell

KSST Radio went on the air in Sulphur Springs, Texas on March 1, 1947 in an upstairs studio on the West side of the downtown square.. Within it’s first year of operation, a young engineer fresh out of military service came onboard, liked the work, and remained for the next 64 years. William E. Bradford, or Brad as he was lovingly known to the community, eventually served in every facet of operation and later became full owner of the station. During the 1950’s and 60’s, he linked the business with the local high school’s career training methods through the ‘KSST Radio Workshop.’ It was am after-school program where responsible high school students could volunteer to work for the experience they would gain. Students had the responsibility of producing a couple of hours of evening programming live on the air, including reading the news, taking requests and playing records. Many workshop students used what they learned in Radio Workshop to their advantage in adult life, giving due credit to Brad’s guidance and influence, as this story illustrates.

MY FIRST REAL BOSS by Harve Argenbright on January 05, 2021.

    “By the time I graduated from high school I had had several jobs that were mostly manual labor type jobs that did not involve a real boss. People told me what needed to be done, and I did it. That was not really a boss.

    When I was a junior in high school there was a program called Radio Workshop sponsored by the local radio station, KSST, for juniors and seniors to encourage young people to develop verbal communication skills, and I jumped on it. The program and the station were run by William E. Bradford.

    Though well under six feet tall, Brad’s energy, large voice, and charisma made him seem ten feet tall. His presence never went unnoticed. A powerful force in the radio station, he was also a power in local politics due his ability to publicize.

    He was one of the most intelligent men that I had ever met. Though gifted in electronics his knowledge and interest permeated many fields. KSST was the first radio station not associated with a TV station to have weather radar.

    Brad made our radar from an Army surplus radar that came from a Navy PBY aircraft. Later he made a helical satellite receiver antenna to allow us to receive satellite weather pictures from an empty barrel of floor sweep and some copper tubing.

    After growing up in Hillsboro, TX during the years before WWII, his interest in radio lead him to a job in South America flying as radio operator on DC-2 and DC-3 airliners for Panagra Airlines .

    One day he was called into the chief pilot’s office where the chief pilot rather sternly announced, “Some of the pilots tell me that you have been flying the airplanes.”

    While Brad stood there wondering how hard it would be to get back to Hillsboro after being fired, the chief pilot said, “They tell me that you are pretty good at it too. Would you like to be a pilot?”

    Brad immediately replied, “How much does it pay?” It was more than the pay for a radio operator. He said, “Yes’”

    The company gave a local aviation official a few dollars and a couple of Wheaties box tops. Brad had his pilot’s license.

    Between then and WWII Brad flew across the jungles of South America under rather primitive conditions. On one occasion Brad was asked by another pilot to trade trips. Brad accepted on the condition that the other pilot go to ops and change the names on all of the paperwork. The other pilot agreed.

    Later that day the other pilot and his plane disappeared in the dense jungle never to be found again. The paperwork was never changed by the other pilot. Brad’s family in Hillsboro was wrongly notified of the death of their son.

    On the wall of Brad’s office was the framed clipping of his obituary from the Hillsboro newspaper.

    After the outbreak of WWII airline pilots were inducted into the Military Airlift Command. Brad did his patriotic duty for most of the war flying in MAC. However, later in the war MAC was trying to construct a long range hf communications system to keep track of its far flung aircraft. Brad’s electronics knowledge had been noticed, and he was put to work developing this system.

    The guiding hand of fate was once again felt. The rest of his squadron was deployed to Europe for the Berlin Airlift. There many of them died attempting the difficult instrument approach in terrible weather at Templehof Airfield in Berlin, Germany.

    Decades later when as a pilot for Braniff International I flew into airports in Bogota, Quito, Lima, and Caracas I always had the feeling that I was following in Brad’s foot prints in some small way.

KSST 1972 (the Channel 18 TV studio had not yet been added)

    When I finished my freshman year at East Texas State I was about out of funds for higher education and was wondering from where they would come when Brad called. He said that I had a good voice for radio, and would I like to have the night shift, some weekends, and do vacation fill-in? He would arrange the schedule to meet my college requirements.

    This seemed like a dream come true. I would sit in an air conditioned room drinking company coffee and get paid for talking. It sure beat the heck out of pouring concrete in the Texas summer sun.

    There was some concern, however. The last two announcers hired at KSST were fired in the middle of the night and told that their stuff would be mailed to them.

    In both cases the actions were highly justified. Radio announcers are a strange breed. I worked for Brad for more than six years, and never was there a problem between us. Brad was a fair and just man if you did your work responsibly. I always had total respect for him.

    Since I was part time help I did not qualify for some of the perks that full time employees received. Brad went to the annual board of directors meeting and requested that I be made an exception. He made me eligible for stock sharing and other benefits that were small in value but great in meaning.

    My last airtime on KSST came in 1970 in the form of an “On the Scene Report” from a short, muddy, jungle airstrip in Cambodia reporting on the evacuation of Cambodian civilian refuges under heavy fire from advancing North Vietnamese Regular Troupes .

    I will be forever grateful to Brad for the opportunities, inspiration, and guidance he provided. Many thanks Brad. I will always remember the times we flew together in Henry Oppenheim’s Maytag Messerchmitt”.

In 2013, following Brad’s passing, Chad and Rhonda Young purchased KSST. In following Brad’s tradition, they soon developed for the community, a news website providing companion coverage of local events. Today, the ‘KSST Interns’ from Sulphur Springs High School gain valuable knowledge and experience by learning to interview individuals and prepare news stories for, KSST AM Radio and KRVA FM.

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Author: Enola Gay

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