At KTOY, We Played The Hits & Carried A Big Stick

Students at KTOY [the LH Bates Voc-Tech radio station] were encouraged to develop programming that might run on weekends or in the case of the Soul Sound of KTOY, carry the station through the summertime.

One such regular feature of KTOY, was the Variedas Latinas program each Sunday morning at 6 – this Spanish language music program was hosted by Mario Briones.

As this program began during my time at KTOY, I was introduced to Mario and remember him as being a very nice person, with a good sense of humor. I have one specific memory about Mario though.

I hung out at KTOY to get in extra time on the air. There was a particular snowy, winter evening where Tacoma was hit with many inches of snow and I was certain that the morning guy assigned to open the station would not be able to drive in to town. I decided to set my alarm for 3 am and hike downtown, about 6 miles from my house at the time, to open up the station. I had the front door key because I often opened and signed on.

I was correct in thinking that no one would be there at 6am. I arrived around 4:30, prepared the news copy, pulled some music to play and then at 5:40, I went up to the rooftop of Bates Vocational’s building at 11th & Yakima, with a large stick, and banged against a cable hanging off the tower — as I recall, this was to get any water, ice or snow off of or out of this cable. It seemed that sometimes, this condensation or moisture, prevented us from getting the station on the air. When we had problems firing up the station, going to the rooftop and hitting the cable with a stick got us back on the air. If there is a broadcast engineer out there that can explain this better, please tell us what this was all about.

Anyway, I digress. One Sunday morning, Mario called me and sounded quite alarmed. He was at the station and needed someone to come take over, because he had to get to the emergency room. I was unsure what the emergency was, but rushed downtown as quickly as possible.

When I arrived at the station, I saw that the window on the front door had been shattered. Upstairs, Mario was waiting, with a towel or shirt wrapped around his bleeding arm. He had gone out to his car to gather a few record albums, propping the door to the building open with a stick. The door began to close and Mario ran to grab the doorknob, instead, shoving his arm through the window.

Mario was as dedicated as they come, and did an outstanding job with his Sunday morning program. [Jason Remington]


 Radio listings from 1977 


In 1940, a technical education program was founded in the basement of Hawthorne Elementary School. During the 1941-42 school year, the program was officially named the Tacoma Vocational School. In 1944, LaVerne Hazen Bates (L. H. Bates) became the director of the school. In 1947, the school changed its name to the Tacoma Vocational-Technical Institute. After L. H. Bates retired in 1969, the Tacoma School Board changed the name of the school to the “L. H. Bates Vocational Technical Institute.” In 1991, the state separated the vocational technical institutes from the local school districts and they came under the auspices of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

3 comments

  • mikec

    I’ll try my best to explain this as simply as possible: think of a broadcasting transmission’s components as you would the strings on a guitar, which must be tuned together to sound resonant, or “in tune” . If the guitar is “out of tune” it’s not possible to play chords or notes in a piece of music. Such is the case with a transmitter (AM or FM), the coaxial cable that carries the output wattage to the antenna, & the antenna itself. These must all be “in tune” to function harmonically properly, particularly the antenna which is manufactured to be resonant on the specified frequency – in this case 91.7 mHz. (Note this discussion is primarily about FM which is much simpler than AM & requires less components & expertise to implement & maintain – however, the principles are the same.) The transmitter, cable & antenna must all be “in tune” in order for all of the transmitted power to reach the antenna to be radiated. If the system is slightly “out of tune” some of this output will reflect BACK into the transmitter causing heat build-up, changes in value of some of the electronic components resulting in damage + eventually, failure of the transmitter. Water that penetrates the coaxial cable, or a build-up of ice on the antenna can radically change the harmony of the system to the point of reflecting damaging amounts of wattage back into the transmitter. To avoid this, transmitters for many years now have a ‘failsafe’ internal shut-down switch that will turn OFF the transmitter to avoid permanent damage to the unit from overheating due to excess reflected wattage. Also, many current FM transmission antennas now have heating elements called ‘radomes’ to keep the antenna ice-free and thus prevent possible changes in that critical component. Engineers & technicians use a meter called a “VSWR meter” to ‘read’ the amount of power reaching the antenna, & how much power (no matter how miniscule) is being reflected back into the transmitter. This allows them to make adjustments or changes to the system to improve the ratio between transmitted & reflected power. I hope I’ve explained this for all to understand – it was not meant to be an in-depth tutorial & is an over-simplification to enlighten the non-technical among us. Did I answer your questions, Jason?

  • pugetsound

    Thanks, Mike. Yes, getting the station on the air could not have been accomplished without that climb to the rooftop during inclement weather. This explains the reason why.

  • mikec

    You’ve got it! An ice-coated antenna actually changes it’s resonant frequency! I’ve experienced this a few times this winter with my ham radio antennas. The snow sitting on the antenna froze into ice & therefore, I was unable to transmit with my ham gear until the ice had melted. Once free of ice, my antennas return to their resonant frequency range. This is the first winter this has occurred to my antennas for many years.

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