By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
Radio listeners in the San Francisco Bay Area can tune into KFOG-FM every Friday evening beginning at 6 for Kaiser Permanente-sponsored Thrive Time, a commercial-free hour intended “to take the stress out of your Friday commute.” They can also enjoy “Acoustic Sunrise” on Sunday mornings for more Thriving goodness.
Thrive Time seems like a great new pop culture connection for Kaiser Permanente; in fact, the Health Plan’s link with KFOG (104.5) was first forged a half century ago.
Although Henry J. Kaiser’s longest-lasting legacy is Kaiser Permanente, he was at the helm of a giant complex of industries from the late 1930s until his death in 1967. That empire included the Kaiser Broadcasting Corporation, which developed a string of radio and TV stations starting in 1957 with KHVH-TV 13 and KHVH AM 1040 in Honolulu.
The Hawaii stations were built from scratch at Henry J. Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village Hotel, thus the “HVH” in the call signs. The next year Kaiser Broadcasting dropped KHVH-TV to buy KULA-TV 4, which was an ABC affiliate and included extended island service through Maui’s KMVI-TV, channel 12.
Kaiser begins in SF Bay Area in 1963
Kaiser’s media ownership in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kaiser Permanente’s initial home base, began when the broadcasting corporation acquired the former KBAY radio station and renamed it KFOG.
On March 1, 1963, with its foghorn blaring, KFOG hit the airwaves with a soothing format consisting of soft middle-of-the road music during the day and periods of block programming at night aimed at particular audiences.
Dick Block was Kaiser Broadcasting’s vice president and general manager, and Pete Taylor was the head disc jockey. Taylor left for Boston in 1966 to work at Kaiser-owned WJIB-FM radio station, which had a format similar to KFOG’s and WCAS-AM, a “hyper-local” station serving the Boston-area communities of Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington, and Somerville.
In 1975 Kaiser Broadcasting sold KFOG and Boston radio station WJIB to General Electric. The sale of the two stations set a record, estimated at well over $2 million.
UHF approval broadens TV markets
In the early 1960s, Kaiser took advantage of a new wave of television broadcasting.
During the first decade of television, TV sets only received VHF (very-high frequency band) signals, and the existing airwaves became saturated with stations. The Federal Communications Commission recognized the problem and endorsed legislation to broaden TV broadcasting to include UHF (ultra-high frequency band).
“We have concluded that the public interest clearly requires expanded use of the 70 UHF channels for television broadcasting; receiver incompatibility is a major factor inhibiting such expanded use,” the FCC stated in a letter to the House of Representatives. “. . . we have earnestly recommended enactment of this legislation as being of utmost importance to the national welfare.”[i]
In 1962, Congress passed House Bill 8031, the All-Channel Receiver Act, which required TV manufacturers to equip new sets to receive UHF channels. UHF was a major breakthrough in expanding television access.
An internal Kaiser Broadcasting film explained the challenge – and opportunity – this way:
“In 1962 only 15 American cities have more than three TV stations . . . At Kaiser world headquarters the passage of the All-Channel Bill set a plan into motion that (will) result in one of the largest programs for the construction and operation of new TV stations in the history of the industry.”[ii]
Kaiser Broadcasting expands reach across nation
Under Dick Block, Kaiser Broadcasting’s first mainland television foray involved licenses for the newly-opened UHF market. The corporation started two UHF stations in 1965 – WKBD-TV in Detroit and WKBS-TV in Philadelphia.
In the next three years, Kaiser’s corporation added television stations in Los Angeles, KBSC, and Cleveland, WKBF, and radio and television stations in Boston, WKBG, and San Francisco, KBHK, channel 44, which originally carried the KHJK moniker that reflected Henry Kaiser’s initials.[iii]
Chicago came into the fold in 1974 when Field Communications partnered with Kaiser to create WFLD-TV. In most markets, Kaiser Broadcasting was among the first to start an independent station; the Bay Area was the exception. By this time the corporation’s holdings included seven TV stations – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
When Kaiser Industries split up in 1977, all the media holdings were liquidated as part of what was described as “the largest voluntary corporate dismantling in U.S. history.”[iv]
Today, KFOG listeners can request via email a song that makes them feel good – in keeping with the Kaiser Permanente advertising “Thrive” campaign. The station selects one suggested song and plays it along with similar music during the commercial-free hours.
The Kaiser Broadcasting Corporation no longer exists, but the current Kaiser Permanente-KFOG connection restores a link established 50 years ago.
Special thanks to KFOG/KBC originals Dick Block and Pete Taylor for their assistance in this story.
Postscript – History never sleeps. This article sparked additional research by KP physician and history buff Ted Eytan, MD who notes that the KBC San Francisco studio at 420 Taylor Street is now the home of Practice Fusion, manufacturer of the namesake electronic health record system.
Short link to this story: http://bit.ly/12XrQi9
[i] Letter March 16, 1962, from the FCC to the House of Representatives Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce.
[ii] Untitled KBC promotional video, 1968; <http://www.fuzzymemories.tv/index.php?c=4084>
[iii] Channel 44 television used the call letters KBHK-TV from its inception in 1968 until 2006. It is now KBCW, digital channel 45 (virtual channel 44).
[iv] “Kaiser’s Fledglings Prepare to Fly,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1977.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Fans and benefactors of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park gathered April 13 to get the latest on the park’s outreach programs and additions of artifacts and interpretive displays.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust, which helps support the park, sponsored “Rosies – Then & Now,” a fundraising event that drew about 200 revelers of all ages to the site of the former Kaiser Richmond Shipyards.
Some guests toured the 11-month-old National Park Service Visitor Education Center museum for the first time, and some took in the park’s “Home Front Heroes” film before dinner.
The tone was set early on with the energetic harmonies of the Honeybee Trio, three Vacaville (Calif.) high school girls who performed nostalgic songs from the era, many of those made famous by The Andrews Sisters.
The trio hit the right note with the audience: with five years’ experience on stage, their act is polished and could be mistaken for the original.
In one of their numbers, the Honeybees brought back the irreverent “Six Jerks in a Jeep,” calling on three Richmond girls from the audience to take a seat on stage in an imaginary jeep.
Young Rosies on stage
The selected guest performers are part of “Rosie’s Girls,” a six-week summer program supported by the trust. The program for girls from designated disadvantaged neighborhoods focuses on teaching the students traditionally male skills, such as carpentry, welding and fire fighting, and introduces them to positive female role models they call SHeroes (female heroes).
The girls, Hadassah Williams, 11, Ariel Norwood, 16, and Malaih Ware, 16, took center stage for the evening as modern-day “Rosies,” along with the wartime shipyard Rosies who were honored as well with special introductions.
Another honored guest was Morris Collen, MD, a Kaiser Permanente physician and researcher who started with the medical group in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards in 1942. Dr. Collen, who spoke a few words at the podium, will celebrate his 100th birthday on Nov. 12.
Lucien Sonder, NPS community outreach specialist, presented a recap of the “Rosie’s Girls” 2012 summer camp; NPS Ranger Matt Holmes gave a report about “Hometown/Richmond,” a year-round park program that helps youth faced with environmental risk factors such as crime, violence and poverty.
Community support for event
The Rosie Trust got support to produce the event from many businesses and individuals in the community. Among the sponsors were: the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Blacksmiths, Forger and Helpers, AFL-CIO, and Local 549; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; Chevron; the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions; Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; The Permanente Federation; and PG&E.
Eddie Orton and the Orton Development company donated the use of the Craneway Conference Center for the evening’s event.
By Steve Gilford, Senior Consulting Historian
First of two parts
Anne Ferreira, a 27-year-old native of Oakland, Calif., and a rapid typist, took a secretarial job in 1939 at the Henry J. Kaiser Co., an enterprise that was just beginning to take off.
Little did she imagine that 52 years later she would be looking back on a career with the Kaiser Companies that took her to New York City in 1941, to wartime shipyards in St, Johns, Ore. (near Portland), where she met President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, and back to Oakland in 1945 where she became the administrative go-to person at the iconic 28-story Kaiser Center, built in 1959.
Anne married Raymond Ferreira, another Oakland native, in 1938. Ray worked for Pan American Airways as a paymaster, and in 1941 he was transferred to New York City. Anne left her job to go east with Ray and landed a job in the Kaiser Companies’ New York office.
Before the couple could get settled, world events intervened and Henry Kaiser’s son Edgar asked for Ray’s help in urgently mustering a wartime workforce to fulfill Kaiser’s contracts to build hundreds of ships on the West Coast.
On Sept. 23, 1942, Ray Ferreira took on the shepherding of 510 newly hired shipyard workers from Hoboken, N.J., to Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Wash. Ferreira was in charge of the first “Kaiser Special” or “Kaiser Karavan” that fed the east-to-west migration that would irrevocably alter the nation’s demographics.
On that exact date, Ray’s wife Anne, already working in the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation office, was taken by surprise when she heard workers shouting that President Roosevelt had arrived. She ran out of the office to join the crowd gathering to see FDR ride by in a white convertible with Secret Service men in suits, hats and trench coats running alongside.
The beloved wartime president was six days into his unpublicized national tour of wartime production sites when he cruised into the shipyard for the launching of the SS Joseph Teal, a Liberty Ship built in a then-astonishing 10 days. His daughter, Anna, wife of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher John Boettiger, was there to christen the Teal.
Shipyard construction crews had adequately prepared for the president’s visit with a special platform with an automobile ramp erected opposite the launching site. Crippled by polio, Roosevelt could view the festivities from his seat in the limousine. He watched as his daughter crashed a champagne bottle on the bow of the Joseph Teal.
Much to Anne’s amazement, while she was standing among the spectators, Henry Kaiser spotted her and shouted to her to come down to the President’s car. He signaled the guards to let her through the security barriers and alongside FDR’s entourage.
Kaiser, son Edgar, and Oregon Governor Charles Sprague were seated in the President’s limousine talking away and greeting notables along the way. When Anne, “Annie” as Kaiser knew her, reached the convertible, the industrialist introduced her to President Roosevelt who chatted with her a bit, mostly about how she liked working for Henry Kaiser.
Recently, after Anne’s death at age 98 in December 2012, her daughter, Jill Suico, summarized her mother’s lifelong affection for the Kaisers, especially Henry: “She loved the man; she loved the company; and she loved her job.”
Over the decades, Anne had many bosses within the Kaiser Companies, including Kaiser Aluminum President Cornell Maier and Dick Spees, public affairs officer for Kaiser Aluminum for 31 years, who was elected to the Oakland City Council in 1979. Anne played the role of Snoopy at the Kaiser Aluminum’s “Salute the A’s Night” in 1980 at the Oakland Coliseum and posed with Maier for an Oakland Tribune photograph.
She was an active critic of Oakland city government, and through the years chided officials for unsafe streets, untidy neighborhoods and at one point urged the addition of a spruce tree to the Oakland city logo, next to the symbol of a mighty oak tree. She pushed that campaign – to no avail – with the donation of 50 spruce trees to the city, trees that had been part of the Kaiser Center landscape.
When Anne retired in 1983, Vice Mayor Dick Spees and the Oakland City Council declared June 15 Anne Ferreira day of appreciation and presented a tongue-in-cheek certificate that read in part: “Anne . . . is duly recognized for her sage advice and persistent admonitions to (the city) to clean its streets, put its youth to work . . . and generally get its act together.”
After her official retirement, Anne returned to Kaiser Aluminum as a contractor filling in for vacationing staffers and coordinating a community service program. She finally retired at age 77 in 1991. In 2009, Anne was honored as the oldest Kaiser Aluminum retiree at age 95.
Next time: More about Anne and Ray Ferreira’s wartime experiences.
By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
One of the major academic figures in American public health was Lester Breslow, MD, who passed away last year at the age of 97. Dr. Breslow was a former dean of the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA and director of the California Department of Public Health from 1965-1968.
He was also president of the American Public Health Association from 1968 to 1969. Central to Dr. Breslow’s research was mathematical support for the premise that improving personal habits such as reducing smoking, eating better, and sleeping well could have a significant impact on life longevity and quality.
Dr. Breslow was also a pioneer in multiphasic screening and an advocate for the Automated Multiphasic Health Test developed by Kaiser Permanente’s Morris Collen, MD, an early medical informatics guru who turns 100 this November.
National Public Health Week, April 1-7, is a good time to revisit Kaiser Permanente’s role in the early recognition of preventive care as a way to address public health issues.
Breslow had developed the original multiphasic screening (the examination of large numbers of people with a series of tests for detecting diseases) during the 1940s, and Collen improved upon it with new technology. The first beneficiaries of Collen’s multiphasic process were members of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union in 1951.
The AMHT was a battery of tests, administered in an efficient routine by medical professionals and supported by then-new mechanical and chemical analytic devices. The results were funneled into a powerful mainframe computer.
From a public health perspective, the ability to efficiently diagnose communicable and noncommunicable diseases not only benefitted the individual patient, it also helped to stem public health risks as well.
In Breslow’s 1973 Preventive Medicine article, “An Historical Review of Multiphasic Screening,” he noted: “Automated multiphasic screening opens the possibility of extending the health-maintenance type of health care to all groups of the population, particularly including those most likely to suffer from the conditions now responsible for the greatest amount of disability and death.”
Dr. Collen taught two semesters at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health during the spring and fall of 1965; much of the curriculum explored the uses of multiphasic exams. Students included physicians engaged in their continuing medical education.
Final papers for the classes included such subjects as “Evaluation of Environmental Toxins Utilizing Automated Methods” by David R. Brown, “Obesity and its Measurements as it Relates to a Multiphasic Screening Program” by Clarence F. Watson, MD, and “Biological Effects of Magnetic Fields” by Earl F. White.
Although the multiphasic screening as it was developed in the 1960s has been replaced by other diagnostic methods, the efficient application of medical diagnostic tools – and the enormous Kaiser Permanente patient database that has accumulated over the years – continues to advance public health.
Also see: “Screening for Better Health: Medical Care as a Right”