Archive for April, 2013

Thriving with 1960s-launched KFOG radio – then and now

posted on April 30, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Disc Jockey Pete Taylor in KFOG studio, 1966. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Archives photo.

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.

Kaiser Broadcasting studios in San Francisco.

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.

Pete Taylor, KFOG-FM, head disc jockey in the 1960s. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources Archives photo.

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.

Watch this Kaiser Broadcasting promotional film 1968.

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:

[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; <>

[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.

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Traffic worries and bay dumping set stage for Earth Day 1970

posted on April 22, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

The Key System ran on the lower deck of Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco until 1958 when the train service was discontinued due to lack of demand. Image courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Eleven years before the first Earth Day in 1970, San Francisco Bay Area civic leaders were already battling over the best solution to a growing problem of traffic congestion on roads throughout the region. Commuters preferred their comfortable automobiles to trains, ferries and buses. The pressure was on to build more roads and more bridges to unclog freeways.

During World War II and in the 15 years after, Bay Area population more than doubled; and the number of automobiles more than tripled. By 1959, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were packed with commuters. The three regional airports were congested; the ports were competing for traffic.

At the same time, ordinary citizens started to balk at the way the San Francisco Bay was being abused; cities and counties, industrial companies, developers and homeowners were dumping sewage and trash into the bay with impunity. No law was on the books to stop the dumping.

Forces to save the bay, stop freeway construction and to develop a Bay Area regional transportation plan began to emerge in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Resistance to freeways begins

In 1959, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution expressing members’ opposition to many of the freeways that had been proposed to run through city neighborhoods. “The Freeway Revolt” established San Francisco’s new focus on public transit, not on automobiles.

A ferry boat in Alameda crowded with commuters in 1958. Before the bridge was built the ferry was the primary transportation for commuters between San Francisco and Oakland. Image courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

The same year, Henry J. Kaiser’s oldest son Edgar, like his father a major industrialist and Oakland city leader, spearheaded a drive to establish the Golden Gate Authority, a regional transportation planning agency that would guide and largely control future transit development.

As president of the Bay Area Council, Edgar Kaiser unveiled the proposal that had been under study for several years.  The Golden Gate Authority, an independent public corporation, was to take over the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge districts and consolidate revenue sources to finance regional transportation.

The plan would have affected the nine Bay Area counties, including regional airports, bridges and ports, including the Port of Oakland. Counties included in the region are: San Francisco; Alameda and Contra Costa to the east, Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano to the north, and Santa Clara and San Mateo to the south.

Edgar Kaiser leads campaign for transit plan

In February 1959, Kaiser’s allies introduced a bill in the State Senate to create the Golden Gate Authority. Kaiser mustered support from Bay Area newspapers and most regional county governments, but he was opposed by the bridge districts’ officers, as well as city governments, whose officials saw it as a violation of “home rule.”

Opening day of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1936. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the opening caused “the greatest traffic jam in the history of San Francisco”. Image courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Edgar Kaiser told members of the Senate Committee on Bay Area Problems in March 1959 that there was a “crying need” for the Golden Gate Authority. He said the authority would provide a basis for orderly development throughout the region.

Del Norte County Senator Randolph Collier, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, railed against the legislation on behalf of the bridge districts and succeeded in killing the bill.

In the Spring 2012 issue of “Access,” author and historian Louise Nelson Dyble wrote:  “The most ambitious proposal for transportation planning ever considered for the San Francisco Bay Area – the Golden Gate Authority – went down to defeat in 1962, bringing serious efforts for regional government to an end.”*

Following the Senate committee’s rejection of the Golden Gate Authority, Edgar Kaiser and ally State Senator Jack McCarthy of Marin County geared up for a new round of hearings. But in 1962, the plan was effectively dead. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente leaders were pursuing another angle to promote environmental awareness.

Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring,” at work in 1962. Photo courtesy of Beinecke Library, Yale University.

In 1963, Kaiser Permanente brought controversial environmental author Rachel Carson to San Francisco as key note speaker for its public symposium, “Man Against Himself.”  Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” shined an early light on environmental issues well recognized today as we mark the 43rd Earth Day on April 22, 2013.


*Louise Nelson Dyble, assistant professor of history at Michigan Technological University, is author of “Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics and the Golden Gate Bridge, 2009.” The book won the Abel Wolman Award for the best new book in the field of public works history. Her article was published in the magazine of the University of California Transportation Center in Berkeley, CA.



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Rosie the Riveter patrons pay tribute to WWII home front “SHeroes”

posted on April 17, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

The Honeybee Trio, an Andrews-Sisters-style singing act, bring three Richmond, Calif., “Rosie’s Girls” on stage to perform WWII-era favorite “Six Jerks in a Jeep.” From left to right: back row, Sarah McElwain, Karli Bosler, Natalie Angst, front row, Malaih Ware, Ariel Norwood, and Hadassah Williams. KP Heritage photo.

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.

The Honeybee Trio, from Vacaville, Calif., is made up of three Will C. Wood High School girls: from left, Sarah McElwain, Karli Bosler and Natalie Angst. KP Heritage photo.

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.

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Typist bounces with the Kaisers to New York, Northwest and back

posted on April 11, 2013

By Steve Gilford, Senior Consulting Historian

First of two parts

Anne Ferreira went to work for Henry J. Kaiser in Oakland in 1939. Photo courtesy of Jill Suico.

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.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry and Edgar Kaiser and Oregon Governor Charles Sprague take a ride through the Kaiser shipyard in 1942.

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.

Ray and Anne Ferreira, both natives of Oakland, Calif., worked for the Kaisers at the Vancouver Shipyard during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jill Suico.

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.

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Kaiser Permanente joins officials in tackling 1960s public health issues

posted on April 2, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Lester Breslow, Director of the State Department of Public Health, reported in 1967 that the death rate from coronary heart disease was dropping in California while the national rate was still rising. Photo published in the December, 18, 1967, issue of the LA Times. LA Times photo

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.

A longshoreman is greeted by staff of the Kaiser Permanente multiphasic health screening program in 1961. Photo from the KP Reporter, May 1961.

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”

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