Article: WBBR-AM: A “Pioneering” Radio Experiment by the Watch Tower - A revealing history of WBBR- Includes the last broadcast - April 1957

by AndersonsInfo 17 Replies latest jw friends

  • AndersonsInfo

    I enjoyed the research and writing the history of WBBR as much as many of you who have expressed interest in reading about it. Although we are unhappy with our past membership in the Watchtower Corporate religion, it can't be denied that the history is fascinating, especially in light of what we see happening now.

    Thanks Orphan Crow for your post regarding some of IBSA's history in British Columbia which I'll add to the original article that appears on Watchtower Documents.

    And, TheWonderofYou, thanks for the additional material about WBBR and the link to Hatzfeld's recollections. I met and interviewed him while I was doing research for the "Proclaimers" book. Have to say he was like an "invisible" presence at headquarters, spending most of his waking hours doing something in the mechanical communication rooms, no matter where and when in the development of the history of JW broadcasting until he died.

    Hatzfeld was one of many men involved in the history of the Watchtower who worked behind the scenes to make people with unforgettable voices and presentations like Rutherford, Franz and Sydlik important in the JW world during a key time of growth in the religion. These support people as well as the "characters" out in front are long gone and the Knorr/Franz/GB administrative religion they participated in are gone too, only to be replaced by a floundering non-charismatic leadership with a message that has little appeal to hook new members and to keep the born-ins happy. What we are watching is the demise of what was once an important American religion whose innovative history should not be forgotten but never repeated.

  • Dagney

    Very interesting. I was raised hearing the stories about the radio station and all the different tools the WT used in the ministry. Nice to see Sydlik. He was a frequent visitor to my hall in the 90's. Always personable and friendly, wanted you to call him Dan.

    Thank you for this and all you do.

  • OrphanCrow
    Anderson: Thanks Orphan Crow for your post regarding some of IBSA's history in British Columbia which I'll add to the original article that appears on Watchtower Documents.

    That was Hoser who did that! I just added the link.

    I actually didn't know anything about the ISBA's radio history in Canada and I was fascinated with the connection to the Klu Klux Klan in Saskatchewan. For those who don't know, the Klan's history runs deep in this province and the ISBA and the Klan shared anti-Catholic sentiments.That radio broadcasting would have been happening when my grandparents in Saskatchewan converted to the Russellites.

    As well, it is interesting that it was the ISBA's inflammatory attacks on other religions and government that led to a Canadian Royal Commission, and from there, the establishment of our CBC, which exists to this day.

  • AndersonsInfo

    Whoops, thanks Hoser. Good stuff that, like Orphan Crow, I never saw before.

  • OrphanCrow

    Barbara, I was reading the material at your link to watchtowerdocuments, and I read this about the organ:

    In 1931, the WBBR studios were moved to 122-126 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. They were situated in a rear building near Furman Street. In 1931 they installed an organ, a Gottfried formerly from WHK in Cleveland.

    The organ came from WHK, another radio station.

    WHK was a radio station that had been purchased by Rutherford in 1924 and sold in 1934 for $250,000. After the sale, Rutherford was sued by the fellow JW who claimed he had been the one to put up $10,000 (half of purchase price, apparently) to buy WHK and Radio Air Service Corporation.

    Another radio station which the WTS doesn't include in their history books - KFWM (from the same link - ):

    KFWM-AM in Oakland, California was licensed as a commercial radio station, and went on the air for the first time in July 1925, under the ownership of the Oakland Educational Society. KFWM was devoted exclusively to religious content provided by the WatchTower Society -- Bethelites and Pilgrims from WatchTower HQ, and "Bible Students" from congregations all over southern California. Part of the Oakland Educational Society building (formerly the Pilgrim Congregational Church) contained the equipment and outside tower for KFWM, while the large sanctuary and other portions of the building served as Oakland's first owned "Kingdom Hall". Online sources refer to the Oakland Educational Society building specifically as the "International Bible School", the "I.B.S.A. Auditorium", and the "I.B.S.A. Temple".
    KFWM's corporate "President" was Henry P. Drey, a WatchTower Pilgrim and onetime Bethelite, while the corporate "Vice-President" was W. R. Fraser, who was a known "Bible Student". Other station employees included another WatchTower Pilgrim, Gordon R. Pollock. Readers should review all of their WatchTower history sources to understand that the WTBTS has never, ever claimed ownership of KFWM. The WTBTS merely has claimed a "contractual relationship" with KFWM to provide "biblical content" for this radio station's programming, which was the "excuse" provided to the government and general public for the station's religious format, and the fact that every person connected with KFWM was also somehow connected either to the WTBTS, or one of its local affiliates. In 1925, whom is the sole person who had the authority and ability to bring all of this together -- only "Boss" Rutherford. It is a certainty that all of these WatchTower Society personnel and local "Bible Students" served as "straw-men" to keep "Judge" Rutherford's personal ownership of KFWM a secret from both the general public and the government.
    Frankly, online ownership info pertaining to KFWM is so contradictory, sketchy, and incorrect, that we will not attempt to provide a definitive history of such (no doubt partially caused by efforts to hide Rutherford's changing ownership interests over the years). What we do know is that over the years that KFWM grew and flourished. From its founding in 1925 through 1929, for all intents and purposes, KFWM was WBBR-WEST. However, in January 1930, "Judge" Rutherford sold part of the operation to unknown parties (probably once again a local newspaper), which again resulted in the formation of a new corporate owner -- EDUCATIONAL BROADCASTING CORPORATION. Thereafter, additional real estate, including satellite locations, were acquired, and the station's call letters were changed. Notably, however, "Bible Students" H. P. Drey and W. R. Fraser continued to run the station as corporate "President" and "VP. However, with the addition of non-JW owners, KFWM ceased being WBBR-WEST, and simply became one of many radio stations that occasionally broadcast WatchTower programming. Finally, in 1939, there was another major sale, and this one appears to have resulted in the departure of most of the "Jehovah's Witnesses" left at KFWM. But, who knows. Even after some other group took over management of the station, Rutherford may still have retained a minority interest.

    More radio history here: "Judge Rutherford's Personal Radio Empire" starts about 3/4 of the way down the page

  • AndersonsInfo

    This add'l information posted about the Watch Tower's early involvement in ownership of radio stations and the so-called "WBBR West" radio station gathered by Orphan Crow certainly adds to the story. Thanks.

    And I certainly recommend reading the material at the links provided.

  • OrphanCrow
    Anderson: ...gathered by Orphan Crow

    And credit, too, to whoever it is that does the research at those links, whoever they are!

    The tangled web of business dealings that the WT leaders were/are involved in are difficult to follow and sort out. What is clear, though, is that there are many prominent, wealthy JWs who operate behind the scenes of the WTS. It is hard to tell who wags the tail and who wags the dog at times, tho.

    The character who sued Rutherford over the sale of WHK was Anton Keorber. His story/history is on this page here (almost half way down):

    Keorber was disfellowshipped after suing the judge, but then resurfaced several years later, trying to get "pioneer" status. After being turned down all the way up the line, he bought Nathan Knorr a Cadillac, became a pioneer, and then a Circuit Servant.

  • konceptual99

    Very interesting. Thanks for the informative post Barbara et al.

    I've always found the "personal contact" argument to be flawed given that not all can be reached physically. Of course the indoctrinated dub has a response which is the ago old "God will judge, he can makes the stones speak" type argument. Nowadays the web site is trotted out as the answer to the poor reach of the personal ministry. It begs the question why Jehovah does not simply do this anyway? Spending all this time failing to meet people when he could make the message clear to all is a crazy way of accomplishing the job of getting a life saving message out.

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