KOCO radio, 1490 AM, hit the Salem airwaves in 1947 (Willamette Heritage Center Collections X2014.002.0006.012.)

Update: Thursday, May 27, 2021

On May 26, Salem Reporter posted a historic photo from Willamette Heritage Center showing one of Salem’s first radio stations, KOCO. The center’s curator, Kylie Pine, was hoping readers might have more information about when the photo was taken and the people in it.

She didn’t have to wait long. Within a few hours, astute reader Andy Zimmerman spotted the piece and recognized the picture.

"Station K.O.C.O. beamed radio programs from 1426 Edgewater in West Salem from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. In 1947 Margaret Pickett and Dave Hoss seemed very relaxed as they broadcast. Courtesy of McEwan Photo Shops." (From "Salem: A Pictorial History of Oregon's Capital" by Harry Stein)

“When I saw that photo, I knew I'd seen it somewhere before. I thought the man was Dave Hoss, who was program director at the station in the 1940s. Eventually, digging through some of my Salem history books, I found the photo that confirmed it. It was on Page 142 of "Salem: A Pictorial History of Oregon's Capital" by Harry H. Stein,” Zimmerman wrote.

The center’s record is now updated, Pine said.

Below is Pine's original information about the photo:

"Google KOCO today and you’ll get a TV news station in Oklahoma. In 1947, however, these letters spelled out Salem’s newest radio station found at 1490 on the AM dial. We don’t know much about this photograph, other than it was likely taken before the rebranding of the station as KBZY in 1957. Do you recognize anybody in the photo?

The first commercial radio broadcast in the U.S. happened in 1920. Portland got is first radio station (KGW) just two years later. In the early days of radio, mid-Valley residents had to tune into Portland stations for local news and syndicated radio programming. Many of the early radio stations in the Portland area were controlled by newspapers. KGW was started by the Oregonian, and KOIN was owned by both the Portland News and the Oregon Journal. The Valley’s first local station, KSLM, began broadcasting October 3, 1934 from a studio located at 345 Court Street."

Editor's note: This column is part of an effort from Salem Reporter to highlight local history in collaboration with area historians and historical organizations. Once a month, Willamette Heritage Center curator Kylie Pine shares a historical photo from the center's collections and invites readers to share what they may know. If you have any feedback or would like to participate in Salem Reporter's local history series, please contact managing editor Rachel Alexander at [email protected]

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