Raven Radio is about to discover the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything tomorrow Feb 19, (with apologies to Douglas Adams and Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe) when it turns 42.

At just before 5 PM, Pacific Time, on February 19, 1982,  42 years ago, Marika Partridge opened a microphone and signed Raven Radio on the air for the first time.  We had planned for a gala grand opening on March 6 but we kind of jumped the gun.  At about 3 PM I got a call from Charlie Northrip, the Executive Director of the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission telling me that members of the State Senate Finance Committee were asking: “Why Raven isn’t Raven Radio in the air?”  We got funding in 1980 and 18 months later the station was still not broadcasting. 

The reason it took us so long was that we opted to have the community build the station, with volunteers gutting the top floor of the cable house, building and soundproofing walls and installing equipment.  If we had opted to go for a “turn-key” package we would have been on the air sooner.   But work parties take organizing and the Raven Board, led by Jim Steffen, felt that the community was building shares in the station by building the station with volunteer labor.  We even had a volunteer helicopter pilot help us raise our tower rather than hiring a steeplejack.  We assembled the tower on the ground and the chopper just lifted it up and we set it on the roof of the Mt. Edgecumbe Gym. 

We came in $44,000 under budget.  We used that money to buy extra remote equipment and to start work on a chain of low powered transmitters that serve outlying communities to this day.

On February 19 we were almost ready to go, so I called in our engineer Tom McGrane and asked him if we could go immediately.  He said we could get microphones and the satellite on the air and with a few hours work we could get turntables.  I asked Charlie what time the committee reconvened.  He said 6 PM.  I told him when he met the committee to tell the committee we were on the air.

We called as many of the board members as we could to get them to the station by 5.  Willa Rabinovitch, our business manager, got a bottle of Champaign and with no turntables, at just before 5 PM, Pacific Time, (4 PM Alaska) Marika signed us on and put NPR’s “All Things Considered” on the air.  Suzi took the pictures, faded after 42 years.

With Alaska News Nightly following, Tom had two hours to get the turntables working.

At 6 PM Charlie told the Senate Finance Committee we were on the air.  But we weren’t.  Almost as soon as NPR went on the air there was a citywide power outage.  One of the trade papers headlined “KCAW signs on, blows Sitka away.” 

We did get back on later that night, with me at the mic.  Raven Radio has been on every day since.

Me now and me then.

We still have the “Sign on Mic.” I intend to use it Monday on the air and on the anniversary.

4 thoughts on ““42”

  1. Congratulations to the Raven Radio team and Happy Anniversary to all .
    I hope you and Suzi are enjoying your work in Sitka and monitoring the blogs from The 2024 WC. Seems to be a livelier cruise this year. We too left ‘23 for medical reasons, not nearly as severe as your experience.

  2. Of course! The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42 (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

    Congratulations on another anniversary!

  3. Denise, We are monitoring the blogs. It seems like HAL has gotten back in the Grand Voyage swing. Will you be on one of the Grands next year?

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