The story of radio in Idaho began in September 1917 when Harry Redeker was hired as a chemistry and physics teacher at Boise High School. In the evenings, he taught Morse Code to young men who were about to head into the maw of World War I.
After the war, Redeker got his amateur radio license and continued the classes, broadcasting on station 7YA starting in December 1919. The student station eventually began broadcasting music and speech, thanks to improved equipment and technology.
Student radio station KFAU received its license on July 18, 1922—the date the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation marks as the official start of broadcasting in the state—though the first official broadcast didn’t begin until July 20.
There wasn’t a lot of competition on the radio dial, so the station had some impact. On July 30, 1922, the Idaho Statesman reported that listeners could clearly hear the station in Kuna, Nampa, Caldwell, Parma, Payette, Weiser and Ontario. Some reported hearing it in Twin Falls and St. Anthony. Listeners heard live music performed by local musicians, religious broadcasts, and a speech by Sen. William Borah.
Under Redeker’s guidance and with community support, the station grew, increasing its power to 4,000 watts during the day and 2,000 watts at night in 1926. Daytime production was handled by Boise High School students, while the Boise Chamber of Commerce took over at night. Notably, the Chamber also began financing the radio station.
By 1927 the station had become so popular that there was pressure on the school board to sell KFAU to become Idaho’s first commercial station. The Statesman, which had run dozens of articles and program listings, was making plans of its own to start a commercial radio station at that time, though those plans never reached fruition.
With increasing controversy over the station’s fate, some of the fun had gone out of the project for Harry Redeker. He took a job in California.
In September 1928, the school district sold KFAU to Curtis G. Phillips and Frank Hill. The call letters changed to KIDO in November of 1928. From that time forward, Phillips went by the nickname “Kiddo.”
KIDO still broadcasts from Boise today, although that studio in Boise High School is long gone. Thanks to Art Gregory and the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation Inc. for their help on this story.
Photo courtesy of the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation Inc.