This abbreviated historical account was prompted by the installation of Idaho’s tallest radio tower. That occurred in December 2018 when KWYD installed a 605-foot tower near the Firebird Raceway to beam “Wild 101.1” into the Treasure Valley. For comparison, that’s nearly twice the height of Idaho’s tallest building, the Zion’s Bank tower in Boise which tops out at 323 feet.
I had recently run across a story about a collapsed radio tower in Boise, so decided to pluck what gems there might have been in the history of local radio towers. Though the KWYD tower going up is news, most of the news about towers occurred when they came down.
I was surprised to learn that the first radio tower story reported by the Idaho Statesman was in the March 20, 1923 issue. That was surprising, because at that time KFAU (which would later become KIDO) was a radio station project at Boise High School and the only station in Idaho. The toppling of that tiny tower would not have made headlines.
The tower that came down in 1923 was one of two huge ham radio towers at the Rawson Ranch about 16 miles southwest of Boise. The 165-foot tower collapsed in a windstorm, leaving a 200-foot tower intact. The ranch was sometimes called the Towers Ranch because H.A. Rawson, a wealthy hog farmer, was an amateur radio buff. When war broke out on April 6, 1917, Rawson was sitting at his receiving table listening to international reports. When he heard the war had begun, he “dragged off his headphones, mounted his motorcycle and was at the state house in 14 minutes” giving the news to state officials.
The next towering story came in 1933 when Nampa’s 106-foot KFXD tower came down in a windstorm.
In 1946, Boise’s third radio station, KGEM, was about to go on the air. Several things delayed the first broadcast, including the collapse of a 100-foot section of tower during construction.
KATN was the next to have tower troubles. In 1970 most of the 205-foot tower which also served sister station KBBK came down in a windstorm.
Then in 1975 one of KBOI’s directional towers crumpled in a storm, though wind was not the entire cause. Static electricity built up and arced across one of the insulators severing a guy wire. That turned the 367-foot tower into twisted metal good only for recycling.