The “Voice of the Valley” KZUN Radio is back on the air as part of a new exhibit on the longtime Valley radio station at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.
An old-fashioned radio plays songs from the station’s big band format interspersed with the “Kissin’ KZUN” jingle. The exhibit also includes photos of announcers Bob Swartz and Art MacKelvie, photos of the station and photos of billboards. An old microphone, headset and old records are also included.
“Well, look at what you’ve got set up here,” said MacKelvie when he saw the exhibit for the first time. “This is wonderful. I never suspected you guys would put this together.”
MacKelvie was joined at the museum by Jerry Anderson, who served as the station’s announcer, news director and later operating manager. The two hadn’t seen each other for 35 years until invited to view the exhibit by museum director Jayne Singleton. Anderson provided some of the pictures in the exhibit. “There were some slides I found in a filing cabinet,” he said. “Those pictures are before my time. I’m sure it was one of the photo studios out here. That’s back when they did billboards.”
KZUN was started in 1955 by MacKelvie and Swartz, both veterans of KHQ radio. It aired on 630 AM and 96.1 FM with the studio in the heart of the Valley near Sprague Avenue and Pines Road. It was a down-home, country radio station, which fit right in with the country atmosphere in the Valley.
They would announce lost pets and school closures in the winter. Valley Fire used to call them whenever a fire engine was dispatched so they could alert listeners. “We didn’t have to contend too much with TV in those days,” MacKelvie said.
The “Kissin’ KZUN” nickname fit the location, MacKelvie said. “We wanted to be neighbors and friends,” he said. “It was kind of corny.”
No one wanted to loan the duo money to launch the station, but they pulled everything together. “We kind of made our living on ‘Lawrence Welk’,” he said. “We called it happy music. We’d sign off at night, empty the wastebaskets and try and sell advertising. It was fun.”
As MacKelvie and Anderson reminisced, they could still recite sign-offs in unison. They recalled driving miles to replace blown fuses at the radio tower and times when things that really shouldn’t be on live radio slipped through.
MacKelvie eventually sold his share of the station to Swartz, who died in 1980. Anderson started working at the station part time in 1964 while he finished college. He remained with KZUN until 1980 and the station was sold to a Texas company in 1981. The call letters went away, but there are still local radio stations airing on those channels.
The museum exhibit was a fond trip down memory lane for MacKelvie. “It was fun,” he said. “There were always problems. We always made it, thanks to guys like (Anderson).”
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