A Knockout for Mr. Moon

Perhaps because it’s the “Summer of the Super Moon,” a small ad from RM Parish’s attic floor Oregonian archives rose up from the dark side earlier this week.

Mr. Moon ad in the Oregonian

Mr. Moon ad in the Oregonian

According to the paid newspaper announcement, there was a children’s radio program in Portland called “Mr. Moon” that was broadcast Monday through Friday at 7:45 a.m. on KBKO (“1290 on your dial”).

After seeing the ad, a furious web surf began and we found all sorts of information about this apparently legendary Portland radio and television series.

Reader advisory: Mr. Moon is a scary looking character.

Mr. Moon

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2007

Ed Leahy, a Portland disc jockey, was the man under the cheesy headgear, which completely defies any adequate description. Mr. Moon had a puppet sidekick called “Harry the Herron,” who was played by another well-known Portland broadcaster, Art Morey.

Our friends at PDX history have Mr. Moon’s glory days well documented.

But whatever happened to KBKO, “1290 on your dial?” Turns out, it’s not a happy story.

Given the knockout call letters, one might assume KBKO was a station devoted to broadcasting boxing matches that once were popular. However, the meaning of their broadcast moniker had absolutely nothing to do with Joe Louis, heavyweight champion of the world when KBKO signed on for the first time (January 10, 1949).

A little known fact: many radio and television stations then and now create their call letters based on the names of their ownership, a catchy slogan or hidden meanings for the edification of staff.

For instance, reliable sources indicate KBOO are call letters based a marijuana strain called “Berkeley Boo.” PRP (Portland Radio Project) news partner KGW picked their call letters because the station was dedicated to encouraging listeners to “Keep Growing Wiser.”

In KBKO’s case – the B and the K stood for the last names of the owners, Gordon Bambrick and Harold Krieger. The O was for Oregon.

KBKO’s studios were located at the Carmen Building, 3908 NE Sandy Blvd., in the Hollywood District. It was a daytime station only, allowed to broadcast at one kilowatt (very low power) from sunrise to sundown. Gordon Bambrick was General Manager and Chief Announcer. Harold Krieger was Chief Engineer and Vice-President. KBKO called itself “the sweetest spot on the dial” and adopted the slogan “the station of continuous musical entertainment.”

By the end of 1952, things started to turn sour for KBKO and the Bambrick-Krieger partnership. The call letters were changed to KLIQ, a play on the word “click.” Our research revealed that announcers at KLIQ were instructed to use a clicker that looked like a frog right before they announced, “This is radio KLIQ, Radio Click.” (Who said people in radio aren’t creative?).

Frog Clicker

Frog Clicker

On April 12, 1954, agents from the Internal Revenue Service showed up at KLIQ studios (probably very early in the morning) and padlocked the front door. Station owners neglected to pay employee withholding taxes in 1953. The amount of their arrears was just $8000.00.

Assets were auctioned to cover the debt, and, without much of a fight, KLIQ snapped, crackled and unclicked.

Today, the call letters KBKO are licensed to a station in Kodiak, Alaska, while KLIQ has traveled to Hastings, Nebraska where it is mostly known as “The Breeze 94.5.”

BTW, the next “Super Moon” appears on the Portland horizon August 10, 2014.

Have your clickers, I mean cameras, ready.

Super Moon video from NASA.

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