Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
When we landed at Love Field in Dallas last September (after an unexpected detour through Oklahoma City – thanks, Southwest Airlines!), we had no idea that the trip we were about to embark upon might be the last “Medium Trip” for quite a while.
But it’s a good thing we took the week and a half to make a big circuit of a lot of Texas markets that were new to us, because the result was a lot of new airchecks, a lot of new stories, and a lot of new pictures that will keep us busy here on Site of the Week for most of the summer. (After which… well, we’ll figure that out when we get there.)
Keep in mind here that before last year, our only time in Dallas had been several visits to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, followed in 2017 by our Radio Show-powered visit to Austin.
That left us a lot of Texas to see, and nowhere near enough days to get to some of the parts we’d have liked to have included. (Sorry, Corpus Christi! Next time, Beaumont!)
Our unexpected flight detour may have yielded some new Oklahoma City IDs for the TopHour.com collection, but it also made us a few hours later than planned into Dallas – and thus a few hours later than planned heading out of Dallas down I-35E.
The plan for day 1 was simple: an afternoon arrival into Dallas and a fairly short drive down 35 to spend a night in Waco. Even with the delay, we still had time for a few stops on the way down: in Waxahachie, less than an hour south of Dallas, we drove by the studio of KBEC (1390), the local AM station for Ellis County, then got back on the highway to pick up some Waco towers before dark.
There’s a little less AM radio in Waco than there once was: WACO (1460), the legendary answer to “what AM station’s calls are the same as its city of license?” (and WARE is the other one), had long since moved north to the Metroplex (it’s now KCLE in Burleson, near Fort Worth), and KRZI (1580) is also gone now, survived by its expanded-band offspring on 1660.
In addition to the 1660 facility, which uses one of the former 1580 towers just off the Texas 6 eastern beltway around Waco, that leaves just two other AMs in town. KWTX (1230) was the second AM in town after WACO. The site it occupies at Primrose and S. 18th, just south of Baylor University and only a few miles west of KRZI, is its original site from back in 1946.
The third AM is religious KBBW 1010, a big 10 kW day/2500 watt night signal from a site far to the east of Waco, but given the choice between the drive out there and a chance to see the TV towers in town at sunset, we went for the TVs instead.
Keep going south of Waco on I-35 to the Bruceville-Eddy exit and you can see the tower farm near Moody, Texas from the highway. Don’t be deceived, though – those towers are still a few miles out there to the west.
There are three of them arrayed behind gates off Tower Drive, all more than 1500 feet tall: KWTX-TV (Channel 10) has been serving central Texas since 1955, and today is a Gray-owned CBS affiliate. (It shares its tower with a new sister station, CW affiliate KNCT 46; KNCT used to be one of the market’s PBS stations, licensed to Belton and serving the Killeen-Temple area to the south, but PBS has fared poorly here. The other local PBS, Baylor’s KWBU-TV 34, tried to sell its license to a religious broadcaster but eventually simply went dark, and now area viewers get either KERA from Dallas or KLRU from Austin on cable.)
The nearby tower of the much newer ABC affiliate, Scripps-owned KXXV (Channel 25), also has the antennas of the two biggest FMs in the market. WACO-FM (99.9) and KWTX-FM (97.5) are both now owned by iHeart, and both signals are audible along 35 all the way from the southern end of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex down to the northern fringes of Austin.
And the third tower? That’s a little to the south and west, and it belongs to Nexstar’s Fox affiliate, KWKT (Channel 44), with K-Love’s KVLW (88.1 Gatesville) partway down.
These aren’t great pictures of the towers or the antennas, because it was getting awfully dark – and getting to be time for us to head back to the hotel, eat the kolaches (delicious Texas pastry treats with a Czech ancestry) we’d purchased earlier on the drive in the kitschy Czech town of West, Texas – and to get ready for a busy day two, which we’ll recount in our next installment!
The 2022 Tower Site Calendar – PREORDERING OPEN NOW!
This is a special year for our calendar – it’s the 20th anniversary for us, and the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. This special edition of the calendar will showcase the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations.
Though it’s not off the presses yet, don’t wait or risk shipping delays – you can order it right now.
And check out our other great merchandise!
And don’t miss a big batch of Central Texas IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: More Waco – and southward to Temple and beyond