Richard Dillman never worked at KPH. But he was a station visitor beginning in 1972. When the station shut down in 1997 he didn't lose his job and his career like the KPH employees did. Nevertheless the emotional impact was such that it took almost two years for him to return to the receive site, expecting to see it trashed. Here's what he found instead.
The photo to the right shows KPH operating position 1 as found - intact, with Park Service inventory tags.
Spooky… Very Spooky - by Richard Dillman
KPH, "The wireless giant of the Pacific", is gone. Been closed for a year and more if memory serves. This is the station with the famous spark note, with the Axelanderson alternators for point-to-point work and later with 40kW on 500Kc. via transmitter BL-10. After 80 years of service it went dark.
But the Park Service is about to take possession and they're interested in preserving the history of the Bolinas transmitting site and the Point Reyes receiving site. We visited the receiving site last weekend.
It was one of the spookiest experiences I've ever had.
Those who follow such things know that in its golden years the main Morse operating room at KPH was known as the "den of thieves". There ace operators worked ships all around the world from positions arrayed around a central message carousel. All outgoing messages were filed in the carousel by call sign and, when a ship called, the message was plucked from its slot and sent. Right after the traffic lists things would really be hopping. Operators would steal ships from each other and the carousel would spin like mad while Frank Geisel, "Mr. KPH", would preside over the mass of confusion, waving his cane and yelling "get that one on 16 megs!"
We knew that KPH had fallen on hard times since then... the hardest times in fact since the station was now dark. But we didn't know what to expect in the hallowed ground of the den of thieves now. I figured it would be gutted to the bare walls. You've seen rooms like that. A few wires sticking out of the walls, a single chair in the middle of the room. Tom said whatever equipment there was would be piled in a closet.
We approached the operating room we started to hear... static... Morse code... ships calling... The hair rose on the back of my neck. We turned the corner and found... everything as if they had left it yesterday. All the receivers were on. The keys were on the operating tables ready for action. Messages were in the carousel... messages for ships that would never again call. In the SITOR room the printers showed regular messages, then "error... error", then nothing. It was like boarding an abandoned but intact ship as sea. I expected to find a warm cup of coffee at an operating position.
But there was no warm coffee and no ships called and the thieves had long ago left the den. KPH has passed away and with it has passed one of the best, most honorable eras in radio communications.