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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 518, December 5, 2004

"Hawaii Calls"

One of the very popular radio programs during the era of the 1930s was heard on relay throughout the United States on mediumwave and it was often reported on shortwave by listeners throughout the Pacific basin.  This program was on the air under the exotic tile, "Hawaii Calls." it originated in a tourist hotel in Honolulu Hawaii, and it was relayed on shortwave to the United States from the RCA station at Kahuku. 

The RCA communication station was established at Kahuku on the northern edge of the capital island of Oahu back at the time when wireless messages were communicated only by spark gap Morse Code.  This impressive wireless station was officially inaugurated on September 24, 1914, and at the time it was described as the largest in the world with an antenna system one mile long.

Some ten years later, RCA Kahuku was converted to valve operation and the spark transmitters were discarded.  Ten years later again, a new communication transmitter was installed, a unit that was listed at 50 kw, though these days we would probably list the power output as 20 kw.  When the era of international conflict began, this RCA station was on the air with several shortwave transmitters with a power output ranging from 2 kw up to 20 kw. 

The main purpose for this station was for communication with the mainland United States, though it was also on the air with inter-island and trans-Pacific communication.  Many three letter callsigns were in use during this era, including for example, KIE, KKH, KKP, KRO and KQH.  
In addition to the communication transmissions, this station was often noted on air with a point-to-point relay of radio broadcast programming.  Generally, these program broadcasts originated in Hawaii and consisted of news dispatches and commentaries, as well as entertainment programming consisting of locally produced Hawaiian music. 

Occasionally, RCA Kahuku acted as an intermediate relay for programming from Asia and the South Pacific intended for broadcast on mediumwave throughout the United States.  And then there were occasions when RCA received programming from the continental United States for local broadcast in Hawaii, or for onward relay to Asia and Australia and New Zealand.  For a short period of time in 1942, a 10 kw transmitter at Kahuku was on the air under the callsign KRCA with a relay of programming on behalf of the Voice of America.        

The noted American radio historian, Jerry Berg in Boston, states that the first broadcast of the program, "Hawaii Calls." went on the air locally from the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach on July 3, 1935, obviously in recognition of the July 4 patriotic celebrations.  The first known logging of a program relay of "Hawaii Calls" on shortwave was a couple of months later in September when RCA Kahuku was noted on 7370 kHz under the callsign KEQ. 

A regular weekly relay to the continental United States of "Hawaii Calls" began in January 1937 under the callsign KIO on 25.6 metres.  These broadcasts were heard on Thursday evenings and were one and a half hours in duration.  During the following year, the broadcast schedule was changed to Sunday afternoons.

The production of these live programs was undertaken by local mediumwave stations in Honolulu.  In 1938, pioneer station KGU in Honolulu was on the air locally and by relay from RCA with "Hawaii Calls," and in 1943 another pioneer station, KGMB, was producing the program.  In fact, both stations issued QSL cards honoring the shortwave reception of this programming.

After peace was re-established in the Pacific, an attempt was made to continue the program series, "Hawaii Calls," and station KHON took over production for a while.  Soon afterwards, program production was transferred again, this time to station KPOA.  However, by this time, international circumstances had changed, and the program series was never again as popular as what it had been ten years earlier.

As a postscript, several postcards that feature "Hawaii Calls" are held in various collections of radio memorabilia.  We are holding a couple in Indianapolis and Jerry Berg also has some in his collection.  Our cards both show the same scene at the production of the program and are dated in the year 1951.  One card does not identify the radio station, but the other card identifies the production station as KPOA.

Quite recently, Jerry Berg visited the old production location while he was on vacation in Honolulu and he states that even to this day, it looks just like the picture in the 50 year old postcard. 

These days, the exotic and nostalgic radio program, "Hawaii Calls," is long gone, but you can still hear radio programming on shortwave from Hawaii.  You can try for AFRTS Radio which is on the air from the Forces communication station in Hawaii, and you can hear station KWHR which is located on the big island of Hawaii.