"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 520, December 19, 2004
Towers of Mystery
The Californian city of Palo Alto is located on the bayside of the peninsula some 35 miles south of downtown San Francisco; and in reality, it is a part of suburban San Francisco. Palo Alto, meaning in Spanish "tall timber," is the location for three "tall towers" that have become a local legend.
Some time during the 1700s, a Frenchman built a brick tower two stories high with gothic arch windows. The windows have since been built over, and it is known that the building was used at one stage as a prison. But the question that puzzles local historians is: What was the original purpose for this tower?
Another quizzical tower in Palo Alto is located in the middle of the driveway at the Dinah's Garden Hotel and the best available information indicates that it was erected somewhere around 1940. Did this tower come from the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island?
Shortwave station KGEI says that it was not one of their towers, though it does have a similar appearance to the radio tower in use at the time by mediumwave station KSFO. At nearby Islais Creek, station KSFO was co-sited with KWID, another shortwave operation during that era.
The Frenchman's Tower and the Metal Tower may pose unanswered questions, but the third set of towers in Palo Alto poses no problems to the interested radio observer. The international shortwave station KROJ was located here during the epic years of the Pacific War. Let's go back to the beginning.
As the fourth communication station in the area, KFS was installed at San Francisco Beach, quite close to what is now the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. This facility was established in an area of rolling sand dunes and it was inaugurated in September 1910. Initially, station KFS contained a single spark wireless transmitter for communication in Morse Code, though in quick succession, additional transmitters with increased power were installed.
This vigorous communication station was owned by the Federal Telegraph Company which was also manufacturing wireless transmitters. One of their units, rated at a massive 1,000 kw, was taken over by the navy, donated to France, and installed near the city of Bordeaux.
In 1921, work commenced on a new facility in an isolated marshy
area near the waters edge at Palo Alto. The Beach Station
in San Francisco, as it was called, was closed in 1927 and the
new station at Palo Alto took over the full load of communication
traffic. It was around this stage that the station was sold
to Mackay Cable & Wireless.
In July 1943, a new 50 kw transmitter was activated at Palo Alto under the callsign KROJ with a relay service on behalf of the Voice of America. Perhaps this was a random four-letter callsign based upon the communication callsign KRO, which seems to have been in use at this facility during this era.
The Press Wireless transmitter was re-imported from England for this new broadcast service to Alaska and the South Pacific. Mackay never originated any of their own programming for this relay facility; all programming was on relay from KGEI and KWID, the two other shortwave stations in the San Francisco area.
Two years later, in May 1945, Mackay activated an additional 50 kw transmitter at Palo Alto under the callsign KROU; and in August, a third transmitter was activated for a few days with VOA programming under the callsign KROZ. This callsign, KROZ, appears in a historic document from the Voice of America and for many years it was thought that this callsign was simply a misprint, for KROU.
However, in view of the climactic events in the Pacific at
the beginning of August 1945, it is more than likely that KROZ
was indeed the callsign for an additional program transmitter
at Palo Alto. The reference in the VOA document indicates
that transmitter KROZ was normally in use as a communication unit
for sending official dispatches out across the Pacific.
The relay service provided by Mackay Cable & Wireless for the Voice of America was terminated at the very end of the year 1945. Radio stations KROJ, KROU and KROZ were never heard on the air again.
However, at the time when Globe Wireless took over the communication station at Palo Alto in 1994, it was stated that there were 17 transmitters in use, including some that were in use during World War II. Maybe these World War II transmitters were the 50 kw units known 50 years ago as KROJ, KROU and KROZ.
A multitude of the now famous red, white and blue QSL cards were issued from the OWI office in Sutter Street, San Francisco on behalf of station KROJ. However, there are no known QSLs of any type for station KROU, and there are no known monitoring reports for the transmitter KROZ.
In recent time, Globe Wireless has given consideration to the possibility of transferring all of its services from the 80 year old radio communication station KFS at Palo Alto and consolidating these operations into the previous VOA station located at Dixon. If this move does take place, and if any of the towers are left standing at Palo Alto, then perhaps local historians in future generations will pose quizzical questions about this one also. Would this then make three Towers of Mystery in Palo Alto, California?