Why do we as humans care about history? I mean it’s the story of the past why does that matter since we are continually looking toward to the future. Perhaps, we have reached some sort of content state in our life, or perhaps we are naturally curious people. Either way humans have always been fascinated with the history of those that came before us.
Even I admit to having some sort of curiosity about the history of KRUX when I began working here. Perhaps as we look forward into the future, we also look back into the past to gain examples of how other people in our shoes solved similar problems. As the station Engineer I am constantly bombarded with problems that need fixing, and it is through this lense that I look into the past, in an attempt to gain knowledge on how to solve the problem at hand.
If there’s one thing that I learned while compiling this history, it is that NMSU has a rich history of radio broadcasting. Ralph Willis Goddard had been in New Mexico for a number of years whenever he accepted a job at a fledging Agriculture school. That school was known as the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The job he accepted was head of the electrical engineering program. Goddard’s reason for coming to New Mexico was based in the Mexican Revolution he was tasked with setting up a wireless communication system for American soldiers guarding the border.
Shortly after accepting the job at the Agriculture College, Goddard created KOB, the first radio station on campus. The radio stations of today and yesterday were completely different. KOB was essentially a wooden shack behind the engineering building. It had two 60-ft antennas, one on the ground, and the other on top of the engineering building. It also used a 500-Watt Marconi transmitter that was on loan from the US Navy.
In doing my research I was very lucky to have access to about 100 years of NMSU history through digitized versions of the campus newspaper: The Round Up. One particular article I found was dated Tuesday October 17, 1922. It reads “Last Saturday for the first time in the history of the Southwest, and probably in the history of the United States, a football game was broadcasted by radiotelephone, play by play. The men of the State College Radio Station KOB and 5XD, members of the American Radio Relay League, after an all day working period, were successful in accomplishing what, until recent years, was thought to be an impossible feat, the playing of the football game in the homes of people throughout the surrounding country.”
A bit of radio terminology. If there is a K in front of the call letters of a station, such as KOB, KRUX or KRWG that means that the station is West of the Mississippi. If there is a W in front of the call letters that means that the station is East of the Mississippi. 5XD was the experimental license granted to KOB.
By 1925 KOB was becoming a remarkable station, its 500-Watt transmitter projected signal literally across the world. The signal has been picked up in places such as American Samoa and Quebec in British Canada.
Goddard died in 1929, and so did KOB. By 1931 it had been sold to the Albuquerque Journal and was moved to Albuquerque in 1931. KOB remains an operating station to this day. The Engineering Hall was later called Goddard Hall in honor of his contributions to the College.
The College went for sometime without a radio station, though the need was soon filled. I cannot be sure, but in the early 1950’s a new student run radio station opened in the Coronado Playmakers Building, which was east and north of Hadley Hall. This new radio station was called KNMA. A small little blurb on page 6 of the Wednesday, October 17 1951 issue tells us “KNMA now operates on a frequency of 660 kilocycles from 6:45 to 7:45 am and from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.”
Another interesting article from Wednesday, April 11 1951 suggests that the best way to combat Spring Fever was to “turn on your radio to station KNMA about 7am and roll back in bed.” I might add that that was a front-page article for that edition. The interesting fact about KNMA is that it wasn’t a licensed broadcaster until 1964. Before this time they operated a current carrier one watt station which was only available in the dorms. So to listen to KNMA you needed to live in the dorms and plug your stereo into the cable system that ran through the phone lines.
Like I mentioned, in 1964 KNMA became KRWG-AM and KRWG-FM. It was moved from the Coronado Playmakers center to Milton Hall. KRWG can still be found in Milton Hall today.
On Friday September 20, 1974 the front page of the Round Up read, “KNMS dreams come true.” What happened was that KRWG-AM and KRWG-FM split. KRWG-FM was a public radio station, the same one that you can hear today as you drive around Las Cruces, but KRWG-AM was still the same old KNMA operating at 660 kilocycles, and so KRWG-AM became KNMS.
At the time of this news article, the Corbett Center was just being built, so the newly opened KNMS along with ASNMSU worked out a deal with auxiliary services to construct a new home for KNMS. This dollar cost the radio station and the student government a total of 6,000 dollars. Before this, KRWG-AM was housed in Milton Hall along with KRWG-FM.
This talk of closed circuit radio can be confusing so here is an article from Monday June 8 1987 that will help clarify the matter. “Since the beginning, KNMS has been a closed circuit radio station. We are currently serve W.R.C, Regents Row, Garcia and RGH at 660 AM by what is known as a current carrier system. This system uses electrical wiring of a building to act as the antenna for the building. We also serve the City of Las Cruces through the Las Cruces Cable TV at 91.3 cable FM.”
KNMS was a pioneer in current carrier system. One entry from a transition manual reads, “NMSU unfortunately has “dirty power,” meaning that the power from the AC receptacle is full of “spikes” that destroy whatever one may have plugged in. This is especially true during the summer when the lightning hits a power line. The booth has experienced glitches (when all of the equipment and sometimes the transmitter blink off for a few seconds. THIS IS NORMAL! It means the equipment, and you were saved. It means that a spike came down the AC line and was blanked out by our spike suppressers. So don’t worry!
The long-term dream of KNMS was to become a fully-fledged radio station with an operating license from the FCC. It took about 15 years for this dream to come to fruition. Firstly transmitters are very expensive; secondly the FCC has very strict rules for class a radio stations, especially those so close to the border. Another dilemma faced by KNMS was that they had no opportunity to expand their market. Sure they could extend their current carrier system to other building, but that idea was priced at about 100,000 dollars, twice of the transmitter idea.
But fear not! This was not an impossible challenge. We already know the ending to this story! In 1989 KNMS received the FCC’s permission to broadcast as a non-commercial station! A transmitter was built here at the Corbett Center, and the rest is history! KRUX has gone through a few upgrades this it first opened its doors, namely that of a new transmitter in 2008 and a new antenna in 2015. The new antenna is a directional antenna that broadcasts at 3.2 KW. Remember the first 500-Watt transmitter set up by Goddard. With all of that power KRUX is able to reach into portions of El Paso!
Well here you have it, a complete history of radio broadcasting at NMSU and how KRUX fits into it all. A few side notes. KRWG-FM dropped the FM and is known today as KRWG, they still broadcast from Milton Hall. KOB is still a radio station and continues to operate in Albuquerque.
I suppose that this history is a testament to all of those who came before those of us currently working at the station. I hope that you can be proud of our accomplishments; I think I can speak for the staff by saying that we all love our jobs here at KRUX. To the future staffers at KRUX who read this, keep the fire burning, KRUX has a value in our community, and I hope that you will continue to keep innovating!
If you have any questions or concerns about this history please contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. I truly did enjoy writing this history. As a last thank you, I would like to thank the Round Up and the Digital Collection available on the NMSU Library website. My research was entirely made up of old Round Up articles. Keep swimming against the mainstream.
KRUX Chief Engineer
P.S The photo is of the KOB Radio Mast on Goddard Hall. Thanks to University Archives