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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.


KFVS Radio Tower

The old KFVS Radio tower on Highway 61 just as you’re coming down the hill toward Cape lets you know you are just about home. I’m always glad to see it still standing. I hope it’s designated some kind of landmark so it’ll be preserved.

Site of old KFVS-TV antenna

The last time I was home, I saw that the land where the original KFVS-TV tower was located was being cleared. I tried to see if the big concrete anchors for the guywires were around, but they must have been pulled out or buried.

What was KFVS’s sign-off song?

Trivia question that’s been bugging me for years. Every night, KFVS Radio would sign off with the same song. When you heard that come on, you knew it was time you’d better be getting your date home.

I think it might have been Wonderland by Night, but I’m not sure. Anybody want to hazard a guess? Better yet, does anybody KNOW what it was?

54 comments to KFVS Radio Tower

  • Bill East

    I still think it was “Harlem Nocturne”, the Less and Larry Elgart version.

    Usually, though, my radio was tuned to KXOK and Johnny Rabbit.

  • Bill Stone

    Another landmark along old Hwy 61 gone. Newer generations will wonder why we “old-timers” call that hill-“KFVS Hill”.

  • John Hoffman

    When I worked for KFVS radio in the early 70’s, the sign-off song was “Stranger On The Shore”. I can’t remember the artist’s name, just that he played the clarinet. Speaking of towers, when I worked for Mr. Hirsch performing maintenance, I rode the elevator up and down the 1600′ tower changing the light bulbs (yes, the tower had a two-person elevator, radio controlled). What a view! Too bad I was afraid of heights!

    • John, You are a two-fer winner.

      After listening to it, I am almost positive that it was Stranger on the Shore by Acker Bilk. Thanks.

      I came sooooo close to taking that ride to the top of the KFVS tower.

      I asked KFVS for permission to take the ride when I was working for The Jackson Pioneer. By the time the OK came, I was working at The Missourian.

      The Missourian refused to acknowledge the compeition by name – they were known as “a local radio station” or a “local television station.” That nixed my ride.

      I wish I’d have gone up on my own, just for the experience of it.

  • Mary Kay Welker

    I really like the old tower as well. I used to live on Boulder Crest Drive in the 1970’s and have watched that area change through the years. There is one concrete anchor remaining at the site. It is to the west of the property in Cape County Park South. It is in a low area and is covered with small plants to keep it hidden from view.

  • Didn’t realize that was a radio tower…just assumed it was some kind of TV gizmo, since I wasn’t around when KFVS was on radio. Didn’t know until this blog that they started on radio. What year did they switch from radio to tv? Did they drop the radio station when they went to tv? Learning so much from your blogs!

  • Dennis

    This brings back memories!
    The sign off song was”Manhattan Lullaby” and Murel Emery signed of. at 12:00 am

  • Keith Robinson

    My uncle Jim Haman was a television cameraman for KFVS up to the time he bought the old Kassel’s Studio down on Main Street. When KFVS was building the new broadcast tower “Towering 2000 feet above average terrain”, Uncle Jim took us all out to the construction site. What a view!
    The tower that remains at the old site on US 61 was not the television tower. The original tower stood approximately 600 yards farther west. Until this evening I never knew that KFVS got its call sign from the fact that their signal could be picked up in FiVe States.

    • Keith,

      Yep, the structure with KFVS on it was the radio antenna.

      When the TV tower on that hill was built, I was told that some of the homes in the immediate area couldn’t get reception. If that was true, I’m assuming that they might have been so close that they were in the “shadow” of the tower and the signal went right over them.

  • Mark Steinhoff

    When I worked for KFVS-TV I had the dubious honor of taking a ride up the elevator to the top on the antenna platform. The actual antenna was 150 feet above the tower platform. I took still photos of the antenna tower before and after it was painted and documenting lightening strikes on the tower. You can imagine a structure that big being the largest lightening rod around would have some lightening “bites” on it. There was an out of town tower crew there the day I went up and while I rode inside the elevator (nothing more than a cage that was open on all sides that ran up the triangle structure) and the guy who was working on the tower rode on the outside of the cage. I asked him why and he said, “if it fails at least I will be outside of the cage and have a better chance of surviving the fall.” The ride up took 30 minutes. It was estimated that an average man could climb the tower ladder but it would take 3 hours to reach the antenna platform. When I reached the top I was amazed at how much room there was. The platform was triangular in shape but was the size of a backyard deck and the view was everything of “2,000 feet above average terrain” that the sign-off announcement boasted each night. While on top I asked the guy how long it would take to hit the bottom if let’s say a person did fall from the platform. “Funny you should ask” he said “we are stringing new guy wire and we had an empty wooden spool up here and instead of lowering it down we decided to drop it off. The spool weighed 150 pounds, average weight of man. It took thirty seconds to hit the ground below.” He then proceeded to tell me that it was not unusual for the tower to get hit by lightening on a clear day. I took photos of the flash burns on the steel where lightening had struck it in the past and how the repairs were being made. On the half hour ride down he said that the first trip up the tower they made they had to clear out a lot of large wasps nests before they could go on higher and a couple of large bird nests as well. Needless to say but fun to mention, the experience was great. Originally when the tower was first built (and that is a story in itself) visitors could go to the tower and take a ride up to the top. Once they returned to the bottom they were given a certificate that made them a member of the Tower Club.

  • Gary Dietiker

    Never knew untill reading this that someonecold ride up the tower and become a member of the “Tower Club”.

  • Good post, I want say thanks to author coz’ i’ve found a lot interesting knowledge. I’ve added this blog to my RSS reader :). Best regards

  • Tim Brown

    So the old tower is still up? I still remember seeing it when my dad would drive us down from Illinois to Cape to visit my grandmother. She lived on harmony across from what used to be a gas station at broadway.

    For a while in the sixties, dad would end up driving us to the new tower. I still remember our first trip there. I remember they used to give rides up there but I never got to go up.

    I heard a rumor that the new tower went down in the 70’s although I’m sure that’s probably wrong.

    Haven’t been to cape since we buried grandmother in ’87. Guess I’ll have to stop down!

  • Jim Patton

    One of the greatest adventures (1965) experienced. I was with a KFVS Cameraman Jerry ? and I don’t think the activity was sanctioned by the Station… but do remember it was a good 30 minute ride up in the open caged small elevator then step out on the deck for a beatiful but windy/scary 360 view. I elected not to climb the actual antenna which extended above the tower platform another 100′ or so but one would have to climb it to change the strobe lights if needed. I also remember the cage moved up in jerks as if being pulled-up by someone (beleive it was on battery power at the time) becaus no one was around. I left the Country shortly after that experience for another scary adventure as I received my draft notice from Uncle Sam and surrived that experience as well. Glad to know the KFVS Tower & me are still standing Tall.

  • Brilliant post! I’ve bookmark this site to return later. thanks!

  • Doug Brace

    Yesiree, that monster is almost right in our backyard. We have a little ol farm, about 2 miles away from it so we see it every day. Been there a few times and it’s a very beautiful spot.Noisey though. Whats really wierd is, when you stand under it and look up (Breaking your neck), it’s so tall, the you get disey and want to fall backwards. An interesting story from one of my friends,that lives at the bottom of the road told me. He was having a few beers one cold winter day, on his horse up there. As he proceeded to grab another beer, from his pouch on the saddle,he kept hearing these strange noises. As he sat there having a cold one, he happened to glance at an icesicle, right next to him sticking in the ground. He then looked up and a mass of them were falling off the approx. 2″ dia. cables, to hold it down. Needless to say, he went on his way. The icesicle’s were around 6″ in dia. and approx. 3′-5′ long. Talk about a dangerous day at the tower. When the winds blow hard, you should hear the noisey thing. It makes all kinds of tunes and strange noises. Also when the breeze is coming in from the southeast in the summer, you can hear the massive cooling fans running to keep the transformers cool up there. I often wondered, if she ever fell our way, would it land in the backyard? LOL And talk about heart palpatations!!

  • Doug Brace

    Oh and I forgot to tell y’all. Someone asked if they still let people up there and the answer is NO! Everything is gated, fenced in with No tresspassing sighns. I reckon there were too many kids having beer parties goin on up there. And with all the lawsuits these days, that ruined it for everything.

  • Tim Brown

    Doug:

    You say you were up there though? How long ago? Any way you could post some pictures?

    I have an old super8 movie that I shot in the very early 70’s. A shot of the tower from the top of the hill is in there. I had that movie transferred to VHS a number of years ago. If i can find it, I’ll see about converting it and uploading it…

    and yes, when I was shooting the video, i remember leaning way back!

    My grandmother was with us. She found some underwear on teh ground…and commented that it must’ve scared the pants of someone!

  • Doug Brace

    Hey Tim,
    The last time I was up there was early this fall, on my four wheeler (only way) and I didn’t bring my phone with me. I won’t be goin up there until this spring, when it gets warmer, as my back won’t take the ride in the cold.
    The next time I’m there, I’ll definately bring the phone and also make sure it’s a clear day. I took my son there back in 07 and it was overcast, so we couldn’t see the whole height of it. For years now I’ve been try to get a pic of a lightning strike, from our backyard but the luck of that is like hitting the lottery.
    Can’t wait to see your video of that.Oh and I’ll be sure not to wear any underware when I go back LOL.

  • Tim Brown

    Doug: I see…you “cheat” and get around the fence on your four wheeler? Don’t blame you!

    I’ll look around for the video later today. I hope I can find it. Not sure I marked it!

  • Doug Brace

    Hey there Tim and y’all. If ya want to email me, here it is. mountainman18444@yahoo.com

  • Tim Brown

    Doug: here’s a link to a photo from somewhere on the tower. can’t be from the top…or is it???

    https://www.playle.com/listing.php?PHPSESSID=gs&i=RHEAV3683

  • Doug Brace

    Tim, That’s definately it, but not from the very top of it tough. Looks like around half way up. It also appears to be when it was under construction, as you can see the excavation work below. So that had to be around 1962. Also the color has changed. It’s all aluminum in color now. However I think they installed a new tip on it, in the last 6-8 mos. The new tip now is bright orange. I just noticed it this past summer, when we were in the pool. If and when we get a nice day, I’ll check it out more and take pics. My phone will store around 600 pics, so there’s no problem there.

  • Doug Brace

    You bet there Ken. Well y’all know where I’m at, where y’alls at by the way. Might as well keep this here blog a goin I reckon.

  • Tim Brown

    I used to have a postcard that we picked up at the transmitter building…it was a picture of the whole tower.

    I *wish* I could find it!

  • Tim Brown

    @Doug: I am located at Galesburg Illinois. I was born in Spfld Mo. When I was very young we moved here via Spfld Il.

  • William Pollack

    HI. Love this site. The KFVS Radio sign-off instrumental which played on a worn out audio cart for many years just before the “Local News Final” at 11:55pm then followed by Sam Swan’s recorded sign-off and National Anthem was called “Lost In The Night”. I have that 45 SOMEWHERE and actually used it for the sign-off of one of our radio stations in Memphis. It had a blue label. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was actually supplied by SESAC which used to release instrumental recording to radio stations. The original KFVS radio tower (the original TV tower built in ’54 was located about 500ft NW from the radio tower) now standing on 61 N was the twin to the tower still located behind the original KFVS Radio/TV building in downtown Cape. When the radio station’s transmission site was constructed on N Kingshighway, the KFVS 1210AM radio wave was created by connecting a wire between the two towers. Later, one of the two radio towers was moved to accomodate the early Ch 12 microwave antenna which, again, is still standing at 310 Broadway. KFVS operated at 1210, 1370, 1400 and in 1948, changed frequencies for the final time and began operating from the three tower array in E. Cape, IL to 960khz at 1kw. In 1960, 960’s power was increased to 5kw and continues to operate at those same parameters today. If you want to know about KFVS, I am your guy! Hope you all have a great week. By the way, the KFVS call letters never stood for anything. They were issued by Herbert Hoover prior to the formation of the FCC.

  • Tim Brown

    Just noticed that Google Earth has updated the photo of the tower. Much clearer. Do I see an observation deck of sorts up there? Looks like a platform with railing…

  • Tim Brown

    I’m going to repost something because I asked a question and don’t see it here now…

    The satellite photos at Google Earth have been updated and the tower is much more visible. It looks like there is an observation platform near the top. I believe I see some railing. Is this right?

  • Tim Brown

    Something is wrong with how I view this thread…I’ve gotten email for three or four new comments but when I come here to see them, the last comment is from William Pollack on January 13th of this year.

    I can read the new comments in email but can’t see them here! Wonder what’s up?

    Found Jim Patton’s comment from Oct 31st and reread it. Yes, that is an observation platform. I guess that point didn’t register with me when I first read it!

    I’ll trust this gets posted. I can’t see anything past the jan 31st post by William Pollack…

  • Tim Brown

    Ok I can see the thread correctly now. Ken told me about Ctrl F5. I wasn’t seeing all the posts!

    Thanks Ken!

  • Tim Brown

    On June 9th, 2010, John Hoffman said “When I worked for KFVS radio in the early 70′s, the sign-off song was “Stranger On The Shore”. I can’t remember the artist’s name, just that he played the clarinet. ”

    In case someone else didn’t answer already, Acker Bilk was the name of the clarinetist, unless there was another one. The song is at iTunes. I bought it. Or just hear it at Youtube.

  • Tim Brown

    Seeing that new photo at Google Earth reminds me of how queezy I’d get just getting near that thing when we were there. Butterflys. Not sure why except you are overwhelmed with how big it is!

    I never could get myself to walk up all the way to the fence around that tower!

  • William Pollack

    The tower featured on this page is one of the two original KFVS radio towers when located on Highway 61 North. They were used until 1947 when KFVS switched from 1400AM to 960AM with towers and transmitters located in East Cape. The original TV tower (’54-’60) was located directly north and across the street from the radio tower pictured. There was also a twin tower to the radio which was later moved and still stands behind the TV studio station location at 310-325 Broadway.

  • Tim Brown

    Google satellite map still shows it far as I can see.

  • Tim Brown

    Well, I’ve been flying over the KFVS Mast over the past few days…and the KEZS tower. Of course, this is only Flight Simulator I’m doing it in…!

    Kinda bad because they have both masts the same height or close. Best I can tell, Flight Sim has the KFVS tower at about 1100 or 1200 feet which is about 500 short. But at least it’s there.

    I got the coordinates from Google and “flew” right there!

  • Tim Brown

    I know, big thrill, but for whatever it’s worth, here’s KFVS from Flight Sim X, at the precise longitude and latitude…:

    http://home.comcast.net/~tjbrown527/kfvs.jpg

  • William Pollack

    Lost in the Night…
    The slow instrumental played on KFVS Radio for decades prior to their Midnight sign-off was “Lost In the Night”. I believe I am attaching it to this note. If not, someone please tell me how to attach a song I have saved on my computer!

    [Editor’s note: I fixed the spelling typo you requested. I don’t think you can attach a file and I’m afraid that posting the song might run into copyright issues. I’ll look around to see if there is some way to link to the song legally. I’m on the road right now, so it might take a while. Thanks for the info, though.]

  • Steve

    Does anyone know what years KAPE AM 1550 and KGIR AM 1220 first signed on and have a call letter history for these two stations? I have a background in broadcasting and I always like doing research on various radio stations in my home state of Missouri.

  • William Pollack

    Steve – 1220AM was originally allocated for KGMO-AM. It signed on the air in 1951. The original 1220 tower was later re-engineered along with the addition of a short co-located tower in order to create a slight directional pattern to accomodate the station’s move to 1550AM. It is still utilized at the studios on S. Kingshighway. The original 1220 250 watt transmitter is also still housed in the current KGMO studio building. In the early 60’s (I will have to research to verify), KGMO-AM on 1220 switched frequencies to 1550 in order to achieve a power increase from 250 to 5000 watts. On June 10th, 1966 KZYM signed on the air operating on the abandoned 1220 frequency. Its transmitter and tower are located in E. Cape Girardeau, IL along the same road as the 960AM three tower array. As I recall, the KGMO-AM call letters were changed by its current owner in the 1980’s.

  • Bill

    I remember going out to the tower on a sunday with my Mother and Father shortly after it opened the gate was open and there were alot of people there I wanted to ride to the top but Mother said that was too high. I remember going in the transmitter room with all the knobs and the vaccum tubes . There was a picture of the kfvs tower comparing it to the empire state building, the last time I was up there a few years ago i look in the window of the door and that empire state picture was still ther.

  • Follow this link to a web page that I have put up regarding the tall television tower.

    http://www.1570wtrb.com/WTRB_WEBSITE/kfvs.html

    You will see an in depth article that was published in December 1961 by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). the publication was directed specifically to customers that buy Radio/Television Broadcast Equipment. Unless you owned a Radio or Television Station, you probably never got to see these pictures.

    RCA sold the tower to KVFS and acted as General Contractor for its’ construction.

  • Mark Beck

    Doug Brace, the aluminum tower with the orange antenna you’re talking about belongs to the region’s Fox affiliate, KBSI-TV 23. That tower is home to KBSI’s analog and digital signals. Additionally, KEZS-FM (102.9) broadcasts from an antenna mounted about 900′ up the tower. That’s the tower with white strobe lights that is visible from Interstate 55 between the Cape airport and exit 105 at Fruitland. I actually worked as a master control operator at KBSI in 2001 & 2002. It’s studio is in southern Cape. As the overnight guy, I was the one who got the false alarms that the tower lights were out. So I was always sticking my head out the door to look for the flashing white strobe on top.

    The KFVS tower is located about two miles east of KBSI’s tower. KFVS is still painted in red and white bands and is the taller of the two towers by about 200 feet. It is just west of Trail of Tears State Park, on the west side of Missouri Highway 177. Like KBSI, the KFVS tower is clearly visible from all lanes of I-55.

  • Tim Brown

    Hello again:

    My wife and I went down to Arkansas for a wedding this past friday. We made a swing through Cape two days ago (Monday June 23). Tried to go up to the tower but there is a gate at blackfoot. I knew it was a long shot, the gate was there last time around, 27 years ago.

    Doug, did you ever get more pictures?

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