When KBEC 1390 started broadcasting in 1955, station founders Richard and Faye Tuck didn’t know the impact the station would have on generations of Ellis County residents. This Friday KBEC will celebrate 60 years in broadcasting.
“June 26, 1955, at 4 p.m. is what Mr. Tuck always told me is when they got everything all hooked up and they started broadcasting from the location, which was back then on East Highway 287,” KBEC General Manager Ken Roberts said. “From that time until 1988, the station was known as a day-timer. That means you could only sign on when the sun came up and you had to sign off when the sun came down.”
Roberts describes Richard as a person who was very dedicated to his profession and to the community he served.
“He was one of the old school radio guys. These guys were engineers first. They loved the technical side. Even though he was on the air and he was involved in the sales side more than anything else, he loved the engineering side,” Roberts said. “He was such a low-key guy. He really didn’t like any attention and was actually nervous to speak in front of people. He did the morning show all those years up until a week or two weeks before he passed away.”
Prior to coming to KBEC 1390 Richard worked in the Little Rock, Arkansas area and co-owned a station there before coming to Waxahachie.
Roberts said Richard was a very hands-on in the day-to-day operations of the station. When a transmitter had to be moved in 1993, Richard didn’t contract out the work. He opted to do it himself with the help of another person. Roberts also recalled going out to the station’s transmitter to check out a possible problem before a thunderstorm rolled in.
“I remember one time when we were on 35E, right across from where the civic center is now, our south tower had a spark gap that was notorious. A spark gap keeps your tower from shorting out when there is electricity. That gap would get closer and closer till it was almost touching. When a storm comes through, the first electrical blast you are off the air,” Roberts said. “So we had a storm coming in and Mr. Tuck said 'we better go out and check the spark gap.' Sure enough, it was almost touching. He had a screwdriver in his hand and he proceeded to widen the gap of that spark gap. As he did, lighting hit the south tower. You could hear it sizzle. It blew that screwdriver right out of his hand. He said ‘I think we better go inside. He was alright and none the worse for wear. It terrified me.'”
Roberts came to work at the station when he was a senior in high school in 1980. He has continued on the mission of aiding the community in each broadcast. One of the ways this is done is through the station's programing. Each morning from 8:10-9:55 a.m. the station broadcasts “The Flea Market.” During “The Flea Market,” listeners can call in and tell the community what they have for sale, tell stories or just wish someone a happy birthday.
Roberts said “The Flea Market” show is all about the people who call in.
“Somebody told me one time that the flea market is the radio equivalent of the neighborhood picket fence. It's where neighbors would meet and talk over the picket fence about what is going on and what is happening; share a little bit of gossip or share a little bit of information,” Roberts said. “I thought that was a pretty good description, because it is more than 'buy, sell or trade'; people really take ownership. In fact, one of our junk guys Kenny calls them his listeners. He feels like it is his show just as much as anybody else.”
Roberts said one of the mysteries of the flea market is that nobody knows when it started and Mr. Tuck could not even remember. His best guess is that it started about 1960 or 1961, Roberts said.
“We had a regular routine when we got off the flea market, he and I would go to the post office and then go to Whataburger to have coffee before we would come back to the station,” Roberts said. “Many times, when we would be there at Whataburger, he would say, ‘Mr. Roberson we are the luckiest men in the world, getting to do what we love to do and making a little money while we do it.’”
The station saw a change of ownership in 2002 when Richard passed away from complications after surgery. Tuck’s daughters Jeanne Mosley and Sandra Howell took over ownership and managed KBEC 1390 together for more than a decade. During that time, it became the longest family-owned radio station in Texas.
Mosley said her father had a big heart for the community, wanted the town to grow and see people become successful.
“He just loved radio broadcasting and that is all he ever wanted to do, so he picked out Waxahachie. He had a radio station with someone else in Arkansas just outside of Little Rock. He spent a long time on the map. He chose Waxahachie after he had been there, and he knew who his clients were going to be right away. They were mom and pop businesses just like his was,” Mosley said. “My mother and father started that radio station when I was in the first grade, so it was a part of our family. He knew that he was going to help other people improve their business just as it would help him improve his.”
Mosley said she is proud the station is continuing that legacy built by her parents. The station is a cornerstone of the community, she said adding its future is in good hands with the staff and current ownership.
A new chapter at KBEC started on July 15, 2011, when the station was sold to Jim Phillips.
“There are only 19 communities in Texas that have a local radio station and a local newspaper. That speaks to how fortunate the people in this community are, to have those resources,” Phillips said. “We are places for people to have their stories, their songs, their information and their lives told; expanded and brought to light in any way, shape or form.”
Phillips said at any moment, he doesn’t know who is going to walk through the door and what need they are going to have or what story they are going to tell you.
“You have no idea at any moment in time who, what, where or when is going to walk into the radio station and what their need may be. A lot of times, you might sit there and 'say why us? Why are you coming to the radio station,'” Phillips said. “But I think that it is because they need someone to provide them with an answer, and in some cases, it's the simplest guidance.”
The guidance KBEC 1390 provides in one instance may have saved a woman's life.
“We have the folks from Baylor Scott and White on every other Friday to do a little show during the flea market. They had a show about mammography. It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and they did a show. We had a lady that called us who was listing to the radio that morning, heard that show. It inspired her to go have a mammography,” Roberts said. “She'd never had one and they found cancer. They found it in time to treat it. She said, 'that show saved my life.' That is pretty heavy stuff. It makes you think, we do have the ability to matter. Not just to entertain, but to inform and really have a part. That is a thing that kind of drives it home.”
A number of community members have been a part of the KBEC family and have added to its history. Sylvia Smith worked at the station, managing the office and on the air. Listeners knew Smith as “Miss Ellie.”
“It was really neat. I have always said it added another facet to my life. Jeanne was doing a show called “People and Places of Ellis County.” It was on Friday mornings at 7:15 for 15 minutes,” Smith said. “So I would go on that show sometimes and we would go off somewhere in the county and broadcast back some kind of historical something or something. That is kind of the way I got started and I was not working there. That was just fun.”
Smith said she finds it flattering that people refer to her as Miss Ellie, which is a take on Ellis County, even though she is not with the station anymore.
Smith added that she is proud to be a part of the station’s history.
“It was an honor to work for the radio station and to put my two cents in every once in a while on the air,” Smith said.
Laurie Mosley, who serves as the director of the Waxahachie Convention and Visitors Bureau now, worked alongside Roberts at KBEC for several years.
“It was an absolute honor to be a part of that 60-year legacy that is KBEC and to help every day; to promote those call letters that stand for 'Keep Building Ellis County,'” Laurie said. “Every day, our job was to go in and provide a good service for the community, the county and even listeners beyond. It was also a good product for advertisers. That was our mission, and we accomplished it. And we also had fun along the way.”
Laurie said there are so many great moments from her time at the station because of the quality people that she had the chance to work with. She added that the listeners are such a huge part of the station as well.
While there is no formal celebration planned for Friday's anniversary, Roberts wants to encourage listeners to stop by and say to the KBEC crew who is going to be at this year’s Crape Myrtle Festival. The festival will take place starting at 5 p.m. July 3 at the Waxahachie Sports Complex on Broadhead Road.
For more information about the station, go to its website at www.kbec.com. The station is located at 711 Ferris Ave. in Waxahachie and its staff can be reached at 972-938-1390.