Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley recalls his radio years, more

Caption: Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley works behind a microphone at the Capitol Radio Studio. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Caption: Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley works behind a microphone at the Capitol Radio Studio. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in a series about the history of broadcasting in the Sacramento area. This series was inspired by readers’ positive responses to previous articles about local television history in this publication and several requests to feature histories of local radio stations.

Sacramento native Martin Ashley, who was known to many radio listeners as the “Wonder Rabbit” during his years as a disc jockey, met with this publication last week to share some of his memories.
After responding to several basic preliminary questions, Ashley, 67, was asked to discuss how he became interested in working in radio.
“Actually, I wasn’t interested in radio,” Ashley said. “I got interested in electronics. When I was about 10, 11 or 12, I started fooling with batteries and lights and putting lights on (his) bicycle. But then, of course, (his) parents wouldn’t let (him) ride (his) bicycle after dark, even though I (had) a light and no other kids had lights. And then people would bring me things to look at to see if I could repair them. And oftentimes they would say, ‘If you can’t repair it, just throw it away.’ So, I would tear it apart. So, I got interested in electronics.”
And with that interest, Ashley became a member of Joseph Bonnheim Elementary School’s audio-visual squad.
Ashley continued gaining experience in electronics during his years attending Peter Lassen Junior High School, which was located at 5022 58th St.
While Ashley was a student at Lassen, science teacher Carl Holtz gave him a special exception to study audio-visual in the seventh grade, despite the fact that seventh graders were not typically allowed to participate in that class.
After leaving Lassen, Ashley attended Hiram W. Johnson High School, where he met electronics teacher Eugene J. Houghton.
Ashley recalled that Houghton recognized that he had an aptitude toward electronics.
“[Houghton noticed] that the electronics class was far too simple for me, because I was beyond that,” Ashley said. “So, what he had me do in the electronics class was instead of working with crystal radios and the beginning electronics stuff, he would have me fix the projectors for the sound system and rewire microphones and stuff like that.”
It was also during his teenage years when Ashley was involved in local theater productions.
Ashley said that it was not acting that drew his attention to theater, but instead the sound system and lighting.
But Ashley added that he did end up doing a little acting on stage.
“I did some acting, what we call walk-ons,” Ashley said. “These were walk-on parts. I was also the voice of the president in one of the Music Circus performances (of) ‘Li’l Abner.’ But primarily, my interest was how the lights work and the dimmers and the sound systems and the microphones and things like that.”
When Ashley was about 14 years old, he took an interest in the operation of radio stations.
As a result, he talked a friend’s mother into driving him to the soon-to-be-on-the-air radio station, KJAY 1430 AM, to inquire if the station needed assistance with their wiring.
Although Ashley did not acquire work at KJAY, he said that the visit led to him visiting the Federal Communications Commission in San Francisco and acquiring his FCC third-class broadcast license.
After obtaining his license, Ashley would sit in radio station lobbies to study how disc jockeys operated on the job.
Ashley would eventually imitate the typical voice of a disc jockey while delivering the morning bulletin at Johnson High.
And when he was a junior at that school in 1964, he emceed the senior ball at the Memorial Auditorium.
After graduating from Johnson in 1965, Ashley attended Sacramento City College and ran projectors on film days at Sacramento area library branches.
In about October 1965, Ashley went to KXOA at 800 Leisure Lane in search of his first radio job.
During that visit, Ashley learned that KXOA would no longer simulcast on its FM station, and an FM staff would have to be developed.
Ashley was eventually hired as KXOA-FM’s 9 p.m. to midnight shift disc jockey, and he would later work the 6 to 10 a.m. shift.
In August 1967, Ashley was drafted into the Army and sent to El Paso, Texas.
Later that year, after he completed his basic training, Ashley obtained a job at El Paso’s first television station, KROD-TV Channel 4.
In recalling his busy schedule at that time, Ashley said, “I was in the Army from approximately 6 a.m. until approximately 6 p.m. I would then grab a bite to eat, go to the television station, work there until 1 o’clock in the morning and come back to the base.”
Ashley switched from KROD-TV to KROD 600 AM radio in 1968, and later that year, he left KROD to become a disc jockey for El Paso’s then-number one radio station, KELP 920 AM.
Former KXOA disc jockey, Johnny Hyde, who was then working at KROY, called Ashley in July 1969 and asked him to return to Sacramento to work for KROY.
A month later, Ashley was out of the Army and employed as KROY’s weekend and public service director.
Only about two months later, Ashley was working as KROY’s midnight to 6 [a.m.] shift disc jockey.
As for the golden question of how he became known as the “Wonder Rabbit,” Ashley explained that the name evolved from his own joke when he signed his name, ‘Wonder Boy,’ on a flip card on the control room door at KROY.
“Bob Sherwood (who was then working as KROY’s program director) crossed out ‘Boy’ and put ‘Rabbit,’” Ashley recalled. “So, I walk in the control room to drop off some stuff and (Sherwood) says, ‘Oh, by the way, Wonder Rabbit is going to be on the air tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.’ Well, 7 o’clock comes and it was a Saturday night. I’ll never forget it. All of a sudden, the phone is lighting up. And I’m on the air as Martin Ashley and they wanted to talk to Wonder Rabbit.”
Ashley was transferred from the midnight to 6 a.m. shift to the noon to 3 p.m. shift in the early 1970s.
In recalling that time in KROY’s history, Ashley said, “This was top 40, with mega numbers.”
The next career move for Ashley came in March 1974, when he left KROY to work for KNDE, where he would remain for the following 10 months.
And in speaking about yet another stop in his employment journey, Ashley said, “In December of 1975, I went on syndication. I got hooked up with a syndicating company out of Roseville called Concept Productions. They had two or three formats that they supplied to small radio stations throughout the country, and one of them was top 40, or by that time it was called CHR – contemporary hit radio. And so, I did the Wonder Rabbit Show, the morning shift for over 13 years.”
In continuing to speak about his career in radio, Ashley said, “My career was also doing all these other things. I was chief engineer at KROY-AM, when it was FM and then it went AM and then it sold and it was KENZ, and then it was KSAC (FM). Then they sold in the early 1990s and KROY (FM) became KSEG, ‘The Eagle.’ And I was chief engineer at the time. And I had a recording studio in the same building. It just goes on and on and on. I worked for the Eagle. I worked for KROY three different times on air under three different owners. And the last one, when I was on the air in 1989 or 1990, they had me on Sunday nights doing (a program called) ‘The Wonder Rabbit Oldies’ or something.”
Ashley, who also has a lot of on-air camera experience in television, explained that he continues to work behind a microphone in a radio station environment.
“In 2004, I transitioned to here (at the state Capitol) and finally left commercial radio behind,” Ashley said. “Here is what we call the Capitol Radio Studio. It is a bipartisan studio for legislative purposes, primarily members of the legislature, senators, being Democrats or Republicans, and we also occasionally do airchecks for Assembly Republicans, because they have no facility. There are other facilities, but not in the Capitol itself for radio. We do interviews where we call sound bites for radio stations. We have equipment that is effectively a radio studio, with microphones and consoles and CD players and electronic editors and stuff like that, where the members can come in. We can connect up to their local station in their district, be it Palmdale or Los Angeles or Arcadia, or wherever their district is (located). And they can be interviewed by their local host. We do public service announcements with members on West Nile virus and back to school safety and all kinds of stuff like that. Occasionally, a member will ask for us to record his speech in a hearing or on the floor itself. We do lots of things that are all legislative, nothing commercial here at all.
“We do everything that a radio station does, except for the fact that you can’t pick it up on a car radio. Otherwise, I’m still doing what I did back in 1967.”
And in summarizing his many years in radio, Ashley said, “I’m very proud of my entire career and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

Fair-themed fundraiser at a local storage facility

It appeared that the work of a fairy godmother was over at the Armor Mini Storage facility on Auburn Boulevard because for one night, a section of empty storage units were filled with tried and true carnival games, transforming the space into a county-fair themed party (without any scary carnies).
High school and college age students picked up guests from their parking spaces and shuttled them to the fair by way of golf carts, as others worked the barbecue, cooking up tri-tip and shredded chicken sliders.
“The tri tip’s got a little heat to it, not bad, but it just kind of warms up at the end. So you’re like, ‘ooh look at that,’” Don Hall explained as the meat was cooking on a warm Saturday evening in September.
Don and his wife, Marie, are the founders of BeMoneySmartUSA, a non-profit in Carmichael that offers free financial literacy training for youth and employment opportunities through their farmers’ markets. Those students who were found working the county fair were actually helping to generate funds for the latest program to get off the ground, Veterans Build Your Own Micro Business Academy, a veterans’ micro-franchise operation through BeMoneySmart USA.
With nearly 200 well-fed folks grazing on 25 pounds of tri-tip and 20 pounds of chicken, not to mention slices of Papa Murphy’s Pizza and fruit cups, folks hopefully had a good time, playing games and learning about the BeMoneySmart USA program for veterans.
Janessa Lucero, a second year student at Sierra College and Michael Murr-Conley, a student at George Washington Carver in Rancho Cordova, were among the young volunteers, chauffeuring folks around to their cars by golf cart. Asked if they were having a good time at the fundraiser, the following exchange ensued:
“I love driving the golf cart,” Janessa said.
“I love watching her drive the golf cart,” Michael said.
Michael said he works for a variety of vendors and can be seen Saturdays at Sundays at Carmichael Park. “I’ve done sign dancing.”
Meanwhile, Janessa said she works inside the BeMoneySmart office, organizing the farmers’ markets for their Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday markets. “I know with BeMoneySmart USA, we’re really involved with the Fair Oaks and the Carmichael chambers (of commerce). We’re trying to get a lot of fundraisers going, especially for us, this is for us and we are trying to get our veterans’ program started.”
Reilly Nycum, a St. Francis High School student, with the help of BeMoneySmart USA sells fruits and vegetables for Rodriguez Ranch at various farmers’ markets. Describing how she got set up with the Rodriguez Ranch, Nycum said: “I just got put on with them one day. They send out a schedule every week and you get put with a vendor and I’ve been working with them for a while.”
Similarly, Chris Navarro, a kinesiology student at American River College, said he met Don and Marie a few years ago while working a summer job for BeMoneySmart USA. “They helped me get a job with another booth there – Cultured Kitchen. It’s vegan and all natural food…I love to cook. I was very lucky to help Don cook. Tonight, I am Don’s sous chef so to speak.”
Piping in, Don jokingly had a different perspective he wanted to share: “I’m the one who is the sous chef. He’s the one doing all the work.”
Taking a few minutes to discuss the veterans’ program with this publication, Don said: “We know that veterans have a hard time transitioning from the military life into civilian life. At Sierra College, there are 800 veterans using the GI Bill. These are all guys and gals trying to improve their lives, but one of the difficulties in a GI Bill is it pays for your college education, but not necessarily everything else you need in your life. So, these guys run a little short on money.
“So, we created a micro-franchise, a micro-business where they can step into and everything has been done for them. It has the product – they can choose from one of five of our existing farmers’ markets. They can go, ‘I want to sell veggie chips. It’s easy. It’s healthy. I like it.’
“And, so when they step in, they don’t just step into that product. All the marketing is done. We have a business coach that will be behind them to help them out. They get an account. They get an attorney. They get a Be Money Smart, and everybody around them to help them with the different aspects of their life, so their business can stay focused and get done. So it’s pre-done.”
The veteran’s program is expected to roll out Jan. 20 with five veterans – that is, five businesses – that will participate in a 12-month educational program.
Explaining how the educational aspect of the program will proceed, Marie said, “Between now and that date, we are going to do a vetting process. We’ll start with a bigger group and then narrow it down to the five that are ready.”
Fundraiser sponsors included: Armor Mini Storage, Wagner Plumbing, the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce, Assemblyman Ken Cooley, Carmichael Rotary, Edward Jones financial advisor Carroll Webb, and Bauer’s Car Wash.
For more information, see

On The Curbs: The odyssey of East Sac based programmers

The bat coders Jon Shumate, Carlos ‘Los’ Rivera, Nicole ‘Coco’ Barnum, and Sonny Mayugba, ‘the silver fox’

The bat coders Jon Shumate, Carlos ‘Los’ Rivera, Nicole ‘Coco’ Barnum, and Sonny Mayugba, ‘the silver fox’

It’s October 6th and I’m in the early stages of a conversation about angels, superpowers, apps, vc’s, accelerators and bats. Four locals and I are gathered upstairs in an old theater room on the second floor of a building built in 1956 near 23rd and K streets. The building will house The Trade, an edgy new coffee shop co-working business which will be featured in another article. A black iron fence and gargoyle-like ravens still stand guard over the entrance as they have for decades. Right now, the five of us are settling in after making introductions.

Three of us are young, Jon, ‘Coco’, and ‘Los collectively referred to as The Bats. The Silver Fox is not so young, maybe a few years younger than my 48 years. He’s a well seasoned businessman and today has the role of the pitch man down to an art. The Silver Fox is leading the pack wearing light blue swim trunks and a cotton shirt. Although dressed casually, we all are, the Silver Fox is slinging silicon slang, name dropping, and calling out various emperors who wear no clothes with a hypnotic cadence that commands my attention. Unlike himself, he says, edging on bragging, those other emperors never really ran their own business.

This guy from Yahoo, that one from Google, the other from fill-in-the-blank .comville I guess I am supposed to know, but embarrassingly do not. The Silver Fox declares he has seen the best of the best and now can tell who’s really got it and who is completely fronting. He can quickly sense their weaknesses. He states that this superpower came to him as an epiphany experienced while attending some famous super sized conference back East.

This person’s really a this, and that one’s a that, he lunges forward now in attack mode. And do you know essentially what these so-called gurus do, the Silver Fox asks me. He boldly declares they are leaches, and then quickly retracts a tad, to demonstrate some tact in an industry that I am sure is rife with neutron bomb narcissism for a reason. Big money and big blokes competing for legitimacy and an opportunity to change the world through computer code, apps, and smart phones.

As he begins to trot me through the demo and the story of Requested, the new app the four have developed, I can sense another of the Silver Fox’s superpowers. Besides x-ray vision, the fox has some chameleon in his blood. This canine doesn’t act like the typical neighborhood pooch, at least on this occasion.

He’d probably admit it himself. His breed has been lapping up that Silicon Valley hype tide apparently now quickly headed towards our Sacramento turf. When in Rome, do as Romans do. I figure the Fox drank that Kool-aid as survival juice to woo the Bay Area venture capitalists, big name associates, and the rest of the power lunch cast. In those settings, you need the swag, an edge, and the ability to pitch your idea in minutes flat.

Jon, Coco and Los, all created the code which then manifests itself on the smart phone through which the Silver Fox quickly works the magic in this scenario situation. In a matter of seconds, using Requested on our iPhone, we have notified the mobile devices of the managers of three to five local hot spot dining establishments, that, within the next 15 minutes, we are willing to bring a party of four to at 3 p.m., a half hour from now, and spend only $80 to receive $100 worth of dining, a bargain we, as users, can set at whatever discount rate we want. A timer suddenly appears on the iPhone screen and begins a countdown of the minutes.

At this point the mangers’ phones have notified each of them of our request and they have the option of accepting or not. But, only the first to accept gets our hypothetical party of four’s business. A moment later, our phone chimes indicating our offer has been accepted and, in this role play, as we approach the establishment, the manager’s mobile device notifies them that we are arriving and they can now instantly prepare to meet and greet us as he or she wishes. We are quickly seated, enjoy our meal, some cocktails, and leave happy knowing we saved $20. The merchant is happy knowing that they just served a party of four during a slow part of the day. It’s the ultimate win-win.

There are tons of other cool details.

With Requested no money ever changes hands. It’s all done on the credit card just like with Uber or Lyft. The merchant receives a hard check after Requested takes a cut to pay transactions fees and stay in business. With Requested the merchant can rate the customer so that in the future they, and other merchants, are aware of the nature of the customer. During heavy business hours, and in a pinch, say if you are suddenly entertaining clients or simply want to impress, the user can notify the merchant that they are willing to pay an exact extra self determined amount to bypass the line and immediately be seated. If all goes as planned, this is available at your finger tips via Requested and the Apple app store beginning Oct. 16.

As the Silver Fox finishes his pitch, I realize the “.com craze” and its droves of garage start uppers is back and happening right here in East Sac.

If anybody is gonna be running in those packs, the Silver Fox and The Bats will make dang sure they are one of them. It’s hard to slow the Fox down to pry some reflective discourse from the momentum of his spiel. But, when done right you may glimpse the real Silver Fox, Sonny Mayugba, who lurks beneath the bells, whistles, and glam bam.

Who he is? It was the one question that I asked that caught him completely off guard. The Fox literally looked shell-shocked. There was an awkward pause as The Bats and I looked on somewhat in disbelief. Does the Fox know who he is? Finally after needing to think, Sonny stated he is someone who likes to have fun, build things, is easily bored and therefore craves excitement.

As we chat, it is clear Sonny has been stalking the Sacramento curbs seeking to turn dreams into realities probably before he was in that local band as a young rascal growing up in town. You know the band from back when. They were hot in Sacramento and beyond. They opened for yadda ya, and yadda ya, and played all the coolest venues. Sonny, along with the rest of us, thought he was destined to be a rock star. Of course then the band broke up, and he found himself working as a bike courier in the 90s and pretty much built himself up to where he is now.

The others, collectively referred to as The Bats, have remained perched in the background for over an hour now almost as if they don’t exist. Although they were all playing it cool, they remembered the launch date was a mere 10 days away. There is definite tension permeating the scene. A years worth of 12 hour days quietly haunts our table, the theater, the cables, computers, mobile devices, screens, dust, and the expansive void that surrounds us. They are all tilting forward through time. This is after all risky business. Even the Silver Fox has lost his footing, gotten tripped up, snared perhaps, and bit the dust before.

From how Sonny relays the story it was public failure, at least in his mind, and it rocked the Fox’s psyche big time. Sonny mentions it only briefly in the hours of our conversation. It was at the point when providing his background he said he told himself “Look I’m an entrepreneur and I’m not going to be afraid anymore.” Afraid of what I ask.

He tells me about it, how it hurt leaving stinging imprints of doubt upon him. Easy enough to understand, right? Who wants to be known as that guy who had that idea and actually thought it would work, and sacrificed, and was willing to risk playing the fool, but in the end it failed. He failed. And failures can’t do most things, especially lead a pack back into the rattling wars of the marketplace. How to recover? Shake your mane, lick your wounds, learn your lessons, lose the fear, break more rules, believe that gravity may not exist and that you indeed can fly. Risk again. Jump off the edge and execute.

So it is fitting then that the anxiety of the Requested pack is not evidenced by swollen bloodshot eyes, dark circles, ulcers, high blood pressure and burn out weary face creases. Quite the opposite, it’s the “we think Requested might really take off” anxious. We really may make it big. Get rich, be ushered through the pearly gates. Become one of the new and improved .com chosen ones.

And besides, Requested is truly the baby of the Silver Fox and The Bats, and they are now in labor, pushing, pacing, birthing it together as a team right here in this now abandoned theater room. As such they have already beaten the odds. They did it. They pulled code out of raw ether, breathed their breath of life into it, made it as real as anything else on your smart phone, pitched it, got the seed funding, and are now going live taking it to the streets where you too can use it quite literally on the curbs.

To get to this moment in time they all paid the price.

Each of The Bats and the Silver Fox himself quit the steady pay and gave back the security blanket provided by agency employment that was in fact killing them, slowly starving their creative hungers and frying their minds and bodies with non-stop, dog day, doing it all for some other person’s wallet, pure unadulterated grind work.

Perhaps, an assignment here, and a client there, allowed a teasing taste of artistic expression and ownership, but those never truly satiated the pangs of The Bats, or the Wolf. Instead the agency environment diverted those needs through built-in defaults, deadlines, and drudgery. Their hunger only left to more painfully fester deep in their innards. So they all quit and went hunting down trails self determined.

First Nichole Barnum (aka Coco), Carlos Rivera (aka Tos) and Jon Shumate left to form their own team. That was truly gutsy. Being young and relatively unestablished quitting entailed a huge financial hit. None had much, if any, money saved up, so essentially they were risking financial ruin. Soon Sonny followed suit, but in his case the financial risk was not so high, but indeed still there.

They formed their own pack. They say theirs has a vibe unlike any other. Why I ask. They say it’s hard to put your finger on. They just all work together well even though their personalities differ. They are all from the Sacramento area. Sonny lives right here in East Sac, so does Coco, in fact she is just down the street from Sonny. Sonny owns a nice restaurant with a bar, so he had a point earlier when he said he has skin in the game. In this case the skin tastes a bit like hare as the Fox co-owns The Red Rabbit, a hot spot in prime locale on J Street near Harlow’s, Barwest, and Blu Cue.

Carlos came from Mexico. His mother divorced and they relocated often. I sensed it was anything but easy for him, and as he reckons he got lucky. Somehow he ended up at a school that offered instruction in IT skills and got the attention of teachers that encouraged him to explore the tech professions. He was good, real good, and before long had landed an internship where Nichole, Jon, and Sonny were working. His superpower is that he possesses the unusual gift of a top-notch code writer mixed with an eye for detail and a natural bend towards the arts, especially graphic design.

Nichole was raised in the hills near Auburn where she discovered an innate love for the outdoors, nature, and playing the piano at her folks’. Here, in our hood, Nichole misses her free time in front of the old piano of her youth, but still gets out once in a while to hit the parkways and trails along the American River. She is by far the quietest of all The Bats, programmers who stay up all night working and sleep all day. Her superpower is the ability to manage complex projects while at the same time contributing in a big way as a programmer herself.

As for Jon, the only member without a nickname, he too is a local and describes himself as just a regular guy who also loves music. Playing it, making it, and listening to it. Jon comes across, much like the other Bats, as very down to earth, friendly, fun, and probably more intelligent than the average Joe. His superpower is his unbeatable ability to create code. Mostly self taught, like the others, Jon gets off by making something real in the realm of technology and making sure it’s done right.

Two or more hours have passed. We get ready to end the discussions. So what’s next for this motley bunch I ask. They all just smile, lean back, laugh, and shake their heads. Who knows? Right now their eyes are on Requested. But, I can guarantee that no matter what trail the Silver Fox forges next, and no matter what cave The Bats find themselves in, it will be on their own terms, in their own style, and to the beat of their own hearts, for at the core they are all fearless artists making dreams real in their down home techno way right here on the curbs of Sactown USA.

Daisy Mah restored WPA Rock Garden in late 1980s: Despite her retirement, Mah still dedicates time to the garden

Daisy Mah stands in front of the WPA Rock Garden. The sign for the garden in the background was created by Sacramento artist Jim Ford. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Daisy Mah stands in front of the WPA Rock Garden. The sign for the garden in the background was created by Sacramento artist Jim Ford. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park. Due to space constraints, part four of the author’s Asian history series has been pushed to the next issue of the Land Park News.

Daisy Mah, who was mentioned in the first article of this series as having become synonymous with the rock garden in William Land Park, certainly has a story to tell about her longtime dedication to the garden.
Despite having retired last year from her many years as head of the garden, which she named the WPA Rock Garden in the mid-1990s, Mah has not entirely left the garden.
Although Duane Goosen became her replacement at the nearly one-acre garden in January 2014, Mah can still be seen working in the garden, generally twice per week in the morning hours.
In discussing her continued involvement with the garden, Mah said, “At the end of July, I returned (to the garden). They call me a utility worker, which is a temporary parks employee. I am currently still at that position and I try to limit it to twice a week. I’m still helping with the maintenance.”
Mah, who was born in the capital city and raised in Walnut Grove, added that part of her work in the garden has been sharing her knowledge about the place with Goosen.
“There are a lot of unusual things that I’ve planted and it’s hard to know what they are,” said Mah, who graduated from Delta High School in Clarksburg in 1971. “There are no labels to speak of, and so Duane is truly interested in knowing what’s out there. He’s a very good photographer, and I think he has pretty much identified all of the plants.”
After being asked to tell the story about how she initially became involved with the rock garden, Mah said, “I worked at the McKinley Park rose garden (from 1980 to about 1985) and enjoyed that, but it became clear that it was becoming a problem for me physically. You know, I was developing carpal tunnel syndrome and my hands were going numb. And so, I decided I needed to look elsewhere and there was a position at Old Sacramento that I took (in about 1985). But it was clear that it was not the right place for me, because there were no plants to take care of. So, when the position of (Parks Maintenance Worker II) at (William) Land Park became available, I went for it without any knowledge of the area. I had no knowledge of the garden that would take up a lot of my energy and passion for 25 years.
“At that time, the supervisor (Leonard Fuson) was not confident that I would be a long-term parks worker at Land Park, because I had moved around a little bit. I had only stayed at Old Sacramento for probably less than a year. He explained to me that many of his staff had been there 25 years or longer, and that would be ideal, because he was very concerned (about) continuity, I guess. I didn’t know how to prove that I would be committed, but he took me around to the different staff who would work under me and he showed me (the area). Anyway, I was pretty impressed with it. That was in May of 1986.”
Mah, who would undoubtedly prove herself to be very dedicated to her work at William Land Park, said that she did not immediately work in the garden.
“(Originally), I was more of a general park lead person, so I had about five people under me. You know, I picked up piles of leaves and I was responsible for making sure the bathrooms in my section got cleaned. We also had seasonal helpers during the summer, during the busy season. There were four lead persons at the time. We were real well staffed. But that changed dramatically in the past 10 years.”
Mah recalled speaking to Fuson about the garden in 1986.
“(Fuson) wanted me to take an interest in this garden, but he kind of discouraged me from going hog wild,” Mah recalled. “He didn’t really explain why, but I kind of get it, because if you make it too nice, it’s hard to fill those shoes. And there really wasn’t a history of anyone just going crazy in that garden.”
In the latter part of 1988, Mah began spending more time in the garden, working through her lunch break and other breaks.

The rock garden was established 75 years ago as a project of the Work Projects Administration. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The rock garden was established 75 years ago as a project of the Work Projects Administration. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Mah mentioned that while she taking horticulture classes at American River College in 1988, she was awarded a $400 grant.
“I decided that some of the money should go toward the rock garden and some of it I would use for myself,” Mah said. “I spent about $200 at a wholesale nursery called Cornflower Farms. And they specialize in Mediterranean and California natives. So, most of the plants were pretty tough and adapted to hot and drier conditions. I brought (the plants) to the park, and it was kind of a disappointment, because there might have been 25 plants in a one-gallon size. I had nearly an acre to plant and it was clear that I needed a lot more to make this garden nice, because by that time, I had cleared out a lot of the ivy with the help of the community service workers. And so, there was a lot of bare ground that was formerly ivy covered.”
The ivy, Mah recalled, had been planted at the site following a Proposition 13-related financial setback.
“I think what I heard was during Prop. 13, the funding (for the garden) was dramatically reduced and they (previously) had more staffing in the rock garden and they reduced it to one individual,” Mah said. “And because they didn’t have much funding for plants, they planted the beds with ivy and different plant covers. In general, it wasn’t very attractive.”
At a time when Mah had become overwhelmed with the garden, she was introduced to Warren Roberts, (the then superintendent) of the University of California, Davis Arboretum.
In recalling a meeting with Roberts, Mah said, “He came (to the garden) and he thought that there was a lot of potential. He was generous in that he offered me the arboretum as a resource for seeds and cuttings. I would still have to produce my own plants, but I would have the arboretum as a place to get started.”
Mah explained that throughout the years she learned many things about maintaining a successful garden.
“Eventually I kind of turned my nose to some of the plants that were in the garden,” Mah said. “Over the years, you realize that some of the plants that you thought were so common were actually very good plants to have. I also learned that (the garden) was subject to people running through and breaking things and stealing plants. I learned that if you cleared out plants too early and tried to replant, your chances of survival are really bad. I learned to appreciate that there was something there to build upon, instead of eradicating it and starting from scratch.”
In explaining how long it took her to reach her first overall satisfaction with the garden, Mah said, “It took a long time. It was a big struggle to get things to survive. And it probably was about 12 years ago, (when) I finally could admit that things were looking the way I wanted (them) to look. It wasn’t completely the way I wanted it, and part of it was keeping plants maybe longer than I should. (It) was a very challenging area.”
Mah, who resides in midtown Sacramento with her husband, John Hickey, who she married in 1979, added that she eventually became involved in attracting wildlife to the garden.
“To me, that’s so wonderful to see butterflies and bees and other creatures (in the garden),” Mah said. “And hummingbirds are obvious birds to attract, but we’re getting resident doves and Oregon juncos and goldfinches and bushtits. The wildlife has increased dramatically over the years.”
Overall, Mah, whose present activities include home gardening and her involvement as a member of the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club, finds the garden to be a place that she feels proud of having restored and very satisfied by the joy it continuously brings to its visitors.
“(People) find (the garden to be) a beautiful place and I think they have found a lot of satisfaction from it,” Mah said. “And personally, it’s been a source of unending challenges and pleasure.”

Faces and Places: California Middle School through the decades

Be true to your school. That’s Macy’s slogan they’ve shared with schools nationwide, as the department store is currently looking for America’s most spirited and talented lip-dubbin’ student body to wow their judges with their most amazing one-take video. Stakes are high and competition is fierce. Top prize is $25,000, with $15,000 for second place and $10,000 for third! The submission period is currently closed. Winners will be announced on YouTube on or around Oct. 30.
The only song allowed was the Macy’s Back to School Lip Dub version of “Be True to Your School.” It cannot be edited in any way or mashed up with other songs. Students had to use the whole song and loop the song as long as they stay within the 10 minute time limit. Videos will be judged based on school spirit and participation (50 percent), creativity (30 percent), and execution (20 percent).
On Friday, Oct. 17, as “Be True to Your School” played on intercoms through the entire campus, students at California Middle School represented the school through the ages, dressing in period attire, donning outfits from each decade since the school opened in 1938.

Cal Middle School welcomes new principal

Andrea Egan is the new principal at California Middle School. Here, she is shown on Friday, Oct. 17 giving directions to the student body during the Macy's school competition for $25,000. Photo by Monica Stark

Andrea Egan is the new principal at California Middle School. Here, she is shown on Friday, Oct. 17 giving directions to the student body during the Macy's school competition for $25,000. Photo by Monica Stark

Being named principal of California Middle School was like “stepping into a gold mine,” says Andrea Egan, who took over the reins of the Land Park institution this fall.
“It’s a great school with a great reputation,” she says. “That’s why people want to send their children to Cal.”
Egan can recognize greatness when she sees it: She spent five years as principal of high-performing Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in East Sacramento before Cal and also served as an assistant principal at Sutter Middle School earlier in her administrative career.
Cal, she says, is like Phoebe and Sutter in that all three schools have dedicated teaching staffs, supportive parents and a thriving campus that is the pride of the surrounding neighborhood – a winning formula. Because of Cal’s track record of success, she has no plans to make big changes this year.
“I see myself spending a year honoring what has been and listening to staff and parents about where they want to go next,” she says.” I really try to put relationships first. It’s hard to launch any initiative or make any change unless you have relationships with your staff, your parents and your students.”
Egan was appointed last spring, after Elizabeth Vigil was named principal of Rosemont High School. Vigil, who served as Cal’s principal for 12 years, is credited with making Cal a destination for families by strengthening academics and creating a caring school climate.
Egan plans to build on Vigil’s success by forging a closer relationship with C.K. McClatchy High School’s Humanities and International Studies Program, finding new ways to make the school accessible to the community and encouraging school spirit. “I want to make a Cal a place that kids want to go to because it’s exciting and fun.”
Egan’s mentor, former Sutter principal Greg Purcell, says he has no doubt that she will accomplish her goals at Cal.
“She’s very highly skilled and highly competitive,” says Purcell. “She gets after it every day and she likes to win.”
Egan, 37, grew up in Livermore, the daughter of a scientist who worked at both Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. After high school, she attended California State University, Sacramento where she earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts.
Graphic arts, it turned out, didn’t suit her personality, she says. “It was impersonal and isolating.” By contrast, she loved working as a swim instructor at the Livermore City Pool. “So I went back to Sac State and got my teaching credential.” (She also holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, also from Sac State.)
Her first job was at Sutter, teaching English and history. When then-assistant principal David Rodriguez – now Sutter’s current principal – announced he was leaving to work at Kit Carson Middle School, Purcell asked Egan to consider taking Rodriguez’s place.
“It didn’t take long to figure out that she was really good with kids and adults and really hard working,” Purcell says. “And she’s passionate about being a school leader.”
“Greg really has shaped my leadership style,” Egan says. “He taught me to see the big picture and not get bogged down by minutia.”
Purcell says he’s honored to have played a role in both Rodriguez’s and Egan’s careers.
“It’s fun to see David running Sutter and Andrea running Cal. They are both quality individuals.”
To learn more about Cal or to schedule a visit, call (916) 395-5302.

Faces and Places: Halloween decorations from around the Land Park

Boy, is the Land Park area festive this time of year? Check out this selection of photographs taken on the evening of Friday, Oct. 5. Get out of the house, take a walk and see for yourself. Happy Halloween! The area is also home to many events big and small we hope you enjoy.

On Friday, there will be a fall festival at Sutterville Elementary, starting at 5 p.m. with various festivities and a dinner. Sutterville Elementary is located at 4967 Monterey Way.

Fairytale Town: Safe & Super Halloween: The Adventures of Percy Jackson
Three nights of trick or treating and family friendly fun await at Fairytale Town’s 28th annual Safe & Super Halloween (Friday, Oct. 24- Sunday, Oct. 26) from 5 to 9 p.m. The park will be transformed into Rick Riordan’s mythological world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Young heroes can venture through the transformed park as they make their quest to Mount Olympus and the infamous Olympian Zeus. Visit Polyphemus’ lair, the replica Parthenon, the Oracle of Delphi and Medusa’s garden, just remember not to look her directly in the eyes! Keep an eye out for plenty of mythological characters and creatures along the way. The event features 17 candy stations, a nightly costume parade at 8:30 p.m., hands-on activities and lots of mythological fun! Puppet Art Theater Company will perform Frankenswine, a zany, Halloween-themed puppet show, each night at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. in the Children’s Theater. Puppet show tickets are an additional $1 for members and $2 for nonmembers. This is a special ticketed event. Advance tickets are $7 for members and $10 for nonmembers. Ticket prices increase beginning Oct. 24 to $9 for members and $12 for nonmembers. Children 1 and under are free. Member restrictions apply.

On Saturday and Sunday, Funderland presents its annual Spooktacular Halloween. This year, Elsa the Snow Queen will wow the youngins at noon and 2 p.m.; there will be a magician at 1 p.m. and trick or treating will be available for $3. Also for that price, kiddos can traverse the Happy Little Pumpkin Patch or for one ticket ride the The Not So Spooky Train or venture into the Silly Haunted House. Funderland will have kids’ costume contests, face painting, a photo booth, vendors, crafts and more! Get Free Tickets: When you bring in new games or new art supplies for River Oak Center for Children Funderland will give you free tickets as a thank you (amount of tickets based on items donated). Parents – Don’t forget: Children can come dressed in their favorite Halloween costume and enter into the kids’ costume contest happening at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. They’ll also have festive totes you can purchase for $2 each for all your trick-or-treating fun!

Boo at the Zoo will be happening two nights this year, Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Oct. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. Two nights of ghoulish family fun, Thursday or Friday rain or shine. Kids can safely trick-or-treat around the lake at 25 different candy stations! Other activities include magic shows, costume dance party, ghoulish games, and lots of family fun! You can also ride the Spooky Train or Creepy Carousel for an additional fee. Please note: Only the front half of the Zoo will be open during this event. The spookiness is appropriate for children under 10 years of age. Early bird ticket prices, through Oct. 28: Non-members: $10; Sacramento Zoo members, $8; children age 1 and younger are free. General ticket prices, Oct. 29 until the event, are $12. Children age 1 and younger are free. There will be no member discount. Buy tickets online at, by phone at 808-5888 or in person at the zoo, daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Belle Cooledge Library will come alive with ghouls and ghosts for a tween/teen gaming program on Halloween day from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The library encourages youth to finish off that creepy month of October with a Ghoul and Ghost inspired teen/tween gaming program! They’ll have Minecraft and the Nintendo Wii! Snacks will be provided and costumes are encouraged!

A few local churches will have events that day too! Trunk or Treat will be at Greenhaven Lutheran Church on Halloween night from 5:30-7:30 p.m., 475 Florin Road. Also, on Halloween night there will be a harvest festival at Riverside Wesleyan Church, 6449 Riverside Blvd., from 6 to 8 p.m. It will be filled with free family fun.

Further into the Pocket area, there will be a Spooktacular Halloween Party at the Sacramento Portuguese Holy Spirit Society, 6776 Pocket Road. There will be music by DJ Dick Daniel, a costume contest, candy bags, and a haunted house on Halloween night, starting at 6:30 p.m. Adults are $7; kids $4; children age 5 and younger are free

And while the following event is not necessarily Halloween related, it’s family friendly and costumes are involved! Join Storytime Theatre of Sacramento City College for “The Little Mermaid” which is adapted and directed by Matt K. Miller. Plays run through Nov. 9 on Saturdays and Sundays at noon. Admission is $5 for all ages (children two years and younger are admitted free of charge). No reservations are needed. To purchase tickets in advance or for more information, go to All performances int eh Little Theatre in the Performing Arts Center (PAC 106) on Sacramento City College Campus, 3835 Freeport Blvd. There is a group rate for parties of 20 or more, 20 percent off. Parking is free on campus. The Sunday performance on Oct. 26 will be interpreted in American Sign Language.

Over the Fence: Look, up in the sky, it’s a drone in Land Park!

Some drone videos showcase remote Alaskan ice caves, cascading waterfalls in Costa Rica, even earthquake damage in Napa. Sacramento resident Tim Pantle showcases the beauty of the Sacramento area with his aerial photos and drone videos on his blog “Love Where You Live”.

I hung out with Tim while he was getting aerial views of the Urban Cow Half Marathon that was held in William Land Park recently. He also filmed some nice shots of the golf course, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.

We spoke about the good, the bad, and the ugly of quadcopters. Drone videos have been somewhat controversial but Tim is the “Mister Rogers of drone video operators.” He does nothing nefarious — just good, wholesome, fun videos of the Sacramento area.

What spurred Tim’s quadcopter hobby is he wanted to start a blog of some kind. One day, he saw a picturesque drone video of the old Fair Oaks Bridge and he was hooked. “I’ve always been that tech-geek and used to be really into photography,” Tim said. He loves the challenge of “getting the good shot.”

He was getting plenty of good shots of the Urban Cow Half Marathon and William Land Park the day we got together.

At the start of the half marathon, the announcer told runners to “wave to teh drone,” as Tim’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter was filming over head.

When Tim was filming on the fifth hole at Land Park Golf Course, a golfer took a practice swing from the fairway then turned around to smile and wave. The drone makes a loud buzzing, swarm-of-bees sound, so I was surprised the golfer let the quadcopter bother him. Most golfers demand complete silence before hitting a fairway wood on a par 4 hole.

The Phantom 2 Vision reminds me of the Starship Enterprise from the old Star Trek series. It has a similar look. If you can operate a joystick, you can certainly operate a quadcopter. Tim syncs it up with GPS. It’s the ultimate in tech gadgetry for a photographer. If the battery goes dead, or it loses connection with his remote it’ll fly back to where it started and land. It has a brain! The controller has a WiFi extender that allows the drone to send a signal to his phone so he can see what the camera sees.

The Phantom 2 Vison has quite a few different names, including an aerial drone, quadcopter, UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The term drone came about because the vehicles sounded like worker bees known as “drones.”

Tim’s a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and he thought the quadcopter or drone would be a great aspect of selling real estate. “Unfortunately I can’t use it for real estate because of FAA rules of no commercial, at the time that I bought it that rule wasn’t in place.”

There are a few rules when it comes to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The laws are still trying to catch up with the technology.

You cannot use it for commercial purposes. You can’t go above 400 feet. It’s also a big “no no” in national parks. Yosemite National Park has banned drones after they became a nuisance to vistors of the park. Another rule is you can’t fly within three miles of an airport.

Whereas Tim uses his drone for good, clean, wholesome fun, other drone operators aren’t as level headed and responsible as Tim.

There have been many publicized incidents of aerial drones causing problems. One drone operator flew over a nude beach in Hawaii that created an online stir.

Technically, there’s nothing illegal about being a “creepy pest” because it was a public beach. When the operator was confronted by one of the sunbathers he accused him of breaking the law by being nude in public, which is technically illegal in Hawaii.

Got that? Being nude illegal, filming people nude, legal.

One man actually shot down a New Jersey man’s drone after it hovered near his home. He blew it out of the sky with his shotgun. Kaboom! The guy who shot down the drone was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Criminal Mischief. Oops.

Then there is the case of a 17-year-old teen who was innocently filming the shoreline of a beach in Florida. A woman became enraged and assaulted him because she thought he was filming bikini-baring beach goers. The video of the confrontation is quite disturbing. The woman called the police; but, after they viewed the I-Phone video from the teen’s camera, she was arrested for assault.

Tim told me he thinks “some of the news coverage is overblown.”

I spoke with Rob Watkins at RC Country Hobby on Folsom Boulevard and he said, “I’m more concerned in the type of person and how they’re flying them than the quadcopters themselves.”

Rob mentioned an incident where a guy was flying his drone over the Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the grounding firefighting aircraft.

“We sell a lot of them here and they’re fun to fly. It just concerns me what people are doing with them,” Rob said.

What Tim is doing with his drone videos is making people feel good. The feedback Tim gets is all positive. His most popular drone video is the Del Campo High School campus. He’s actually from the graduating class of ’86. His quadcopter gives an aerial documentation of the campus as it slowly glides over the mighty oak tree that is at the center of the campus. The aerial video ends on the newly build Cougar football stadium. He also has an ethereal soundtrack that plays during the video. It elicited quite a few emotional responses on a Del Campo High School reunion page. Gregory Hansel, a class of 1984 alumni said, “Am I the only one who got a bit emotional seeing that? School hasn’t changed much. A lot of memories.”

Tim also has an enchanting drone video of the Sacramento River at the Tower Bridge. The quadcopter glides right over the golden bridge to reveal an aerial shot not many people have seen — the tip top of the Tower Bridge. It’s accompanied by some Joe Satriani-style guitar riffs. He also filmed a video of the American River near the Fair Oaks bluffs and bridge, another picturesque drone video of the area Tim calls home.

If you search You Tube, there are numerous beautiful, edgy, and just plain magical videos of nature’s beauty. These drone videos, by far, outnumber the irresponsible and innocuous ones that tend to get headlines. Waterfalls, cliff diving, and amazing Alaskan glacier views are just some of the subjects drone videos have beautifully captured.

Drone videos are also publicizing social justice like the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. There is an aerial drone video of hundreds of thousands of people in the street peacefully protesting.

There’s also aerial drone videos by The Swandiri Institute, an organization focusing its research on the political-ecology and social-ecological analysis of environmental change happening in Indonesia.

Drones are even helping to save the whales. The Ocean Alliance is a group that uses aerial drones to collect a broad spectrum of data from the whales without disturbing them. From the data, they advise scientists and policy makers on pollution and how to prevent the collapse of marine mammals and other sea life.

See? Aerial Drones are being used for good.

Which brings me back to Sacramento’s drone video photographer, Tim Pantle. He takes great pleasure in making drone videos that people have an emotional connection to. Tim also uses his common sense. “I don’t fly over people’s houses and if somebody shows any inkling they’re upset, I just leave. I’m not looking for any trouble.”

Tim is very careful and cautious with his quadcopter. When we were together, his plan was to fly over the Sacramento Zoo, but he was also a bit hesitant. Tim said, “I don’t know if I could fly over the zoo because it might disturb the animals. Common sense says, don’t bug the animals.”

He did manage to get some aerial footage of the zoo and no animals were disturbed.

Whether it’s Sacramento parks, historic bridges or our beautiful waterways Tim only uses his quadcopter for good. He also takes pride in giving Sacramento a bird’s eye view of the city he loves.

To check out all of Tim’s videos go to

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Arden neighborhood harbors two new literary lights

More than 100 authors will be featured at the California Capital Book Festival Oct. 25-26—authors from all over the country and from right here in Sacramento. Among them are two Arden area authors, fiction writer Lois Ann Abraham and children’s author Joanna Rowland.

Abraham is a professor of English at American River College and a prize-winning fiction writer whose work has appeared in Sojourner, Chico News & Review, Writing on the Edge, inside english, Burning the Little Candle, and Convergences.

Her short story collection, Circus Girl & Other Stories, was published earlier this year by ARC’s Ad Lumen Press. The book, according to the published description, is peopled by characters who “are seeking—wisely or foolishly, successfully or vainly—to make sense of their lives and to become more completely themselves.” The title story is about a woman who was raised by circus clowns and who marries a “townie,” only to have her husband question her capacity to be a competent wife and mother. Another of the stories, “The Iris in the Garden” is the fourth chapter from Abraham’s novel-in-progress, Stillscape With Ashes, about a female painter set in the early 1900s in Martinique, according to a report by American River Current.

Joanna Rowland debut children’s book, Always Mom, Forever Dad, was written for those children whose parents live separately and who “can’t help but wonder: Will Mom still love me? Will Dad?” An elementary school teacher in the San Juan Unified School District, Rowland knows many students who have two homes. Written with those students in mind, the book depicts children from two households, “whether because of divorce, separation or other circumstances, experiencing life’s ups and downs with both parents, secure in the knowledge that Mom will always be Mom, and Dad is forever Dad….and that they will always be loved.”

For more authors who will be featured at California Capital Book Festival, visit

KXOA continues legacy through former Arden area resident

George Junak, who is known in radio as Greg Mitchell, established the 24-hour per day Internet radio station KXOA in 2009. Photo courtesy of George Junak

George Junak, who is known in radio as Greg Mitchell, established the 24-hour per day Internet radio station KXOA in 2009. Photo courtesy of George Junak

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series about the history of broadcasting in the Sacramento area. This series was inspired by readers’ positive responses to previous articles about local television history in this publication and several requests to feature histories of local radio stations.

In the previous article of this series, it was noted that the end of the use of the call letters, KXOA, in Sacramento came in 2004. But that does not mean KXOA is completely a thing of the past.
Instead, fans of the old station, which debuted in 1945 and could once be found on both the AM and FM dials, can tune into a live re-creation of the station via the Internet.
Because the deaths of KXOA 1470 AM in 1998 and KXOA 93.7 FM in 2004 left the KXOA call letters available, former Arden area resident George Junak, who has worked in radio for many years, took the opportunity to acquire those letters in 2008.
Junak, who is known by the on air name of Greg Mitchell, had made the decision to create his own Internet radio station and was familiar with KXOA. He had once worked for KNDE 1470 AM, which had replaced KXOA 1470 AM from 1971 to 1978, before KXOA-AM returned to the air for two additional decades.
In 2006, Junak, 61, moved from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla., where he would later launch his Internet radio station.
And in recalling his work to establish that station, Junak said, “In between (2008) and July (2009), when we actually signed the station on the air, I needed to get the automation software to run the station, build a little studio, load all the music into the computer system, load everything that we were going to run into the system. That was just pretty much done part time, so it took quite a few months. So, by the time July (2009) rolled around, everything was in place and we just put it on the air one day.”
Junak had no difficulty recalling the precise date of his station’s debut, as he said that, coincidentally, a KXOA-related incident occurred in Sacramento on that day.
“(July 15, 2009), the day that we signed (the station) on the air on the Internet was (when) a couple of towers came down at the 1470 (AM) transmitter site (near Commerce Circle and Lathrop Way),” Junak said.
The Sacramento Bee reported on July 16, 2009 that during the previous day, firefighters had responded to a fire that had toppled one of the former KXOA radio towers, damaged another tower and destroyed a small building containing radio equipment. A third tower was mentioned as having been threatened, but not damaged.
Junak who spends the majority of each day dedicated to his other radio-related business, California Aircheck, said he has enjoyed the responses of former KXOA of Sacramento listeners who have heard his KXOA station.
“People who had grown up in Sacramento were happy to have KXOA back,” said Junak, who began his radio career in Palms Springs in the early 1970s. “I enjoy hearing from people that come across it on the Internet.”
Junak added, “I also enjoy trying to be creative in a different way than just (through) California Air Check, where I just spend time editing things on that. So, doing KXOA is something that’s more creative on a daily basis than my full-time job.”
And after being asked if the station has reconnected him with radio people of his past, Junak said, “It did when I first put it on the air. I did hear from a couple of people that I had worked with, and I did hear from Martin Ashley, who went by the name of ‘Wonder Rabbit’ at (the now defunct Sacramento radio station) KROY. He sent me a couple of jingles from when he was at KXOA.”
Junak explained that most people discover the new KXOA by accident.

The original KXOA was one of Sacramento’s early radio stations. It debuted at 1490 AM in 1945 and moved to 1470 AM three years later. Photo courtesy of George Junak

The original KXOA was one of Sacramento’s early radio stations. It debuted at 1490 AM in 1945 and moved to 1470 AM three years later. Photo courtesy of George Junak

“(Operating KXOA is) pretty much just a hobby, so I haven’t really gone out of my way to advertise,” Junak said. “Most people just stumble across it and either like it or don’t (like it).”
In responding to the inquiry of what people can listen to on today’s KXOA, Junak said, “The format is called Motown, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. So, basically what you don’t hear is the really soft stuff that you might hear on a typical oldies station like the Carpenters and John Denver and Captain & Tennile and Brenda Lee. So, basically we’ve taken the best soul music, the best rock ‘n’ roll, mixed it together and left off the wimpy stuff. We play tons of The Beatles. We play like over 100 different songs of The Beatles, Creedence (Clearwater Revival), Cream, The Temptations, Steely Dan, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, The Moody Blues, Marvin Gaye, Eagles, The Byrds, (The Rolling) Stones, Four Tops, Foreigner, ELO, Elton John, (The) Mamas & (The) Papas, (The) Spencer Davis (Group), (The) Guess Who, Chicago. Basically things you might hear on a classic rock station. Typically an old station these days might play about 500 different songs. We play about 2,000. So, there are a lot of songs you’re not going to hear over and over and over again, and things that you probably haven’t heard in years.
The station, compared to what else you’re going to hear on the Internet, I think has a lot more personality and sounds like the stations of the 1960s, where it’s not where you can go for an hour and here’s the disc jockey two times, and just hear songs back to back to back to back all hour long. It makes it sound more like radio was back in the 1960s.”
Junak said that he works at the station seven days per week.
“I spend a couple hours a day on the station,” Junak said. “Usually I have to go through the logs and fix the problems on it during the day, and I usually decide that there are more minutes in the hour than there actually are, so I typically have to go delete songs at the ends of hours and I basically have to correct any problems.”
Listeners of the station can hear Junak from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Geoff Richards from 2 to 6 p.m., Bob Oscar Johnson from 6 p.m. to midnight and from 6 to 10 a.m., Bill Earl from midnight to 6 a.m., and Doctor John Winston from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
In addressing readers of this paper in regard to his station, Junak said, “We’re here 24 hours a day and if you enjoyed radio more in the 1960s and 1970s than you do today, then KXOA, ‘the Giant X,’ would be more of a station that you would want to listen to other than some of the other stations in Sacramento. So, we’re basically four people that aren’t really looking for radio as just background. We want you to hear something interesting along with the music.”
KXOA can be heard through the website