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By Tom Marshall
KAPX Radio was born 50 years ago in November. At 107.9 on the FM dial and with a fairly strong signal, it played intermediate music and broadcast local news and sports reports on a daily basis.
Mike Chamberlin, originally from San Clemente, was an original member of the staff in ’71. During his two years at the station, he served as chief information officer, covering local events including the whereabouts of the city’s most famous part-time resident, President Richard Nixon.
Living here again after a career as a news broadcaster on TV stations in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Phoenix, Chamberlin recalls attending his first White House press conference since Casa Pacifica.
“After Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and the other greats asked their questions, I asked press secretary Ron Ziegler if the president was going to swim in the San Clemente Ocean. The national press turned around and looked at me, ”Chamberlin said with a laugh.
But, he was doing his job, covering the local angle of the story.
The resort studios were located in a mall at 800 South El Camino Real, across from the Ralphs Center now.
“I have my hair cut in the barber shop which is located almost exactly where the newsroom was,” Chamberlin said.
Most of the San Clemente alumni I asked only vaguely remember the station.
“They mostly played background music, but I remember they had a disc jockey named Sandy Beach,” recalls Rick Divel.
The studios eventually moved to the North Beach area.
With a delay in listening, the station switched to a religious music format and changed the call letters to KWVE-FM. In the 1980s, when he played Christian music during the day, the success of audiences paid for the dirt at night by playing punk rock and new wave music. A strange combination, I think.
But that didn’t last and the resort migrated to Santa Ana under its new owners, the Calvary Chapel organization. Although the transmitter and broadcast tower are still licensed in San Clemente, local programming and news have disappeared.
KWVE made the news in September 2017, when the station accidentally activated its emergency alert system which sent out some of Chuck Swindoll’s messages. Preview to live The program airs from every station in Orange County just as Swindoll said “extremely severe times would come”, leaving listeners worried about an imminent apocalypse.
Even so, it’s a shame that San Clemente doesn’t have its own local radio station today. Maybe if Mike has a few million dollars lying around he can start a new station. How about 24 hour surf music?
Tom Marshall is a fellow of the San Clemente Historical Society and a retired journalist.
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