As much a part of a city’s history is the media that records and shapes the community’s legacy. Such is true for Palestine’s KNET 1450 AM radio, which is celebrating 70 years on the air Monday.

The station’s earliest broadcasts can be traced back to 1935, before the formation of the Federal Communications Commission. But KNET’s birth as a bonafide AM station occurred on Jan 2, 1936.

“KNET and another station, KDOT of Tyler, were the first radio stations in East Texas,” KNET’s current news director Gary Richards said. “That was a good thing for a town the size of Palestine.”

Over the last 70 years the station has seen many locations and many owners, but it is the voices of the announcers — now known as disc jockeys — that have kept memories of the station alive in the minds of listeners.

Marvin Crain, now 84, started his career at KNET in 1945 and worked there for 23 years before a brief stint at another East Texas station. He returned to Palestine in 1970, where he worked at another local station for 20 years.

“I was an announcer for a while and then got into the sales end of it,” Crain recalled. “The last 15 years I spent as a local reporter.”

According to Crain, radio has changed tremendously over the past 70 years, particularly in the area of technology.

“I remember when I first started we were using 78 rpm records,” he said. “If you dropped one of those it broke like a cracker.

“We also played lots of different kinds of music — not just a single format like we see today,” he added. “My two favorite shows were ‘Cowboy Roundup’ and ‘Jive ‘til Five.’”

Several famous musicians, including then-popular country artist Hank Williams, visited the station to perform or just plug their latest single.

“Eddie Arnold did a program for us and Loretta Lynn came by for a few minutes,” Crain said. “Lyndon B. Johnson also stopped here to do a broadcast when he was running for senator.”

Anderson County resident Don Harris worked at KNET from 1961 to 1968, serving in public relations one year before becoming news director and serving as an announcer on the afternoon radio shift.

“I did the news rounds, wrote and delivered several newscasts and edited news off the wire,” Harris said. “I won several awards for my broadcasts.”

Harris, too, has fond memories of his days in radio and is amazed at how the media has changed since he worked there.

“Crain was the morning announcer — he was my hero,” he said. “I remember switching from 78s to 45s — we thought that was the cat’s pajamas.

“Commercials were live and we played all different kinds of music,” he continued. “Sometimes we did our broadcasts from the transmitter that was located in a pasture on the edge of town.

“My favorite memories of radio are from my early days at KNET. I loved it.”

Two former announcers at KNET, Mike and Ron Selden, made a name for themselves in the larger radio markets. Mike Selden became a well-known announcer in the Dallas area and Ron Selden did the same in the Houston area.

Famous local announcer Milton Evans, “The Voice of the Palestine Wildcats,” is well remembered for his broadcast of Palestine High School football games. Fred Richardson, who now owns Richardson Advertising in Palestine, also is a former announcer for KNET.

Past KNET owners include local Bonner Frizzell, Bill Laurie, Al Vinson and famous broadcast icon Gordon McClendon.

“McClendon organized the Major League Baseball Network,” Crain said. “He formed a radio station in Dallas and sold KNET back to Mr. Laurie, who had sold it to him.”

KNET-ESPN 1450 AM and KYYK 98.3 FM will celebrate KNET’s birthday with special broadcasts and interviews throughout the day Monday.

A celebratory reception will be held at the station, located at 800 W. Palestine Ave., from 9 a.m. until noon. The public is invited to attend.

Monday also marks the first day of broadcast for Westwood High School graduate Greg Branch’s local sports talk show “The Bullpen with Branch” on KNET. The three-hour show begins at 3 p.m. and will feature several special guests, including a call from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

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