History of KFSG

Pioneer L. A. Christian Station Stops Broadcasting After 79 Years

This article was originally written in 2003 for the web site LARADIO.com and is reproduced here with permission of the author, Jim Hilliker, who has written about and researched Los Angeles radio history since 1988.


© 2003 - Jim Hilliker

In August 2002, I wrote a history of KFSG radio that appeared on LARADIO.com. That story was mostly a technical timeline of the station’s changing frequencies and transmitter powers over the years, and the station’s relationship with KRKD, today’s 1150-AM license, since KFSG divided time with that station for more than 32 years. This time, I hope to cover KFSG from a different standpoint, mainly focusing on its earliest years on the air. I feel it was a legendary radio station in Los Angeles history, in its own way. I also believe it has left behind a strong foundation for Christian broadcasting stations to build on over the years, which will enable other such stations to continue in its path.

After 79 years of broadcasting in Los Angeles, Christian radio station KFSG sent its final words over the radio on the night of February 28/March 1, 2003, just before the clock struck midnight. Never mind that their 93.5 FM signal was licensed to Redondo Beach, with a twin transmitter on 93.5 licensed to Ontario. KFSG had three previous radio station licenses, on 96.3 FM in Los Angeles from 1970 to 2001, and two licenses to broadcast on the AM band, from 1924 to 1970. So, why did KFSG go off the air after 79 years? The company that owned the licenses for these stations, Spanish Broadcasting System, cancelled KFSG’s lease to use 93.5, so KFSG had to vacate the frequencies and leave the air. The two 93.5 stations became KZAB and KZBA, broadcasting in Spanish. The pioneer religious station of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is gone from the Southern California airwaves, and the organization so far has no idea about future plans to get a station in the L.A. area again. With the silencing of KFSG, their historic call letters are gone from Los Angeles, for now. A foreign-language/religious station on 1690-AM in Roseville, CA picked up the KFSG call letters on March 13th.

Sadly, for longtime listeners and radio historians, there was no extensive “goodbye” broadcast with a retrospective or history of the station, listener calls, memories from former KFSG workers, old airchecks, or an explanation of why KFSG was leaving the air, during its final hour. This is not too surprising. In late 1988, when I found out that KFAC on 1330-AM was leaving the air because it was being sold to the owners of KWKW-1300, I wrote a short history of KFAC and KWKW. I ended the piece with a comment, wondering if the station would make any special announcement before the final KFAC-AM ID was to be heard, and then gone forever. My story ended up in the hands of KFAC’s owners. After they read it, they decided they would make some special announcement. When the final moments came on the night of January 17, 1989, they did make a special effort to explain that it was the last broadcast of KFAC-1330 AM after nearly 58 years and why the station was changing over to Spanish as KWKW. But it was only a brief 3½ minutes, far too short to do justice to KFAC’s history. I hope what I have written below about the early years of KFSG, will fill in the gaps for those listeners who were disappointed, that the station didn’t make any effort to pay a tribute to those broadcasters who started KFSG in its infancy and kept it going. For the others who may read this, I hope you’ll enjoy this slice of Los Angeles radio history.

With so many radio stations to choose from in Los Angeles, I suppose a station like KFSG could have been lost in the shuffle by today’s radio listeners, given its format. After all, it did not show up in the Arbitron ratings of Los Angeles radio stations. Most L.A. radio listeners probably never have heard of KFSG. That’s understandable, since this station was enormously popular 75 to 80 years ago when radio was the newest “fad”, and there were only anywhere from 6 to 14 radio stations in L.A. and surrounding cities. The population of Los Angeles was still under 1 million at the time. But one thing is certain. There never would have been a KFSG without Aimee Semple McPherson, the woman evangelist who got the station on the air in 1924. Today, if some people know her name, it’s only because of an infamous kidnapping scandal in 1926, in which the press accused her of running off for a while with her former KFSG engineer, who was married. Others may have known or heard that actress Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Baker) was baptized by Aimee in 1926 at Angelus Temple and actor Anthony Quinn played in the Temple band as a teenager in the early-1930s. He also translated Aimee’s sermons into Spanish for the Mexicans attending the services. She was even immortalized in the 1937 song “Hooray for Hollywood”, in which songwriter Johnny Mercer included these lyrics, “Where anyone at all, from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple, is equally understood.”


I’d like to share with you what I believe is KFSG’s legacy all these years later, along with a few stories about KFSG from its first decade, that have become popular in radio history books and on the internet over the years. Many of these have grown into legendary status since the 1920s, while others may have been forgotten.

But, I also want to set history straight. Despite the public relations machine of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel promoting KFSG all these years, my research has found some facts about the station that may not make the higher-ups at the I.C.F.G. happy. I hope by bringing up these historical discoveries, I may be able to bury the false statements that have been published about KFSG for these many decades. However, in 2003, it might be too late now for many people, including the biographers, historians and the church, to take notice or care about changing their outdated stories on KFSG. But I’ll present my findings, anyway. Here they are:

First, KFSG was NOT the 1st religious radio station in the nation and it was NOT the 1st religious station on the air in Los Angeles. The first religious radio station on the air in this country was WDM radio, owned and operated by Church of the Covenant in Washington, D.C. WDM was licensed on December 22, 1921 and had its first broadcast on January 1, 1922. This station only lasted a bit over 3 years, as WDM was deleted on June 8, 1925. Not far behind WDM was KJS-Los Angeles (King Jesus Saves) in March of 1922, which became KTBI-Los Angeles in July 1925, owned by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, now known as Biola University in La Mirada. (The station was sold in 1931 and became KFAC). KJS/KTBI was the second religious radio station in this country and the first in Los Angeles. When I tried to explain this to the folks at KFSG and ICFG headquarters some years ago, I received a letter saying, “Of the four known religious stations prior to KFSG, none continued as religious stations beyond 1931.” I guess their belief is, even if WDM and KJS were on the air first, two years prior to KFSG going on the air as a religious station, it doesn’t count, because they both went off the air by 1931! That’s ridiculous. You can’t change history and the truth is that WDM and KJS/KTBI did start their radio ministries first. However, after going on the air in 1924, KFSG did become a very important pioneering Christian station with a huge following in its early years, that seemed to overshadow other religous radio stations of that time. Up until its demise this year, it was the oldest operating religious station in the nation. Its total years on the air on AM and FM had made it the 5th oldest radio station in Los Angeles. Moving into the number 5 slot now is KLAC, with a license dating back to March of 1924.

Second, it’s also easy to figure out that KFSG was NOT the 3rd radio station on the air in Los Angeles, as has been claimed in several books on Aimee Semple McPherson, related Web sites and on the KFSG Web site. In 1922 alone, two years before KFSG started broadcasting, L.A. stations KNX, KJS, KHJ, KFI and a few others had already taken to the airwaves! That’s at least 4 stations on the air in 1922. In chronological order, KFSG was the 21st radio station license issued within the Los Angeles city limits, and the 12th to actually go on the air with a regular broadcasting schedule. So, how can KFSG and the church that founded and owned the station, possibly claim it was only the 3rd radio station to go on the air in Los Angeles?? I believe it’s because the church and/or the writers of those books never bothered to check the facts related to radio history in Los Angeles, when KFSG was established. Also, Aimee’s son who turned 90 in March 2003, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, sent me information via an ICFG secretary in an email 3 years ago. He was 11-years-old when KFSG began. He said at that time, he played around with a radio he built himself, but never heard anything besides KFI, KHJ and his mother’s station, KFSG. So, perhaps, that’s where this inaccurate statement originated!

Third, KFSG owner Aimee Semple McPherson was NOT the first woman in the United States to hold a radio license or own a radio station in 1924. That was Marie Zimmerman, who owned and operated radio station WIAE in Vinton, Iowa in 1922 and 1923. However, she did co-own the station with her ham radio husband and Marie was a ham radio operator too. But the name on the WIAE license as owner was Mrs. Robert E. Zimmerman. (Source: Article by radio historian Donna Halper on “Marie Zimmerman--Broadcasting’s First Female Owner”). However, to be entirely fair, when Mrs. Zimmerman’s station went off the air, it was still extremely rare for a woman to own and operate a radio broadcasting station. That means it was quite likely that McPherson was still the only woman at that time to own a station, which may have been the case for many years. She was also most certainly the first woman to own and operate a Christian radio station.

Finally, I wanted to clear up some false information given in a book by one of McPherson's biographers in 1993. The author stated that every morning, Aimee Semple McPherson broadcast a program over KFSG called "The Sunshine Hour" at 7 a.m. Another book said this show went on at 6 am. The problem I have with that statement is that it's not true. While Aimee did host a daily show on KFSG known as the “Sunshine Hour”, it was actually on from 10:30 to 11 a.m., according to the KFSG program schedules I checked in magazines and newspapers from 1925 through 1928. The author also said that on June 29, 1925, a major earthquake struck Santa Barbara at 6:44 am, which is true. The 6.3 magnitude quake killed 13 and injured 65. But, the book said that Aimee got a call from someone in Santa Barbara asking for help. She then reportedly ran from her home into Angelus Temple to interrupt the morning broadcast in progress. Aimee supposedly grabbed the microphone to tell listeners to help out those affected by the quake by driving cars and truck filled with supplies, blankets, medicines, food, etc. to Santa Barbara. The problem with that story is it may not be true or accurate. That's because June 29, 1925 was a Monday, and KFSG was off the air or silent every Monday and was not broadcasting that day! Even if KFSG had been on that day, it didn't go on until 10:30 a.m. Still, it may be possible Aimee was able to get the station on the air to alert listeners about the quake. But, checking the Los Angeles Times for the next day, June 30, there were several stories about the earthquake. The KHJ daily listing and related article also told of how that station updated listeners occasionally on Monday, but I could not find any mention of KFSG going on the air or any credit given to McPherson and her listeners for helping during the emergency.


My main focus will be on what I see as arguably KFSG’s most popular years, 1924 to 1928. As I stated earlier, KFSG was founded by the dynamic, and at times, controversial female evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Her story has been told numerous times in at least 7 biographies published over the years, along with several Web sites that tell about her life and times. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a Pentecostal mission, and settled in Los Angeles in 1918. (The church was officially incorporated as a Protestant denomination in 1928). Between, 1920 and 1922, Aimee traveled with her mother on a non-stop series of evangelistic services. The purpose of those trips was to preach the word of God and raise money to build her home church in the Echo Park area of L.A., at 1100 Glendale Boulevard. With the cash donations, her 5300-seat church, Angelus Temple, opened on January 1, 1923 for $1.2 million dollars. It was dedicated to service and was debt-free. One year later, the church would boast its own radio station.

Sister Aimee, as her followers called her, was no stranger to innovation and controversy. Married three times, she was widowed and divorced twice. Her third marriage took place, even though it was against her religion to marry if a divorced spouse was still alive. One Web site on her life claims that Aimee McPherson’s weakness was men and that she had several affairs, some discrete and some not so discrete. Even the vaudeville comedian Milton Berle, later of early television fame, wrote in his 1974 autobiography that he had sex with Aimee on two occasions in 1930, at an out-of-the-way apartment she owned near the beach. She approached him following a charity show they both took part in at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A., while Berle was booked for a few days at a downtown Los Angeles vaudeville theater. Aimee was then 40 and the young Berle was only 22. When she married for the third time in 1931, Aimee eloped with 30-year-old David Hutton, a singer she met when he took part in one of her biblical spectacles. Their marriage lasted less than 3 years. In 1936, there was a story that reported her being blackmailed by someone who threatened to release nude photos of her. Yet amid all these incidents of scandal, rumor and gossip, Sister Aimee survived partly by presenting herself to her followers as a repentant sinner.

As an innovator, she and her mother were reportedly the first two women to travel alone across the U.S. in their car. Aimee introduced popular slang and jazz music into the church during the 1920s and sometimes would change the words of popular songs of the day, but would sing them with the same tune for her church services. One example: A 1925 song called “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” was changed by Aimee to “Yes Sir, That’s My Jesus.” Being close to Hollywood fascinated her, too. She popularized the use of church sermons which were illustrated and dramatized through elaborate stage plays, which the press said were very much like vaudeville shows. Her Angelus Temple stage was supposedly designed by the early film superstar Charlie Chaplin, who told Aimee, “Whether you like it or not, you’re an actress in show business now.” The famous stage shows in Angelus Temple rivaled what Hollywood and Broadway had to offer. Because of that, the shows Aimee presented attracted people who would never have thought about going inside a church. Once inside, they were entertained with her message of salvation. Once, after getting a traffic ticket, she rode onto the Angelus Temple stage on a police motorcycle, wearing a Los Angeles police officer’s uniform. Her message was for the audience to stop and obey God’s laws! Also, instead of the hellfire and damnation style of preaching of a Billy Sunday, Aimee preached about a God who loves us. She substituted a “sunnier religion” for a “gospel of fear.”

With her personality and style of preaching, Aimee turned the religious establishment of that time upside down. In fact, many of the male preachers didn’t like her and wouldn’t accept a woman as pastor of a church. (One Methodist preacher, “Fighting Bob” Shuler (not related to Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame) had his own radio station, KGEF from 1926 to 1931. He had a regular feud, on and off the air, with Aimee, from his Trinity Methodist Church in downtown L.A. He constantly denounced McPherson and her ministry, along with denouncing gambling, political corruption and alcohol, while going on the air, naming the sinners in Los Angeles. Shuler later lost his radio station. The Federal Radio Commission revoked Shuler’s license for KGEF in 1931, but that’s another story). Mrs. McPherson was written about in newspapers and magazines and was called everything from “the Barnum of religion” to “the Mary Pickford of revivalism.” She also managed to find and keep followers, despite the various scandals that played havoc with her life. But, her church services and sermons in the 1920s were shows in every sense of the word, and she did her best to bring that same excitement of being inside Angelus Temple in person to her radio audience.


Aimee knew in 1922 she wanted to spread the word of God and bring people to her church through the use of radio, which was first gaining popularity at the time. The official church history states that she was the first woman to preach a sermon over the radio in April of 1922, on the Rockridge radio station (KZY) in Oakland, California. This station went off the air in 1923, and did not become KNEW, as the KFSG history Web site has written.

With about 500 radio stations in the country in 1923, Aimee gained more radio experience on station KHJ, which donated time on Sunday mornings to Protestant preachers. This helped her decide to put her own radio station on the air. The experts told Aimee there were about 200,000 radio sets within 100 miles of Los Angeles, with more being built and sold every day. Operators of other Los Angeles radio stations advised McPherson she could be on the air for under $25,000. Her congregation agreed with her and they raised the money for the broadcasting station. Aimee hired popular radio engineer Kenneth Gladstone Ormiston from the Los Angeles Times’ station, KHJ, to be her radio engineer for $3,000 a year. (Ormiston had also written the radio column for the Times and was technical editor of Radio Doings magazine. In 1925 while at KFSG, he hosted a 45-minute weekly program over KFWB, the “Radio Doings Technical Hour.” He answered questions from readers of the magazine about radio, their reception problems, problems with their radios, etc.).

The new modern station was built on the 3rd floor of Angelus Temple, with its transmitting antenna on the church roof. Radio Doings magazine reported the following item about the new station, a week before it went on the air: “The KFSG operating room is located in the center of the third floor foyer, in a special built room. Mr. K.G. Ormiston, well known through his work at KHJ, will see that the big station transmits properly. An attractive studio has been located at the east end of the third floor foyer, and microphones have been installed in the auditorium, so that the programs may be sent from either. A complete phone and signal system is in operation between pulpit, studio and operating room.”

In January of 1924, the Department of Commerce-Radio Division wired Aimee that her license for the new radio station was granted, with the sequentially issued call letters KFNC. She was disappointed with the assigned call letters, and immediately sent off a reply telegram. She asked that her radio station be called KFSG, as her church of 4,000 resident members called its teachings the Foursquare Gospel. On January 28, 1924, the very same day, a telegram came back from Washington, D.C. telling Aimee that they had granted her request to call her radio station KFSG. She sent a wire back on January 29th, thanking the Department of Commerce for the change. The new station was assigned to broadcast on a wavelength of 278 meters, or 1080 kilocycles on the radio dial. KFSG’s debut came at a time when the new technology of radio broadcasting was still undergoing change and experimentation. The public was also using a variety of radios that weren’t standardized yet, to hear the broadcasts. These operated on storage batteries for power, and usually one had to have 3 different batteries to power those early radios. Recharging the batteries every so often became a chore for early radio buffs. Loudspeakers cost extra, too. The simpler, easy-to-tune one-dial all-electric AC radios weren’t on the scene until 1927 and 1928.

The start of this historic radio station took place 8 days later. The date was February 6, 1924. It was a time when a 500-watt radio station was considered to be “high power” and the average transmitter power needed to cover a large city. KFI and KHJ were already broadcasting with 500 watts, and KFSG was about to do the same. KNX would not boost its power to 500 watts until October of 1924. KFSG’s first broadcast took place during Los Angeles’ 2nd annual Radio and Electrical Exposition, at the Biltmore Hotel. The opening of the new radio station was the big story on the front page of the Los Angeles Times the next day, since Mrs. McPherson had been acquainted with the Times’ staff, through her occasional broadcasts on the newspaper’s station, KHJ. Aimee Semple McPherson’s own magazine, The Bridal Call, announced the big event this way in its February 1924 issue:

ANGELUS TEMPLE—Powerful 500 Watt Radio Station—Now Broadcasting—Wave Length 278 Meters—K.F.S.G. Angelus Temple, Kall Four Square Gospel. Draw up your fireside chair, adjust your earphones and tune in, for the great Angelus Temple Revival is now on the air!
With due pomp and ceremony becoming so great an event, the Angelus Temple radio broadcasting station was opened February 6th at 8 p.m. Enthusiastic thousands were assembled. Joyous anticipation rose to flood tide, as the powerful 500-watt Western Electric equipped station was formally dedicated to God and the people of the United States, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Panama, Hawaii, South Sea Islands, etc.

Scarce had the station come on the air, till telegrams and dispatches began to arrive from Arizona, Colorado, Canada and the Mexican border, stating that the program was being received as clearly as though the listeners-in were seated in the Temple.


Among the speakers on the dedicatory program who congratulated Angelus Temple for their radio equipment were acting Mayor Boyle Workman, Chairman of the City Council; Judge Carlos Hardy of the Superior Court; Col. J.F. Dillon, radio supervisor of the Western States for the Department of Commerce; Harry Chandler, owner of the Los Angeles Times; “Uncle John” Daggett, announcer of the Times radio station KHJ; Brook Hawkins, builder of Angelus Temple; Dr. J. Whitcomb Brougher, Pastor Temple Baptist Church and many others.

So draw up your chair, attach your loudspeaker and listen in. Three times daily (except Monday), you may hear Angelus Temple and the great revival sermons, song and prayer. Twice weekly, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a message will be broadcasted for the shut-ins. May God grant that the radio prove a mighty blessing to old and young, rich and poor, to sick and well, to one and all.”

The first words ever spoken over KFSG were taken from the Bible, John 3:16. They were spoken from the “Gray Studio” by Aimee Semple McPherson, at the start of the station’s dedicatory ceremony that evening. Programs during KFSG’s early years that originated from the main studio were listed in the newspapers and magazines as “Gray Studio” programs.

When KFSG first began broadcasting, a group of Christians formed a Radio Missionary Society for the station. Each member took a day to pay back the pastor, making it a tribute to a loved one, a cherished event or in appreciation for the broadcasts. In this manner, KFSG was sponsored for many years, solely by its listeners and was non-commercial. Sister Aimee also decided to get word out about KFSG and broadcasting her church services in a unique way. Since not every household had a radio at that time, she set up tents around various Southern California communities, where large groups of people gathered to hear KFSG. For some, it was also their first time listening to a radio.


Within a few weeks, KFSG was as popular as any Los Angeles radio station at the time, and there were only 6 stations on the air regularly in the area then. By the middle of 1925, there were still less than a dozen stations on the air in the L.A. region! During the first few months on the air, KFSG’s staff included Gladwyn N. Nichols, the station announcer, who also was the Musical Director at Angelus Temple; Essie Locy acted as station hostess, and K.G. Ormiston who was KFSG’s operator-engineer.

There were no Arbitron ratings or any other ratings services at this time. The only way radio stations could determine if their signal was getting out and get an idea who was hearing them, was from listeners either calling the radio station on the phone or by sending the station a card, letter or telegram reporting reception of the station. In March of 1924, The Bridal Call reported that mail was pouring into Angelus Temple from throughout the United States and outside the country, in response to the messages sent out over KFSG. All the mail was “answered by a competent staff of church members who had volunteered for the work.” The March 29, 1924 KFSG schedule in Radio Doings magazine had a note at the bottom of the page that showed the growing interest the public had in radio at this time. It said that souvenir programs containing photos of the Temple, studios and operating plant of KFSG would be mailed without cost to those writing for them.

During the week of April 6, 1924, the KFSG program schedule in Radio Doings showed KFSG on the air every day except Monday. The station never went on the air before 10:30 a.m., and in those first months, didn’t go on the air until 3:30 p.m. many days. Like many stations in those days, KFSG went on and off the air as many as 4 or 5 times a day, between broadcasts of church services, and organ recitals or studio programs. The last broadcast of the evening during its first year was usually no later than 9 or 10 p.m., and in 1925 there was a Sunday night organ recital at 11 p.m. By 1927, the station remained on the air more frequently until 11 p.m. or later. Besides the church services and sermons by Aimee, there were children’s stories hosted by her daughter Roberta that were broadcast, along with the regular organ recitals by Esther Fricke Green, and concerts performed by the Temple Silver Band, Orchestra and Choir. Co-operative programs were also to be given by “men and women active in the welfare of Southern California.” By August of 1928, Radio Doings magazine featured a photo of Fricke Green seated at the Temple organ. The caption said she had broadcast more than 825 organ recitals over KFSG in four years for her West Coast listeners.


Before the nation was connected by network radio, the early radio fans sat up into the late night hours, tuning around to see what stations they could hear. Areas outside large cities typically weren’t served by radio during the daytime hours then. The AM band had only 500-600 stations, not the congested band of nearly 5,000 AM stations today. There also wasn’t any of the man-made interference from televisions, computers, light dimmers, fluorescent lights, etc., that we have today that plays havoc with AM reception. It’s hard to imagine now, but with many people then using outdoor copper wire antennas hooked up to their radios, it was possible for them to “pull in” a 500-watt signal from KFSG, since that was the average power then, and few stations transmitted with more than 5,000 watts.

After its signal had “skipped” out into the night sky for several hundred miles, (especially in the cold winter months), letters were sent to KFSG from listeners in North Dakota, Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other states. Dedicated listeners and radio hobbyists told KFSG how well or poorly the station was heard. Many others also wrote about how the Angelus Temple church services and music affected them, and how the broadcasts were inspiring and appreciated. Sometimes, the station was even heard in far off places such as the Cape Verde Islands and New Zealand!

Here are a few examples of letters sent to KFSG from some of those listeners long ago. The first one is from 1925, sent from Illinois:

We would be very unappreciative not to let you know we heard your Birthday Program this morning (Feb. 6, 1925, first anniversary of KFSG). I must tell you how we happened to tune in. My husband, being quite a radio fan, dreamed that he had your station on the air. The dream was so real he awoke and dashed out to the radio about 2 a.m. The first thing I heard was your announcer saying, ‘KFSG, Angelus Temple’. I did not remain in bed long then, for it came in loud and clear on the loud speaker. We sat up here in the chilly morning hours, wrapped in robes, listening in until 4 o’clock. We wish to convey our appreciation to all who took part, for indeed it was food for our souls and spirits. We do hope to hear you soon again.

Mr. and Mrs. V.E. Richardson
Zion, Illinois

From November of 1924, this came from a listener in Indiana:
The service broadcast by KFSG was heard and enjoyed from 11:00 till 11:45 p.m., Sunday night. Central Time. Reception was exceptionally clear and consistent. Would like to know who the woman preacher was who delivered the message and what is the denomination of the church?

Francis EuDaly
Seymour, Indiana

This is from the winter of 1925:

Just a word of appreciation of your organ program which I heard here and enjoyed greatly. You must have a very fine transmitter out there, as I received you on a home-made single tube set. I tuned in on your wave at about 1:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and heard and understood every announcement, and held you until you signed off at 1:49, E.S.T.

George D. Walter
Easton, Pennsylvania

And finally, from October of 1927, this item from Aimee’s The Bridal Call magazine:

New Zealand is a long way off—but not too far for the Gospel messenger of KFSG to wing its radiant way. And if the Sunday evening program here happens to be Monday over there, the Gospel words are just as true and the Gospel music just as sweet. Mr. George A. Munro, a listener at Clevedon, South Auckland, reports in a letter to Esther Fricke Green, Angelus Temple’s accomplished organist, that besides tuning in the musical hour with which she delights radio land in this country every Sunday night, she is the first lady announcer whom he has ever heard from the United States. His letter states, ‘I tuned you in on Monday evening, September 5th’, Mr. Munro wrote, ‘which would be late Sunday night with you. Using a four-tube receiver, reception was good phone strength and very clear, though fading was rather noticeable because of the extreme distance. I heard a song and two organ solos, then the hymn, Safe in the Arms of Jesus. Another organ solo followed, which I recognized as the well-known hymn, Abide with Me. Your station then closed down, the New Zealand time being 6:31 p.m.
The letters from Los Angeles area listeners of the 1920s are just as fascinating, thanking KFSG for broadcasting the church services for shut-ins, the Sunshine Hour program every morning, or simply the sounds from the Angelus Temple choir and band. These are just a few of the many thousands of letters received by KFSG during its early years. It was fairly typical then for other radio stations in L.A. and across the U.S. to also get flooded with letters and cards reporting reception of their signals in those days, from fairly great distances.


Besides the thousands of radio fans who tuned into the KFSG broadcasts each week, the new station was also drawing the attention of the regional Radio Inspector from the Department of Commerce 6th Radio District in San Francisco, Col. J.F. Dillon. One legend that has been passed down over the years is that KFSG was taken off the air or at least received a stern warning, because the station either used too much power, drifted off its assigned frequency or changed frequencies without permission. These violations of the radio regulations caused interference around Los Angeles to those trying to hear other local stations. In reality, the station was never taken off the air. But, some warning letters were sent to KFSG in 1924, shortly after the station’s debut. In a letter dated February 21, 1924, J.F. Dillon told Aimee in his opening sentence, “This office is daily receiving complaints regarding interference caused by the operation of K.F.S.G. with the reception from K.F.I. and K.H.J. and distant stations.” (Source: Letters, telegrams and other items in the old Department of Commerce KFSG files, copied for me by the National Archives). Dillon’s solution was to have KFSG go on the air only three times a week. He felt part of the problem may have been the early radios of the day, which had trouble filtering out or separating other strong local stations, from the one you may have been trying to hear!

KFSG was then assigned to 1080 on the AM dial and on 1090 from April 1925 to February 1928. KFI was at 640, KHJ was at 740 and KNX was on approximately 833 kilocycles, and 890 by the end of 1924. If Aimee was allowing KFSG to use other frequencies other than the one she was assigned to broadcast on, she was not alone. There were plenty of newspaper stories in the mid-1920s, especially in larger eastern cities, about radio stations moving up or down the dial to escape interference from other stations. Whatever took place possibly kept happening between 1924 and sometime in 1925. There must have been some warning from the Department of Commerce that KFSG could lose its license if the station continued breaking the rules, but we have no date of such an incident.

In response to these warnings from the radio regulators, at some point, a frustrated Mrs. McPherson fired off an angry telegram to Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. He was in charge of regulating radio broadcasting at the time, before he was elected President of the United States in November of 1928. The telegram to Hoover from Sister Aimee reportedly said:

I wrote to Aimee’s son, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson about this in 1994. He tried to tell me the incident between his mother and Herbert Hoover regarding the telegram never took place! In his letter responding to me, Rolf said, “This is one of the many rumors which have persisted through the years. Mother never attempted to defy the law, but always endeavored to comply with the rules. The statements you mention certainly were not typical of her way of doing things. I might explain that the equipment in those days was not always adequate, but the situations were cleared as quickly as they could be.”

However, history seems to prove that such an incident more than likely took place. Matthew T. Schaefer, Archivist at the Hoover Presidential Library, responded to my inquiry about this much-reported incident of early radio history. He wrote the following to me: “Trying to separate the history from the legend of the McPherson telegram to Hoover is difficult. All who have written on Hoover, the Department of Commerce and radio mention the McPherson telegram.” These sources include two biographies on Herbert Hoover and a dissertation, and they all cite volume II of Hoover’s memoirs, published in 1952 as their source. Schaefer continues, “In the memoirs, Hoover writes as if he has the McPherson telegram in hand. Unfortunately (for today’s historians), the original McPherson telegram is not extant. This leaves as the earliest source, a radio address Hoover gave on November 11, 1945 on the 25th anniversary of radio. In this speech, Hoover tells the story about KFSG violating the radio regulations, then says ‘I can give you approximately the telegram I received from her,’ then proceeds with the words of Aimee Semple McPherson.”

In the radio speech from 1945, the words Hoover spoke are nearly the same as in his memoirs, except for the last three sentences of the telegram, which he read this way:

The last sentence seems to be Sister Aimee’s way of telling Hoover and the radio inspectors from the Department of Commerce to stop sending her letters about KFSG straying off-frequency and interfering with other stations. Hoover reportedly told her that if she stuck to the rules, she could keep her license for KFSG and stay on the air. Another version of the story told in some radio history books says Hoover convinced McPherson to hire a competent broadcasting engineer to keep the KFSG transmitter within its assigned power and frequency. The reason this story is inaccurate is she already had a capable engineer for KFSG from the start, Kenneth Ormiston.

Mr. Schaefer wrapped up his email letter to me, talking about how the above statements by A.S.M. vary from Hoover’s memoirs: “Either the 1945 radio address or the 1952 memoir permitted some slippage between the original telegram and the story as told by Herbert Hoover. Given Hoover’s careful attention to documenting history, I am inclined to believe the story is true (even without the original telegram as the irrefutable evidence).”

As for the exact date or year this incident took place, the radio history books and internet articles on McPherson say it was anywhere from 1925 to 1927. But the letters I have from the Department of Commerce to KFSG also indicate that this may have taken place as early as 1924. Again, I’ll quote Matthew Schaefer on this topic: “I revisited the sources I consulted last time and some additional sources, and could find nothing to narrow down the date of the McPherson telegram to Hoover. Hoover’s memoirs discuss it amidst the several radio conferences held between 1922 and the eventual passage of radio regulation by Congress in February 1927. Since ASM broadcast throughout those years (at least from 1924 onward), and the telegram is lost to history, there is no way to further narrow the date.” This means that those who previously wrote about the telegram incident were also guessing as to what year it occurred. One more possibility is this incident could have taken place in 1926 or 1927, after Kenneth Ormiston left KFSG. His last day there was December 31, 1925, after only two years on the job, for reasons I’ll give you later in this article. In that case, if it happened in 1926 or 1927, two to three years after KFSG received its first warning letters about causing interference, the blame would be placed not on Ormiston, but on the new KFSG chief engineer who replaced him. But it could have been Aimee McPherson, as owner of KFSG. giving the orders on how to run the station.

Not long after McPherson’s skirmish with the Department of Commerce over radio broadcasting regulations, a Federal Court in Chicago ruled in 1926 against Herbert Hoover, regarding what radio stations could and couldn’t do under the Radio Act of 1912. The judge’s ruling determined that Hoover and the Department of Commerce had to issue radio station licenses to all who asked for them, he had no right to restrict what frequencies radio stations used, their hours of operation or their transmitter power. Because of this court ruling, between July of 1926 and January of 1927, broadcasting became a “free-for-all.” The number of radio stations increased to over 700 and many jumped around the dial to any frequency they chose and used higher output power than they were assigned. The chaotic situation finally ended in February 1927, when Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927, which formed the Federal Radio Commission. The FRC became today’s FCC in 1934.

An article in the November 3, 1926 issue of the New Republic quoted from columns Aimee wrote for newspapers. There’s nothing about radio, but her writing style was very similar to her ‘minions of Satan’ message to Hoover. Other magazine articles about her in the ‘20s mentioned her amazing ability to use radio for fundraising and to inspire listeners to donate or even join her church. Since KFSG was a non-profit station for many years, this was no doubt helpful in getting the money needed to keep KFSG equipment running, pay electric bills and other costs related to the station and Angelus Temple.

It's also interesting to note that the story about the telegram McPherson sent to Hoover is never mentioned once in any of the biographies or other books about Aimee Semple McPherson written in the past 40 or so years. The story only seems to be come up in Hoover's memoirs and then was picked up and repeated in numerous books on early radio history or history of religious broadcasting, and in some college textbooks on the early development of radio and TV broadcasting. Even a pamphlet KFI radio printed in 1972 on the occasion of that station’s 50th anniversary told the story of the KFSG interference to KFI and the telegram, so it’s more than likely true. I haven't searched through microfilm files from 1924 and 1925 of the L.A. newspapers to see if any of this was reported by the press at the time, or whether the letters between Aimee, J.F. Dillon and Herbert Hoover were private matters that the public didn't know about until much later. Whatever the truth is about this story, it is a fascinating chapter in the KFSG story.


Since KFSG averted further trouble with the government and was able to stay on the air by following the radio regulations of the day, I am trying to determine the following: How could such a reliable and serious radio engineer as Kenneth G. Ormiston allow KFSG to possibly transmit on various frequencies it was not assigned to use or transmit with too much power? Without a time machine, it’s nearly impossible to get to the truth of the matter today. So, I’ll try to make some educated guesses on the topic.

During the years 1924 and 1925, KFSG became well established as a reliable broadcaster and popular station in Los Angeles and in distant states. A couple of books on McPherson’s life seem to imply or tell the reader that Ken Omiston and Aimee had a very close working relationship, before, during and after all of her KFSG broadcasts, six days a week. So, quite possibly, his friendship with her may have caused him to not keep an eye on the transmitter meters when he should have. But that’s speculation on my part, all these years later. Another explanation that makes sense to me is that broadcasting transmitters in those days tended to drift off-frequency. In fact, crystal-controlled radio transmitters to keep all stations locked on their assigned broadcast frequencies didn’t appear until 1926 and later. So, it’s very likely that KFSG may have wandered off-frequency every so often in those early years on the air, as other stations did too, due to the technology of the day. This caused heterodynes or whistles and squeals to be heard by listeners as the signal edged close to another station on the dial. But for Ormiston to deliberately re-tune the transmitter to various wavelengths every day instead of the usual KFSG frequency is difficult for me to believe.

Another book on the evangelist’s life points out that during Angelus Temple church services, the KFSG engineer, who was an agnostic, would talk to Aimee via a telephone intercom from the KFSG control room on the Temple’s upper floor and her pulpit chair. He would frequently crack jokes about the church services, the choir, the band, and how the broadcast was going, which made Aimee get the giggles. Apparently, due to the excellent acoustics, their private chats could sometimes be heard in the second balcony, without either of them knowing about it. The gossip about the two of them being more than friends began to spread quickly.

Aimee knew Mrs. Ormiston and dined with the Ormistons at their home and in public, but the gossip continued. Aimee’s mother, Minnie Kennedy, put pressure on Aimee to fire Ormiston due to the gossip. But she refused, and he stayed on as the KFSG chief engineer and producer of all the KFSG broadcasts until December of 1925. He left his job at KFSG on the last day of 1925, as the gossip put an unbearable strain on his marriage. In January of 1926 while Aimee Semple McPherson was on an overseas trip, Mrs. Ormiston told Aimee’s mother she was going to sue for divorce, naming Aimee as a correspondent. Ruth Ormiston soon changed her mind, but did separate from her husband by taking their son to live with her parents in Australia, after reporting Ormiston missing on January 22, 1926.


On May 18, 1926, Aimee went for a swim at Ocean Park, between Santa Monica and Venice, during a day of relaxing at the beach and writing some sermons. Her secretary stayed behind on the sand, while Aimee was swimming. She was not seen again all day. At first, it was feared that McPherson had drowned in the surf, but a search for her body turned up nothing. Her mother, son, daughter and Angelus Temple workers were heartbroken, believing Aimee was dead. Then, on June 23rd, Aimee reappeared in Douglas, Arizona, across from the Mexican border, with a story that she had been kidnapped from the beach and held captive, but managed to escape. This good news came a few days after her mother got a ransom note that said Aimee would be sold into “White Slavery”, if the $500,000 ransom wasn’t paid. The police and newspaper reporters however quickly noted that Aimee didn’t appear sunburn, if she had walked across the desert for many miles to freedom, and her shoes, clothes and overall physical condition looked too good to make her story believable. They also could find no sign of a shack where McPherson claimed she had been held captive.

With the earlier gossip about Kenneth Ormiston and Aimee having a secret romance, there were newspaper and police reports that a woman who looked like Aimee Semple McPherson had been seen with the former KFSG engineer, spending time inside a cottage in Carmel, CA and other towns up and down the coast during McPherson’s disappearance. In the 1959 book by Lately Thomas “The Vanishing Evangelist”, he wrote that McPherson and Ormiston had been seen checking into the same hotels at various times in California, prior to the alleged kidnapping. Thomas also stated that a grocery receipt signed by McPherson was found in the Carmel cottage where it appears Aimee had met Ormiston during the time she was allegedly kidnapped. Several eyewitnesses testified that they saw the two together during that time.

Suspicion led to a Grand Jury investigation in L.A., with charges of perjury and manufacturing evidence. The newspapers dug up witnesses and handed them over to the district attorney. On August 3rd, the Grand Jury reconvened to look at possible charges against Aimee, her mother, Kenneth Ormiston and a woman named Lorraine Wiseman.

During the several weeks of Grand Jury testimony, Aimee was tried in the press each day. But she took her case to her followers at Angelus Temple and to those listening to KFSG radio each night. She repeatedly told the radio listeners about the kidnapping incident, often saying, “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.” After each day’s court session, she also told the KFSG and Temple audience how ridiculous the stories were that came from the witnesses dug up by the prosecution. Aimee and Ormiston denied that they were together in Carmel, while Aimee was missing. Ormiston testified he was with another woman, not Mrs. McPherson. The newspapers ate it up and Aimee was front-page news from Los Angeles to New York, in all 48 states. The complete transcript of the hearing covered more than 3,500 pages! Finally, on November 3, 1926, Judge Samuel R. Blake bound over Aimee and her mother Minnie for trial on the charge of “criminal conspiracy to commit acts injurious to public morals and to prevent and obstruct justice,” which threatened “the peace and dignity of the People of the State of California.” Aimee and her mother faced three counts of conspiracy that could carry a prison term of up to 42 years if convicted.

Suddenly, after the months of investigation and the media circus during the court hearings, the case was dropped before it even came to trial! One of the witnesses changed her story again, saying that Aimee did not hire her to perpetrate a hoax on the public. On January 10, 1927, L.A. County District Attorney Asa Keys reluctantly asked the court to drop the charges against Aimee and her mother. The case was formally dismissed on July 8th of that year.


With the case closed, the controversy was not over. Many people at the time believed Aimee’s story and many others believed the story that she was in hiding with a lover, whether or not it was Ormiston. Other stories came out, saying she disappeared to have an abortion or was in hiding to have plastic surgery. Another group of people thought there was a conspiracy to discredit Aimee and that the newspapers were a small part of a larger game to remove her from the pulpit of Angelus Temple. A bit of thin evidence seems to point in that direction. When men and women accepted Jesus Christ as their savior at Angelus Temple, it was common for McPherson to reveal their testimonies to the public. One of her favorite methods of doing this was to broadcast the testimonies of new Christian converts over her radio station, KFSG. During those first three years of KFSG broadcasts, many people who were formerly on the lower rungs of society, including drug dealers, gamblers, bootleggers, etc., testified by radio over Aimee’s station. Many of them would frequently “name the names” of former associates. Some people have suggested a plot conceived by “The Mob.” Aimee’s family always believed that “The Mob” kidnapped her. To this day, what really happened to Sister Aimee from May 18 to June 23 of 1926 remains a mystery and the truth may never be known. (This chapter of her life was made into a 1976 TV movie, “The Disappearance of Aimee”, starring Faye Dunaway as Aimee Semple McPherson and Bette Davis as her domineering mother. Also, in the 1960 Academy Award winning movie “Elmer Gantry” with Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones, taken from the Sinclair Lewis novel, the character of evangelist Sharon Falconer was created by Lewis, based on McPherson).

The press later reported that Kenneth G. Ormiston acted like a gentleman and never spoke of the alleged incident with Aimee Semple McPherson ever again. He continued his work as the writer of radio columns for newspapers and magazines. He also worked steadily as a chief engineer/technician for several more Los Angeles radio stations, including KEJK-Beverly Hills and KMTR-Hollywood in 1929, and later for KNX-Hollywood, until his untimely death in January 1937, during surgery. Ormiston had been in charge of the projects that boosted KNX’s power to 50,000 watts and got their first vertical antenna tower erected in Sherman Oaks during the early 1930s.

Aimee’s popularity had soared nationwide, despite the controversy. Word had spread about her cheery, friendly style of preaching and the excitement during her church services, which sometimes included faith healings. The way she got the congregation at each service to give money when the collection plate was passed around was also famous. Frequently, she would say she didn’t like the noise made by the jingle of coins. To emphasize the point, she would tell the people, “No coins please. Only folding money!” Or, if Sister Aimee’s mother needed a new coat, she’d make it known to those in attendance by saying, “Mother needs a new coat! Who will help donate money today, so that mother can have a new winter coat?”

Angelus Temple was packed to capacity three times a day, every day, for several years, causing traffic jams in the area. Her church in Echo Park had become a “must see” for tourists visiting Los Angeles. Picture postcards of Angelus Temple were printed up showing the KFSG antenna atop the temple roof. Aimee entered floats in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade two years in a row. On January 1, 1925, “The Radio Float” depicting Angelus Temple and the KFSG antenna towers, won first prize and the Grand Sweepstakes Trophy in the parade. Her church continued to gain new members. As an example of her popularity throughout the 1920s, on warm Sunday mornings and many warm evenings, one could walk down a Los Angeles residential street and never miss a word of Aimee’s sermons on the radio. That’s because everyone had their windows open in those pre-air conditioning days, and many who had radios were often tuned to KFSG to listen to Aimee, in order to see what she would say next. By the late 1920s, Aimee Semple McPherson was as famous as Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh.


During 1927, KFSG celebrated its 3rd anniversary and Angelus Temple its 4th. It was the height of the Roaring ‘20s and people close to Aimee Semple McPherson noticed she was changing and they didn’t like it. In one of the books on McPherson’s life, it says 1927 was the year Sister Aimee rejected social taboos preached against by Bible-believing churches of that time. She bobbed her hair and started drinking, dancing and wearing short skirts. There were also photos of her that showed she had changed her hair color from brunette to platinum blonde. The director of her choir and band, Gladwyn Nichols, who also had acted as KFSG’s radio announcer up to this point, along with the entire 300-member choir, resigned from Angelus Temple because of her lifestyle.

But KFSG survived the changes and went on as always, broadcasting various services and programs from Angelus Temple. In 1928, the station’s announcer was C.N. Tucker and the Technician in charge (same as a chief engineer) was P.S. Lucas. In 1929, KFSG listed Thomas Eade as the announcer heard on each broadcast and M.E. Kennedy was now the station’s technician/engineer. He was listed as KFSG’s chief engineer until at least 1939. The KFSG station manager in 1928 and ’29 was Roderick H. Morrison.

Besides the changes in station personnel, Sister Aimee had to deal with the changes the new Federal Radio Commission made regarding KFSG’s frequency assignment. KFSG had been broadcasting on 1090 on the AM dial since April of 1925. In February of 1928, the FRC forced KFSG into a time-share arrangement on 1190 kilocycles with station KEJK of Beverly Hills. This meant KFSG could not go on the air whenever Aimee decided, although the station did expand to a 7-day-a-week schedule. But sharing a frequency with another station resulted in program schedule changes for KFSG listeners. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, KFSG went off the air by 7 p.m. and KEJK got the evening hours. KFSG was able to broadcast services Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday nights, even staying on the air past midnight Saturday. KFSG also had the bulk of the morning and afternoon programs on 1190.

Then, on November 11, 1928, the FRC made the first major national reallocation of the AM Broadcast Band, assigning stations to operate on “clear, regional or local channels.” The FRC decided to move KFSG from 1190 to 1120 kilocycles, sharing time with KMIC-Inglewood. (That station became KRKD in 1932; today’s KXTA-1150. KFSG continued to share time on 1120 and later 1150 until the ICFG purchased KRKD and merged the two stations together in 1961.) The October 12, 1929 issue of Radio Doings shows that under this share-time agreement, KFSG had even fewer hours than before. It still had most of the hours on 1120 on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Otherwise, KFSG was heard during the nighttime hours only on Thursdays and Saturdays. It was also evident that the founder and president of KFSG had cut back on her involvement in KFSG broadcasts. Sister Aimee was still on the air for all the Sunday services, but wasn’t heard on the station as much during the weekdays anymore, according to the radio program schedules.


The hard times of the Great Depression years put a strain on nearly everyone in the United States. There are some writers who claim that the popularity of Aimee Semple McPherson diminished during the 1930s, but that’s not really true. Yes, the curiosity and media frenzy that attracted many to Angelus Temple and KFSG broadcasts early on from 1924-1928 had come to an end. But Aimee’s church services still drew large crowds of her faithful believers and church membership continued to grow. That was especially true for many from the South and Midwest who settled in Los Angeles, as they tried to fit in with life in an urban area.

There were still controversies in Aimee’s life in the ‘30s, including dozens of lawsuits and splits with her mother and daughter Roberta over the operation of Angelus Temple and the Foursquare Church ministry. Aimee and her mother, Minnie Kennedy, apparently had a violent argument, ending when Aimee hit her mother and broke her nose. Aimee also had a reported nervous breakdown in 1930.

However, one bright spot at this time was her extensive social ministry in Los Angeles, with as many as one out of four people unemployed in 1933, during the darkest days of the Depression. After the 1929 stock market crash and through the 1930s, Aimee set up a service of Angelus Temple, which provided hot meals, clothing and other necessities to an estimated 1.5 million needy people of Southern California---the sick, hungry unemployed and homeless of those years. Aimee’s soup kitchen reportedly fed some 80,000 people in its first month of operation. The clothing, blankets, free medical clinic and homeless shelter all came about through donations to Angelus Temple and volunteer labor. Angelus Temple, through Aimee’s leadership, also helped victims of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and in March of 1938, when torrential rainstorms caused extensive flooding in Southern California.

Despite shorter hours of operation and possibly fewer listeners since late-1928, KFSG continued its broadcast service as a radio ministry of Angelus Temple and the Foursquare Gospel Church into the 1930s and ‘40s. Technical improvements were made to the KFSG studio and control room, with newer microphones, transmitter and other broadcast equipment. By the mid-1930s, KFSG along with timeshare partner KRKD had increased their daytime transmitting power to 2,500 watts, while night power remained at 500 watts.

The radio made Aimee’s voice one of the most recognizable of that era. Those who tuned to KFSG to listen to her, became accustomed to the way this pioneer radio evangelist began her broadcasts, with the words, “You thousands of people here, you in the orchestra, you in the first balcony, you in the second balcony, you crowds standing in the rear, you thousands listening in over the radio!” Sister McPherson continued to keep busy, working to help the lonely and ill, bring people to Christ and minister to those who already were saved. Besides the KFSG broadcasts and the illustrated dramatic sermons performed onstage at Angelus Temple, she also syndicated some of her sermons, which were recorded and sent to various radio stations across the nation.

Along with Sister Aimee’s sermons on Sundays and other days of the week, the station broadcast a Christian action serial, “The Adventures of Jim Trask-Lone Evangelist.” This was probably brought on by the popularity of the radio action serials then, such as “Little Orphan Annie”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Superman”, etc. By early 1935, the radio hobby magazine RADEX indicated that KFSG was on the air only from 6:30 to 7:15 am and 7:30 pm until midnight, but I believe the Sunday hours were somewhat expanded for the Sunday church services. Also, KFSG’s engineering staff conducted some special after-midnight DX program tests on occasion, for radio hobbyists trying to hear the KFSG signal and collect a verification card or letter. For example, in a postcard from January 1935, KFSG station manager Charles Walkem informs a DXer in Wisconsin who heard KFSG’s signal, that KFSG was going to broadcast a special DX program on Saturday night, Feb. 23, 1935 from 11 pm until 1 am Pacific time, and that he should tell his other DXer friends about it. While Sister Aimee often referred to KFSG as “The Cathedral of the Air” or “The Voice of Angelus Temple”, the KFSG letterhead in the late 1920s and early-‘30s used the slogan “The Angelus Temple Radio Beacon.” By the late-1930s and early-‘40s, a special KFSG QSL card was sent to distant listeners, which had a drawing of Aimee next to a microphone and the call letters in red.

1937 to 1944

During the earliest years of KFSG and Angelus Temple, Aimee Semple McPherson’s name had appeared on the front page of Los Angeles newspapers an average of 3 times a week. A similar amount of press coverage on Aimee had taken place in the New York Times and other large newspapers, between 1926 and 1937. Up until 1937, there had been roughly 45 lawsuits filed against Aimee and/or Angelus Temple. Then, in 1937, Aimee obtained a new business manager for Angelus Temple, Mr. Giles Knight. He kept her name out of the press and got her to agree to a “no interview” policy to make sure there were no unfavorable newspaper stories about Mrs. McPherson or her church. Also, because of Giles Knight taking charge, during the last 7 years of her life, the lawsuits stopped and not much was heard from Sister Aimee, except over radio KFSG and inside Angelus Temple. She also did some occasional traveling and made public appearances in many cities, much in the way Billy Graham traveled and preached around the U.S. later.

McPherson had received much favorable press coverage for her work in helping the needy of L.A. during the Depression. When World War II began in December of 1941, again, Aimee pitched in to help. She appeared around Los Angeles making patriotic speeches and selling war bonds. She made good use of the KFSG airwaves during this time, too. During 1942, Sister Aimee used KFSG to teach her listeners about rationing and the other sacrifices America had to undergo during the war. KFSG was also used to teach the public about air raid blackouts, war bond sales, etc. In return, for her fund-raising efforts and outstanding use of KFSG radio during the war, the U.S. Treasury and Office of War Information issued her special citations for her “patriotic endeavors.”


With all the pressure of running Angelus Temple and its many branches, a Bible college for missionaries, writing religious songs and operas, editing a magazine for her followers and conducting weekly church services, Aimee’s health began to suffer by the late-1930s. She began to take tranquilizers to get the sleep she so badly needed. On September 27, 1944, Aimee was in Oakland, CA to speak at a revival service. The night before, she had taken an overdose of her prescribed medication, classified as a “hypnotic sedative”. She never woke up and died that morning. The coroner’s report said it was an overdose of barbiturates that caused Aimee Semple McPherson to die, prior to what would have been her 54th birthday. Her funeral service drew many thousands of people to Angelus Temple who lined up for hours. As they passed her open casket, many were heard to whisper to others, “That’s the woman who led me to Jesus.” For years, critics accused her of diverting funds from the Temple for her personal gain. However, at the end, she left behind a personal estate worth only $10,000. It’s been written that at the time of her death, Aimee had been thinking about applying for a television station license in 1944. With the war on, it’s likely that would not have been a possibility until 1945 or later. Still, it would have been interesting to see how she handled the new world of TV as one of its early televangelists, but it was not to be.


Aimee Semple McPherson passed away during the 20th anniversary year of the radio station she founded, KFSG. In 2003, KFSG radio passed away into the airwaves of time, just a few weeks after the station’s 79th anniversary and during the 80th anniversary of Angelus Temple. The landmark church, which she opened in 1923, was made a National Historic Landmark on April 27, 1992. It still holds services and remains very much a part of the ICFG.

After Aimee’s death, her son, Rolf McPherson, took over as head of Angelus Temple and the Foursquare Church. He continued in that position, until he stepped down in 1988. At 90, he’s President Emeritus of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The ICFG continued to grow and prosper over the years. It now serves more than 2 million members in 83 countries around the world.

KFSG radio continued to grow and prosper and change through the decades after Sister Aimee died. After being a non-profit station for many years, it became a successful commercial operation, but continued its mission as a Christian station spreading the word of Jesus, until it left the air the night of February 28, 2003.

While KFSG wasn’t the first religious station in the country, it didn’t miss by much. The station was a true pioneer broadcaster, like the other L.A. radio stations that first went on the air in the tumultuous 1920s, radio’s first big decade. It soon passed other Christian stations in Los Angeles in popularity (and probably some secular stations too, at times) during its early years. It likely even drew people who may never have thought of listening to a religious radio station before, until the word was spreading around town about Aimee Semple McPherson’s church and the exciting way she could preach. But times change and Los Angeles grew. So did the number of radio stations. KFSG changed with the times, but was a success on its own terms, even if the fanatical popularity of the roaring ‘20s wasn’t there anymore and most people in Southern California were not familiar with the station, the call letters or its heritage.

During those “pioneering” days of radio, KFSG set a standard for future Christian broadcasting, and cleared a path for the nearly 2000 religious radio stations on the air in the U.S. today to follow. Whether or not another station with the KFSG call letters returns to the L.A. airwaves, it won’t be quite the same. The string of continuous years on the air for KFSG has been broken. But, it’s still a proud achievement for the ICFG, which had owned the station since its inception. As for me, I can only wonder what it was really like between 1924 and 1944, when the founder of KFSG preached before the microphone in her own unique entertaining style and had the Southland talking about her as she worked to bring people to Christ. All I know is, it was long ago and it really happened. I think that’s a pretty good legacy for KFSG to have left behind for other broadcasters.

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