My KPFA - A Historical Footnote



If KPFA had paid Representative Edward Willis to bring the House Committee on Un-American Activities to San Francisco, it would have been money well spent. The station’s recordings of events both inside and outside City Hall were put together by Elsa Knight Thompson and her team into a documentary that KPFA’s listeners couldn’t hear often enough. Alan Rich recalls, “We played those goddam tapes over and over again until . . . everybody in the Bay Area knew them by heart.”


It was combat training for a whole generation of KPFA’s rising young broadcasters, including Fred Haines, Dale Minor, Burt White, Chris Koch and Ernest Lowe. It was also my introduction to working for the station, but from the comfort of my living room. I had two open reel tape recorders, including the classic Ampex 601 in a Samsonite case, and I had just been hired by KPFA to make copies of programs for subscribers who had the interest, the cash and a tape deck.


KPFA had got permision from HUAC to record the proceedings, thus showing more foresight than the Committee itself which, realizing that they had no recordings of their own, subpoenaed copies from the station. This wasn’t an act of aggression on their part but a simple business arrangement in which they paid the cost of materials and labor. The job was farmed out to me, and so I sat over the recordings for a solid week listening to everything that had taken place, including Bill Mandel’s electrifying diatribe [right].


Selections from these recordings subsequently came out on a Folkways disk on which, oddly, KPFA wasn't given credit. The eight pages of liner notes are made up of photocopies of newspaper articles and a transcript of the evidence included on the record. You can download jpeg photocopies for printing here [In Print Preview, set margins to 1mm and scale to fit page]:


003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010.


The following audio selections correspond to the record bands as listed in the notes.



001 Band 1: Statement of purpose by the Committee

002 Band 2: Witness No. 1

003 Band 3: Witness No. 2

004 Band 4: Witness No. 3

005 Band 5: Witness No. 4

006 Band 6: In the courtroom


Side 2,

007 Band 1: Students outside the courtroom

008 Band 2: Witness No.5 William Mandel

009 Band 3: Eye-Witness Accounts “This is the first time. . .”

010 Band 4: Eye-Witness Accounts “. . . were thrown rather brutally across the floor. . .”

011 Band 5: Eye-Witness Accounts “And how did you get all wet, son?”

012 Band 6: Chairman’s Summation