Pioneer Broadcast member Clay Huntington passed away at age 89 in Tacoma.   The Northwest Pioneer Broadcasters interviewed Tom Read as a "Remembrance Of Clay Huntington".  The text version of the interview is posted here and is being added to on a daily basis.  A major portion is taken from the section of Tom Read's book on his career in broadcasting, relating to Clay Huntington.

Tom Read worked with Clay Huntington in Tacoma as a very young boy.   He will recall how he first met Clay at KTBI and joined with Clay in his advertising agency to produce radio commercials and programs for Clay Huntington Advertising.   Tom built and founded KTWR FM in Tacoma which currently has the call letters KMTT.  He was responsible for Clay becoming a radio station licensee and in fact did Clay's application to the FCC for him.  Read and Huntington made history by purchasing the air time from local Tacoma radio stations and producing the play by play broadcasts of high school and college sports.   When KMO Channel 13 came on the air, Tom and Clay began the longest running, local, live TV show in Tacoma.  Read and Huntington introduced first, many concepts in broadcasting that are now common place in the industry.    Click For Story

Old Time Radio National Archives

Tacoma, Washington's Winthrop Hotel Has Radio History

Radio signal gone, but former Tacoma broadcaster tunes in to Winthrop’s future

By Todd Matthews, Editor
Sep 29 2006

If you lived in Tacoma during the 1960s and early-1970s and listened to local radio broadcasts, the name Tom Read should ring a bell. The Tacoma native with the smooth voice, boyish face, black thick-framed glasses, and natural talent for on-air broadcasting brought much of the city’s live entertainment to listeners at a time when AM radio was still king.

What’s more: he did it all from the third floor of the Winthrop Hotel.

“I covered the Music Box fire [in 1963] live on KTAC by stringing long microphone cords out of the studio, up the stairs, out the Broadway entrance and onto Ninth and Broadway,” says Read, during a telephone interview Thursday from Spokane. “I remember, as a young kid, describing the Daffodil Parade on KTBI from the top of the Winthrop’s Broadway marquee. I think we climbed out a window of the Crystal Ballroom for that one.”

He also remembers the Winthrop as the city’s central hub and meeting place. “It was the economic center in downtown Tacoma for many years,” says Read. “It has tremendous history from the standpoint of broadcasting.”

Last week, Read came across an article about the Winthrop in the Tacoma Daily Index (“Spokane’s Davenport Hotel provides one perspective on Winthrop renovation,” 9/22/06). Currently, two developers are looking at the hotel through separate lenses. Citizens Hotel is hoping to raise $6.1 million to purchase the 80-year-old, 12-story, 194-unit building and turn it into a four-star, historic hotel. Meanwhile, developer AF Evans, which holds a purchase and sale agreement with the building’s owner, wants to convert the Winthrop into a mixed blend of market-rate and low-income, affordable housing. Citizens Hotel has until Oct. 19 to complete due diligence on its plan before its letter of intent with AF Evans expires.

After discussing the article over lunch with a manager of Spokane’s Davenport Hotel (a building that historic hotel supporters in Tacoma point to as a model for the Winthrop), Read’s interest was piqued. He sent an email to Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma inviting him to visit the Davenport to get a better sense of the Winthrop’s possibilities (Mayor Baarsma supports the idea of restoring the Winthrop as a historic hotel; the Index attempted to contact the mayor to see if he would visit the Davenport, but he was out of the country until Oct. 3).

Read also e-mailed a letter to the Index.

During a two-hour phone interview, Read recapped his life in Tacoma and broadcasting:

-- his early childhood in Tacoma (he attended Lowell elementary, Mason middle school, Stadium high, and UPS.);

-- entry into broadcasting as a small child involved with Tacoma Little Theater -- at first recording children’s commercials and then volunteering at the station during summers and after school (“I must have been a mature 10-year-old,” he recalls. “They made a deal with me. They didn’t want any kids hanging around the radio station. So they put me on a schedule and assigned chores. The first thing they had me do was make 4 x 5 file cards for each record that came in”);

-- moving to Spokane to work in communications for the 1974 World’s Fair.

At the Winthrop in the late-1960s, Read ran his own radio production company -- TWR Productions, his own initials: Thomas Wilmot Read -- and didn’t have trouble finding work. Three radio stations operated out of the hotel: KTBI, KMO, and KTAC. A popular breakfast show aired from the Daffodil Room. And Read often dragged a mike down to the Crystal Ballroom and lounge to broadcast live performances.

“It was very common in the early days of radio to locate stations in hotels,” he explains. “I can’t really tell you why or how that got started other than I assume that the pioneers in the radio business probably wanted to have a studio in the center of the city. They probably wanted to be within walking distance to the business district. Certainly, in Tacoma, the businesses a broadcaster wanted to sell airtime to were right down Broadway.”

Read had his own deal with the building’s owner. When Read’s parents moved from the Stadium District to Lakewood, Winthrop owner Bill Hammond offered him a room. “We had a trade-out,” Read recalls. As part of a deal for handling advertising, the manager put Read up in a sleeping-room-turned-studio. “I looked right out the window across Ninth Street to the Roxy Theater.”

Later, as a staffer at KTAC, Read ran a microphone from his room down to the Saber Room, where he aired programs.

Today, Read, lives in Spokane and owns a network of Christian radio stations broadcasting in Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and Northeast Oregon.

He still visits Tacoma. His feelings about the Winthrop are candid and twinged by disappointment.

“I think the Winthrop, in its present condition, is a disgrace,” he says. During a trip through Tacoma with his wife, he was excited about revisiting his old haunt. “I was going to show her this grand and glorious building. We walked down from the Sheraton. I knew the Winthrop was closed, but I didn’t know exactly what had transpired. The building was dingy. We walked toward the main entrance, and I felt like I needed a bodyguard with a machine gun.”

In Spokane, the Davenport Hotel was bankrolled by a commercial-real-estate investor, Walter Worthy, who sank more than $40 million into its purchase and renovation. In Tacoma, no one with pockets as deep has come forward; though two investors are currently trying to drum up support and dollars.

The story is familiar to Read. He remembers all the years when the Davenport sat empty and rundown. Some major hotel corporations looked at the property, but full restoration didn’t pencil out. Spokane was too small. A full restoration was too expensive. It wasn’t until Worthy stepped forward that the hotel was restored.

“If Tacoma could really see what’s been done at the Davenport,” says Read. “I’ve seen what restoration of the Davenport has done for Spokane. That’s why I want to get the mayor over here.

“I don’t think Tacoma sees the Winthrop the way we see it -- people who were born there, raised there, and spent some great years at the Winthrop,” adds Read.