Sampling Dollar Radio’s History

One of the properties threatened by this winter’s bluff erosion event is the historic site of Mussel Rock, 6XBB / KTK: Dollar Radio (Dollaradio), an early radio communication site with many notable “firsts” in communications with ships in the Pacific. Long time owner Joan Levin is urgently seeking financial help for her historic home. Dollar Radio is located just north of the Pacific View Villas condo complex on Palmetto Ave. How historic is Dollar Radio?

Dollar Radio played a meaningful role in a number of historic events. Here is some information about just three of them.

  • Admiral Byrd South Pole Expedition
  • Electronic warfare with the Japanese before Pearl Harbor
  • Submarine Attack

Admiral Byrd South Pole Expedition

The three radio towers at Little America, 1929, Richard E. Byrd Papers, #7801_15.

From the Maritime Radio Historical Society, The Robert Dollar Story, Part 1 – By Edward Prather:

Admiral Richard E. Byrd took H & K equipment on his expedition to the South Pole in 1929. After he reached Little America, and set up his radio station 30 feet below the snow, he began communication with the Dollaradio station at Mussel Rock. Night after night the operator on duty would copy material from Admiral Byrd for relay to the New York Times for publication in the morning newspaper.


Electronic warfare with the Japanese before Pearl Harbor

The Dollar Radio site operated as station KTK before World War II, and one occasion deliberately interfered with a Japanese transmission.

Communication Intelligence Summary, 21 October, 1941 

General. — Traffic volume returned to about normal today. There was no
dummy messages in the TOKYO broadcast. Last night this TOKYO to Fleet
Circuit was interfered with by station KTK (Mussel Rock, California, Globe
Wireless). This interference also bothered the Japanese for TOKYO shifted
his frequency down 10 Kcs. to avoid it.

Source: Pearl Harbor attack : hearings before the Joint Committee on the investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack, Congress of the United States, Seventy-ninth Congress, first session, pursuant to S. Con. Res. 27, 79th Congress, a concurrent resolution authorizing an investigation of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and events and circumstances relating thereto .. (1946). link.

Submarine Attack

Japanese RO-33 submarine. Date unknown, but before 1942. Source N. Polmar, D. Carpenter. Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1904—1945. — Conway Maritime Press, 1986

FROM: Radio Spies, Bart Lee, 2002, 2006, page 76:

On December 7, 1941, the radiomen at KFS heard, on 500 khz, the signal for submarine spotted (SSSS SSSS SSSS) then an S O S, then silence. Globe Wireless operators at KTK, at nearby Mussel Rock in Pacifica, also took the traffic. The ether thus carried some of the first signals of America’s Pacific war.

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade:

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis: