John Poole, an independent broadcasting company owner who founded several radio and television stations, died Dec. 25 in Santa Ana, Calif. He was 86.
A former merchant marine radio operator, Poole launched Santa Catalina Island’s first radio station, KBIG-AM, in 1952. The 10,000-watt station identified itself as “the musical isle on your dial.” Its signal reached remote areas of the Los Angeles County mainland and was received as far south as San Diego and even in Nevada and Arizona.
Staff used ex-military Jeeps to reach the isolated transmitter, which was fenced to keep out the island’s buffalo, goats and wild pigs.
Born in Detroit, Poole’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was young, and his interest in broadcasting also began early. At 16, he ran a live radio broadcast for Los Angeles evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
He was certified as a radio engineer at the RCA Institute in Chicago, went on to operate radios for tuna boats and later with the merchant marine, and served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II.
After the war, Poole bought radio stations in Santa Maria and Pasadena but sold them when he built KBIG.
He later bought KBIF in Fresno, and then founded two TV stations, Channel 53 in Fresno and Channel 22 in Los Angeles, a UHF station now known as KWHY-TV.
He also started KBIQ-FM, which later was called KBIG-FM and went on to become the top-rated FM radio station in Los Angeles.
He also helped found two TV stations in Minnesota.
In 1969 he sold his media interests and in 1975 launched the Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula.