Douglas Perham, 1922

Perham at the Mike

When “Doc” Herrold first began broadcasting in 1909, Doug Perham, among Palo Alto’s first ham radio operators, listened to early musical broadcasts with his 2 ½ watt spark receiver and a set of headphones. During the “radio craze” of the early 1920s, he became enticed by the world of broadcasting.

In 1922, Perham built and began operating Radio Station WJAM out of his house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his wife’s hometown. It was one of the first licensed broadcasting stations in the state. His 115-foot tower, anchored next to his house, was a local wonder.

With financial backing by the local newspaper, WJAM had a strong signal and could offer free radios as prizes to draw new listeners. Perham operated the station, experimented with improvements, and served as the announcer and engineer while his wife Pearl broadcast market reports, police bulletins, and baseball scores. By 1924, they began broadcasting live country-western and jazz music from their state-of-the-art studio, in their living room.

Commercial radio broadcasting changed rapidly during the 1920s. Perham had to keep up with technological improvements, new regulations, managing employees, contract demands of performers, and lawyers. In 1928, the Perhams sold WJAM to an aggressive competitor and returned to the San Francisco Peninsula. The station continues to be operated today as WMT.