Since 2022, JOLT has told the stories of Thurston County, and what is happening right here in our own community. Editor Danny Stusser calls it an exercise in democracy, saying, “We publish original local news stories, five days a week, and there's no paywall — all the stories are free to anyone who wants them. City meetings, school districts, crime, people doing amazing things.”
You can say the same thing about deejay and radio manager Dick Pust. Through 50+ years with KGY and KXXO, he has provided the news of our lives, free, here in Thurston County on AM radio, with no paywall. Olympia literally grew up listening to Dick Pust on AM 1240, “First in Southwest Washington!”
He has worked 5, 6, and 7 days per week decade after decade, with the well-disciplined rhythm of a man living with a strong work ethic, taking on, over time, every job at the station. For years, he got up at 2:30 in the morning to take his time to get ready, eat a good breakfast and read/listen to the news, then start work on time. Ever factual, insightful, kind, cheerful, and sympathetic, he continues working to this day.
Currently, he occasionally hosts programs on KXXO and also helps us walk down memory lane. He manages the sales of his 2021 memoir, AM 1240: Life at a Small Town Radio Station, which is full of photos, and a highly readable narrative, in his inimitable voice – frank and confidential, as though you were with him in a personal conversation. By the way, he had an advantage in writing that few others do, and that is an ideal source to draw from - his own daily diary entries. Dick has kept a daily diary since 1959.
Dick recently established a YouTube station, “Radio History with Dick Pust”, and, with Darlene Kemery, uses airchecks to good advantage. Check it out!
Have you heard of an aircheck? Aircheck is a word in the radio vernacular. Airchecks, within this context, are over-the-air content recorded for legal archiving purposes. They are recordings made for the purpose of a (possible) federal audit. These tapes were routinely overwritten. Over the years, however, Dick has had the foresight to retain selected airchecks AND to record important moments, which he and Darlene are now reviewing and processing, adding photos and illustrations. The programs are offered free on YouTube. I have seen three so far and have subscribed, to receive each subsequent installment. Their YouTube station is called, “Radio History with Dick Pust.”
Airchecks can be time machines. For instance, listen to Dick’s hour-long radio broadcast of radio from April 6, 1982, music, local ads, community announcements, and local/national news. Just an ordinary day that illustrates my memories of the era. In 1982, almost two years after the eruption, they report burps and puffs from the mountain. Follow along with Dick on this typical day, seeing how the recording conveys caution in the era following the cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
Radio was an incredibly important part of daily life in the second half of the twentieth century and continues to provide a free source of information to the public. Listen to Dick’s recordings to experience how different (and the same!) life was years ago.
Case in point: nowadays, students scan the school website repeatedly for news during a bout of bad weather, hoping for a “snow day.” Then, they left the radio blaring in the kitchen or even throughout the house, eagerly hoping for Dick Pust’s announcement of school closure or at least a delayed start.
Dick worked out of Olympia's KGY-AM (1240) studio, broadcasting content and literally spinning vinyl record discs on a turntable for his listening audience. From this sort of work, the term disc jockey or deejay (DJ) was coined. The historical radio station, part of a 1950s waterfront redevelopment project, stands as an architectural landmark, on pilings in the shallow waters of Budd Inlet. I venture to say that it wins the prize for the most scenic radio station in the world! And the building design is such that I expect George and Jane Jetson, in their flying car with their dog and family, to swoop in at any minute.
The radio station was so important to community life, that the Olympia High School class of ’73 made the iconic KGY station the brunt of a graduation “tire” prank. Dick Pust was the first to discover it and had quite a time reaching his desk and microphone in time to start the morning broadcast. The identity of those who planned the prank is still a mystery. Please read the companion article and please report any information you have.
Dick has lived in the Olympia area most of his life, graduating from both Olympia High School and St Martins College. Dick and his wife Pam have two sons Jeff and Steve, both members of Van Dorm Realty. Dick is a U.S. Army veteran and has been a radio broadcaster since 1959, with the longest-running radio show in the State of Washington. Over his career, he has gathered and reported on community life, the weather, news, and community events. He has also conducted personable interviews with interesting people, in the station and around the community. He has chatted with celebrities, candidates for political office, and representatives from almost every community group one could imagine: from politicians to nudists at a rock festival; from Miss Washington to superstar Bob Hope. (Dick Pust and Bob Hope shared the stage in front of a crowd of 5,000 at St. Martin’s.)
He has covered disasters from the more distant Mount St. Helens eruption to the 2001 up close and personal 6.8 Nisqually earthquake, wreaking havoc over the region after which people lined up at the studio to tell their personal stories. The stories went on for so long that people brought Dick food. He once, early one morning in 1974, trudged through heavy snow from his house, seven miles away, to broadcast the news. (Both cars at home were hopelessly stuck.) Luckily the sheriff’s patrol car picked him up partway there and delivered him to the station before his feet were totally frozen. During other weather crises, he and other station employees resorted to sleeping at the studio.
Dick helps promote public events and good causes. He is an excellent public speaker and interviewer. Dick gives his name, his time, and his heart to the community, to every good cause possible, and he generates goodwill wherever he goes and with whomever he meets. I have his book on Kindle but wanted to see a hard copy, so I visited the library and asked for help from a librarian. I repeated the name of the author. Though I thought we were alone in that part of the library, out of nowhere, a young man popped in front of us. “Dick Pust?” he asked. “He’s a GREAT guy.” I must have looked startled. “Well, I’ve just met him once,” he admitted. “He’s a terrific person!” Nuff said.
Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at shirley@theJOLTnews.com or comment below.
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