Another bit of Henryetta history came down Friday morning.
The 320-foot tall transmitting tower at the old KHEN radio station located just off the southeast corner of the I-40 and Indian Nation Turnpike fell to the ground.
It marked the latest in a series of misfortunes that has befallen the radio station in recent decades.
Originally, KHEN was an AM station started by J. Leland Gourley in 1955. The radio staton was located in offices adjoining the Daily Free Lance offices on North Fifth Street. The station broadcast farm and community news as well as a rock and roll music fare.1956 khen
In 1965 and 1966 Gourley decided to move both to new locations. The newspaper went to a remodeled former grocery store facing Main Street between Eighth and Ninth. The radio station was sited on a tract of land southeast of town.
It went on the air in the fall of 1966 from the new home. Eventually an FM component, 99.5, was added, strengthening the broadcast radius. The AM frequency had a range of about 50 miles while the FM broadcast effectively doubled that. At one time, it was said KHEN had the strongest, non-metropolitan station in Oklahoma.
Two broadcasting towers stood above the brick office and studio building. One of the towers fell victim to a storm leaving just the lone faded red and white painted steel tower standing.
That was the final resting place for the station for some 25 years. Gourley sold the station in 1971 and it eventually shut down operations. Along the way, the microphone and control boards proved to be the starting place for a number of local high school students who provided news and sports coverage as well as acted as disc jockeys playing the latest hits as the programming moved from rock and roll to country and western.
A subsequent purchase moved the FM station closer to the Tulsa market.
The property was purchased about 12 years ago by Okmulgee County. The building has deteriorated with age losing its roof to a storm allowing water to get in and leaving mold-covered growth where once sophisticated and delicate electronics once entertained area listeners.
After the FAA required warning lights burned out, county commissioners decided to get rid of the towner.
“It would cost us around $12,000 to replace them,” said county commissioner James Conner. “The tower has deteriorated and is unsafe for anyone to climb so we decided to bring it down.”
Friday morning the guy wires on the north side of the tower were cut allowing the tall metal structure to fall down. It was hoped the tower would simply fall in a line toward the south but instead buckled in the middle with the top half crashing back to earth towed the north. That sent several county workers scrambling away from the scene.
Now just the rectangular, brush surrounded building remains standing in an otherwise empty pasture.
The KHEN call letters are now owned by a low-power radio station in Salida, Colo.
The black and white photo was taken at the KHEN studio on Fifth Street shortly after the station went on the air. J. Leland Gourley is third from the right with station manager Johnny Morris to his left and Bill Simmons along with the technicians who helped getitng it running: Bud Gaither and Ron McAfee on the far right.