It was a joyous morning Saturday, June 30 at the Longhorn Museum, for the dedication of the official Texas Historical Marker for Dr. Ben and Mona Parker and KBOP.
The event was sponsored by the Atascosa County Historical Commission and the Longhorn Museum Society.
Barbara Morris Westbrook, chairman of the Atascosa County Historical Commission, gave the welcoming address. She spoke on how so many people know the radio station KBOP through the Parkers. The couple established Atascosa Broadcasting Company in Pleasanton, going on the air in 1951.
“It makes it so special for so many people to come and to honor their memories,” said Westbrook.
The invocation was given by Rev. Johnny Arrington, Pastor of First United Meth- odist Church in Pleasanton.
“Lord, we are gathered this morning on another beautiful day, to recognize and to celebrate lives that made a difference. You’ve blessed this community. You’ve touched lives through Mr. and Mrs. Parker in ways some of us may never know,” Arrington said.
The Presentation of Colors was given by Boy Scout Troop 194, under the direction of Joett Morrison and Carmen De La Torre. Color Guard members were Eagle Scout Augustin De La Torre, Scout Alberto De La Torre and leader Eagle Scout Danny Morrison.
Cotton Harris, greatgrandson of Dr. Ben and Mona Parker, led everyone in the pledge to the U.S. flag. The Parkers’ greatgranddaughter Charity Harris followed with the pledge to the Texas flag and the Parker’s greatgranddaughter Charlsie Harris provided a history. The Harris siblings are the children of Jim and Karen Harris.
Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley, who is also an officer of the Atascosa County Historical Commission addressed the crowd.
A huge student of Texas history, Hurley said, “The more I read and the more I study, the more I realize how important it is that we honor our history and we honor the great people that are in our history. That means we do it here in Atascosa County, too. So it is so important that we do that.”
Pleasanton Mayor Travis Hall Jr. also spoke at the ceremony. He worked at KBOP during high school.
Mayor Hall said, “To be a part of what is then, and to be a part of what is now is very exciting. If you ever had the opportunity to know Ben and Mona Parker, or had the opportunity to work with them, you are a better person today and I know that. I will never forget the kindness and the continuing education that they gave all of their employees. I can tell you if Ben Parker gave you some advice and you worked for him, it was a very good idea that you took that advice and did what he told you.”
Hall continued by sharing how Mona called him into her office one day. She explained to Hall, then a 17-year-old Pleasanton high school student, the difference between abstract and extract.
“Those of you who worked for the radio station know that Dr. Parker typed with two fingers,” Hall said. He learned that Parker was “lightning fast.”
Mayor Hall found it heart-warming to see the large audience, especially some of the former KBOP employees in attendance. He pointed out some that were there, including friend Roy Holley, legend Jerry King and KSAT 12 sportscaster Greg Simmons, who started with KBOP as a broadcaster for Friday Night football games.
Hall closed with a big thank you to the Parker family, the Atascosa County Historical Commission and the Longhorn Museum.
“This was a dream of Ben, but so much more Mona Parker. It started across the street from KBOP in the downtown area and moved out here to its home in 1983. I can tell you this, if Ben and Mona were here today, they would be very, very pleased,” Hall said.
Westbrook said the historical marker process is a long one, about 1 ½ years. It requires a well-written historical narrative. Not all topics are approved by the state. Pleasanton native, journalist and author John Williams researched and collected the data and then wrote the history.
Although the FCC was putting more stations on the air, Williams explained, “it still took a lot of savvy and skill to get FCC approval. The Parkers had both.”
Ben was an evangelist and rancher who never met a stranger. Both were veteran broadcasters, Williams explained. Mona’s quiet personality masked that she was the first woman in the U.S. to be granted a first-class radiotelephone operators license by the FCC.
“Mona helped build that station (KKYX) and she put it on the air as KBUC radio. She also helped put on the air KCOR radio, the first full-time Spanish language station in the United States. Even the transmitter and tower that she built for KBOP are going strong today, even though they are broadcasting a different station,” Williams said. “KBOP may be gone, but it is not forgotten.”
Williams announced a list of memorable personalities that KBOP produced. Along with Mayor Hall, some of them are Jimmy Ray, Johnny Bush, Jim Sutton, Henry Gutierrez, whom he described as one of the truly great Spanish language broadcasters and legend Willie Nelson, once the sports director of KBOP.
Some of the others throughout the years who worked at KBOP included Pleasanton native Randy Carroll, Mary Gallegos, Henry Gutierrez Jr., Audrey Arguijo, Chili Thompson, Warren Domke, the late Johnny Lambaria, Hector Alanis, now a DJ with KEDA radio station, Norm Phillips as general manager and DJs Jesse Cano, Manuel Lopez also known as “El Relampago” and Joe Vickers, as well as Steve Martinez and Nat Garcia.
Charlsie Harris said, “First, let me describe the Parkers to you for those of you who may not have known them. They were pioneers, civic-minded, entrepreneurs, leaders, selfless servants, dedicated and compassionate.”
She also shared details on their extensive educational backgrounds. The Parkers married in 1937. Mona was ahead of her time, as it was unheard of for a woman in the 1940s to have such a career in a male-dominated industry. She did this while raising two children.
They worked at different radio stations in the U.S. and they moved to San Antonio at the beginning of World War II.
“In 1951, after the entire radio transmitter was constructed single-handedly by Mona, co-founders Dr. Ben and Mona Parker went on the air with their newly-established local radio station KBOP 1380 on the AM dial. Mona was chief engineer and business manager and Ben was the general manager. The Parkers hired and mentored several announcers, musicians and local DJs,” said Charlsie.
Between 1952-54, they opened other stations in South Texas. They sold KBOP in 1976 and dedicated their passion to their appreciation of Western history.
“They had an extensive collection of Western artifacts that they displayed in the store front window of KBOP for many years. The same year they sold the radio station, they officially opened the Longhorn Museum in its original location on Main Street, across the street from the KBOP radio station,” Charlsie added.
They reached out to former employee Willie Nelson, when they realized they needed a larger building.
“Recognizing their impact on his early career, Nelson promptly agreed to perform at a benefit concert to raise funds for a new building,” Charlsie said.
The building was built and donated to the City of Pleasanton in 1983. The Parkers also established the Pleasanton Cowboy Homecoming, Atascosa County Recreational Association (Pleasanton Country Club) and the 8-ft. bronze cowboy statue in front of city hall, to name a few.
Karen Harris, granddaughter of Ben and Mona Parker, also spoke. She shared how it had been an amazing day for their family.
She introduced the Parkers’ two daughters Charlotte Parker Ramsey and Mary Parker Pool and their families.
“When my mother Charlotte was approached by Barbara Westbrook about the concept of applying for a Texas Historical Marker to honor my grandparents and the radio station, we were undoubtedly very excited to say the least. This was also accompanied by quite a bit of disbelief to be honest. Would this really come to pass? My family and I certainly know how special Ben and Mona Parker were, but could this really happen? Would the state of Texas actually recognize and honor my parents for their lifelong dedication to radio broadcasting.”
She expressed how appreciative the family was about the wording on the plaque and the ceremony. She shared how they lived their lives in a kind, Christian manner. She reiterated the importance of Henry Gutierrez’s role at the station and thanked his family members in attendance for sharing their father with the station. She described the Parkers as trailblazers, visionaries and life-changers.
Ben and Mona’s oldest daughter Mary Pool also spoke. Her earliest memory was as a little girl living in San Antonio. When she got ready to go to bed, her father would read her stories in Hebrew. He majored in Greek and minored in Hebrew at TCU.
She asked, “Do you remember when the first light went out on the tower and Daddy told you he’d give you $100 bill if you’d climb the tower and change the light bulb? They were wonderful people.”
“They wanted to leave a lasting legacy, which I believe they did in so many ways in the lives of all these people and so many others who are not here today. Thank you very much for being here and it was a pleasure seeing all of you here,” said Mary Pool.
Along with those already mentioned, Westbrook also recognized dignitaries in attendance: Atascosa County Commissioner Eliseo Perez, Pleasanton City Councilmembers J.R. Gallegos, Diana Prasifka and Britni Van Curan and Judge Vickers. Westbrook also recognized the important role of Valerie Purgason and the museum staff.