“Stories of Pacific Powerland” The Radio History

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    This is the history of the popular radio program “Stories of Pacific Powerland”. The 5 minute program was sponsored by “Pacific Power & Light Company” and was told by veteran Radio & TV actor Nelson Olmsted. “Stories of Pacific Powerland” were recorded in Portland at Robert Lindahl’s “Northwestern, Inc., Motion Picture & Recording” studios at 411 S.W. 13th Ave. The program ran three days a week: Monday’s, Wednesday’s & Friday’s.

    Recording began on September 19, 1961. Nelson Olmsted taped 26 programs in the very first recording sessions. He would return to Portland three times yearly from Los Angeles to record more. The stories dealt the past, present and future of the Northwest. Most of the scripts were written by free-lance writer John Forbis. Programs were introduced by KOIN’s Clint Gruber who voiced the PP&L commercials. 80 stations in the Pacific Northwest carried the first programs.

    Some of the early program titles were: Discovery of The Oregon Caves; The Life & Times of Skidmore Fountain; Invention of Sno-Cats & The Naming of Astoria. The program made its debut broadcast on October 23, 1961 with the story “General Nathan Twining” written by Oregonian staff writer Bill Ening. The first ad read:

    Hear the dramatic sea rescue story of former Portlander, General Nathan Twining.


    The drama, the humor, the progress of the great land we live in.

    Told by master storyteller NELSON OLMSTED

    A radio presentation of


    Mon. – Wed. – Fri.

    KPAM-FM 12:00PM

    KPOJ 12:30PM

    KOIN 5:35PM

    Nelson Olmstead loved doing these programs. It brought him back to his radio roots. By 1963 he had recorded 234 of the 5 minute programs. In December 1963 KWJJ was added with a 7:15pm broadcast. KPOJ AM-FM at 12:31pm & KOIN AM-FM continued at 5:35pm. KPAM/KPFM dropped out. In the Fall 1964 “Stories of Pacific Powerland” were now recorded at Northwestern’s new location at 2828 S.W. Front Ave. (move took place 7-31-64). In October 1965 KGW was added with a 12:45pm broadcast. KOIN AM-FM continued at 5:35pm & KWJJ at 7:15pm. KPOJ AM-FM dropped out.

    By September 1967 “Stories of Pacific Powerland” were heard on 65 stations in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington & Wyoming. In July 1968 KGW dropped out. In September 1968 KXL was added with a 12:05pm broadcast. KWJJ at 7:05pm & KOIN continued at 5:35pm.

    In December 1970 KOIN moved the time to 12:55pm. In Fall 1970 “Stories of Pacific Powerland” began it 10th year and Nelson Olmsted had recorded 728 shows, the latest being in Northwestern’s studio A. On January 14, 1972 it was announced the first 10 years of the program would air on “Golden Hours”. Also in January 1972 KXL moved the time to 12:10pm. In September 1972 KOIN moved the time to 12:40pm.

    By April 1973 main writer & producer John Forbis had left the program to debut a similar radio series in New Zealand with partner Nadco Belantine-Scott, closely modeled after “Stories of Pacific Powerland” called “Trailblazers of New Zealand” using the same format of short historical vignettes and personality profiles. It was heard nationwide on 44 NZBC stations and was sponsored by The Ministry of Work & Development. Replacing John Forbis was free-lance writer Thomas K. Worcester.

    On March 6, 1974 “Stories of Pacific Powerland” presented it’s 1,000th story which made the program one of the longest-running radio shows of its type in the county. In October 1975 the program began it 15th year on 76 stations including KOIN, KXL & KWJJ. In September 1976 Nelson Olmsted recorded his 1,200th show in Portland.

    On September 16, 1977 Nelson Olmsted had just finished his 1,299th program when he got the news from PP&L “Stories of Pacific Powerland” heard on 71 stations would go off the air next month after 17 years. Listener survey’s showed a gradual erosion of the audience. PP&L said “Over the years we feel that it’s been very good for the company.” The last of the programs depending on station contracts ended in mid October 1977.

    To learn more about Nelson Olmsted and his long career, checkout this link:


    Stories of Pacific Powerland ads




    Wonder if all those tapes still exist? They’d be great in a CD compilation. At 5 min. or so per show, you could squeeze quite a few episodes onto one CD. “Powerland” is one old radio show that might do very well on that format, and I’d bet that there are still a few people around who recall Nelson’s fine work on the show. Too bad it wasn’t pulled out of the vaults for Oregon’s recent 150th Anniversary of Statehood celebration; “Powerland” would’ve fit right in! 😀

    Come to think of it, CBS’s similiarily formatted “Bilcentennial Minutes” that ran on CBS-TV in 1975-76 sould be on DVD, too.

    Best, M. 8)


    MP3 format available at Amazon.com: Note they say the program is from the 1940’s.


    If you lived outside of Portland, I’d be interested to know what station carried “Stories of Pacific Powerland” in your city.


    Having nothing to do with the story but just as an aside, I noticed the reference to “KPAM-FM”. That isn’t an FM station called “KPAM” but rather a shortened form of “KPAM/KPFM” as simply, “KPAM & FM”, which is what they used to call the combined stations before the FCC got uneasy about it. I offer this clarification, for anyone not living here or too young to know.


    I meant to say “Bicentennial Minutes.” Typo. Oops! 😳

    Best, M.


    Well it’s nice to see I’m not the only writer making mistakes around this place! 😉


    Thanks, Craig. An idea: Would newspaper ads from other cities have carried ads for “Powerland” in the old days? Might be a way to tell if, and where, it ran in Seattle, Spokane, and so on…And local equivalents of the old “TV Click” might, too…Best, M. 8)


    Yes, they sure would have, if someone want to try.


    Found some audio files of Nelson Olmstead and “Stories of Pacific Powerland” at:



    Great find, KQ4! 🙂 The episode about the Willamette Meteorite is especially well done…Nice to find at least a few of these programs online! Best, M. 8)


    WOW, Haven’t heard one those in a long time!

    Does anyone know about the “Stories of Pacific Powerland Theme Song” heard on the programs? It really takes you back to the old radio days.

    Tim Lones

    Enjoyed reading about Nelson Olmsted. Before “Powerland” he narrated both TV and Radio versions of “The Ohio Story” produced in Cleveland by Ohio Bell Telephone from 1952-59 (roughly)Ohio Story had been on radio since 1947 with another narrator..

    Link to an Ohio Story TV episode aired in Cleveland September 11, 1955 on WXEL-TV 8..


    I loved those stories!


    Tim: Thanks for posting the link. Nice to see Nelson as well as hear him.

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