“My father worked in construction as a high schooler,” Thompson says. “He was an enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer, and his skills rubbed off on my brother [Rick ’83] and me.” Those skills came in handy in 2020 during the pandemic.
KUPR-LP is a low-power (100-watt) FM, nonprofit radio station broadcasting and streaming (at kupr.org) a variety of music and cultural programming to three towns and two Indian pueblos around Placitas, N.M., near Thompson’s home. It had operated from a 12-by-12-foot room since its founding in 2015.
In late 2019, a local family donated a retired Los Alamos National Laboratories test site office trailer to the station. It sagged at both ends, with dry-rotted plywood siding outside and tired, 1970s wood paneling inside. The 12-by-56-foot structure offered a solid roof and four times as much space as the station’s prior home, but little else. A hired contractor installed a new subfloor and reframed the interior for two broadcast studios, an office space, and a bathroom. In March 2020, station volunteers took over to finish the job.
“I was already a volunteer announcer on the station, building on my four years of WHCL-FM experience at Hamilton,” Thompson says. “It turned out I was one of just a couple station volunteers who had the skills and free time to work on it.”
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Thompson and a rotating cast of volunteers replaced rotten substructure, installed new windows, insulation, and drywall, and laid new flooring throughout. New steel siding panels covered the dry-rotted plywood. Slowly, the crew transformed the worn, vintage trailer into a comfortable, modern space. KUPR-LP began broadcasting and streaming its signal from its new home in September 2020.
“The project accomplished two things,” Thompson says. “First, it kept me sane during the lockdown stage of the pandemic. Second, it provided a spacious home for KUPR to improve its service to the local community.”