He still looks back in wonder. People lined up outside the radio station, clutching scribbled-on scraps of paper, offering whatever money...

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SALEM, Ore. — He still looks back in wonder.

People lined up outside the radio station, clutching scribbled-on scraps of paper, offering whatever money they had for the chance to have their messages read on the air.

When David Castilleja started the Willamette Valley’s first Spanish-language radio program in 1972, he was unprepared for the response.

“People would literally come to the radio station and bring their dedications and hand them to me,” the 61-year-old Salem man recalled. “They would say, ‘I’ll give you $2 or $3. Please make sure this comes on.’ ”

“From the time the radio program started until it ended, the three [phone] lines were continuously ringing,” Castilleja said of the Woodburn, Ore.-based station. “They wanted the community to know, ‘This is what’s up with me right now.’ ”

And for the first time, people had a way to communicate over the airwaves in Spanish.

The Dave Castilleja show, which aired from 1972 to 1992, was the forerunner of Spanish radio stations La Pantera in Woodburn and La Campeona in Dallas.

Spanish-language radio, TV and even newspapers are prevalent throughout Oregon, but that was not the case when Castilleja began his show.

Still, he shrugs at the suggestion that he was a trailblazer for Hispanics.

“One day I thought, ‘Why can’t we have Spanish programming?’ ” he said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I’m going for it.’ ”

Convinced that there were many potential listeners, he approached a Woodburn radio-station owner and pitched his idea. Thirty-two years later, radio remains the preferred medium for Spanish speakers.

Having a show of his own was a dream come true for the native of Edinburg, Texas, who relocated to Independence, near Salem, in 1959 with his parents, who were farmworkers.

With friends and family still in Texas, he brought the latest Tejano and Norteo-style music to Oregon.

In 1968, Castilleja went to work for Boise Cascade. Four years later, he began his radio show on the side. In 1990, he ventured into concert promotion.

When it started, Castilleja’s show was a two-hour Spanish-language Saturday afternoon music-and-dedications program on an otherwise English-language station. By the time it ended its run, the show was part of a full-time Spanish-language station.

Castilleja, who retired in 2003, smiles at the sentiment and said he often runs into fans who ask when he’ll be getting back on the air. “It is really neat,” he said.