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Weather or not, local musicians played live for radio audience

In its first few days, KROC needed to improvise to get its programming on the air.

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After initially being located in the Martin Hotel, KROC radio moved to the 101 First Avenue building, where its call letters were visible on the roof, high above downtown Rochester.
Contributed / History Center of Olmsted County
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Rochester audiences received an early introduction to live radio when, three days after going on the air, the city’s first radio station had to adjust its planned programming schedule due to unforeseen circumstances – namely the weather.

The station, KROC, had made arrangements for student groups from nearly two dozen area communities to perform on an outdoor stage as part of a day of live broadcasting on Oct. 3, 1935.

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But, the Post-Bulletin reported, “because of the cold weather, all programs scheduled to take place from a stand erected at Broadway and Second Street Southwest were shifted to the station studio in the Martin Hotel.”

It was an old friend, a cold north wind sent courtesy of our Canadian neighbors, that upset those outdoor plans.

“Hundreds of excited school children dressed in heavy top coats and mittens came to Rochester today to make their initial radio appearance over KROC,” the Post-Bulletin said.

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Of course, they could not be allowed to return home disappointed. The radio station went ahead with a planned parade featuring school marching bands. And, although interrupted for that day’s World Series game between the Detroit Tigers and (believe it or not) the Chicago Cubs, the program of school and area community performances was broadcast.

“Morning, afternoon and evening, those who tuned in on Rochester’s radio station could hear instrumental and vocal numbers and talks by prominent citizens of various towns in the surrounding area,” the Post-Bulletin reported.

The parade was led by the American Legion color guard, and included cars and trucks from local motor companies. Of special interest was the “phantom car,” a vehicle that moved down the street and honked its horn without a driver at the wheel. In actuality, the car was driven via remote control operated by a driver in a following car.

The 100-member Rochester High School marching band was given the honor of leading the musical units of the parade. Also marching were the Zumbrota band, in blue uniforms with white capes rippling in the wind; the VFW junior drum corps; the 40 members of the band from Plainview; and bands from Elgin, Kenyon, Kasson and Owatonna high schools.

Before and after the parade, downtown stores and cafes were busy serving the estimated 1,000 young musicians and visitors who came to the city for the day’s festivities.

Back inside the studio and on the air, the performances continued until 10 p.m. Everyone would get their chance to be heard on the city’s first radio station.

KROC, founded by Southern Minnesota Broadcasting, had been launched with a special dedication program on the evening of Sept. 30, 1935. At a dinner and debut program hosted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce there was much speechifying, music by a string ensemble and soloists, and greetings were received from pioneering radio stations KSTP and WCCO in the Twin Cities, and WEBC in Duluth.

Ironically, on that night, the weather was KROC's friend. Anyone in the area with a radio was able to hear the new station’s signal, the Post-Bulletin reported, because “a clear cold night strengthened reception.”

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Thomas Weber is a former Post Bulletin reporter who enjoys writing about local history.

Then and Now - Thomas Tom Weber col sig

Thomas Weber is a former Post Bulletin reporter who enjoys writing about local history.
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