Back and Forth: I started at KAAA Red Wing 62 years ago this month
In April 1953 I was thrilled and thankful to land my first radio broadcasting job at KAAA 1250 on your AM dial, Red Wing, the voice of the Hiawatha Valley.
I'd been enrolled at The American Institute of the Air in Minneapolis since Oct. 20, 1952. I was two weeks away from completing the course when the folks at KAAA called me to fill in on the morning show. All of us bubbling, young, potential announcers had been instructed to search radio stations and let them know we were ready to go on the air.
Earlier, I'd visited owner Maxine Jacobs and program director Peter Lyman, so that's how I got the two-week stint while morning man John Williams searched for a new broadcast venue in the southern U.S. I lived briefly in the Tee Pee Tonka Hotel, discovered the Oriola Café and was making a whoppin' $1 per hour, but I had work. I went back and finished the course, told my instructors Dean Montgomery and others "goodbye," returned to KAAA and filled in three more days before being hired full time for a job that lasted nearly four and one-half years.
I can thank G.J. "Dick" Kunau, a Goodhue County agent, for pushing me out into 4-H and other community events. Dick did a 15-minute "live" at 6:15 a.m. daily radio show on Mondays, H.G. "SEY" Seyforth from Pierce County, Wis., did Tuesdays, Matt Metz, a Wabasha County agent, did Wednesdays and Melvin Woell from the State Farm Bureau Office did Saturday.
Dick put me to work judging 4-H speaking and talent contests. Dewey Baringer encouraged me to join the Rural Youth Group of Goodhue County for folks out of high school into their mid-20s. Dick Kunau had started that group long before I arrived.
The Jaycees suddenly had me on their membership rolls, MC-ing Red Wing Beauty pageants and broadcasting the Home Show ribbon cutting ceremonies from the Red Wing Armory. Jack Adams, president of the Toastmasters also "twisted" my arm to join. Another "twist" came from Wayne Loomis, manager of Red Wing Finance and choir director at First Methodist Church. He noticed I was paying my monthly car loan promptly and that gave him the right to get me into the back row of the choir along-side Maxwell Sargeant and the massive tenor voice of Ken Carpenter. KAAA was broadcasting the Sunday morning church worship service, so I was there to turn the radio equipment on before and off after.
The beauty of Red Wing is astonishing. I never went up Barn's Bluff, but Sorin's Bluff, with its winding roadway, is a grand experience, overlooking the city and the Mississippi River as far as one could see.
The original KAAA studios were on Highway 58 just 2½ miles south of downtown, across the highway from the present KCUE and KWNG FM studios. KAAA went on the air at 6 a.m. Jan. 29, 1949, the first new station outside the Twin Cities metro area for several years. Its tower was 216 feet on the highest point around Red Wing. We were on the air daily from 6 a.m. until sunset. They gave me the morning shift, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. But on Saturdays (Peter Lyman's day off), it was 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. There were only the two of us. Occasionally, commercial time-sales executive Jim Bailey would fill in if needed. Ed Powderly announced on Sundays.
KAAA was sold in late 1955 to Vic & Nick Nedesco, Twin Cities radio men. I remained on the new broadcast team for 20 months, doing numerous centennial parade broadcasts in '56 and '57, Red Wing, Zumbrota, Elgin, Plainview, Kenyon, Plum City and Lake City. I also broadcast from the Pierce County Fair at Ellsworth, Wis. earlier on KAAA. During these years it seemed every group wanted me to entertain them with my musical saws. Saturday afternoon at 3:30 – 4 p.m. I conducted a radio program "Anything Goes" which brought in a lot of 4-H talent winners and 4-H essay speakers. On some Saturdays, Don Safe and the Old Time Westerners performed; as did singers Genevieve Hovde, Ronnie Owens and Leo Dressen.
It was an amazing time in my young life. I've had a continuous broadcast career, starting 62 years ago in April 1953 in Red Wing, and I'm still going.
Next week: Everybody called him Cedric — the life of Cedric Adams, news voice of the upper Midwest.