Today’s audio feature comes from a series of anniversary vignettes produced in 2014. Former KCOW News Director Kevin Horn introduces a segment on the history of the Alliance Public Library voiced by Brandon Bell, former KCOW announcer now residing in Los Angeles.
1999 wasn’t just KCOW’s 50th anniversary year. It was also the occasion of then-General Manager Mike Garwood’s 50th birthday. Thiele Pharmacy and Gifts saluted this double-birthday in a commercial that aired in the summer of ’99. And at the station’s 50th birthday dance at Heartland Aviation, the station presented a unique gift to Mike:
The blanket features iconic Alliance landmarks like the Newberry Building, Knight Museum, Central Park Fountain and (of course!) Carhenge. It was the perfect gift for a man who, through KCOW and city government roles, gave decades of his life to making his hometown a better place.
This picture dates from 2013, when KCOW received a $250,000 building re-design and studio upgrade. For decades, KCOW’s studios were all in the front of our building on West 10th St. Eagle Communications engineers and then-General Manager Terri Friesen decided to build new studios in the back of the building, then relocate office space to the front. For nearly a year our offices looked like Grand Central Station…after an explosion. Boxes of cables littered the lobby, paint cans waited patiently for old studios to be cleared out, engineers strung cables in the basement to connect computers to the new studios. Progress is messy! But the day did come when the old studios were turned off and the new ones turned on.
When we welcomed visitors to tour our shiny new digs in the summer of 2013, we decided to show them the “before” as well as the “after.”
This control board served the KCOW control room for about 30 years. Boards like it were in the other three studios. They were all retired, and sent to a lovely control board ranch where they could live out their days frolicking in the sun. (But seriously, they were either put in the basement or sent to the dump.)
Geeky radio fact: the round dials are called “potentiometers”, or “pots” for short.
Doug Abbott was KCOW’s afternoon announcer for many years, until his passing in 2004. Before working with KCOW, Doug was a well-remembered air personality at Q98 in Chadron–a station that, when purchased by Eagle Communications, became half of the newly formed “Double Q Country” in 1991.
For those of us who worked with Doug during his KCOW years, every day was a chance to hear another one of his stories from those wild rock and roll radio days. Although Doug’s role kept him in the control room, we occasionally managed to sneak him into a production studio to lend his golden tones to a commercial or other special project. The last item in this audio file was recorded for a sendoff CD for graduating senior and KCOW part-time announcer David Kuskie.
We will have more audio and memories of Doug Abbott online and on our 70th anniversary special Friday March 15th at 1:00pm on KCOW.
Here is a clip from “Paul Harvey News and Comment”. Nothing we can do in way of an introduction will be any better than just presenting the clip to you:
This is one of four mentions of Alliance made by Mr. Harvey that we have in our archive. You will hear the most notable and detailed of these, from 1968, on our KCOW 70th Anniversary Special Friday March 15th beginning at 1:oopm on AM and FM KCOW.
This week’s photo is a rather unusual one…it’s a photo-collage created by KCOW’s Kalin Krohe during his days as a young whippersnapper (AKA part-time announcer). Included are the entire staff then working at the radio station. Try to spot Account Executives Helen Iossi, John Jones and Dennis Klinker; Traffic Director Jennifer Schmid; Business Manager (and later General Manager) Terri Friesen; Office Manager Tammy Griffee (then Tammy Sample); on-air team Kevin Horn, Jason Wentworth and Mike Glesinger; and part-time student announcers Kirsten Swanson, Doug Kimball, Michael Stewart, and the K-Man himself.
Behind all the staff pictures is a view through the window into a connecting studio. This collage was displayed prominently in the original front-of-building Studio 14A for years, but is now packed away, a memento of a very specific time and place in KCOW’s 70-year history.
Original history article written by former KCOW news director Kevin Horn and the late Marcene McMasters.
KCOW Radio: February 15, 1949 to February 15, 2019 — and beyond!
Recognizing the need for additional local expression, a number of local, progressive business and professional men banded together in December, 1947 to establish a radio station in Alliance, NE.
The Sandhills Broadcasting Corporation was formed, and an application was made for a 250 watt radio station operating at 1400 kilocycles. A construction permit was granted by the FCC in September, 1948.
Construction to house the new station began in December, 1948 at 1030 West Third Street, with the hope of being on the air by Spring, 1949. However, the big blizzard of January, 1949 severely handicapped the completion of the building.
Feeling the need that a local radio station was even greater due to the blizzard and its effects, it was decided not to delay the start of operations until spring. Securing the use of a small building, installation of radio equipment began as soon as workmen could break through the snow drifts.
KCOW Radio went on the air at 6:30 am, Tuesday, February 15, 1949.
The first board of directors were Hans Jaggers, president; Walter Metz, Sr.; vice-president, Wharton Cover, Sec/Treas. T.C. Gregory, Harry McKibbin & Don Berman.
The call letters KCOW tell a story by themselves. KCOW is situated in cow country at the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills.
The station was located at 1030 West Third Street for six years, which is the current location of Bloedorn Lumber Alliance. In 1955, Sandhills Broadcasting, Inc. purchased a tract of land west of Alliance on 10th Street. The studio was moved to its present location at 1210 West 10th Street.
The managers in succession were Charles Bilyue, Gene Ackerly, Jim Ballas, Don Gill, Jack Everton, Jim Kamerzell, Rich Epp, Mike Garwood, Lois Loyd, Mike Fell, Terri Friesen, Jerome Gilg and current manager Olivia Hasenauer. The station’s first Sales Manager was Arnold Kuhn, longtime publisher of the Hemingford Ledger newspaper.
In 1966, KLOE Radio, Inc., a Kansas based corporation, purchased Sandhills Broadcasting. The sale was made so amicably and smoothly that not even an inventory was taken. A handshake secured the sale, which was made over a dinner meeting in the Drake Hotel restaurant in downtown Alliance.
From 1949 to 1975, KCOW was a non-directional, 1,000 watt, daytime station, with the exception of night ball games and special events.
As KCOW has grown, new equipment has been added and the facilities updated and expanded. On October 1, 1985, a new FM station, KAAQ 105.9 Mhz, was added to the KCOW broadcast facilities.
KAAQ covered western Nebraska, and reached into northern Colorado, and eastern Wyoming with 100,000 watts of power.
In June, 1999, KCOW celebrated the station’s 50th anniversary with on air prizes and a dance at the Heartland Aviation hangar at the Alliance Airport with live “big band” music provided by the Dean Bushnell Orchestra of Denver, CO.
In 1991, KQSK, 97.5 Mhz FM Radio in Chadron, NE was purchased. On August 14, 1991, Double Q Country was formed. KAAQ and KQSK simulcast country music to a four-state region. The KQSK studio is located at 331 Main Street in downtown Chadron.
The stations began offering streaming audio of Chadron State College Sports on the internet in 1999.
The company was renamed Eagle Communications, Inc. on October 6, 1992. Ten years later, on October 1, 2002, the employees of Eagle Communications, Inc., and it’s subsidiary, Eagle Radio, Inc. acquired majority ownership of the company, officially making KCOW/Double Q Country employee owned radio stations.
Eagle Radio, Inc. owns several radio stations in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
On December 13, 2002, doubleqcountry.com became a full service, information/entertainment web site. Updated regional and state news and sports stories are posted several times a day, as well as weather forecasts and AP on line video. Live and archived play by play of Chadron State College sporting events is also featured.
In August, 2007, kcowradio.com was launched. Live and archived play by play of Alliance High School sports is offered, as well as Box Butte County news and sports features.
In March, 2008, KCNB, 94.7 FM, Hay Springs / Chadron, NE went on the air, offering northern Nebraska panhandle listeners continuous Top 40 music.
On Monday, February 16, 2009, KCOW celebrated its 60th anniversary with a daylong remembrance broadcast. Interviews with former station employees were aired, as well as archived audio from broadcasts of days-gone-by.
KCOW became a member of the social web site, Facebook, on March 18, 2011. As of our 70th birthday 4,700 people have befriended the KCOW Facebook site.
The radio station’s two web sites were combined on November 1, 2012 and panhandlepost.com was launched, and offers streaming audio of all four radio stations.
On January 29, 2013 the Alliance stations began operating in new studios with 21st Century state of the art broadcast equipment.
Last year KCOW signed an FM translator on the air at 92.5FM. The FM station is a 100% simulcast of KCOW-AM.
Because the 2019 state high school wrestling tournament fell on this week, we are saving our major celebration of KCOW’s 70th anniversary for March. Next month we’ll have a two week 70th anniversary prize giveaway on the Wakeup Show, along with a four-hour special presentation Friday March 15th featuring historic audio, special guests, and music from throughout KCOW’s 70 years!
Driving through West 10th street in Alliance used to be something of a gamble. The busy train crossing on West 10th meant that your progress might be slightly delayed. (Or…uh… more than slightly.)
A welcome relief, then, was the construction of the West 10th overpass. For most Alliance citizens, the overpass was a convenient time saver. KCOW General Manager Mike Garwood, however, viewed the overpass through different eyes. Tests had to be made to ensure the overpass would not affect KCOW’s AM signal, which then as now originates from a tower behind the studios building.
Additionally, the overpass necessitated the creation of a new entryway to the KCOW Studios on nearby Buchfinck Avenue.
This brings us to today’s photo. As concrete is poured, Mike Garwood (far right, under the KCOW sign) looks on.
Years later, the overpass was named in honor of KCOW’s basement tenant as the Bob S. Bestos Semi-Memorial Overpass. Regrettably, the city has yet to make this designation official with some sort of placard or road sign.
In addition to marking KCOW’s 70th anniversary, 2019 is also the 70th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’49. It is virtually impossible for those who have grown up with smartphones, internet and virtual assistants to know the unique challenges and hardships faced by those who lived through the 1949 blizzard. In 1999, Kevin Horn and Mike Glesinger produced this unique dramatization of just one notable incident from the history of those difficult weeks and months.
As we get closer to February 15th, the exact date of KCOW’s 70th anniversary, we’ll be sharing photos of important moments in the station’s history. KCOW was originated by a group of Alliance businessmen–the Sandhills Broadcasting Corporation by name. In 1966, KLOE Inc., based out of Hays, Kansas purchased the station from the local investors. This photo captures the historic moment the agreement was made, a handshake deal over lunch at the Drake Hotel.
At the time of this photo, Bob Schmidt held a management role at KLOE Inc. Bob eventually purchased the company outright, and in 1998 he began the process of selling the company back to its employees. The company (now known as Eagle Communications) is owned 100% by its employees, who receive stock certificates each year as a long-term retirement plan.
Bob Schmidt passed away in 2017, but his generosity to Eagle employee-owners will never be forgotten.