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I love those monthly doses of living broadcast history!

23 Mar

Left to right are Jon Book, Tom Brehmer and Don Rhyne at a recent WOC Club meeting.

Left to right are Ed Zack, Ivan Owens, Betty Straight and Ed Jones.

Left to right are Stanley Straight, Wilma Hauser and Dave Coopman.

Shown left to right are Stanley Straight, Wilma Hauser and Dave Coopman.

Ed Jones, left, with blog author Phil Roberts.

Donna Scott was Miss Donna on "Romper Room."

Former WOC radio-TV hostess and continuity director Anita Sundin.

Donna Scott shares a laugh with WOC Club members Ed Zack and Ivan Owens.

"Jonesy" jokes with Tom Brehmer.

Bob Danico.

Something I really look forward to each month is a breakfast meeting with folks who, like myself, used to work at the WOC stations (WOC-AM, FM & TV) and the stations that followed. (Though WOC-AM has kept its original call letters, WOC-FM became KIIK-FM and later KUUL-FM. And, as most viewers know but often forget, WOC-TV became KWQC-TV when the Palmer family sold it in the 1980s.)

Though most of us who attend the montly gatherings could, by most definitions, be considered senior citizens, we’re also a diverse group in that we did a variety of broadcasting jobs.

Some members of our monthly get-togethers – I’ll call it the WOC Club — worked in front of the cameras and/or microphones and you’d likely recognize many of their faces or voices. Others spent their time toiling behind the scenes. You wouldn’t know them, but they were no less valuable to the broadcast product.

I also suspect those of us in the WOC Club left broadcasting for a variety of reasons.

Some of the former employees, like myself, may have been released for economic reasons. Others departed, perhaps, because of the recommendations of some highfalutin consultant, declining ratings or a program cancellation. I suspect, though, most people in our group left on their own due to retirement or because they had found another job — either in or out of broadcasting – that paid more or offered more normal hours.

Despite our diversity, though, all of us who attend the breakfast meetings have one thing in common: We are former WOC broadcasters, or related to one, and we all have some interesting “war stories” to share.

I lost my job as a WOC-AM news reporter and anchor in late April 2009. But it wasn’t until late that summer or fall that I heard of the WOC Club, asked about it and was invited to attend a meeting.

One of its members, and the guy who sends us all e-mails to remind our tired old brains of the monthly breakfast meetings, is my former St. Ambrose radio chum, Dave Coopman, who once worked in radio production and TV audio at WOC.

Coop says the breakfast meetings evolved from retiree luncheons once held at the Bishop’s Buffet that was located at Duck Creek Mall.

“When it closed, and with deaths, the get-togethers kind of went by the wayside as I understand,” Coop says.

But not for long. “I believe Bob Danico started the breakfast get-togethers around 2002 just to keep in contact with some of the ‘old folk’ in the area and to find out what was happening with other former employees.”

When Coop joined the group, it included engineer Carl Day; former news director Jack Thomsen; former TV director Don McGonegle, who attended when he was in town; former TV sports director and, later, TV program director Ed Zack; TV news anchor Don Rhyne, Danico, a former TV director; Ivan Owens, stage manager and set builder extraordinaire; former salesman John Goodall; and Russ Wingo, who worked in the TV film department and attended when not wintering in Arizona.

Later, says Coop, former TV and current WOC radio engineer Jon Book started attending. Rich Birley, the webmaster for captainerniesshowboat.com, also began showing up to get information and photos for his Website.

“Captain” Ernie Mimms and Anita Sundin, radio-TV hostess and continuity director, began attending. Then word began to spread and Dee Gress, widow of TV commentator Bill Gress; TV maintenance engineer Stan Straight and his wife Betty; Gwen Korn, Miss Gwen from “Romper Room”; Donna Scott, Miss Donna from “Romper Room”; and Doris Roth, widow of engineer Max Roth, began attending.

Other regulars are Ed Jones, former TV director, and Wilma Hauser, wife of former chief engineer Dave Hauser.

“Depending on the weather, the time of year (some of the WOC alums are snow birds), vacations and health, the number of attendees varies from time to time,” Coop says.

But he notes that attendance has been improving lately. “As people hear about the gatherings, we get new arrivals. Curtis Shivers, former film processor, recently began coming, and others, like Tom Brehmer, who worked in radio production, attend occasionally.”

Some former WOC employees who were not at the March meeting of the WOC Club but who sometimes attend include McGonegle; Danico; John Hageman, former chief engineer; Kent Morton, former TV news anchor; and Steve Trainor, former TV reporter.

Coop says, “occasional guests drop by, too. We had Ken Wagner Jr., son of Ken Wagner (Captain Ken of the “Cartoon Showboat”) come to one of the meetings, and we’ve also visited by phone with Max Lindberg, former WOC-TV newsman.

I don’t say a whole lot at the WOC Club meetings. That’s because I’d rather hear all the stories, often humorous, being shared by the others. They’re a monthly dose of living broadcast history. And for me it doesn’t get any better than that.

Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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8 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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8 responses to “I love those monthly doses of living broadcast history!

  1. Terry James

    March 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    What a great opportunity for sharing about a time I missed out on! I was born a little too late and joined radio just before all the reductions and automations began. Thanks to Phil Roberts and Jon Book who have been all too willing to share stories with them. I started working for Mark Minnick and working with Phil Roberts at the age of 22. Now as I enter my 30’s I realize how lucky I was to be a part of that group! Next vacation from Nebraska I will be there to visit.

     
  2. Allison (Brown) Kelly

    March 25, 2010 at 3:21 am

    I know that you probably don’t know me but I want to say thank you for posting pictures of people that I do know (i.e. Jon Book, “Uncle” Ed “Jonesy” Jones, and many others.). It is good to see that the “Old Gang” still gathers. I only wish that I could attend in my father’s memory.
    I am Bob Brown’s youngest daughter. Just ask the above mentioned about me.

    Please pass my best wishes to all that know me and knew my father and let them know that as soon as I am able I will come to attend a luncheon.

    Feel free to give my email to any that want it if they are interested in being in contact. It would make me incredibly happy to talk to them. They may not think it possible but I remember some of the people that attend from my childhood. Some I remember by name only but others I recognize by face. It brings a tear to my eye to see all those smiles and know how much they meant to my father and to me.

    I enjoyed reading what you have written, Sir, and I hope to read more.
    Blessings to all of you.
    Allison (Brown) Kelly

     
  3. frontporchexpressions

    March 25, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Thanks, Allison. How nice of you to write. You made my day! And I remember your dad well; I watched him for years. I wish I’d have known him.

     
  4. Bob Danico

    April 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Enjoyed the pics and story a great deal!! I worked with all those people & spouses mentioned.
    We have a small condo in Stuart, Florida where we go to escape the Iowa winters….. Expect to be back in Davenport around Mother’s Day so will resume being at the meetings!
    Ahhhh! Riefe’s omelets…..
    Bob

     
  5. rich birley

    August 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Great job on the write-up and pictures. Make sure Jon knows about this page (I assume he does). Always ask if anyone has any pictures, slides or flim, it is always terrific to add them to the site – Rich

     
  6. Ken Wagner Jr.

    August 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Just had a great visit with Rich Birley who came to Chicago to return items pertaining to my Dad’s career at WOC-TV. All that “stuff” now on captainerniesshowboat.com. The website developed and maintained by Rich is a treasure chest of QC television history and remains a work in progress. I am so greatful that my dad’s work and career are included.

     
  7. Rich

    August 23, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    and.. I am not only a fan of Ken Wagner but of his son Ken as well. Ken is one class act and how incredible that he and his sisters share their family’s collection for everyone to see the earliest years of WOC. Ken Senior and Ken Junior were both on WOC the first week it signed on the air. Ken is a walking museum piece who rubbed shoulders with the early stars of WOC TV 5 (!) as well as WOC Radio including his father who was one of the earliest stars. Another early star was Ken’s co-host and foil Pee-Wee the clown puppet. Yes, believe it or not, Pee-Wee was one of the earliest and most beloved stars of WOC in the early 1950s (and late 1949 I might add). Now it can be revealed – Pee Wee behind the scenes was none other than Ken Jr. How appropriate that for the past year, during the 5 o’clock news, a 60th anniversary tribute has been playing non-stop once a day Monday thru Friday. Who is on that short anniversary (in addition to Wes Holly & others) – none other than Ken Sr. & Pee Wee. Watch for it while you can (during this 60th anniversary year).

     
  8. Donna Ragan

    September 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I loved reading all the info on WOC. I am a life time resident of Davenport and faithful viewer of channel 6. I am 67 years old so I have a faded memory of the era of George Sontag, Margery MInor and etc. My Uncle was a camera man at that time before he moved to California and continued his career. He filmed Dinah Shore Show and etc. Sadly he , his wife and my two cousins have passed on. I am very interested to know if anyone remembers him. His name was Richard(Dick) Durham. He died in 1972. In am interested because of my genealogy searches.
    Thank you so much, Donna

     

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