KUVR Radio

Stereoscope April 2020

KUVR Radio

by Patti Simpson

Radio Station KUVR got its start here in Holdrege on October 22, 1956, when it went “on the air” for its first day of operation. Bill and Betty Rae Whitlock (WW Broadcasting Company) had been working towards this day for over a year to prepare for the maiden broadcast date. According to the Phelps County History book published in 1981, a great deal of engineering research and fulling of requirements for the Federal Communication Commission (F.C.C.) had to happen before the F.C.C. would give permission to begin construction of a radio station, and then more work before permission to begin broadcasting. There were several local people who became the first stockholders in WW Broadcasting in 1957. These included: Richard Person, James F. Swanson, Gaylord Illingworth, John Dier, Dale Illingworth and Alfred Illingworth. The initial construction engineering was done by Otis Oleson and Harold Erickson. Mr. Erickson served as Chief Engineer of KUVR from 1956 until his retirement in 1996. The KUVR building is well known in downtown Holdrege. It’s located on the north side of the street at 613 4th Avenue. The familiar KUVR neon sign still glows brightly above the front door. Before KUVR purchased the building in 1958, it was owned and occupied by the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company until they built their new facilities at 5th and Garfield Streets. Well into the 1980s there was a telephone booth that stood outside the building right next to the front steps. Today (2020) the building is still home to the station. The main floor of the small building has a reception area, three offices, restrooms, and three sound proof broadcast rooms with large heavy glass windows for viewing. The smallest of these rooms is used to cut commercial advertising; Studio One, as it is called, is used for broadcasting and interviewing guests; and the studio in the middle is the main broadcast booth, housing the control board where the disc jockeys run the content. The building’s basement at one time held an office in the front next to the outside entrance. Now the basement is mainly used for storage. The Whitlocks began the station with a crew of newsman, disc jockeys, salesman, a receptionist and engineer. In January 1979, I was hired by Dave Tucker as the KUVR receptionist. At that time, the KUVR staff averaged around 12 people.Several radio personalities and sales personnel have called KUVR home over the years. My memories of Bill Whitlock include him smoking cigars. One day he came in puffing two in his mouth at once. Other KUVR employees over the years included General Manager and radio personality, Moe Milliken who was employed from 1966 to 1973; Station Manager Jack Stitzel who now resides in Colorado; the late Dave Tucker who was employed as the General Manager from 1980 until his retirement in 2003; Sports Director Garry Meyers; Program Director, Howard Henderson; sales rep and morning personality, Hal Boettcher; Sales Manager, Kris Shaver; Engineer Harold Erickson from 1956 until his retirement in 1996; bookkeeper, Lillian Pelowski; other office staff including: Pat Lynch, Pat Guzman, Jean Isler, Kathy Ostendorf; and several radio personalities including: Dixon Powers, Dale Johnson, John Titus, Ralph Wall and most recently, the late Randy Isler who was well known and loved for his signature sports broadcasting. KUVR sold advertising for their many featured programs geared around the community’s needs. These included programs like: Betty Rae’s Women’s News where Betty Rae would discuss recipes and other issues important to women; the weekday morning program, Over the Back Fence, where individuals could advertise miscellaneous items for sale; a half-hour Sunday program hosted by John Titus known as The Swedish Hour, that featured hymns sung in Swedish; and the Saturday afternoon program Dial-A-Score where listeners could call in and find out the final score for a ballgame held that day. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, KUVR even sponsored a Farm & Home Show at the Phelps County Ag Center. These were busy days at the radio station.The type of music the station played has varied over the years from the oldies, to Top 40 and Rock to Country. Many nights DJs would take caller requests and play songs dedicated to someone special. In the early years, during the holidays, there was one very obnoxious record featuring dogs barking to the tune of Jingle Bells. One morning, a local sponsor came in to do her piece on the Over the Back Fence program. The DJ had just put on the barking dogs tune. Thoroughly annoyed with the song, the sponsor went into the control room, pulled the 45 record from the turntable and smashed it on the floor!Several locally sponsored promotions were held including Wiener Wednesdays and many Christmas promos. Games were also played on the radio including BINGO and the popular Turkey Hunt, where the radio announcer would take the first, second or third caller. The caller would then guess how many “shots” it would take to get the turkey. The listeners would then hear a turkey gobble, followed by one, two or three gun shots. If the caller guessed the correct number of shots, they would win a turkey! And who could forget the brown station wagon labeled as the KUVR Mobile Mic which was seen around the area whenever live broadcasts were being aired to promote a business or sporting event.Many changes have taken place at KUVR over the years, but you can still tune in to 97.7 FM or 1440 AM to hear local news, sports, weather, and advertising. Recently Craig Larson, General Manager and CEO of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association (NRRA) announced they had purchased KUVR. Good things are still happening in the air waves, and I believe KUVR will continue to be an asset to the people of Holdrege and the surrounding areas for many years to come.—end

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