Radio at Worthington was announcement that created a stir

WORTHINGTON -- Talk was of things people might do at Winnipeg or Washington they would never do at Windom or Worthington, because no one would know. Besides that, I mean.

WORTHINGTON -- Talk was of things people might do at Winnipeg or Washington they would never do at Windom or Worthington, because no one would know. Besides that, I mean.

You might work at Winnipeg MacDonald's but eat at Winnipeg Burger King.

In time gone by, this kind of thing posed a social bump in smaller communities. If you worked with the Ford agency, you would have little to do with the people at Chevrolet beyond saying, "How do you do." If you worked at Silverberg's, you probably did not go to Wolff's. If you worked at Harper's, you didn't shop for clothes at Whipkey's.

I was with the Daily Globe; Daily Globe people didn't coffee day by day with the KWOA crew. Daily Globe advertising salesmen competed with KWOA salesmen. The Daily Globe newsroom competed with the KWOA news department.

Ray Schisler, Worthington's longtime postmaster and longtime mayor, used to joke, "KWOA gathers its news from the four corners of the globe -- the four corners of the Worthington Daily Globe." We loved hearing that. This was in another time -- all different people than now. Later, Larry Rogers went to every meeting in town for KWOA and had Daily Globe people listening carefully to his news reports.


There are great stories to be told of KWOA that I missed because everyone maintained that distance. There seldom was more excitement over an announcement than there was 60 years ago -- 59, precisely -- when word came that Worthington would have its own radio station.

Radio? Here? For us?


KWOA opened in the basement of the Hotel Thompson, heart of the downtown. Ralph Shepherd was the first manager and he got KWOA off to a fast, strong start. The big feature, of course, was the station's main studio.

There probably are 681 people in the local area still who have a memory of crowding into that KWOA basement studio as kids on Saturday mornings to sing or to recite a poem or to hear their sister play her clarinet into a microphone. "Did you hear her? Did you hear her?"

Many have memories, too, of weekday school programs from the KWOA studio. When there was a choir concert upcoming, a band concert, a class play, WHS students by the dozens trooped to KWOA to give an on-air preview.

These columns lately have recalled some local musicians -- Tiny Little, Dudley Little, the Edstrom brothers. There is one great one neglected. Eddie Washinowski of KWOA.

No one knew Eddie Washinowski, of course. Everyone knew Eddie Skeets. This was his public name. Through many years, Eddie Skeets and his Swiss Boys assembled in that KWOA basement studio -- 10:30 every morning, 1:30 on Saturday afternoons -- to play live polka music, oldtime music, oom-pah music. Eddie played the accordion.


You wonder that I say Eddie Skeets was one of the great ones? You must know Eddie was inducted into both the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Hall of Fame. Everyone loved Eddie Skeets.

One testimony to his enduring fame: Awhile ago I read a promotional pamphlet for the town of Abie in Butler County, Neb. The pamphlet recalls that Eddie Skeets performed in the Abie school auditorium.

Lately there have been two items of Skeets memorabilia on eBay. If you wrote a fan letter to Eddie, you got a postcard with his picture on it. The last eBay bid I saw for one of those KWOA picture postcards was $17.95. The other item up for bidding was a vinyl record Eddie made with his son Jeff.

There is another Eddie Skeets record offered for sale: The Barnswallow Polka on the front, Meadowlark Waltz on the back.

Eddie left Worthington to manage ballrooms at Spencer and Sioux City, Iowa. He also became a promoter. At various times he booked The Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, Gary Lewis, Herman's Hermits -- many more -- for shows at Sioux City, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Lincoln, Neb.

Eddie Washinowski suffered a stroke in 1984, but he worked and struggled his way back to playing once again. He died in 1995. I was told the son, Jeff, has a popular band that still features the oldtime genre his father loved.

If you're trying to introduce Worthington sometime -- you mention turkeys, you say Tiny Little, and you draw blank expressions -- say, "Eddie Skeets." That may ring a bell.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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