Sung by Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers for over 40 years on the venerable radio station WOWO, 1190-AM, this song and numerous air checks, jingles, photos and top-of-the-hour IDs are available to tune in on the Web site www.historyofwowo.com, which debuted last June. The station marks its 85th year on the air today.
Take a walk down memory lane as you once again hear those iconic voices read their own commercials live, share letters from listeners about lost dogs and banter with each other and callers in broadcasts that reached 38 states, several Canadian provinces and countries such as Australia, Sweden and Spain.
The driving force behind HistoryofWOWO.com is Bluffton native Randy Meyer. Bitten by the radio bug in high school, Meyer and other teens produced and hosted a weekly show on WOWO called “Mikeside.” He worked at the station six years, and today is employed at a suburban Chicago radio syndication company with Chris Witting, the man who hired him at WOWO.
“It's hard to describe what a thrill it was to work with (air personalities) Chris Roberts, Dugan Fry, Ron Gregory, Sam DeVincent, Jack Underwood, and, of course, Bob Sievers,” he said. “Each one was — and is — a legend to me.
“(Chris) and I agree that, even though we've worked at much larger stations around the country, our time at WOWO was the most enjoyable time of our careers,” he said, explaining how their reminiscing birthed an idea. “We thought a site like this (HistoryofWOWO.com) was badly needed, because as people fade away, the history literally goes with them.”
Meyer accepted the challenge of collecting, preserving and sharing WOWO's history in an online format. Although he and Witting started with their own memorabilia, the majority of the material on the Web site came from WOWO employees and listeners.
“Former program directors were my first stop,” Meyer said. “For some reason, they seem to hang on to more memorabilia than anyone else. Warren Maurer, who was WOWO's general manager in the mid-70s, was a camera buff. He took literally hundreds of black-and-white photos — extremely rare stuff.
“Some of the rarest are the old photos from the '20s and '30s,” he continued. “They show the very earliest days of the station and how experimental and high tech radio was at that time.”
Others donated promotional items, recordings, studio documents, and bits and pieces of historical information. Helen Jones Campbell and Nancy (Lee) DeVincent helped with identification of many photos.
Highlights of the site include Jay Gould and Sievers walking to the “barn” with gravel crunching underfoot as cows moo, dogs bark and roosters crow in the background; Earl Finckle giving the “Finckle Forecast”; and a 22-year-old Chris Roberts doing his first broadcast on WOWO in 1973.
The usual seven-second delay creates an unintended comedy routine between Ron Gregory and a caller, Mrs. Shreve; Jack Underwood tells go-go girls jokes; and Sievers dedicates “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” to “Mr. Ervin Spitznagle of McComb, Ohio, who is 83 years young today.”
Commercials for a $229.88 sofa from Montgomery Ward are interspersed with ever-so-familiar jingles and Jay Gould's oft-repeated “Hello, world!” and the identification of WOWO as “the 50,000-watt voice of the big business of farming.”
“There are some really rare air checks that I think stand out,” said Meyer. “Bob Sievers getting ‘streaked' on the air ... the Saturday morning in 1971 that Bob received an alert that meant a nuclear war might be underway — that one gives you goosebumps. The oldest air check we have on the site is a John Cigna bit from 1967. Every recording that has survived is like a shiny little time capsule.”
For 85 years — since signing on from its first location at Main Auto Supply on March 31, 1925 — WOWO has reflected the heartbeat of the community. Listeners who never set foot in Indiana knew Bodie the Janitor, learned about the weather off the world-famous WOWO fire escape, and got “Cigna-fied.”
“WOWO had a real emotional connection to this community,” Meyer said. “Most of the air staff loved WOWO and Fort Wayne so much they stayed for decades. That in itself builds a bond.
“All of this history is out there in drawers or basements, but no one had put it together in one place,” he said. “I think people are excited to find a place where they can share something with other WOWO fans. Before the Internet existed, none of this — gathering the material or sharing it — would have been possible.”
WOWO's legacyPop some popcorn and settle down for an evening visit to www.historyofwowo.com. You'll find a history timeline for radio station WOWO, 1190-AM; photos of studios, transmitters and staff through the decades; and audio clips of station IDs, jingles and interviews.
If you have memorabilia to contribute, contact Randy Meyer at webmaster@ historyofwowo.com or 1-708-738-1426.