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View from the Cab: Radio reflections

Kent in his at-home radio setup in the 1990s.

By: Kent Casson

Farming and radio have always been very important parts of my life.

They seem to go together well. In fact, I made a career out of both. As a young boy growing up on that McLean County farm, I would play radio in a small shed, also dubbed our “playhouse.” Broadcasts would reach Dad out in the shed and Mom in the house through small intercoms, or baby monitors.

I even automated my own radio programming by purchasing those 120-minute cassette tapes with hour sides to constantly loop music and commercials on the tape player. Compact discs were sorted each day so I knew which songs to play and tape labels were always handy to properly name each blank cassette.

Mom would read the news for me while I hosted the morning show and my brother Curt even got involved with my pretend farm radio station by recording a few commercial messages. I spent many summers in that small makeshift radio studio which led me to where I am today.

My exposure to radio came as a young child. I recall hearing the oldies blaring on the tractor radio while riding with Dad. He was probably listening to Oldies 96.7 WIHN out of Bloomington-Normal or WIRL 1290 AM out of Peoria. This was when I was first introduced to those great songs by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Monkees and other groups. One of our old cabless John Deere tractors even had an AM radio mounted up on the fender. This made mowing with the big mower fun.

My Mom also had the radio on in the kitchen of our farmhouse each morning before work and school listening to the Don Munson Morning Show on WJBC 1230 AM. Later, we had to switch that radio to the FM dial as I eventually got a part-time job at the Pontiac radio station WJEZ so we started listening to the Dave Schmidt Morning Show. Whether listening for the latest school lunch menu, school closings or weather updates, local radio was a big part of growing up.

It may sound weird, but I looked forward to being home sick from school on a weekday so I could hear the local radio station programming during the day. What was the noon market update like or what personality was on during the midday hours? These were questions constantly going through my head that I would find out the answers to when having the radio on during the day. I was finally able to catch WPOK-WJEZ operations manager and announcer Marc Edwards introduce the local newscast featuring Roy Frankenhoff. How exciting!

All of these events were precursors to the summer day when a soon-to-be 15-year-old farm boy called the local radio station to see if there were any job openings. The rest, as they say, is history.


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