Saturday, December 20, 2008

Whatever happened to Dave Scherling?

Earlier this week, I was foraging through old newspapers in search of information about the first dial telephone system in Dawes County. Like the first moving picture theatre in the county, it was located in Whitney, and I was looking for information that I could add to our Whitney Reflections website.

Unable to find the information I was looking for, I scrolled ahead and happened across the article shown here. It reported the May 6, 1954 sign-on of KCSR, the 250-watt radio station, whose offices were at 212 Bordeaux in Chadron.

It was fun reading the article. I remember all of the folks mentioned in the story, and I pretty much know where most of them went when they left Chadron -- except for announcer Dave Scherling.

Bob Fouse returned to Colorado, where he died many years ago. Bill Finch eventually went back to Colorado (Colorado Springs, I believe) and also hosted a big band program for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. I suspect he may have passed from our earth by now, but I don't know that for a fact. Ted Turpin ended up in Arizona, retired from the newspaper business, and is still there, as far as I know. Sherry Girmann married and moved, I believe, to Colorado.

So whatever happened to Dave Scherling? To be continued...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Banned on KCSR

As far back as I can remember, I've been a big fan of Art Carney, the celebrated actor who portrayed Ed Norton in the Jackie Gleason Honeymooners television series.
Carney has been dead some 15 years, having died in 1993 at the age of 85. But many of us well remember his infectuous dialogue as Norton, the "underground sanitation expert," and some of us even remember his career as a singer.


Well, his recording Song of the Sewer was popular, but it just never quite made it big in northwest Nebraska. It's one of the few songs ever banned from KCSR Radio in Chadron. I do remember hearing the song on the station in the mid-to-late 1950s, but I also vividly recall it's being "banned" some time later.

Not a great piece of music, perhaps, but it was a snappy bit of satire that only Norton could pull off. What was all the fuss? Well, judge for yourself. Quite by accident, while surfing the web, I came across this version of Song of the Sewer.

Carney apparently professed to be nothing like Norton. I remember reading that Carney was wounded at Normandy during World War II and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Like so many from that war, he came home and got on with his life -- and what a life it was!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bob Armstrong dies

The Armstrong name is well known around Chadron and western Nebraska. It dates back to the coming of Ross and Ruby Armstrong to Chadron during the early 1930s, and the standout athletic teams coached by Ross at Chadron State College. Of course the Armstrong Center at CSC is named for Ross Armstrong.

Old-timers will also remember Robert “Bob” Armstrong, Armstrong’s son and a standout athlete at Chadron Prep in the 1940s and 1950. He also excelled in sports at CSC and was inducted into the Chadron State College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bob Armstrong died last week (10/30) in Tucson, Arizona, where he and his wife, Jerry (Hirchert), made their home. He was 75.

After teaching and coaching for 10 years in Carson City, Nevada, Bob taught at the University of Arizona and then founded a computer software company. He and his wife had three daughters, Karen, Kristi, and Kathie, who also survive. They are show (left-to-right) in this 2006 photo below with Jerry and Bob, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

The Armstrongs have been staunch supporters of Chadron State College for many years, often hosting events in their Arizona home.

According to Mike Smith and Con Marshall, who were kind enough to send us this information, a memorial service for Bob Armstrong will be at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow (11/5) in the Student Center at CSC. A reception will be held in the Armstrong Gymnasium following the memorial service.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Legendary Nebraska musician dies

Native Nebraskan Neal Hefti has died. Born in Hastings in 1922, Hefti won fame as an arranger for a wide variety of big bands during the 1940s and 50s, including Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet and Harry James. He died Saturday (Oct. 11) at his home in Toluca Park, California.

An accomplished trumpet player, it was really Hefti’s composing and arranging that won him the adoration and respect of top-flight musicians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Count Basie. He was also a conductor and worked with the likes of Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Sinatra.

Without a clue to his roots, I remember playing a lot of Neal Hefti recordings on KCSR in Chadron, Nebraska in the 1950s. I often wondered if Neal was related to Paul Hefti, a Chadron banker – not an altogether wild assumption, since Hefti is a rather unusual name, and they both had Nebraska roots. I never found out. (NOTE: Paul Hefti's son, Marvin, responds that he does not believe Neal Hefti and Paul Hefti were closely related, if at all - 11/1/08)

Neal Hefti’s name graced a bevy of big band, standards, and jazz albums in those years. But probably his most popular works were the theme songs for the hit television series "The Odd Couple" and "Batman."

My favorite Hefti composition was a lumbering jazz ditty entitled Li'l Darlin’.

Neal Hefti was 85 years old.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This was a real nice clambake

There are too few opportunities to see old friends from school. So it was a special treat to visit for a few hours recently with Ron and Jane Becker – teachers at Chadron High School in the late 1950s. They were spending a week at a resort in the northern Black Hills and invited Karen and me to join them one afternoon. We did so with great delight.

Students from that era will remember Ron Becker as the band and choir director. Jane Becker taught English and speech at CHS.

I have vivid memories of two performances produced by the Beckers. First was James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones. The second was particularly memorable, because it involved so many students – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel! Like so many things in life, the enormous effort put into these projects paid off with some real fun and great pride in being a part of such challenging productions.

Both Ron and Jane grew up in Lincoln and met at the university. As teachers, they were popular with the students – but they were no pushovers. They expected students to apply themselves, which didn’t mean we couldn’t and didn’t have fun along the way! 1960 at Chadron was Jane's last teaching job, since the Beckers adopted a little boy, Randy, and they moved to Scottsluff.

It was nearly three decades later that I had the good fortune to cross paths again with the Beckers. It was the late 1980s in Sioux Falls, when Ron and I conspired to have members of the Sioux Empire Arts Council, which he headed, man the telephones during an on-air pledge drive for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. I was Deputy Director of the South Dakota Network in those days. With only a little coaxing on my part, Ron also agreed to serve on the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting Board of Directors.

His association with SDPB transcended my eight years with the network. In addition to his many years of service in support of SDPB, Ron also served on the Board of Directors for America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), where he gained the admiration and respect of lay and professional public broadcasting people all across the country. He and I crossed paths at many public television meetings, as shown in the photo below, taken at a Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C., probably in about 1999. That's Ron on the right.

Ron was as a senior administrator for the Sioux Falls Independent School District until he retired in 1994, although he agreed to return for a couple of administrative assignments. He finally hung it up in 1999. Ron also traveled extensively overseas evaluating the educational programs in schools operated by the Department of Defense for military dependents.

Now both retired, the Beckers live in Sioux Falls and continue to be active in the community, and they're able to spend considerable visiting their daughter Brenda and family in Sioux Falls and son Randy and family in Lincoln. The Beckers have four grandchildren.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rushville native leads BSA

Rushville, Nebraska native John Gottschalk has been named President of the Boy Scouts of America. Late last year, he retired as publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, capping a successful journalistic career that started back at the Sheridan County (Neb) Star in the 1950s.

His father, Phil Gottschalk, was publisher of that small Nebraska weekly in Rushville, which had been founded by John’s maternal grandfather, Bill Barnes. The younger Gottschalk performed a variety of duties at the weekly, including back shop work. After high school in Rushville, he went to the University of Nebraska, majoring in political science and journalism. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Gottschalk bought the Sidney (Neb) Telegraph in 1966 from his father and later also served as Mayor of Sidney. He sold the paper in 1974 and went to work for the Omaha World-Herald in 1975 as an assistant to the president.

Reading through John Gottschalk’s community involvements and philanthropic activities takes more than a few minutes. His civic accomplishments are many and varied; he and his wife, Carmen, have even served as foster parents, caring for more than 100 infants awaiting adoption.

With declining advertising revenue and circulation figures, most major dailies in this country are struggling for their very survival. The Omaha World-Herald, under John Gottschalk’s leadership, has girded itself from many of the demons knocking at the doors of nearly all newspapers across the country and appears to be doing quite well, thank you very much.

John Gottschalk helped diversify the company, which still has the World-Herald at its core, giving it a robustness not realized by many larger papers. The World-Herald is the 53rd largest newspaper in the United States, even though it’s in the 75th largest metropolitan area.

The paper is the only major newspaper in the country that is owned by its own employees.

It still publishes both morning and afternoon editions – something that used to be routine in most cities – but has become a real rarity in the 21st century.

We’re sure that even the World-Herald is facing some tough times, but they’re faring much better than most of their counterparts, thanks largely to John Gottschalk.

I suspect the Boy Scouts of America will benefit from his leadership as well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lynn Gorr (1942-2008)

It's always sad to read about the death of a friend.

In late July, I learned about the passing of Lynn Gorr, a member of the Class of 1960 at Chadron High School. Apparently, at the time of his death, Lynn was doing something he loved -- hiking and climbing. He was 65 years old.

Many who grew up around Chadron during the 1940s, '50s and early '60s will remember him as a quiet and studious fellow who loved the outdoors. I remember his infectous smile, which they apparently talked him out of in the Navy photograph shown here. Lynn played football at Chadron High and was an outstanding player and student.

Lynn married his high school sweetheart, Cyndi Huls, also a member of the Class of 1960 at Chadron High School. After Lynn's six-year tour of active duty in the Navy, they moved to the Seattle area to work and raise their family. Lynn's obituary provides additional information.

It was my good fortune to unexpectedly run across Lynn in the 1980s in Seattle. He had remained in the Naval Reserve after active duty -- as had I -- and we were both attending a Naval Reserve exercise at the old Sand Point Naval Base. That was a regular drill site for Lynn, still a proud member of the SeaBees. I was on special duty as an Emergency Preparedness Officer. Our meeting really was serendipitous, and we enjoyed it immensley.

Not until last spring did our paths cross again -- this time in Nebraska for a Chadron State College meeting. Unbeknownst to each other, we were among a fair-sized group formed to help raise funds for Chadron State College. We sat together at the session, along with our former CHS coach, Vern Lewellen, who now lives in Mitchell. We had a great time. We're saddened to know Lynn won't be with us down the road on this project.

As Lynn and I visited during that gathering in Chadron, I was taken by his obvious and unabashed pride in his family. Some of that pride is captured in a wonderful on-line memorial.

Our condolences to Cyndi and family. We were all blessed to know such a fine man as Lynn Gorr. He will be missed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Danny Woodhead injured

We were sorry to hear that Chadron (Nebr) State College’s Danny Woodhead injured his left knee while practicing with the Jets last week. The NCAA’s career rushing leader, Danny has been placed on the “waived-injured list” after injuring his knee during practice with the New York Jet on Friday (7/25).

While we don’t know the extent of the injury, Coach Eric Mangini reportedly said that “it’s not looking good for him to be back anytime soon.” Woodhead is a native of North Platte, Nebraska, and helped to put Chadron State College on the map during his four spectacular years on the gridiron for the Eagles. He chalked up some 7,962 yards in four seasons. He won the distinguished Harlon Hill Trophy two years in a row, an honor afforded the NCAA Division II top player.

Nonetheless, we’re continuing to keep an eye on Danny Woodhead. We've always admired his attitude and spirit.

We’re also watching Zack Alcorn, a Chadron High School standout player who went to Black Hills State University for his college play. We’re told that he’s been released by the Seattle Seahawks. He’s another young man with lots of spunk. Whether or not his professional football career as a Tight End is drawing to an early conclusion, we don’t know. But we’re fairly certain that both these young men will do well in whatever they pursue.

The Jones Boys

Growing up in Chadron, Nebraska during the late 1940s, the '50s, and the '60s, it was nearly impossible not to know "The Jones Boys."

We're not talking about the fabled song of the 1950s by the Mills Brothers. We're talking about a family of boys and girls who were widely-known throughout Chadron and the area. This posting is not so much about that Jones family as it is one of a newer Jones generation.

However, to put it in context, it's wise to at least give a frame of reference.

The parents were Dick and Alice Jones. They lived in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chadron. I recall Dick was a mechanic, and in his later years worked for Chadron State College, but I don't believe Alice worked outside the home. She had kids to raise. Lots of kids! An interesting turn of events for a mother who'd been an only child.

Okay, I don't want to overstate it, but there were more than just one or two kids in their family. I think there were eight or nine. In order, probably: Billy, Rosemary, Ross, Rex, Ron, Don, Roger, Janice, and Judy.  (Note:  A kind soul has commented that there were actually eleven Jones kids, and that I overlooked the first and third children, Bonnie and Bob. Thanks for the correction!)  At the risk of minimizing all of this remarkable group -- I'm going to stay in my comfort zone and talk only about the ones I knew a little something about.  

Bonnie, Billy, Bob and Rosemary were the oldest. Ross, like most of the boys, was a good athlete and went into the Marine Corps. Rex was, I think, an even better athlete, becoming an outstanding football quarterback at Chadron High School AND Chadron State College. But Ron and Don were superb athletes, too. Don was a guard, Ron was quarterback. I remember Rex, Ron and Don as good basketball players, too. The last of the boys, Roger, was in my class of 1961. Like his brother, Don, Roger played guard and was tapped to play in the 1961 Shrine Bowl Football game. Roger and his wife, Judy, are retired and live in Iowa, but rumor has it that they're headed to warmer climes.

The younger girls were: Janice, who passed away a few years ago, after raising a family and working for many years at Chadron State College; and Judy. I have completely lost track of her.

But on a July morning this summer, near Iron Creek Lake south of Spearfish, I crossed paths with Rex Jones and his wife, Sharon. We were all at this beautiful locale to watch a Triathlon, involving about 120 younger folks who would swim, run and bike through this beautiful northern Black Hills enclave.

I was there because two of my amateur radio colleagues and I had agreed to provide communications for the event. Bob Weaver and Don Matthesen are veterans at this sort of thing. As perhaps one of the most inactive "ham" operators in the country, this was just my second time at this event. While Don and Bob went to the mid-point of the Mountain Bike ride, I remained near the finish line.

That's when I saw Rex and Sharon. And that's when I learned that their son, Rick, was competing in the Triathlon. That's Rick with his mom and dad, Rex and Sharon Jones in the photo below.

So, that's a long prelude to introduce a few pictures we took at Iron Creek Lake, mostly of Rick Jones, but there are some others, too. They're posted here, because, even if you've never met Rick Jones, if you remember those Jones boys of Chadron, you'll quickly identify Rick as a relative.

- 30 -

Editor's Note:  (10/16/16)  We are saddened to report the passing of Rick Jones, who was featured in this story -- and its associated photo gallery.   Our sympathy to Rex and Sharon Jones and their family.  For a glimpse into the life of this remarkable young man, please read this  Obituary for Rick Jones.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Danny Woodhead and the New York Jets

We've been following Chadron State College standout running back Danny Woodhead for quite some time, and we were delighted to see that he signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets over the weekend. A North Platte native, Danny stands 5-7 1/2 and weighs 200 pounds; despite his relatively small size for being an NFL back (of course, they said that at Nebraska, too), he set a bundle of records at Chadron State and within Division II of the NCAA. Here's the news as reported by the Associated Press.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Leonard's dream: Lakota Circle Village

A friend from high school – Leonard Little Finger – is about to retire for a second time. But you wouldn’t know it by the ambitious project he’s pursuing near his Oglala, South Dakota home.

First, he retired as CEO of the Indian Health Service hospital at Pine Ridge, but that was some 18 years ago. Then he went back to school to get a teaching certificate and has taught school ever since, but he’ll retire this spring – from teaching, that is.

Leonard will likely be devoting his full effort toward fruition of a dream: Lakota Circle Village. At the core of the village will be a language school that will use immersion techniques to teach the Lakota language to children who are losing touch with their culture, largely due to the loss of their ancestral language.

I first knew Leonard as a high school student some 42 years ago in Chadron, Nebraska, where he graduated in 1958. Leonard and I played on the Cardinal football team, and I still remember my amazement at how such a quiet and soft-spoken student could be such an energetic football player. In retrospect, his pervasive high-energy, low-profile demeanor may be key to his success.
Leonard and I shared a common gridiron fate: we both lost some permanent teeth in pursuit of the pigskin.

But that was likely one of the few things we had in common. Leonard was Lakota Sioux and came from South Dakota to attend high school in Chadron. Unlike the few other American Indian students I knew in our school – kids who seemed isolated and perhaps intimidated by their surroundings – Leonard Finger, as we knew him – participated in a full range of school activities and excelled academically. After he graduated and headed for college, it would be nearly three decades before out paths would cross again.

By the late 1980s, I was Deputy Director of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, and Leonard was Administrator of the Indian Health Service at Pine Ridge. He had agreed to serve on our Friends of Public Broadcasting Board of Directors. Within just a few years, I left South Dakota and Leonard finished his term on the Friends Board.

Then recently, on Good Friday, I had a good experience. I was shopping at Sam’s in Rapid City – as was Leonard – and we saw each other in the aisle. Despite the years that had gone by, we immediately recognized one another and had a short but delightful conversation. I was able to meet Leonard’s wife and one of his sons. Even during that short visit, Leonard’s vision for the Lakota Circle Village was readily apparent. Read more about it on the Lakota Village Circle web site.

Actually, that vision is becoming reality. One of the benefactors to the project is German rock superstar Peter Maffay, who has earmarked earnings from one of his music CD releases to help build the school, which is now complete. I admire Maffay for recognizing the importance of language in retaining cultural traditions. Ironically, I’ve tried to learn German as a way of connecting with my German-Russian heritage. Alas, despite earning a minor in German at college, I never had the benefit of language immersion. I have little doubt that a better knowledge of my ancestral language would help me better understand and appreciate my heritage.

Of course, the issue is more critical for the Lakota children, whose ancestors have inhabited this region of South Dakota for centuries, and the obstacles in the way of their pursuit of happiness are many.

Leonard Little Finger knows his way around the Rez…..and around the world. He has been a presenter to the United Nations Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also spoken at the Bundestag (German parliament) in Bonn, Germany. Thankfully, he cherishes his roots and is committed to helping future generations know theirs. I am proud to call him a friend.

Friday, March 14, 2008

H.F. Maika - Early Chadron Druggist

It's always fun to stumble upon unexpected treasures while scavengering through data in search of genealogical gems.

Such was the case this week, when I was searching on-line at USGenWeb and decided to take a peek at an unidentified Dawes County Nebraska file. For those of you unfamiliar with GenWeb, it consists of volunteers working together to provide Internet web sites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. If you've never visited their web site, check it out at

My latest serendipitous discovery was a collection of letters pertaining to one of the pioneer families of Dawes County: the Maika clan. Although I'm not certain of the relationships, I vividly remember a pair of Maika children who resided on east 2nd street in Chadron during the 1950s. I also recall my mom and dad occasionally referring to the Maika name, and I somehow learned that an earlier Maika family member had run a drugstore. Alas, where in Chadron that drugstore might have been situated, I don't know; perhaps one of our readers knows and can share that information with us at

The Chadron Centennial History 1885-1985, published by the Chadron Narrative History Project Committee in 1985, offers little information about the Maika family. However, it does refer to an early day (ca. 1906) Chadron druggist named H.F. Maika, whose establishment apparently carried some of the drugs that were the subject of questionable advertising. Cited was the example: "Easy Labor and Painless Childbirth guaranteed by the use of OSAGE PILLS. Purely vegetable and Perfectly Harmless -- Being compounded from numerous herbs and roots which have been in use among the Osage Indians for years."

If you're researching the Maika family or have an interest in early Dawes County Nebraska, you're sure to enjoy poring through the letters and information contained in this bit of research.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

By Technique.....By Example

We received an e-mail the other day that led us to a KCSR Radio web site containing a story written a good number of years ago. I think it was discovered by Chuck Cogdill (CHS-1957) and passed along to a few of his correspondents.
The subject was Chadron High School basketball. Not surprisingly, the story was written by the indefatigable Con Marshall, something of an icon for those of us with any interest in knowing who the best-ever free-throw shooter at CHS was......or who had the best batting average when CSC still had a baseball team.......or who the most prolific pass-receiver was for the Eagles in the 1940s. Con knows all that stuff, and if he can't remember, give him a a couple of minutes and he'll find it......somewhere!
This article by Con was apparently written in 1985. Of course, web links come and go, so I've posted the text separately here with thanks to Chuck, brother John, KCSR, and -- of course -- Con.
In the photograph above is former CHS basketball coach Verne Lewellen, atop a flatbed trailer in downtown Chadron in March of 1961. That's the year the Cardinals won their first state basketball tournament. The team and coaches had just returned home from Lincoln and were greeted by a huge crowd. Long-time sports booster Paul Babue is at right.
As a student and player, I and most of my teammates thought Verne Lewellen walked on water. I still do. Okay, okay.....that's just a figure of speech. Nonetheless, he was an excellent coach and wonderful role model.
Nearly 50 years later, as I watch coaches from the NBA down to the local junior high schools, I am often appalled at the way in which they conduct themselves.
Coach "Lew" set an example for all of us. His quiet, low-key mentoring stayed with many of us long after we left the basketball court. I admired the way he coached, and I still admire the kind of person he is.
I finally cornered Verne Lewellen at a CSC football game this year, and I told him exactly how much I appreciated what he taught so many of us, by technique.....and by example.
Thanks, Coach.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Missing the Whistle

You don't have to be a railroad buff to wax nostalgic about the sight, sound, and smell of of an old steam engine chugging alongside a prairie highway. The railroad -- specifically, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway -- played a key role in the economic and social life of many high plains communities in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Growing up in Chadron, Nebraska, in the 1940s and '50s, I was intrigued by the fact that so many homes had green trim -- very much like the green paint used on locomotives that were parked in the roundhouse for repairs and servicing! It seemed that half the town worked for C&NW, which probably wasn't far from the mark. Of course, that was before the railroad company removed itself from the community. Were it not for Chadron's four-year college, the loss of the railroad likely would have been the death knell for Chadron.
Quite by accident, I recently came across a WEB SITE dedicated to the history of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway System. It's a neat site, full of photographs and history of the mightly line before it merged away its identity. I suspect many Chadron residents, along with citizens from hundreds of other communities across the midwest and plains states, have already discovered the site.
The Dawes County Museum just south of Chadron has many artifacts from the rail era. But if you've not seen the C&NW Historical Society web site, it's worth a CLICK. Lots of information. Lots of photos, and lots of fun!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Little Mike on the Job!

We've added a few new photos to the KCSR Photo Gallery. One of them is shown above. It's the indefatigable "Little Mike" mobile unit, covering a baseball game at Memorial Park in Chadron, probably in the late 1950s. Can you identify the gent in the middle of the photograph? We hope to encourage other ex-KCSR folks to contribute old photos or stories they might have. Send us an e-mail if you have any such memorabilia you'd be willing to share. Thanks!