Monday, May 23, 2016

A 1947 CHS Autograph Register & Roster booklet

by Larry Miller

Some years back, Bob Galey of Whitney, Nebraska passed along this item that he had found at an auction in Chadron. We "re-discovered" it while rummaging through some envelopes of collectibles.

We were impressed that the folks at what was then called the "White Bank" at the intersection of 2nd and Main in Chadron (officially known as the Bank of Chadron) would provide 1947 graduates at Chadron High School with a dandy-looking little booklet called an Autograph Register and Roster - 1947.

Inside we found signatures of folks like Joe Folsom, Everett Thompson, Lois Fountain, Harold Ostrander and Betty Feldhausen — among others — along with a few inspirational poems and lots of room for notes about athletics and music, as well as other school activities.

Most delightful, however, was a roster of Faculty and Senior Class members from that era.

Long-time Superintendent H. A. "Heinie" Schroeder was on the job then, and the Principal was Dora Taylor.   Among the 13 faculty members we found listed were some we knew, including Edna Keal, Vera Krantz, Merle Lecher, Esther Miller, James Myers, and Curtis Thompson.   We recently did a story about Naomi Wilson, who was also listed among the faculty.  That was a revelation to us, since we knew only of her classroom service at West Ward and Chadron Prep.  

You may want to peruse the listing of 1947 seniors at Chadron High School.  Perhaps you'll come across some names of folks you know!

And we liked the Class Motto: "Something Attempted. Something Done."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Castek family of teachers had roots in Dawes County

Many mid-20th century rural school students will remember the name John Castek, who was a long-time Dawes County School Superintendent.  Born in 1894, his parents immigrated from Moravia, the region now known as the Czech Republic, and they settled on land south of Chadron.  The elder Castek was also named John, and his biography was among those included in the 1909 Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska distributed by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.  That biography is shared here.


John Castek, one of the prominent and successful farmers of Dawes county, Nebraska, comes of Bohemian stock, and is a worthy representative of the best traits of his race and blood.

He was born on a farm in Moravia in 1863. His father was a carpenter who lived and died in his native land. Our subject grew up there until he was sixteen years of age, then came to America, landing in New York city in June, 1880, and came west at once to Colfax county, Nebraska, following farm work in the eastern part of the state for several years.

In the spring of 1886 he moved to Dawes county, locating on his present farm, in section 31, township 31, range 48, and there built a dugout and hatched for awhile. His first team were oxen, and he owned a half interest in a plow and wagon, with which the farm was broken up and crops put in. Soon after coming here the drouths struck the section, and as he was unable to raise anything on his land he tried to sell out, offering his place for two hundred dollars, but even at that price could get no buyer so was compelled to stay. He kept on trying to improve his farm, and in '89 had the finest prospects for a good crop and was getting ready to harvest, when a hail storm struck the region and completely ruined his crop.

Mr. and Mrs. John Castek
The next year he took out hail insurance and mortgaged his team to pay the assessment, and was again hailed out, but when he tried to collect damage, he was unable to get a cent, but he kept on carrying insurance for several years, but for some reason dropped it one year, and that very year he was again completely hailed out, having this experience for four years altogether.

During late years he has raised good crops, and he has plenty of hay and pasture for his cattle of which he keeps a large number, most of the time having two hundred head, besides running them for other farmers. He has about nine horses and his range is admirably adapted to stock raising of all kinds.

In 1889 Mr. Castek was married to Miss Anny Potmesil, and she died June 16, 1896, leaving a family of two children, Francis, born August 14, 1892; and John, born September 6, 1894.

In 1898 Mr. Castek was married again, to Miss Jennie Kratochvil, born in Bohemia, daughter of Joseph Kratochvil. Mrs. Castek came to America in 1893 together with a sister, they coming to Chadron, Dawes county, Nebraska.

Mr. Castek spends all his time on his ranch building up his home, and is one of the well-to-do and progressive agriculturists in the county. He is a Republican, and keeps well up with the time in politics locally. He is a genial, whole-souled gentleman and is full of social qualities that bring him many friends. On another page of this volume will be found a picture of their residence and also portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Castek.


Note:  The younger John Castek received a good formal education, followed by teaching jobs in North Dakota, South Dakota.  He was selected Dawes County School Superintendent and served in that capacity for many years.  His wife, Mildred, was a long-time and well-known legal secretary in Chadron.  Their son, Jack, graduated from Chadron High School in 1961 and also pursued a long and successful career in education.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ex-Chadronite who excelled in radio dies at age 78


John Rook  (1937-2016)
A former Chadron resident, John Harlan Rook, who was widely known as a disc jockey and for his radio programming skills and also developed close relationships with numerous entertainment legends,  died on March 1 in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, at age 78.

He had lived in Coeur d’Alene since he and partners bought radio station KCDA there in 1983. His group also owned stations in Spokane and Pasco, Wash., and Las Vegas for several years.
Rook may have climbed as high in his chosen profession and received as many honors as any one who graduated from high school in Chadron.

Some of his honors included radio “Man of the Year” by Variety Magazine and “Program Director of the Year” by Billboard. He also was named “Radio Consultant of the Year” in 1977 and was voted by readers of Radio and Records as “one of the most influential programmers of the past 20 years” in 1994.

Four years later, Radio & Records honored him as one of “Radio’s Legends.”

During much of his career in radio he was known as Johnny Rowe.

His father, Gordon Rook, was a native of Chadron and his mother, Della, was native of Kentucky. The children also included Charley Rook, who was one year older the Johnny, and a younger sister, Dottie. Johnny was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Oct. 9, 1937.
The family moved to Chadron when the boys were in junior high.  Gordon was a diesel locomotive electrician the Chicago and North Western Railroad. Charley graduated from Chadron Prep in 1954 and Johnny in 1955.  Dottie also graduated from Prep.

While Charley was spending four years in the Navy, Johnny launched his radio career, first at KASL in Newcastle, Wyo., and then at KOBH in Hot Springs.  When Charley was discharged, his brother helped him get a job at KOBH. From there, Charley became a television news director and anchorman at major stations in Chicago and Los Angeles before spending 20 years at KREM-TV in Spokane, where he now lives.

Johnny was “a mover and a shaker” early in his radio career. While he was at KOBH, he was instrumental in bringing some of the nation’s leading hit recording artists and groups to Hot Springs for shows and dances that filled the City Auditorium to capacity.  During one such event in the late 1950s, the performers included The Champs (“Tequila”), the Crests (“Sixteen Candles”) and Jimmy Clanton (“Another Sleepless Night”).

On Oct. 3, 1959, Rook brought Eddie Cochran, whom he had befriended, to Assumption Arena in Chadron for a show that was on the star’s 21st birthday. About six months later, Cochran, whose hits included "C'mon Everybody", "Somethin' Else", and "Summertime Blues," died in a traffic accident in England, where he was performing.

Throughout his career, Rook got to know many show business stars. Wikipedia says he took acting classes with Natalie Wood, Nick Adams and Sal Mineo at the Pasadena Playhouse and later received advice from the likes of Tennessee Ernie Ford and Pat Boone.  It’s reported that he had bit parts in the “Wild Bill Hickok” television series.

After leaving KOBH, Rook was a disc jockey at KALL in Salt Lake City and then began his long career as a programmer at KTLN in Denver, before moving to KQV in Pittsburgh in the mid-1960s. It’s reported that a KTLN rival recommended Rook to KQV after sensing that Rook’s abilities were a threat to his station in Denver.
It was in Pittsburgh that Rook became known for his musical instincts. Wikipedia says he regularly played records before they became hits in other areas and found a way to air Beatles records a week or so before other stations received them. In 1964, Rook had exclusive rights to the Beatles’ first appearance in Pittsburgh.

ABC, which owned both KQV and WLS in Chicago, appointed Rook as the program director at WLS in 1967. The station’s ratings were lagging when he arrived, but within four years it was named “Station of the Year.”

A few years after leaving WLS, Rook formed his own consulting business. One of his early clients was another Chicago station, WCFL, which within a year had higher ratings than WLS.            

It’s reported that dozens of other stations throughout the nation also used his consulting services, helping them shape their sounds.

In 1983, Rook and his partners began buying stations in the Pacific Northwest and one in Las Vegas. The Couer d’ Alene station was the last to be sold, in 2000.

That was not the last of Rook’s association with the music business and some of its stars. Wikipedia says that in 2006, Pat Boone discussed his disappointment at not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rook’s investigation showed that numerous other hit-makers also had been overlooked.

Thus Rook founded the “Hit Parade Hall of Fame” that would be open to artists who had at least two nationally charted top 10 songs as determined by either “Billboard” or “Cashbox.” After nominations were made by radio and records industry luminaries, fans voted for their choices on line.

In 2007, the initial inductees included Boone, Paul Anka, Teresa Brewer, Chubby Checker, Jimmy Clanton, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Connie Francis, Johnny Mathis, Patti Page, Johnny Ray, Neil Sedaka and Frank Sinatra. 

(Editor's Note:  Our thanks to Con Marshall for sharing this story, as well as an earlier story about John Rook's older brother Charles, both of whom had highly successful careers in broadcasting.)