Barndance, Ed Breen, and Jim Henry


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Mother (Marion Gunderson), me, and our television sometime between November 1955 and Feburary 1956. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Mother (Marion Gunderson), me (Louise Gunderson Shimon), and our television sometime between November 1955 and February 1956. (Click on photo to magnify the dial.)

After reading Jerry Farlow’s comments (two posts ago) about watching television in 1950 with Gary (or Greg?) Kaiser at Rickards’ store in Rolfe, Iowa, I called Gary Kaiser* and asked him, “Do you remember that?”

Gary: Oh, sure. I visually remember Rickards’ hardware store and that television sitting in the middle of the store. One channel was WOI and then they would try to get Mason City. I don’t remember the name of that station in Mason City. Those were the two stations that would come in. It was Saturday night and we would watch wrestling that was just pathetic. That’s what you watched. They would turn the dial trying to get a better picture. It was snow and then you might see visions of what it was. That‘s about all we got to see.

Gary: Here in Sioux City we have on Channel 4 a Breen. His grandfather, Ed Breen, owned the Fort Dodge TV station. Ed was a very distinguished man. I remember him as having a moustache that would look so debonair. Ed’s grandson is currently a newscaster here for Channel 4 in Sioux City.

Gary: I don’t remember when it came on the air but I remember on the Fort Dodge station they had a Barndance show. It aired on Saturday nights and it was so amateur that it was pathetic.

Louise: I remember Barndance. There was a girl a year older than I am, from Rolfe. Her name was Rania Kuchenreuther. I remember Rania singing “Tiny Bubbles” on Barndance.

Gary: There was also an elderly lady…remember this is live television. She was on on a regular basis. I don’t believe she should have been on television. It was that amateur.

Gary: I do remember Ed Breen as being so distinguished with his moustache and a blazer. And everything was live. Ed owned the station and, of course, when you owned the station I believe you were “on.” I remember him being on most of the time. This was not big production. This was, “I own, it. I’ve got to run it.”

Gary: Barndance was on Saturday nights at I think about 6:30. This would be in about 1955.

Louise: Was the Uncle Dick show on at that time?

Gary: I don’t remember that one. I do remember Jim Henry’s [Canyon Kid**] show coming in from Sioux City. The guy is still alive. He’s about 90 years old and he had cartoons every afternoon.

Louise: Are you meaning Floppy?

Gary: Oh, no. Floppy was on WHO out of Des Moines.  That gentleman is no longer living.

Gary: In Sioux City it was all local. Jim Henry’s model was…he had a vest that had every type of button you could think of on it. And that vest is in the museum here in Sioux City. That’s history of television in its earliest days.

Louise: So, when there was that television set in the middle of Rickards’ store, was that the first you had seen television?

Gary: Oh, sure.

Louise: Did you go there repeatedly?

Gary: On Saturday nights we’d go there, or Saturday afternoons. It was one of those things that…I think they had wires hanging in the store to get better reception. They kept moving the antennae trying to get better reception. It would fade in and fade out. I remember about the snow. You’d look at the picture and you could almost see something but you weren’t sure. That’s what it was at that time.

Louise: When did you get a television in your home?

Gary: Oh, I’m trying to think if it was ’53 or ’54. They were round…the picture tube was round when you looked at it.

Louise: Do you mean as round as a circle?

Gary: It was as round as a circle.** That was the picture in the tube.

* * * * * * * *

My intent is to post by tomorrow night (Sunday) about the next project endorsed by the Rolfe Public Library board.

*This transcript is posted with Gary Kaiser’s permission.

**This Canyon Kid YouTube video was produced by IPTV.

(Click here to go to Louise Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


6 Responses to “Barndance, Ed Breen, and Jim Henry”

  1. Peg Says:

    WONDERFULLY told! (Thank you, Gary!) WONDERFULLY retold! (Thank you, Louise!) All fascinating. And all right around the time of my earliest/preschool years. And the best of all: the picture of you, Mother, and the television! Heart. I’m so glad you were born! For a trillion reasons!

  2. Clara Hoover Says:

    It’s been fun to read comments from both Jerry and Gary. I very well remember Saturday night wrestling, the Fort Dodge Barn Dance, and Ed Breen. Probably what I remembered most about Saturday night TV was Your Hit Parade, which had previously been on radio. YHP was sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes and featured regular singers performing the top ten songs of the week. Bompa’s favorite singer was Dorothy Collins, who was also known as the Lucky Strike girl. (Bompa smoked Lucky Strikes.)

    In the early days of television, we also regulary watched the Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle.

  3. Steven J. Graeber Says:

    After watching my first TV at Wickers which was round, my Grandfather A. V. Graeber got a TV and we watched wrestling – Vern Ganyah, Gorgeous George, and some guy whose famous hold was “The Claw”. I also remember the Lucky Strike Hit Parade where you would wait to see if your favorite song was No. 1.

  4. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Steven and Clara: I don’t remember round TVs, but I do remember A.V.’s laugh! It was so contagious. Both of you plus a person who emailed me privately all mentioned Lucky Strike’s Your Hit Parade. I see that there are a ton of YouTube videos regarding Your Hit Parade. I remember Mother and Daddy going on trips and from their flights bringing back those little packs of maybe 5 cigarettes in each pack (?) and giving them to their friends. Television has certainly changed…and the airlines’ attitudes/regulations about smoking!

  5. Randy Says:

    Ed Breen was a polished gentleman in the early days of television. He hosted a segment “It Seems to Me” in the 70’s which was in an editorial format. Eve Rubenstein hosted a program “Eve’s Kitchen” around the same time in Fort Dodge. Great local television.

  6. Becky Bonnstetter Says:

    Does anyone have or know of someone who might have archived tapes from the Barn Dance around 1953. My mother (Susan Hurley/Shipman) played guitar on there with Bobby Awe. We lost our mother 19 years ago to brain cancer & our family would love to find these. I would appreciate any help.

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