Mike Worcester, "Radios Come to Cokato." In The Midst Of, Cokato Historical Society (October, 2004) vol. 24 no. 4.
The reception was fuzzy, the antenna took a while to set up, and the equipment at the telephone office caused too much interference. Despite these hurdles, in the summer of 1922, a new technological wonder was introduced to the people of the town. In 1922, radios came to Cokato.
On Memorial Day, 1922, representatives from the Westinghouse Electric Company, out of Minneapolis, set up a "radio outfit" to show area residents the wonders of this new marvel. Reception was not ideal however, due to interference from the equipment at the telephone office. A later attempt fared better, and listeners could hear the faint signal of WAA in St. Paul.
Less than two months after the people from Westinghouse made their demonstration, the A. L. Thelander store purchased their own radio. Set up by representatives from the American Radio Company, the Cokato Enterprise noted that this radio would receive "anything broadcasted [sic] from any point in the United States." The Enterprise noted the excitement of the community over this new invention, stating that: "There is nothing 'rarin' to go as is radio at the present time; it is the most modern, wonderful tool of modern progress."
Thelander's radio showed its value on election night, 1922, as residents came and went until 2:00 a.m. to hear results. Local electrician, Arnold Johnson, who along with Charles Halvorson had their own radio, also set up a listening station in Walter Harkman's repair shop.
audience, the entire family would gather around the radio to hear a concert by a symphony orchestra, listen to election results, or to enjoy the many weekly "serials." Anticipation would grow as the announcer said: "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men. The Shadow knows." Or another favorite, set to the William Tell Overture: "Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear." So began the weekly adventures of Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger, with his sidekick, Tonto.
The power of this new medium was best exemplified by an incident on October 1938. H. G. Wells classic book, War of the Worlds, told of an invasion of Earth by Martians. A production of this book by the Mercury Theatre Company, headed by Orson Welles, was done so effectively that untold listeners across the nation actually believed the Earth had been invaded.
Litchfield, Hutchinson, and Buffalo worked to serve area communities like Cokato. But for many, there was only one station wort listening to--the afore mentioned WCCO. It was said that a person flying over Minnesota could tell when the WCCO 10:00 p.m. news ended, because after that, all the house lights went dark as people went to bed. So who kept all those people awake at that hour? Cedric Adams.
In his book, When 'CCO Was Cookin', former WCCO on-air personality Dick Champan noted how the popularity of Adams stretched across the entire Upper Midwest. How appropriate that he was a special guest and emcee for the talent show at the first Cokato Corn Carnival in August 1950.
Despite the growth of other forms of entertainment: television, cinema, home rentals, video games, et. al., radios remain an integral part of our society. Every car has one. Every office has at least one. Every home has at least one also, it not more. Music, political chatter, news and information, and lots of sports can be found across the AM and FM dials. As the 21st century progresses, it is hard to believe that radio will disappear any time soon.
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