Reflections from a past KSO disc-jockey
by Jim Woodard
Whenever I read about problems with out-of-control teenagers, I think of a group of teens who crowded into the large studio of KSO Radio in Des Moines every Friday night. This would seem like a recipe for disaster, but those young people were consistently well behaved while having great fun.
The weekly gathering was linked to my music (DJ) program during the early 1950s. It aired nightly, Monday through Friday, from 10:15 p.m. to midnight, and was titled The Jim Woody Show. I received many phone calls during the show mostly from teens (high school juniors and seniors) requesting songs, often wanting them to be dedicated to friends. Or they just wanted to chat.
They seemed like really great kids, and I had the idea of inviting them to the studio on Friday nights. I proposed the idea to my station manager. I dont remember his exact words, but it went something like this: You must be nuts. Why would we let a bunch of wild kids invade our studio on Friday nights?
We discussed it for a while, and he finally let me do it if I carefully supervised them. And it would be on a trial basis.
I made the invitation on my program several times during the week. On that first Friday night the elevator in the downtown building where the KSO studios were then located on the 10th floor was jammed with teens. They all made their way into the large studio.
Several times during that first Friday night gathering I told the teens we could continue the weekly in-studio sessions, but only if they were on their very best behavior. They understood, and cooperated totally. I chatted with many of them on the air, talking about their favorite music, their plans for the future, and happenings in the Des Moines area.
As the weeks went by, several of the teens brought boxes of donuts and soft drinks to share with their peers. When the time arrived for them to leave, they all did so immediately and orderly. Their attitude and behavior was positive in every way. There wasnt a bad apple in the group.
Later, when working as a counselor at Boys Town, and serving as chairman of the Juvenile Justice Commission in Santa Barbara County, California, I did indeed encounter some trouble-prone youths. But my experience with the teen group on Friday nights in Des Moines showed me how great most teens are. It gave me a very positive perspective on young people approaching their adult years.
Thinking back to those days, I also have very fond memories of going to the Des Moines Childrens Home and the YMCA Boys Home in Johnston to record the kids singing Christmas carols, for playback on my radio program.
Since my DJ days in Des Moines Ive worked with youths in many capacities as a volunteer. My early experience with those teens in the KSO studio established a positive foundation for my work in subsequent years.
Jim Woodard, who grew up in Des Moines, now lives in Ventura, Calif. He writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column and is the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. His e-mail address: email@example.com.
Courtesy of Jim woodard
Webmaster's note: Although the picture of the teens used above is a representative picture to go along with Jim's story, the actual picture came from a 1947 publication.
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