Voice from the past returns

Photo courtesy of Washington County Historical Society
Former Stillwater radio broadcaster Hank Sampson prepares one of his “Heritage Series” segments in his studio. The historical society is releasing a two-disk CD of Sampson’s shows next month.

WCHS offers CD of Hank Sampson radio segments

The late Hank Sampson was known as the “voice of the St. Croix Valley” when he broadcast on WAVN-AM radio from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.

Sampson’s “Heritage Series” segments were must-listen radio on Sundays. The stories focused on little known historical events and people in the Valley.

“The series is one reason I was so interested in local history,” said Brent Peterson, director of the Washington County Historical Society. “Hank brought history back to life with his stories of days gone by — the whole family would listen to it on Sunday afternoons.”

Now, anyone can listen to some of Sampson’s stories anytime with the release in mid-December of Hank Sampson’s Heritage Series on CD. Programs featured on the two-disk CD were culled from tapes of Sampson’s show donated to the WCHS months ago by Sampson’s widow, Eloise.

“We have over 140 tapes. We have a two-disk set with 17 programs,” Peterson said.

The Sampson CD, along with numerous books, are featured at a WCHS holiday sale from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater. Eloise Sampson will attend the sale and talk about how her husband researched, wrote and performed his radio programs.

The historical society received two grants to transfer tapes of Sampson’s shows to CD, MP3 players and podcasts, Peterson said. Most of the tapes donated to the WCHS were in good enough condition to transfer to modern mediums, he added.

“Some of them did have the old echo effect. The echo was just too bad (to re-record),” Peterson said. “I was surprised they lasted so well. There was no question about the quality of the program. The quality of the actual tapes is better than I thought they were,” he said.

Peterson said the first Heritage Series CD has a variety of shows Sampson broadcast during his career at WAVN.

“We looked at some wonderful ones. It’s a mixture,” Peterson said. “We wanted to give listeners a mix from the 1960s, 1970s to when he sold the station in 1982.”

Peterson hopes the Heritage Series CD brings Sampson’s stories to a new generation of listeners interested in Valley history.

“These things are absolutely wonderful,” he said about the shows. “It’s bringing early Stillwater history back to life. He was Garrison Keillor before Keillor.

“Hank is surely missed but his legacy lives on in the Heritage series he made famous,” Peterson added about the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame member.

If You Go

What: Washington County Historical Society book and CD sale.

When: 1-5 p.m. Dec. 15.

Where: Warden’s House Museum, 602 N. Main St. in Stillwater.

Highlights: Hank Sampson’s “Heritage Series” on CD. Eloise Sampson will talk about how her late husband researched, wrote and performed his shows on WAVN. Authors at the event are Bob and Nancy Goodman, Brent Peterson and David Fabio.

Visit www.wchsmn.org/store for information about products available. Visit www.wchsmn.org for information about the event and the organization.