Back in Time: Radio Stillwater

Hank Sampson in studio. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)


Radio was an important development in the 1920s and 1930s. As it was growing, more and more stations were put on the air. In Minnesota, the first radio stations were usually associated with colleges or universities. Other stations began to broadcast including WCCO, WDGY and KSTP in the 1920s. By 1946 there were 18 stations in the state, including six in the Twin Cities area and by 1950 there were 43 stations including one in Stillwater.

Al, Nick and Victor Tedesco started the radio station in Stillwater with the call letters WSHB [the S – H – B stood for Stillwater, Hudson, & Bayport] in March 1949. The station was originally only 250 watts, but could reach the eastern metro on a good evening. The station had to shut down at night as to not interfere with other broadcasts throughout the area.

Ralph Jon Fritz. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

In the 1950s, the station took off. They increased to 5,000 watts and changed the call letters to WAVN, meaning World And Valley News. Located at 1220 on the AM dial, many valley residents tuned in to listen to Jim Tibbetts, Hank Sampson, Jim McLaughlin, Bob Smith, Anita Buck, Steve Cannon, Roger Erickson and later Ralph Jon Fritz, Lee Valsvik, Tom Langford and Bick Smith.

Some of the early programs that folks would tune in for included, the “Community Bulletin Board” and the “Kiddie Quiz Show,” both hosted by Buck, “Tavern Time” by Cannon, and one of the favorites was Roger Erickson and Anita Buck, as Uncle Eric and Auntie Anita, in “Story Time.” Other’s might remember “Saturday in the Country” which featured Russ Wolff, Don Johnson and Curt Wolff. “Time to Trade,” “Guy on the Go,” and Joanne Rusch on “Woman’s World” are programs still talked of today.

Want to keep reading? Grab the July 14, 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through July 20. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him at [email protected].

  • Tom Langford

    Tom Langford Geez, just having your name mentioned, in an article, with those radio greats in Brent’s piece, is humbling to say the very least. It brings back some wonderful memories of working with some of the best in the business. Being invited into someone’s home via radio was an honor that had to be earned each day. I sure miss the old days of radio. Thanks, Gary and Brent for helping to bring back the memories. We’re all thinking of RJ Ralph Fritz as he continues his battle from Florida. Looking forward to seeing him when he comes “home” following his recuperation. Give it HECK RJ!! (You couldn’t cuss on radio in those days…I miss that too:-)