When I Became A South Dakotan: 49 Years Ago, May 1974
OK, I guess I didn't become a South Dakotan in May of 1974. Truth-be-known I suppose I began becoming a South Dakotan 49 years ago in May.
I was a fresh-faced Minnesota farm kid back there in what many people call the olden days. With my heart set on becoming a radio star (and actually just became a radio guy), I left Austin, Minnesota's Vocational School at the age of 18 to take my very first professional job.
It was in Winner, South Dakota.
Winner was my introduction to the Sunshine State. Oh sure, I'd been to Sioux Falls a few times in my 'growing up' years. I might have even gone to the Corn Palace in Mitchell and wandered over the border a time or two for something else, which will remain nameless here. But as far as really getting to know South Dakota?
Well, it was when I moved to Winner.
It doesn't seem like such a big town now all these years later nowt was a big town then for this farm kid who lived a mile from a town of a couple hundred or so and graduated from a school in a town of about a thousand. My first day (actually night) on the air was on KWYR-FM on Memorial Day night, 1974. 18 years young, hands shaking as I turned on the microphone and uttered the memorable words that started a nearly half-century career:
'You're listening to KWYR FM, Winner South Dakota'.
I'm sure there was a quiver in that boy's voice, probably a squeak.
I spent three and a half years in Winner and by the time I left to move 'up north' to Aberdeen, I was a South Dakotan, even though I may not yet have realized it. It was in Winner that I found my first South Dakota friends, lived in more places than I can remember (the apartment behind Andy's Jewelry was the first), and got introduced to the Peacock, the Pheasant and Dick's. Those were the three bars where you could 1) look, 2) listen, or 3) visit. The A&W was the place to eat (along with Mr. Z's) and the West Side truck stop was the place to go 'after hours'. I got married while I lived there, bought and sold a couple of cars, and thanks to doing play-by-play, was introduced to the area, from White River to Murdo, Burke, Gregory, Colome, Platte, and Mission.
Oh, and there was a little town called Dallas that had a couple of mighty fine watering holes.
I worked with people named Al and Steve, Ben and Chuck and Dan, and Doug, colleagues that became incredible friends to a young snot-nosed wet behind the ears kid from the corn and bean fields of Minnesota. I learned mighty quick that for the couple of weekends that opened pheasant season you'd see license plates from Florida, Louisiana, West Virginia and California...and 'bout every state in between. And by that second weekend, I learned you wanted to get into the Peacock early if you wanted a bar stool.
I left Winner back in December of 1977 (by the way, perhaps not the best month of the year to move to Aberdeen) but Winner never left me. Due to circumstances, I visited Winner with my 2 kids just about every other weekend for several years. The three of us have great memories of the Warrior Inn, McDonald's, the DQ, and the cafe on Main Street.
It's been a while since I've been in Winner, but one thing I'll bet is still true: The pheasant hunting is good, the beer is cold and the people are friendly.