“K”now “L”eflore “C”ounty “O”klahoma

Saturday, 06 August 2022 08:02

“K”now “L”eflore “C”ounty “O”klahoma Featured

Written by Terry Joe Wiles
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“K”now “L”eflore “C”ounty “O”klahoma Terry Joe Wiles

Terry Joe Wiles wrote this for the Poteau High School Alumni Association's newspaper, The Static. He sent it to us so we could share it with our readers. If you are a PHS grad and don't get The Static, let me know and I'll get you info about subscribing.


AM Radio has been a big part of daily life since before WWII . KLCO was first heard in our homes and cars in 1953.  It’s a local station that has kept us informed of breaking news, local weather, sports and elections: welcome and supported by loyal listeners.

Many of my memories are of the family gathering around the radio for “The Grand Ole Opry”- Gillette Friday Night Fights - “The Lum and Abner Show” and many more.  Watching the clock every day so we wouldn’t  miss - the Noon News, Obituaries, Livestock report, weather, local School sports and late breaking National news. It was the lifeline that connected LeFlore co. to the rest of the state, and the World.

KLCO, 1280 on your dial, began broadcasting in 1953. The station was located at the “Y”, 3 miles out of Poteau on the Old Wister Highway (271) and  59 South going to Heavener. R.B. Bell had owned a station in Mena, Ark. for only a short time before deciding that Poteau and LeFlore Co. would have a larger area of listeners and businesses to support the station. KLCO was a local, family operated station that was positive, honest entertainment for the family. It served and supported local sports, events, elections and played the best selection of music around. Public Service was the foundation of R.B. Bell’s desire and motivation for the station’s existence. KLCO has proudly served our area since. 

R.B. had a house and the existing building built in 1952. Then, moved his wife Bernice and the three kids, Roberta, Margaret and Jim into their new home. In the beginning, R.B. was the announcer, salesman, and sportscaster. He also recorded nearly all the commercials. Bernice operated the office, the phone calls and mountains of paperwork that was required in those early days. Margaret and Jim were a part of the crew as soon as they were 13 and could get an FCC Commercial Radio Operators License .

KLCO soon included a couple of full-time announcers, DJ’s. They not only announced the time, temperature and played popular music of the day; they voiced most of the commercials that generated revenue to cover operating expenses. However, owners of some businesses enjoyed “tooting their own horn” by giving a unique, recognizable voice to the 30-60 second spots. My favorite was the Cardinal Food Market in Heavener. After giving the deals of the day, Henry Reyburn would always close with “I’m just an ole poor boy trying to make a cornbread living, right on the corner - Right on the price!”

R.B. trained the announcers and sales staff. Most just wanted a good job with decent pay but a few developed into radio personalities in larger markets!  The most successful announcer that R.B. hired was likely John David. His Dad was a salesman at the Riley Smith Ford dealership. He was ambitious and a gifted announcer with a great radio voice. He honed those skills at KLCO. His career in the Broadcasting industry led him to a job in Oklahoma City at KOMA. He owned radio stations in Kansas and Missouri and in 2018 he was honored with a National Broadcasters Award. 

There were many memorable Announcers at KLCO.  A few notable mentions include: Vern Hudson, Pete Hopkins. Simpson GS Principal. J.C Thomas and Ruben White even helped with the live broadcast of Basketball Tournaments. Pictured below is RB's grand-daughter Misty Lydick Bates and the original mic used at the station.  

KLCO Misty

In 1974 KLCO moved to a location Downtown on the corner of Dewey and N. Witte . It was a major transformation when it became KLCO FM with 100,000 watts of power. It had a tower that was close to the Kerr house on top of Cavanal. It now covered Eastern Oklahoma and most of Western Ark. including the Ft. Smith Market.   Downtown Poteau was still a vital part of our lives. A few personal favorite announcers of the time were TJ the DJ , Phil Gardenhire, The Catman but probably the most popular was Commander Ken and his cast of Zany Characters!

After a good run, the station moved back to the original location. It was later purchased by Rev. Leroy and Jo Ann Billy and renamed KPRV. “K”now - “P”oteau - “R”iver - “V”alley! The station is operated with the highest of moral standards and the idea of “Public Service” still remains first and foremost!

I hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Many graduating classes of PHS have been informed and entertained by the KLCO . And like the song says “Thank God for the Radio!” 

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