Saturday, March 22, 2014

The LuLac Edition #2623, March 22nd, 2014


EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week after we published our LuLac edition writing about the 20th anniversary of Jim Ward’s death, a former employee and well known broadcast photo journalist Joe Klapatch contacted me with these wonderful photos. I was trying to locate them but was having little success. But these photos really help tell the Jim Ward story and we are grateful for Joe for his help.

These are pics from the Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade. I would guess around 1979 as I graduated that year from High School.
The top photo is Jim and Bobby Gunther Walsh talking to an unknown person.
The bottom pic is the group of us that marched in the parade. Jim decided to have a promotion where people along the parade route would have signs with "WARD Radio" written on them. We collected the signs and drew a winner from signs collected. That's Jim's car with huge magnetic signs he got for the occasion. He was also the designer of our outfits which was a large piece of material along with a pair of scissors made just before we headed to the parade. Left to right....Bobby Gunther Walsh (Now at WAEB-AM, Allentown), Jim Ward, Sam Liguori in the car, Cliff Eshbach (left WARD to WLYH TV Lebanon and is now a Lutheran minister in the Lancaster area) and myself. (Caption and photo by Joe Klapatch).
Jim Ward was a TV spokesperson for car dealerships as well as Giant Markets.  According to Joe Klapatch, Jim would be doing the hard sell for those Giant generics. (Photo: from Joe Klapatch). 
The Pittston Sunday Dispatch used to have a feature pullout in its weekly paper called "Spotlight". On April 16th of 1978, Ward's station and staff was featured. Sam Liguori is in front...standing l to r is Jim, Bobby Gunther Walsh, Cliff Eshbach and Marge Stefaniak...who later went as Marge Stevens on WILK. (Caption and photo from Joe Klapatch.)

Early photo of the late Jim Ward. (Photo, Find A
It was a Tuesday in March and it was something we were all expecting. But when people who knew Jim Ward heard the news, there was a stunned type of silence and shock. Jim Ward's bombastic personality and booming voice were silenced by death. I have always told people that I’m proud to say that I was one of the last people Jim Ward hired. In my interview with Jim, I was surprised to learn that he grew up on Union Street in the Junction the son of a milkman. He even pinpointed the house he had lived in.
I joined the Sales team in 1992 along with the late Dave Stroud. Sales manager Buzz Boback hired us to sell the Radio Home Shopper which was a forerunner of some of the barter promotions you hear on radio stations, TV channels and newspapers today. Pay 15 bucks and get $30.00 worth of product. It’s called “Deal of the Day” now but for Jim Ward, it was The Home Shopper. 
The thing about Jim Ward was that he was always three steps ahead of everyone else. In the 1960s he had was doing Talk Radio sandwiched in between popular music on WBAX. It was a station he bought into with Frank Henry and Paul Phillips two prominent businessmen. Ward took to the airwaves from 10am to noon doing a Talk Show billing himself as The Morning Mayor. Later on in the evening Jones Evans and Clint Morse did a 10pm to 1am program that captivated the Wyoming Valley.
Ward also was the premier sales person convincing local advertisers that people would storm their stores. When Ward would broadcast from an event you would think thousands were lining up to get in the business.
There were the slogans, “The Boys From ‘BAX”, the contests “Baxto”, the Goody Golden Ice Cream promotions where twenty people would battle the phone lines for a half gallon of ice cream, a contest called “Heart of Gold” as well as a thing called “The Stork Club.” The latter was an announcement of new babies and the tag line was “Welcome from the Boys from ‘BAX to our newest citizens”.
All night disc jockey Dick Whitaker would routinely call local hospitals at around 4am to see if anyone got shot or if there was a major accident. An aunt of mine who worked at Pittston Hospital marveled at how such a man sounding so full of good cheer wanted to know if something bad happened. But that was the local connection, an art perfected by Jim Ward and his broadcast properties.
Where did area listeners hear the first snippets of the Woodstock album on local commercial radio? WBAX. Ward did a hybrid format in the late 60s with Talk and The Garage Sale in the Morning and then Progressive Rock at night. In 1969 Jim Ward decided to take a flyer on broadcasting Major League Baseball. He chose the New York Mets who won the World Championship that year. When Jim Ward went to a Talk format on WARD, he put on a failed disc jockey from Pittsburgh formerly known as Jeff Christie. Rush Limbaugh was an instant hit on WARD but Ward jettisoned him from the station in late 1988 when Limbaugh made a comment Ward deemed not suitable for his radio station.
Then there was the “Polka Weekend”. At WBAX and then later at WARD Polkas were king. Ward claimed that the inspiration for polkas came to him in the night during a dream. Ward was very proud of his polkas and wanted to make sure if you were playing them, you treated them with respect. He made that message clear to many young broadcasters starting out in radio. 
Some of the Polka Music Library from WARD. (Photo: courtesy Scott Sanfilippo.)
When the 20th anniversary of Jim Ward’s death was approaching, I contacted three young WARD radio protégés who shared their thoughts about Jim Ward and how they were influenced by him. Not to show partiality here but I’m doing this in alphabetical order. First words from Dr. Joe Leonardi who worked at WARD while in school in the late 80s.
"I worked at WARD for a brief period of time in the late 80's as a part time Polka Weekend host. One thing I always remember about Jim Ward is how he personified "Theater Of The Mind." I don't recall what business the remote was for, but listening to it on the air, you would have sworn there were thousands of cars jamming the streets to get to the business. I was asked to run something up to Jim after my shift was over. I was expecting delays as I traveled to the remote, while the place had a good crowd, I was more than surprised that there weren't long lines of traffic clogging up the streets, and I was in and out within minutes. Jim Ward was a master of creating an image using only words."
I’m sure that Scott Sanfilippo won’t mind me sharing this with you but the day of Jim’s funeral, Friday March 25th Scott, Dave Stroud, Rob Neyhard, Sam Liquori and a few of us others took turns crying. When one stopped, the other started. It was just so sad to see this exciting guy cut down so cruelly by cancer. Scott worked at WARD in a number of reincarnations and here are his thoughts:
"I grew up listening to WARD and the unique shows the station aired, like Sam Liguori in the morning with the Gripe Line or the Talent Show. Then at 9 the Garage Sale could come on followed by Jim Ward, Ed Walison, Robb Neyhard and the rest. Whenever there was a remote going on, I'd have my parents drive me there to meet the personality. I became friends with Jim and he more or less took me under his wing when I was 14 or 15. I would go to the different remotes he was at and would help him lug the equipment around and help setup and tear down.
One Sunday, when he was doing a remote at Voitek's in Kingston, he said to me... "when you're 16 I'm going to hire you." I was obviously thrilled. I didn't know he knew when my birthday was, but on my 16th, the phone rang and my mother said, "Scott, Sam Liguori is on the phone for you." Sam called me up and said Jim asked him to call and say Happy Birthday, you're hired! I started working the "last shift" at the radio station that weekend and stayed there for over ten years.
Most of my time was spent doing Polka Weekend and doing fire company and church bazarrs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the summer. I worked nights during the week for a spell running the board and trying to stay awake while Tom Snyder put everyone to sleep. Always wondering why we were even going through the motions of keeping a station on the air with 500 watts when the signal barely left the transmitter building!
Jim and I were close friends, even though some of the things I did at that place drove him absolutely insane! I'd say something on the air and wait for the hotline to ring - even if it was at midnight, the guy would be listening. He'd often scare the crap out of you when you thought you were the only one in the building then all of a sudden you hear a Kurlancheek commercial booming from the production room at 10pm on a Thursday night, and look to see what was going on and there he was cutting a spot that needed to air first thing Friday morning.
When Jim was in declining health he would come in, sit in the studio with me and just talk. Not about radio, but about life, his daughters and his grandson. I'd visit him and Dorothy at their home as he got worse and he was always "on" no matter how bad he felt.
Working for Jim was incredible. I cut my teeth in a radio station that was unline any other I went on to work for before realizing that there was more money to be made doing something different! But working there was fun. It was often times challenging as Jim would have an idea for a format change at 2pm and at 5pm it was done. No meetings, no questions, just change it. He was full of ideas... most of them didn't work well, but we tried them! When he started the Radio Home Shopper, we all joked about how crazy an idea it was... but heck, that was the radio version of Groupon before there was Groupon. He was a visionary and wasn't afraid to try something different without engaging radio consultants or so called experts to tell him what to do.
I'm constantly thinking about the time I spent there and am grateful I had the opportunity to "learn radio" from one of the best in the business. I know Jim would never admit he was the best, but heck, we know he was. He was more than a boss... he was a friend and a mentor to me and for that I’m grateful.
When Jim died and the station was in flux, I knew it was my time to leave and move on. It just wasn't the same place to be without Jim. It was hard for me to say "I’m done" but WARD without Jim just wasn't WARD anymore.
We all have our Jim moments - my favorite was during the blizzard of 96. The snow started when I was working and was piling up quickly. My relief called off and I managed to work his shift, then the next guy called off and it went on and on. I ended up working 72 hours straight as nobody else could get in and Jim said, just keep the station on the air. He would call in every few hours to check in to see if I was still alive, and by hour 60 I started begging him to let me turn the transmitter off and just go home. Instead of telling me no, he asked me to go into his office and empty the bucket that was collecting water leaking from the ceiling. 
This is a photo of the young Scott Sanfilippo on WARD. I’m including this not because of Scott’s youthful good looks back then (not to mention hair) but to give you a view of the Control Room. The TV you see up to the left was one that brought in Newswatch 16 at 6 and 11. The radio station simulcasted WNEP and it was quite successful because many people driving tuned in to Newswatch 16. When the little cable from the TV to the broadcast board got loose and we lost the connection, we’d get the calls. I did my stint when Bobby Hafner the night time broadcaster took his vacations. Below was the scanner and then the turntables. Behind Scott was the commercials and Public Service announcements WARD ran. The walls were covered in a brownish carpeting that I swear was there when IK worked at WPTS Radio in the early 70s. (Photo: Scott Sanfilippo.)
A broadcast institution for a long time, Shadoe Steele has his memories of Jim Ward and that great radio station. Steele was very young and just up the road from those Foote Avenue studios as a youth.
“I met Jim in September of 1975 at WNEP-TV when he began hosting the wildly popular "Bowling For Dollars" at 7 PM weeknights while I was visiting a few engineer friends of mine at 16's old airport studios.
The next year he took over the WPTS-AM radio station on Foote Avenue in Duryea, about 10-blocks away from my folks' home.
We'd run into each other now and then when I was the night DJ on WAZL-AM/WVCD-FM in Hazleton as "Dale Michaels." He wanted me to do a talk show on his station as he was getting ready to abandon his "all request" Top-40 format in 1979 - Jim changed formats more than most people change socks.
In 1979 I was hired as evening engineer at WBRE-TV and didn't start work until 3 PM so I took him up on his offer and called the 10 A - 2 P talk show "Town Meeting", an open-line/anything goes call on show with no electronic delay - you just put the callers on live and hope they don't swear! It followed his "Coping
Connection" show featuring listeners with real-life problems, calling in for advice from other listeners - another zany but popular show. You have to remember this was still before the big FM stations came into town in 1980 and AM was still a money-making commodity. I remember him telling me, "Be controversial - get on there and say the Pope loves nuns!" I thought this guy was crazy.
I did the talk show for about 6-months until my shift changed to days at Channel 28, working for Jim 3-times... in 1979, from 1983 - 1985 and from 1987 - 1988.
I was then hired by the NBC Television Network in New York City, so my last two go-rounds involved hosting the incredibly successful "Polka Weekend" with Sam Ligouri, Rob Neyhard, Ed Wallison and "Jolly" Scott Sanfilippo. I went from playing the Rolling Stones to Happy Louie!
In 1989 Jim pioneered yet another format based on his "Garage Sale" show of 1986 which allowed listeners to sell household items over his airwaves; additionally Jim would have his sales staff cold-call local businesses and obtain gift certificates for products and services in exchange for promotional mentions -
brilliant... another format which cost him only the light bill!
The logo for the WARD in the early 90s.  (LuLac archives).
Every few months Ward put another inception of one of his creations on the airwaves and in 1990 was granted a frequency change from 1440 AM to 1550 AM improving interference between other stations broadcasting on the same dial position - the nearest was in Towanda. This kicked his power and coverage area up a notch and increased his dawn-to-dusk numbers. Ward was never afraid to try anything, he was a visionary who always had something brewing!
His "Garage Sale" gave way to the radio version of the "Home Shopping Network" full-time with the music of Jolly Joe and Joe Stanky and the Cadets on the weekends and we all continued on.
Working for Jim Ward who knew the business and had soul was fun -listening to the medium was entertaining - kind of like working for Barnum & Bailey without the elephants."
I first met Ward when I was 12. My family was at the Midway Shopping Center and Jim Ward was broadcasting live from the little vestibule of Pomeroy’s Department Store, later to become The Bonton. He was standing behind the microphone with his Morning sidekick the late Johnny Margas. Watching him intently, I tentatively made my way up to Ward after he got off the air. He asked me if I wanted to pass out records to the folks coming through the doors. He said, “You’ll be one of the Boys from ‘BAX tonight!” At the time I was bitten by the radio bug and this was huge. At around the 7 o’clock hour after Mutual News Ward beckoned me over and asked me if I wanted to tell the folks on the radio my name and tell them they had time to still come down to the new Pomeroy’s Store at the midway. He stuck that microphone in my face and my broadcast career, such as it turned out, was off to the races. Ward was also a fixture on TV too co hosting the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon and doing those Kurlancheek commercials. He was everywhere. TV was a natural medium for him. 
Here is a photo of Ward when he was involved in the MDA Telethon. Jim is in the rear on the left with his arm raised in triumph after a successful effort. (Photo: Carl Abraham, WNEP TV).
Earlier in his career he was known as “Buckskin Jim”. Mrs. LuLac actually was on his show. 
Earlier photo of Jim Ward as the TV character so beloved by a generation. (Photo: Find a
Our friend Joe B. sent this photo of Jim Ward during his TV days at WILK TV. Here’s what he wrote and see the photo below: 
Dave: Reading about Jim Ward and Buckskin Jim I had to send you a picture. Knew right where the picture was located. My wife, Barbara Argenio from West Pittston, made the show also. Barbara is standing next to Jim on his right. Maybe someone might recognize themselves when they were there also. Bet there are many picture like this one in a lot of albums in the WV. Joe B.
When I started working for Ward, I knew he was sick but I had no idea he was battling prostate cancer. I remember him sitting in his office, looking fit but concerned, impeccably dressed and doing his thing. He was positive, cheerful and friendly. But he was also fighting for his life on the phone with Doctors in Pittsburgh trying to get a newer and more powerful treatment to get himself healed.
In the summer of ’93 Ward’s presence at the station diminished. And he began his final battle. The night Ward died, 20 years ago today, I was traveling back from Millersburg Pennsylvania and heard a taped announcement from Jim’s lifelong broadcast companion Sam Liguori. Sammy said, “Our friend and boss Jim Ward is with God tonight. May he have peace”. Twenty years later that wound for some has healed but the memories of a good man and a true broadcast icon remain. 


Here are two articles written by two different reporters from the Times Leader regarding the broadcast career of the late Jim Ward.
By ANNE KAROLYI; Times Leader Staff Writer
DURYEA -- For a few seconds Wednesday in a WARD-AM radio studio, his deep voice resounded again: strong, quick, and smooth. Jim Ward's voice was made for the airwaves.
"Of course, this is just short, just recorded for an ad," said Sam Liguori, WARD operations manager. "But, boy, he had a voice. A powerful voice."
Ward, one of Luzerne County's pioneer broadcasters, died Tuesday at age 65 after a five-year battle with cancer. Behind the microphone and the cameras, he was a man of fast-talking, familiar sales pitches and popular shows. But there was more to Ward than his slick voice, friends and co-workers said.
"The word `character' comes to mind," said Frank Labarr of WVIA-FM. "He had such character."
In 1947, Ward got his first break, talking the morning away at WBAX-AM in Wilkes-Barre. He left for a morning show at Wilkes-Barre's WILK-AM, where fans called him the "Morning Mayor."
"Everybody liked what he had to say, and he said, well, I'll call myself the mayor then," Liguori said. "He became the mayor of all of Northeastern Pennsylvania."
In the early 1950s, Ward tried television, becoming Buckskin Jim. In a fringed buckskin suit, he introduced westerns, announced birthdays, and gave his young audience chocolate milk and bread. He also was Captain Orbit, launching space shows from WILK's Channel 34.
"He would do parades, and they'd have him strapped to the front of the fire engine, with this cape on," Liguori said. "He was always doing something for the community."
At WBAX-AM, Ward raised money for fire victims, delivering the cash in person. He started the first Cherry Blossom festival in Wilkes-Barre. In the mid-1960s, Ward heard about people starving in the mountains of Kentucky and sent them a truckload of donated clothes and food, Liguori said.
When he bought radio station WPTS-AM -- which Liguori suggested he call WARD -- he personally recruited employees, got to know them, advised them, and became their friends.
"He always had a smile, and you always left him feeling good," said David Stroud, a WARD sales consultant.
For it all, Ward wanted no credit, no accolades. A private man, he treasured his wife, Dorothy, and his four daughters, and lived a happy life in their Kingston home. He built it for Dorothy, as a surprise, after returning from serving in the Air Force in Korea, Liguori said.
"He said, Dot, do I have a surprise for you," Liguori said. "And there was their house."
Ward had offers to leave for bigger cities, and the talent to try it, Liguori said.
"People would say, leave, you have great talent," Liguori said. "But he would say no, no, this is my home."

By JOHN ERZAR; Times Leader Staff Writer
Sunday, April 07, 1996 Page: 1B

His voice will echo forever in the minds of radio listeners in the Wyoming Valley.
It was smooth ... energetic ... powerful ... charismatic ... and, at times, dramatic to a fault.
It made Jim Ward one of the most memorable voices on the air.
A little more than two years have passed since Ward, 65, died after a five-year battle with cancer. He is remembered as one of Luzerne County's pioneer broadcasters as well as an innovator in area programming as owner of WARD-AM radio in Duryea.
Whether it was radio or television, he was a man of fast-talking, familiar sales pitches who could be heard on popular shows.
Listeners will recall the Wilkes-Barre native and former Kingston resident as a man whose local roots were so deeply entrenched that he turned down bigger and better opportunities in larger markets. And he also will be remembered as a man who truly cared about this area.
"People would say, `Leave, you have great talent,' " Sam Liguori said shortly after Ward's passing. Ligouri was Ward's operations manager at WARD-AM at the time.
"But he would say `No, no, this is my home.' "
Buckskin Jim
In the early 1950s, Ward tried television, portraying a character called Buckskin Jim. He was sort of a forerunner to Miss Judy of the popular Hatchy Milatchy show on WNEP-TV Channel 16.
In a fringed buckskin suit, he introduced westerns, announced birthdays and gave his young audience chocolate milk and bread.
Longtime local radio and television broadcaster Tom Bigler remembers Buckskin Jim and his friend, Jim Ward. "He dressed in western garb and he put on a show. Jim and I worked together for many years at WILK," Bigler said recently.
Ward also portrayed Captain Orbit, launching space shows from WILK's Channel 34. He appeared in parades as the character.
Ward's best-known television work might have been during the Muscular Dystrophy-Jerry Lewis Telethon. As one of the emcees for many years, Ward's heartfelt, passionate requests for donations could melt the least charitable of hearts.
It was just part of his commitment to the Wyoming Valley -- his home. He served on the board of directors of the Family Services Association of Wyoming Valley for many years as well as on the advisory board of the Salvation Army of Wilkes-Barre. He assisted with activities at St. Michael's School, and with fund-raising efforts for St. Joseph's Hospital and the United Way of Wyoming Valley.
There was more.
While at WBAX-AM, Ward raised money for fire victims, delivering the cash in person. He started the first Cherry Blossom festival in Wilkes-Barre. In the mid-1960s, Ward heard about people starving in the mountains of Kentucky and sent them a truckload of donated clothes and food.
His caring spread far and wide, but always seemed to come right back to the Wyoming Valley.
"He was a public figure and knew how to be a public figure," Bigler said.
Radio days
In 1947, Ward got his first break, talking the morning away at WBAX-AM in Wilkes-Barre. He left for a morning show at Wilkes-Barre's WILK-AM, where fans called him the "Morning Mayor."
"Everybody liked what he had to say, and he said, `Well, I'll call myself the mayor then,' " Liguori said in 1994. "He became the mayor of all of Northeastern Pennsylvania."
Eventually, Ward became more.
In 1971, WBAX was purchased by the Merv Griffin Radio chain. Ward, who had served as general manager and vice president under WBAX's previous ownership, was reappointed general manager. He eventually became vice president and part-owner.
The job put Ward on the road quite a bit. While he gained some satisfaction with the travel, he also gained a new appreciation for family and friends.
"One day I was crossing the George Washington Bridge," Ward said in a 1981 interview, "when I realized I wasn't cut out for more than a small town."
Becoming an owner
In 1975, Ward purchased WPTS-AM in Duryea for $250,000 from Rose Fiorani. He made sweeping personnel changes and, at Ligouri's suggestion, changed the call letters to WARD.
The new WARD scrapped its oldies and ethnic programming format to switch to a middle-of-the-road style. Ward also initiated plans to re-engineer the station and add advanced broadcast equipment.
Still, all the changes didn't add up to success for Ward or his station. By 1980, WARD was struggling in the highly competitive Wilkes-Barre/Scranton radio market.
The struggle took an abrupt upturn.
Coping to make it
In a 1982 interview, Ward said he was down to his last $700 when, in a last-ditch effort to survive, his station launched an all-talk format. He personally spearheaded the programming change, hosting a late-morning show known as The Coping Connection.
"The real reason we did it is because we had tried everything else, and it hadn't worked," said Ward shortly after the show became an instant hit. "I figured that if we were going down, we might as well go down helping people."
The Coping Connection, debuting in October 1980, saved a sinking ship. The call-in show offered help for people to cope with various problems. If a caller had a problem, Ward and other callers would try to find a solution. So would psychologists and other expert guests.
The new format boosted WARD's sagging ratings. The station quickly went from a 1.2 percent audience share to a 4.1 share in the Arbitron ratings. By comparison, WNAK-AM in Nanticoke was the area's No. 1 radio station with a 10 percent share.
Eventually, Ward added a Together Line that became a hit with the audience. Listeners looking for companionship could describe themselves and their interests with hopes of meeting that special someone. In the first week, about 400 people called. By the following Monday, Ward had already heard stories of successful matches.
Ward and broadcasting were a successful match.
Bigler said Ward was always enthusiastic and that today's broadcasters could benefit from his example.
"I think they could have that kind of innate optimism he had. It gave you hope for tomorrow that isn't always evident," Bigler said.


Video of the history of WPTS, WARD and WKQV AM and FM.


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