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Stan Widney
Born:  August 29, 1901
Died:  October 23, 1962
WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic
KRNT Des Moines, IA
WKY Oklahoma City, OK (1927)
WHO Des Moines, IA (1933)

About The Artist

Stanley Widney - WHO - 1938 Stanley Arden Widney was born in Deadwood, South Dakota. His parents were Martin and Electa Widney. His father was a mail carrier per the 1910 census. The family moved to Page County (perhaps Clarinda) Iowa.

Early in his career Stan spent about ten years as a professional actor and director on the stage. Then he found a new career in his home town of Clarinda.

He became a playwright. He wrote several comedy dramas and produced a local pageant. Two of those early plays were "Real Mothers" and "Hot Shot."

When Stan would handle the announcing chores for the WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic, he would sometimes be a part of a routine with another performer. One such occasion was captured by Lem Turner in his booklet when they were doing a routine that went something like this:

The Maestro! Stan runs the Barn Dance from start to finish. And he does it without fuss or bother, with no apparent effort at all. But as you listen to one of these shows run like clock-wsork you know there's a master mind at work somewhere. And there is. Of course, Lem wouldn't admit this, but when he and Stan get together it sounds like this:

LEM: Say, Stand. What makes you so fat?
STAN: I don't know. I eat Army food all the time.
LEM: Army food? I see — everything goes to the front!

LEM: Look at this here Cornstalk I pulled up by the roots!
STAN: Oh, that's nothin'.
LEM: It is too. The whold world had hold of the other end of it!

Promo Ad - KIOA - Stan Widney - Tone's Coffee - July 1948 Promo Ad - Iowa Barn Dance Frolic - October 1941

In addition to hosting the Frolic show, he had other programs on WHO. One was "Odd Facts - Stan Widney Reports." Another was "Junior Stars Revuew - Stan Widney Directs."

In April 1934, Stan filled in for baseball announcer on WOC-WHO, "Dutch" Reagan when he went to visit the White Sox and Cubs training campes. Mr. Reagan would go on to be president of the United States.

Book Cover - Terry Parks by Stan Widney - 1956 Promo Ad - Younkers and Uncle Stan Widney for 'Terry Parks' - December 1954
Book Cover - Elevator To The Moon by Stan Widney - 1955 Promo Ad - Younkers and Stan Widney for 'Elevator to the Moon' - December 1955

In May of 1947, Stan announced his resignation from the Central Broadcasting Co. that owned WHO and broadcast the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic. He had directed the show for ten years. He was going to do free lance radio work. He wanted to specialize in children's radio shows as well as do personal appearance. Cliff Carl, a veteran comedian was to take his place on the Barn Dance.

His first show away from WHO was to be on KRNT — "Uncle Stan's Pet Shop." It was said he would continue with a group or show called the Saddle Serenaders. He was with WHO for 14 years. Prior to that he had spent about 15 years working with stock companies.

After his stroke, he found work in the publicity department of the Iowa state conservation commission. Columnist Mary Kay Kidder included one of his press releases that was about Christmas trees.

"In the late fall the Roman conquerors of Britain were said to have ornamented their temples and homes with greenery and red and purple berries; probaby because the green was gone from the countryside and there was no color anywhere in the bleak wilderness.

The druids hung mistletoe in their homes in season and the Saxons were very fond of holly, ivy and bay for indoor decorations. They were not Christians, so the custome had nothing to do with Christmas but "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, 'tis the season to be jolly" undoubtedly dates back to them, in part at least.

In the Old Testament we read, "The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee the fir tree, the pine treed, and the box, together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious." A prophesy from Isaiah that foretold the coming of Jesus.

All these things combined make our Christmas decorations what they are today. German Hessians brought the custom of Christmas trees to this country during the Revolutionary War and started a multi-million dollar business.

Still, Christmas trees cost very little for the joy they bring to children, and to adults whose children have grown up and moved away — or those who recall their own childhood so vividly around Christmas time.

Conservation benefits from the demand for trees because former waste land that eroded and caused flooding is being planted to balsam, fir, Douglas fir, black spruce and red cedar. They are replanted after each harvest and thus beautify the hillsides and valleys with their greenery besides holding moisture and stabilizing the soil.

So, the Christmas tree is a symbol of many things to many people and has been throughout the ages. Mostly, though its coming into a home heralds the beginning of a week of celebration that builds up until the presents are all distributed.

Then usually on New Year's Day it is stripped of its tinsel finery and removed to a snow drift in the yard. It serves its purpose well. Cany any living thing ask for more?"

Stanley Widney - WHO - 1942-1943 In early March of 1958, Stan was hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Initial doctor's reports indicated his speech had been impaired and his upper right arm was paralyzed. A few weeks later, it was reported he had "improved considerably." When he was released from the hospital, he had partial paralysis of his right arm and his speech was still impacted.

By end of 1959, he was an assistant editor and public relations officer for the Iowa conservation commission.

His health became an issue again in August 1962. He underwent exploratory surgery and was reported in 'satisfactory' condition afterwards.

He died of a cerebral hemorhage at Veterans Hospital in October 1962.

Stanley married Ilah Marie Miller on April 16, 1935. She was born October 4, 1909 and died December 5, 1982. They had two daughters, Betty and Karen and a son, Larry.

Credits & Sources

  • Lem Turner's Favorite Jokes and Parodies; As Broadcast on the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic Show; Des Moines, IA
  • Radio Scraps 'n Sensations; April 8, 1934; The Quad-City Times; Davenport, IA
  • Diary of a Housewife; Mary Kay Kidder; December 8, 1959; The Jefferson Bee; Jefferson, IA
  • Widney Quits As Barn Dance Head; May 18, 1947; The Des Moines Register; Des Moines, IA
  • Stan Widney Suffers Stroke; March 4, 1958; Des Moines Tribune; Des Moines, IA
  • Stan Widney Improves; March 20, 1958; Des Moines Tribune; Des Moines, IA
  • What Has Happened To Them? November 2, 1959; Des Moines Tribune; Des Moines, IA
  • Finds New Field - Actor Becomes Playwright; October 12, 1931; Omaha Morning Bee-News; Omaha, NE