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KGCU Barn Dance
Mandan, ND

KGCU Barn Dance

Research is primarily based on a souvenir program / booklet published by the Russell-Miller Milling Company which sold "Occident Flour." The booklet is not dated, but appears to be around 1939 or 1940 judging by comments made in some of the writeups.

KGCU began broadcasting in 1925. Their main studios were in the Kennelly Furniture Company Building in Mandan, ND. Studios were also in the Prince Hotel in Bismarck, ND. The station transmitter was located between Bismarck and Mandan and operated "limited time." The booklet says the primary listening audience of KGCU was a population of 107,583.

The booklet indicates there was more than one owner of the radio station. One was the Kennelly Furniture Company that was founded in 1889 by Thomas Kennelly. The store also had a KGCU studio. Another studio was in the Prince Hotel in Bismarck were programs such as the Blue Blazer Orchestra originated. Another owner was the Purity Dairy Company, located where No. 10 meets Main Street in downtown Mandan. The Royal Tailors and Cleaners on 108 First Street in Mandan was also an owner. Located at the corner of Main Street and 4th Avenue was another owner of the station, the Mandan Creamery and Produce Company.

The booklet provides a glimpse of the programming on KGCU. The KGCU Barn Dance was on Sundays at 3:00pm. The show prior to the Barn Dance at 2:30pm was the "Ava Maria Hour." The program that aired at 4:30 after the Barn Dance was the Orthodox Presbyterian Hour." During the week, some of the Barn Dance performers were heard on other KGCU programs. Arnold's Serenaders; The Prairie Singer; Isadore Doerr; and, Al Dutton. The booklet states the listed programs were randomly listed as ones the station felt would interest readers and listeners.

One of the announcers on the Barn Dance program were James E. Gilfoy who joined the radio station in Decmeber of 1932. Mr. Gilfoy also served as Assistant Manager and Chief Engineer. Russ Kaber was an announcer who joined KGCU in November of 1939. He also had a daily program as a singer known as the "Prairie Singer." He was the master of ceremonies of the Sunday afternoon Barn Dance program.

The booklet also included a 'cast photo' with names. But they did not simply list the names, each person was given a number in the picture and then there was a separate page linking the number to a name.

Included in the cast were two sisters, Erna Hagerott and Louise Hagerott from the town of Cente, ND. They were known as the "Roaming Cowgirls." Another group was comprised of members of the Stuldreher family. There was Louie Stuldreher, known as the German Singer who started on the radio in 1928. There was the mother - daughter duo known as The Harmonica Twins - Elsie (Stuldreher) Wuertz and her mother, Rosie Stuldreher although from the picture of them, only Rosie was holding a harmonica while Elsie held a guitar. Another member of the family was known as "Little Alice" was said to be the youngest performer at 15 who actually had started singing on the Barn Dances in 1935. Another member of the family was on the show with her husband. Dot (Dorothy) (Stuldreher) Carter with Bart Carter. Dot paired up with her sister Elsie as the "Neighbor Girls" on various programs as well as the Barn Dance. The two sisters began singing over the radio in 1928.

The show had at least three fiddlers. One was Nick Lahren, The Hoedown King. He was considered an "old-timer" and started with the station in 1934 or 1935. John Burts was a left-handed fiddler. Frank Schiff was the youngest fiddler and often paired with John Burts to back up performers on the Barn Dance. One might assume they also had square dancing on the program for the booklet indicates that Rudy Patzman noted as an 'old time caller.'

Arnold Christianson was known as "Turkey Trot Bill" on KGCU where he started entertaining folks over the air in November 1931. His sponsor at times was the Mandan Creamery. They wrote that he received over 12,750 letters on his programs from all over the country. He was said to be able to sing in English, Danish, Swedish, German and Norwegian languages. He was also known as the "singing salesman" and began teaming with the "mandolin playing shoemaker" Henry Betram in spring of 1937.

Several other performers included Al Dutton, who came to KGCU in the early 1930's, having worked at stations in Minneapolis previously, WHRM and WAMD. Ray Smith played guitar and banjo and often teamed with Al Dutton. Isadore Doerr started singing at KGCU in 1934 and was known for his programs of German and English songs.

KGCU Barn Dance
Cast Photo from Occident Flour Booklet

KGCU Barn Dance Cast Photo - Mendan, ND
(1) J. K. Kennelly; (2) James E. Gilfoy; (4) Arne Anzjon; (6) Vince Dolva; (7) Arnold Christianson; (9) Art Rooth (Russell Miller Mill Manager); (10)Mrs. Doerr
(11) Isadore Doerr; (14) Bernie Helbling; (15) Henry Bertram; (18) Rudy Patzman; (19) Bill Bloomer; (20) George Glaser
(22) Otto Dahn; (26) Clark Karls; (27) Doretta Dahn; (31) Duane Dalbec; (32) Ellsworth Hutmacher (35) Al Kokkler; (38) Hugo Vendt; (39) Emil Dockter; (40) George Eckroth
(43) Clifford Green; (44) Kenneth Haugen; (45) Frank Schiff; (46) Al Dutton; (49) Jimmy Collins; (51) Charlie Richter; (52) Bill Karls; (54) Nick Lahren;
(55) Ellsworth Patterson; (56) Bob Martin; (57) Marlin Manthey; (58) Cal Culver; (59) Don McLean; (60) Athur Neff; (61) Clifford Olson; (62) Roy Erickson; (63) Bill Kokana;
(64) Erma Hagerott; (65) Ruth Anderson; (66) Addie Kalweit; (67) John Burts; (68) Marie Matschenbacker (Prairie Rose); (69) Tom Guttenberg; (70) Cappy Guttenberg; (71) Si Larson;
(73) Matt Burts; (75) Jimmy Fraelic; (78) Jim Sherick; (79) Louise Hagerott; (80) Ray Smith; (81) Gloria Laemmie; (82) Magdalin Doll;

Al Dutton

Dot Carter

James Gilfoy

Erna Hagerott

Nick Lahren

Al Smith

Elsie Wuertz


Credits & Sources


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