KFH Barn Dance (Frolic)
This show followed a pattern of programming for many early radio stations wanting to provide
entertainment for their listening audience. The concept of a 'barn dance' was shown to be
successful in the early development of radio entertainment.
The original call letters of KFH were WEAH and first went on the air on May 26, 1922. The station
was sold to the Board of Trade in 1923. In 1925, the Rigby Grey Hotel Company Corporation (it owned
the Lassen Hotel) purchased WEAH and changed the call letters to KFH (Kansas' Finest Hotel). The first
broadcast under the new call letters was on February 1926. On October 1, 1929, the Wichita Eagle newspaper
purchased a 50% interest in KFH and became a CBS network affiliate one week later.
Between 1927 and 1941, the radio station's frequency on the AM radio dial changed severak times. Initially
it was at 1120 AM. In April 1927, it was changed to 1220 AM. In November 1928, it began operating at 1300 AM,
sharing that frequency with WIBW in Topeka, KS. In 1941, it changed to 1330 AM.
The first mention of the KFH Barn Dance was in a November 19, 1933 article in the Wichita Eagle. Readers learned,
"...An interesting new feature will make its debut Saturday at the Uptown. This will be the date of the first
of an indefinite series of KFH Barn Dances presenting "1880 Hot Cha" with ye old time Hey! Hey! rhythm. These
weekly dances will be broadcast over the local station."
That first broadcast took place at 9:30pm on Saturday night, November 25, 1933 from the Uptown Theater.
A December 1933 article told readers that "old timers and young folks will like the square dance and thrilling
tunes of "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and "Pop GoesThe Weasel..." The show was touted as being
the "biggest array of exciting 1880 "Hot Cha" ever produced in that part of the country. Readers also learned
that the cost of producing the 45 minute that would start promptly at 9:15pm show was $150.
Eighteen couples would dance to the 11 piece band of Joe Cox and compete for a $10 prize in the dancing event. The
dance would continue until a champion was selected and a $50 prize awarded by the mayor of Wichita. The audience
would be entertained by Vernon Reed ("maestro of the microphone"), Harry Cheshire (from the Loie Bridge and
Harry Chesire Co.) who was said to be a master funster. "The KFH barn dance will be one of the biggest entertainment
undertakings ever attempted in Kansas.
The December 30, 1933 show would feature the "Fred Dold and Sons Hog Calling Contest" that was open to the public
and included a $20 prize. Sponsors of the show back then included Steffen Ice & Ice Cream Co., George E. Walker Fuel, Co.,
Peter Pan Cleaners, Wichita Home Baking Co., Fred Dold and Sons Packing Co., Dockum Drug Co., Conway Springs
Bottling Co., Crazy Water Crystals Co., Arnholz Coffee Co., Spines Clothing Co, Gridley Motor Co. and McCleland
While the first several years of the KFH Barn Dance seem to be heavily influenced by the vaudeville backgrounds
of its stars Loie Bridge and Harry Cheshire, things took a turn in early 1939 with the arrival of Andy Crockett.
In January 1934, a show was broadcast from the Uptown Theatre. The featured act on the show
was a local favorite, Doc Riester and His Hill Billy Band. Harry (Pappy) Cheshire was the master
of ceremonies. Doc's band was actually the South Wichita band that was popular in the area
and performed at many events over the years. Doc was actually a 'doctor' - a dentist. But he
was known as a band director in various cities he resided in.
The 1934 newspaper picture was a bit unique. While it listed a couple of the acts on the show,
it went into detail as to the many sponsors for the KFH Barn Dance broadcast. They included:
Arnholz Coffee company, Spines Clothing company, Steffens Ice and Ice Cream company, Dockum Drug
company, Motor Equipment comopany, Peter Pan Cleaners, George E. Walker Fuel Company,
Wichita Home Baking company, Gridley Motor company, Conway Springs Bottling company, Missouri
Pacific Booster club, Crazy Waters Crystals company, The Wichita Eagle and the Uptown Theater.
By 1935, the radio logs were not listing it as KFH Barn Dance; instead, it was listed as Barn Dance From Uptown Theatre.
Programming began to be sporadic. On February 2, 1935, an ad indicated that the show was being held at the Miller
Theatre and it was the Farewell Party for Harry Cheshire. 60 performers were to be a part of the night's
entertainment. In late February 1935, a promotionial ad indicated the show had returned with
Gus Elmore now part of the entourage. But by end of May 1935, with Loie Bridge making one last appearance, the
show again disappeared from the KFH broadcast schedule.
The backup band for the show was "Hiram Wilber and his Hillbilly Band." Whether that was his real name or not,
remains to be seen as no other mention of his name has been found.
Promtional ads indicated the Uptown Theatre could seat 1,500 people. The Uptown Theatre opened on July 16, 1928
near the corner of Hillside and Douglas Avenues in Wichita (3210 E. Douglas Ave). The opening movie
was Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer."
The theatre was renovated around 1977 and is now called the Crown Uptown Theatre.
In early 1939, Andy Crockett arrived on the scene at KFH. He had a concept for what he thought a barn dance should
be. The first iteration of the Ark Valley Boys group arrived on the scene as well. It was reported that Andy
had put together the group in December 1938 and brought them to KFH in Wichita on January 5, 1939. The members of the
original group were said to have been from Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Andy got them all together in
his 'hometown' of Salina. They added other members later. The origins of the group was that it operated on a
commonwealth, or "...share the profits system, each member being paid in proportion to the group's earnings.'
Uncle Andy as he was called had the task of "..."ride herd" on the boys, keeping them rounded up and working.
Keeping Clarence and Vernon out of mischief is his chief worry." He was said to have had an office with a secretary
at 227 South Water Street where he handles all their bookings and the group's bank account ("when they have one").
The first promoted appearance of Andy Crockett and the Ark Valley Boys was at the Pastimes Gardens on 6000 East Central
in Wichita on January 15, 1939. The location was opposite the Beechcraft factory. It advertised "The Same Good Old
Steak and Chicken Dinners."
Andy also introduced the new "KFH Barn Dance and Frolic" show broadcast over KFH. That was on Saturday night
January 21, 1939 at 7:30pm. The Ark Valley Boys were the
headline acts but a "variety of stars" was promoted as well. The first promotional ad for
the new show was seen on February 11, 1939.
Readers and fans learned of Andy's concept behind the new show in an April 1939 article. By that time, over 26,000
fans had seen the new show in person since January 21.
The show would also take place at venues in Wichita. In June of 1939, the Barn Dance was held at the
Alaskan Ice Palace on 752 South Hydraulic in Wichita. In fact, the summer of 1939 the show
seemed to hold their shows each Saturday night. That venue has its own history.
Samuel Noble Wible (B: October 12, 1879 — D: January 26, 1947) was the owner of the Wible Ice and Cold Storage company. He had come to
Wichita from Beaver, Oklahoma around 1922 to start the company. His wife, Ella (B: August 17, 1995 — D: December 22, 1962), was
also a part of the business and at one time owned the Wichita Sky Hawks professional hockey team.
The Wible Ice Company was given a permit in January 1932 to build an ice skating rink on its plant property
on South Hydraulic Avenue. This would be a first for the city which had to rely on extremely
cold winter weather to freeze the Little River to be able to do any ice skating. It was an
outdoor rink in the back of the plant that had a grove of grees next to it providing a bit of
This lead to an interest in getting an ice hockey team for the city. The rink was about 175 feet
by 50 feet. The standard hockey rink was 200 feet by 90 feet. No sooner had the announced the building
of the rink, plans were already underway to put a roof over the rink to allow seating for spectators
the following year. Leo Donahoe came to Wichita, promoting ice hockey. He said, "It is the most
thrilling of all sports and will make Wichita forget basketball."
When the rink opened, it was called the Wible Ice Skating Rink. But by November, the Wible Ice Company
announced in an ad that it was to be called "The Alaskan Ice Palace." It was no longer an open
air rink. It would offer skating times to the public. There would be plenty of room for skaters
to change into their skates, eat and rest. There would be 10,000 square feet of smooth ice "...
protected from the elements by a good substantial building with ample seating capacity. You
are comfortable at all times, while indulging in the finest, most healthful of winter sports."
The first ice hockey game in Wichita was between the Tulsa Rangers and a Wichita 'sextet.' More
than 2,000 fans showed up for the game. Management saw the interest, and decided to add
temporary bleachers to take care of overflow crowds expected in subsequent games.
In 1934, changes and improvements were again taken at the Ice Palace, edging it closer to a possible
venue beyond ice skating. In November 1934, they expected 1,000 skaters at their opening
night on Saturday, November 10, 1934. The refrigeration system had been tested and what was
described as a 'perfect sheet of ice' was ready for opening night. About $20,000 in remodeling
was done during the summer and was completed to enable all ice sports. Management thought
they would see double the attendance.
The remodeling of the rink was inspired by the Coliseum in Tulsa, OK. The arena now had
seating around the entire rink. The seating capacity was about 4,500. Three rows of box
seats had been added to two sides. There were large aisle running the length of the building under
the seats. The building had double doorways on all four corners of the building to enable
a speedy entrance and exit of event attendees. The lobby was spacious, numerous tables, large
refreshment area and an open fireplace on one side. But in a hint of things to come, management
stated that "...ice skating may be held but tri-weekly this (that) year, other sports,
including boxing and wrestling, to occupy other nights."
In 1939 - 1940, research shows that the Alaskan Ice Palace was trying to become a multi-purpose event
center, not just ice skating or hockey. The hosting of the KFH Barn Dance Frolic in August 1939 was
a seemingly first step in that direction. Later, a new floor was laid down to allow for roller
skating. Another event seen in 1940 was midget car racing. But for a show such as the Barn Dance,
one wonders what the acoustics must have been like for a venue not really designed to host such events.
Andy was said to have had the idea of "combining a regular dance with a stage show and radio broadcast" a couple
of years prior to his arrival at KFH. He was the general manager of a radio station back then. He was trying
to find a
"...means of entertaining that large group of people who want to enjoy a musical show consisting
mostly of music and songs with which most persons are familiar. ... Finding a great number of people who like
to dance the old time dances as well as the popular dances, but who wanted to bring the entire family, Andy
decided to combine this type of dance with the stage show, using the same orchestra that played the show. By insisting
that those who attended his dances and frolics maintain certain standards of decency, and catering only to those who could have
a good time without interfering with the enjoyment of others, he was able to entertain over 52,000 people at
the first 35 of those shows without a single complaint as to the conduct of his customers. Well over ten per cent
of the audiences at these barn dances are children. This indicates that the whole family comes and enjoys the
show and music. Children are encouraged to dance with their parents but are not allowed to dance by themselves
or with other children.
A large number of other broadcasting stations have attempted to copy the idea
and have met with varying degrees of success. Informality is the key to the success of these shows. No attempt
is made to make the dances formal affairs. Andy asserts that everyone is free to enjoy himself as he sees fit,
providing the enjoyment is clean and does not interfere with the enjoyment of the others who are present."
One of the early stars on KFH and its Barn Dance program was a trio of sisters, Ginger, Lou and Jean - known
as the Dinning Sisters. It was around mid-summer 1939 when they went to Chicago for musical appearances and several radio auditions.
Horace Heidt and his Brigadiers tried to entince them with a contract, but the Dinning Sisters were in no hurry.
They had come to Wichita from Blackwell, OK around 1936; working in night clubs and finally were hired to be
a part of the KFH staff. Eddie McKean, KFH announcer, booked their first engagements in Wichita. Their first
network appearance was to be on the Ray Shields broadcast on the NBC-Red Network. Their 'coach' was their
brother, Wade, who was a promising baritone.
The show had also moved from its previous regular venue the Uptown Theatre to the more spacious Forum in Wichita.
The Barn Dance could now accommodate audiences up to 5,000 people. A large dance area could also be provided.
The Forum was built in on the west side of the 200 block of South Wichita. It was part of a complex of buildings
built over a period of two decades. The cornerstone was laid on May 19, 1910 and the Forum was dedicated in January
1911. "The forum was 260 feet long by 160 wide, with a height from stage to dome of 80 feet and a capacity of
about 5,000. No one worried about the large asbestos curtain installed on the stage depicting a reproduction
of a well-known painting of Ben Hur's chariot race."
The Wichita Eagle published the first picture of Andy Crockett's Ark Valley Boys in February 1939. The caption
noted that "...the musical organization had proved exceedingly popular, necessitating larger dancing area at
the Forum. While the picture did not include the names of who was in the Ark Valley Boys in February 1939, some
of them are recognizable from later pictures. Andy was in the center of the photo with his suit and tie. Vernon Reed
would be the one dressed in the long beard in his character, The Trader. Puny Hawkins was on drums. Jack Mayfield
On occasion there would be 'special' nights. For example, on October 12, 1940 when the show broadcast originated
from the Forum, it was deemed "Pay Night." That meant, "...every purchaser of one adult ticket receives "Pay
Envelope" containing cash from 1cent to $1.00." On December 28, 1940, it was "Ballon Busters Night." Balloons would
be floated around and there was money in the balloons to encourage people to bust them!
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads - 1939
The year of 1941 was one of changes for KFH as well as the Barn Dance Frolic show. KFH was taking up a large
remodeling project at the York Rite Building on the 7th floor where KFH was located in July 1941. Ceilings were lowered to enable
air conditioning for the entire enclosure. The improvements would include "...modern
production facilities, latest in studio equipment and adequate office space." The new
studios would double the space and encompass the entire seventh floor of the building. Reportedly,
the new broadcast studios would be "...amonth the largest and most artisitically arranged
of any in the Midwest." The Wichita Eagle noted that "Dancing Under The Stars" would become a popular
pasttime in Wichita when starting with the first broadcast on June 21, 1941 from the stage on the rooftop.
It was said, "...a good dance floor, in pleasant surroundings affording a most unusual view of the city by night..."
At the same time, the station was completing a new 5,000 watt transmitter using
the best technology available at that time.
Also built were a theater with stage and scenery, a large auditorium that
was scheduled to be ready to host shows in September 1941. In fact, starting on September 29, 1941, the afternoon
broadcasts of the Ark Valley Boys program as well as the Butter-Nut Coffee Jamboree were to originate at new
times from the new auditorium. That new studio had been used previously by one of the York Rite lodges.
Another change that occurred was using the roof of the York Rite Building to broadcast
the KFH Barn Dance Frolic and host dancing during and after the broadcasts. This gave
it a unique appeal, being able to gaze at the Wichita skyline at night, 'dancing under the
stars' was another promotional aspect KFH used.
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads — 1941
During the war years, cities across the country would do special events to help support the war efforts,
honor the troops and more. In December 1942, KFH had a special event for the KFH Barn Dance Frolic
on December 4. The theme was "Remember Your Buddy."
A local retailer (Harvey Brothers) was represented
by manager I. K. Edsall. He assisted Puny Hawkins in the selection of gifts that would be part
of the "Remember Your Buddy" contest that night at the York Rite building. Contests would have to answer
questions; the winners would then be asked to select gifts from among those that were purchased
for the occasion. That selected gift would then be mailed to some one in the armed services, whether
it was a soldier, sailor, marine or coast guardsman that was selected by the quiz winners.
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads — 1942
The year of 1943 saw a change in the programming on KFH. The station introduced a mid-week edition of the KFH Barn Dance Frolic show
that aired at 8:00pm and was broadcast from the York Rite Building. KFH also promoted the addition of a new sponsor,
Tailor Made Feeds and Flour, sponsoring several shows including the Barn Dance Frolic.
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads — 1943
A new announcer joined the KFH staff. He was Henry (Hank) Mattison. He also did vocal roles for the station.
He came from Lincoln, NE. His career in radio began in 1935 and had worked at several Central States Broadcasting
company stations such as KFAB, KFOR and KOIL. He had his own orchestra for a time.
World War II was having an impact on the station's talent roster as well. The three Victory brothers had all left
the station. One was in Italy, another was in Virginia and another was in the Navy, leaving a gap in the vocals
and instrumentals with the Ark Valley Boys troupe. Fiddler Jimmy Hall joined the armed forces during the year
and it was reported that Roy Christensen would be leaving soon as well.
Roy Christensen was also called into service. Stationed in San Diego, he was playing trumpet for a Navy Band.
He also played at a venue that had a large pipe organ. Cousin Clarence was in traing with the navy in Farragut, Idaho.
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads — 1944
|KFH Barn Dance Folic Ads — 1945
In June of 1945, singer Patria Reed married Sgt James W. Jones at the Hillside Avenue Christian Church.
Saturday night July 15, 1939 saw Roy Christensen marry Irene Estes at the Alaskan Roller Palace
during the Saturday night KFH Barn Dance Frolic show.
The year of 1946 saw the gradual demise of the KFH Barn Dance Frolic show. In March and April, many of the
Saturday night shows originated from various towns in Kansas. On Saturday night, May 4, 1946, the usual
KFH time slot for the Barn Dance Frolic now listed simply Ark Valley Boys in a 25-minute segment from
6:30pm to 6:55pm. The year also saw a name change in the York Rite Building. KFH had bought the building early
in 1945; in March 1946, the legal name of the building was changed to KFH Building.
|KFH Barn Dance Folic — Remote Broadcasts
Over the years, the KFH Barn Dance Frolic would on occasion air its show from different cities in Kansas. Some of the places and dates
research has found are:
|November 11, 1939 — Lyons, KS (Part of Armistice Celebration)
||October 7, 1939 — McPherson, KS (Municipal Auditorium)
||October 14, 1939 — Lyons, KS (Municipal Auditorium)
||December 16, 1939 — El Dorado, KS (City Auditorium)
||February 10, 1940 — Wichita, KS (York Rite Auditorium 9th Floor at Market and Williams Streets)
||June 1, 1940 — El Dorado, KS (City Auditorium)
||June 22, 1940 — Wichita, KS (Alaskan Roller Palace - summer home of show)
||September 21, 1940 —Topeka, KS (4-H Club Building at Kansas State Fair)
||October 19, 1939 — Lyons, KS (Municipal Auditorium under Auspices American Legion)
||November 16, 1940 — El Dorado, KS (City Auditorium)
||December 14, 1940 — Wichita, KS (Arcadia Theatre with Dance Afterwards at The Rose Room)
||January 18, 1941 — Hutchinson, KS (Convention Hall)
||January 25, 1941 — Newkirk, OK
||February 22, 1941 — El Dorado, KS (City Auditorium)
||March 1, 1941 — Lamont, OK (Under Auspices Lamont Lions Club)
||March 8, 1941 — Newkirk, OK
||March 15, 1941 — McPherson, KS (under auspices of McPherson Junior Chamber of Commerce)
||April 12, 1941 — Greensburg, KS (under auspices Greensburg American Legion)
||April 19, 1941 — Hutchinson, KS (Hutchinson Elks)
||May 10, 1941 — Wakita, OK
||May 17, 1941 — Dodge City, KS (Ritz Ballroom)
||May 24, 1941 — Lyons, KS Lyons, KS (Municipal Auditorium)
||May 31, 1941 — Anthony, KS
||June 7, 1941 — Pratt, KS (Pratt Municipal Auditorium under Auspices Pocahontas Council)
||June 14, 1941 — Greensburg, KS (Greensburg Community Building)
June 21, 1941 — Wichita, KS (Roof of York Rite Building)
June 28, 1941 — Wichita, KS (Roof of York Rite Building)
July 26, 1941 — Wichita, KS (Transcribed)
August 30, 1941 — Anthony, KS
September 27, 1941 — Wichita, KS (Coleman Lamp Co. - Sponsored by Coleman Employees)
October 4, 1941 — Ellinwood, KS (Ellinwood Rodeo)
October 25, 1941 — Newkirk, OK
November 29, 1941 — Wichita, KS (York Rite Building - Double Wedding)
December 27, 1941 — Kingman, KS
September 19, 1942 — Hutchinson, KS (State Fair Grounds - Red Barn)
October 3, 1942 — Butler County Farm Festival
December 26, 1942 — Lyons, KS Lyons, KS (Municipal Auditorium)
March 13, 1943 — Hutchinson, KS
September 16, 1944 — Hutchinson, KS (State Fair Grounds - Red Barn)
January 5, 1946 — Salina, KS
January 12, 1946 — Caldwell, KS
February 16, 1946 — Caldwell, KS
February 23, 1946 — McPherson, KS
March 2, 1946 — Bucklin, KS
March 9, 1946 — Anthony, KS
March 16, 1946 — McPherson, KS
March 23, 1946 — Greensburg, KS
March 30, 1946 — Hutchinson, KS
April 27, 1946 — Kiowa, KS