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KCOW 70: Our Story

Original history article written by former KCOW news director Kevin Horn and the late Marcene McMasters.  

KCOW Radio:  February 15, 1949 to February 15, 2019 — and beyond!

Recognizing the need for additional local expression, a number of local, progressive business and professional men banded together in December, 1947 to establish a radio station in Alliance, NE.

The Sandhills Broadcasting Corporation was formed, and an application was made for a 250 watt radio station operating at 1400 kilocycles. A construction permit was granted by the FCC in September, 1948.

Construction to house the new station began in December, 1948 at 1030 West Third Street, with the hope of being on the air by Spring, 1949. However, the big blizzard of January, 1949 severely handicapped the completion of the building.

Feeling the need that a local radio station was even greater due to the blizzard and its effects, it was decided not to delay the start of operations until spring. Securing the use of a small building, installation of radio equipment began as soon as workmen could break through the snow drifts.

KCOW Radio went on the air at 6:30 am, Tuesday, February 15, 1949.

The first board of directors were Hans Jaggers, president; Walter Metz, Sr.; vice-president, Wharton Cover, Sec/Treas. T.C. Gregory, Harry McKibbin & Don Berman.

The call letters KCOW tell a story by themselves. KCOW is situated in cow country at the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills.

The station was located at 1030 West Third Street for six years, which is the current location of Bloedorn Lumber Alliance. In 1955, Sandhills Broadcasting, Inc. purchased a tract of land west of Alliance on 10th Street. The studio was moved to its present location at 1210 West 10th Street.

The managers in succession were Charles Bilyue, Gene Ackerly, Jim Ballas, Don Gill, Jack Everton, Jim Kamerzell, Rich Epp, Mike Garwood, Lois Loyd, Mike Fell, Terri Friesen, Jerome Gilg and current manager Olivia Hasenauer. The station’s first Sales Manager was Arnold Kuhn, longtime publisher of the Hemingford Ledger newspaper.

In 1966, KLOE Radio, Inc., a Kansas based corporation, purchased Sandhills Broadcasting. The sale was made so amicably and smoothly that not even an inventory was taken. A handshake secured the sale, which was made over a dinner meeting in the Drake Hotel restaurant in downtown Alliance.

From 1949 to 1975, KCOW was a non-directional, 1,000 watt, daytime station, with the exception of night ball games and special events.

As KCOW has grown, new equipment has been added and the facilities updated and expanded. On October 1, 1985, a new FM station, KAAQ 105.9 Mhz, was added to the KCOW broadcast facilities.

KAAQ covered western Nebraska, and reached into northern Colorado, and eastern Wyoming with 100,000 watts of power.

In June, 1999, KCOW celebrated the station’s 50th anniversary with on air prizes and a dance at the Heartland Aviation hangar at the Alliance Airport with live “big band” music provided by the Dean Bushnell Orchestra of Denver, CO.

In 1991, KQSK, 97.5 Mhz FM Radio in Chadron, NE was purchased. On August 14, 1991, Double Q Country was formed. KAAQ and KQSK simulcast country music to a four-state region. The KQSK studio is located at 331 Main Street in downtown Chadron.

The stations began offering streaming audio of Chadron State College Sports on the internet in 1999.

The company was renamed Eagle Communications, Inc. on October 6, 1992. Ten years later, on October 1, 2002, the employees of Eagle Communications, Inc., and it’s subsidiary, Eagle Radio, Inc. acquired majority ownership of the company, officially making KCOW/Double Q Country employee owned radio stations.

Eagle Radio, Inc. owns several radio stations in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

On December 13, 2002, doubleqcountry.com became a full service, information/entertainment web site. Updated regional and state news and sports stories are posted several times a day, as well as weather forecasts and AP on line video. Live and archived play by play of Chadron State College sporting events is also featured.

In August, 2007, kcowradio.com was launched. Live and archived play by play of Alliance High School sports is offered, as well as Box Butte County news and sports features.

In March, 2008, KCNB, 94.7 FM, Hay Springs / Chadron, NE went on the air, offering northern Nebraska panhandle listeners continuous Top 40 music.

On Monday, February 16, 2009, KCOW celebrated its 60th anniversary with a daylong remembrance broadcast. Interviews with former station employees were aired, as well as archived audio from broadcasts of days-gone-by.

KCOW became a member of the social web site, Facebook, on March 18, 2011. As of our 70th birthday 4,700 people have befriended the KCOW Facebook site.

The radio station’s two web sites were combined on November 1, 2012 and panhandlepost.com was launched, and offers streaming audio of all four radio stations.

On January 29, 2013 the Alliance stations began operating in new studios with 21st Century state of the art broadcast equipment.

Last year KCOW signed an FM translator on the air at 92.5FM.  The FM station is a 100% simulcast of KCOW-AM.

Because the 2019 state high school wrestling tournament fell on this week, we are saving our major celebration of KCOW’s 70th anniversary for March.  Next month we’ll have a two week 70th anniversary prize giveaway on the Wakeup Show, along with a four-hour special presentation Friday March 15th featuring historic audio, special guests, and music from throughout KCOW’s 70  years!

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