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Remembering the good ole’ days of WBKV Radio in West Bend, WI

February 9, 2024 – West Bend, Wi – There’s a little buzz going around the community regarding what happened to the West Bend radio station, previously known as WBKV. Neighbors said the format has changed, along with the call letters.

While we’re waiting on an official update, how about taking a trip down memory lane and chiming in with recollections of when the station was in its heyday.

WBKV

WBKV AM-1470 was known as West Bend Kettle Valley and WBWI 92.5 Pure Country was West Bend Wisconsin. WBKV played news talk and spun big band music on Sundays and WBWI leaned into country music. The station used to be located up on the hill on the southeast corner of Indiana Avenue and Decorah Road. It was across from Pat’s Jiffy Stop.

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Dedicated listeners will remember Steve and Karen Siegel, Kathy Kjer as the “Nutrition Fairy,” Mike Casper with sports, Bernadette Parr in news, General Manager Larry Tainter, and a sales staff that featured familiar names like Dave Lyons, Pat O’Meara, and Ellen O’Meara.

Fans of the station will remember when Tainter hired three blondes for the sales department. They were referred to, in cheeky fashion, as Larry’s Angels. One was Jenny Hafeman, another Jill Mohr Lemke and the third was Darcy (last name escapes me).

Barry Hirsch, Bob Bonenfant, Bob Dohr

Some staff who went onto greater things included Paul Kronforst who hosted the afternoon Swap Shop and is now a longtime producer for the Mark Belling show on WISN.  Tim Van Vooren advanced to WTMJ sports and then onto sports director at Fox 6 in Milwaukee. Hartford City Administrator Steve Volkert even worked a stint at the station when he was in high school. News director Pat Kreitlow went onto become a State Senator 2006 – 2011, and former country DJ Rick Gundrum is now the Representative for the 58th Assembly District.

Bob Bonenfant is the most familiar name tied to WBKV.  Bonenfant spent 29 years at the station. Dedicated listeners will remember the famous Shopping Show, Bob’s DJing at ‘Two G’s,’ and how people are going to miss the local birthday roll call.

There were also the frequent gambling trips, sound investment updates on Bob’s purchase of Plexus stock, his tales of setting track records at Kewaskum High School, and weekly updates on television shows like “Lost” or “American Idol.”

Bonenfant worked hard to always keep the community front and center in his daily broadcasts. He organized events to give back to local nonprofits including Friends of Abused Families. Below are details from the last year of the event in July 2015.

Bargain tickets for donating aluminum cans TODAY at WBKV:
Morning show host Bob Bonenfant will be at the WBKV front desk this morning from 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. This is your chance to help Friends of Abused Families and save money at the same time.

Bob has organized the annual Cans for Kids collection over the past couple decades and he has a stash of tickets to distribute.

Deals are listed below – they apply to Saturday morning only:

-For a cash donation of $10 each you can get Bristol Renaissance ticket

-For a $25 donation each EAA Air Venture ticket,

-A $15 donation each Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park ticket.

-A $15 donation per reserved seat State Fair ticket for Kenny Rogers, John Kay & Steppenwolf or the Happy Together Tour featuring the Turtles and other 60’s groups. No limit on tickets while they last.

“We’ve partnered with American Metal and Paper to raise almost $1,800 in our can collection and this is the final push,” Bonenfant said. The future of this community event is in doubt due to Bob’s upcoming retirement September 11, 2015.

In June 2015 Bob interviewed Savanna Rose about her inaugural Teddy Bear Drive at the Farmers Market today.

Rose will be playing live at the north end of the downtown area in front of J.P. Foz’s Bar and Restaurant at 302 N. Main from 8-11 am. Savanna will be buying teddy bears with the tips earns at today’s show to go with the 90 cards that she created herself this year. She’ll be purchasing the “Kohl’s Cares” bears, which are $5 each, and donating them to Children’s Hospital and West Bend’s Samaritan Nursing Home. If Savannah beats her goal she will also be buying crayons, coloring books and other supplies to include in the donation.
Photo: Savanna Rose (L) and WBKV Celeb Bob Bonenfant

Music was always a big part of Bonenfant’s morning show, and music history. One of his more unique ideas was to put together an entry for the 4th of July Parade and where a group of people would walk the parade route with a boom box (a large heavy radio with a minimum of 4 D batteries) on their shoulder. The best anyone can recall – that group lasted one year.

Vintage Washington County Fair

During the Washington County Fair, when it was located in Slinger, Bonenfant started the annual ‘Lip Sync Contest’ where kids would get up on stage and lip sync to their favorite song. Interruptions by the passing trains were normal. Bonenfant would solicit sponsors and hand out cash prizes.

One year a little girl by the name of Melissa Louise Wagner won $100 after she sang Luau Cha Cha Cha by Annette Funicello

Another history tidbit according to Jack Mueller. “WBKV was put on air by engineer Paul Mueller and was also the station General Manager, then added the FM station in the late 50’s and was one of the first stereo stations in Wisconsin. I (Jack ) started working at the station by cutting lawn during the summer. Then in 1962 was hired as an announcer with a show call Teen Band Stand after getting out of class in the high. To my surprise I was the youngest radio DJ in the state. Good memories of West Bend.”

K.c. Miller wrote, “My mom, Carol Miller, had a call-in morning show on WBKV called Housewives Exchange in the late 60s/early 70s – I dare say that title probably has a very different meaning today! My family & I still use the cookbook she put together that’s comprised of recipes listeners called in & shared. She loved doing that show!”

Some of the other notable employees over the years at the station included Betty Christian, Wally (Walter) Schlaugat, Brad Stern, Kevin Pachucki, Matt Shepard, Carol Miller, Lisa Cler Newman, Sue Tupper, Andrea Kern, Amy Flasch, Jed Dolnick, Steve Payne, Kurt Roskopf, Jesse Averill, Scott Rindt, Ted Ehlen, Fuzz Martin, Chris Schommer, David Spurgeon, Elaine, Jo Katterhenry, Debbie Yanko, Mike Oiler, Cathryn Lake…. just to name a few. Who do you remember?

14 COMMENTS

  1. Bob Bonenfant was the best! I especially enjoyed his emceeing any events where he played “oldies”. I was always in the running for the “name that tune” contests. My most shining moment was when I nailed The Beach Boys song, “Wendy”, in two notes! I STILL have not received my trophy! I also enjoyed going on the air with Bob and Steve to do an “Ask The Dentist” segment…a fun time, indeed!

    • Will gladly add her to the list. Thanks for the reminder. I recall her being a serious employee until the reel to reel tape was found of her recording herself swallowing a Cheerio and expelling it through her nose. Coworkers referred to her as “dedicated.”

  2. Don’t forget the lovely Jo Kat at the front desk after the stations moved to Chris Cochran’s building.
    Had some wonderful times there selling “air” before going back to the trucking industry 😊

  3. I remember listening to Paul Krachy (spelling?) every night at 9:00 PM on the FM station. Later, an automation system was installed known as “big Mac”. It had four tape decks and a controller that played songs from each tape in a certain order. The tapes came from a syndication company called Bonneville and the format was called “Just Beautiful Music”. I was friends with Ted Casper (the chief engineer) at the time and when the format changed he gave me a half dozen or so of the tapes. I still have them!
    Next the format changed again this time called “The Music Blend”. This was also a taped automated format.
    I don’t particularly like Country music so when that became the format I no longer listened.
    At the time I lived on the Northwest side of Milwaukee so I had to install an FM antenna on the roof in order to pick up WBKV-FM. Ah, the old memories of when people loved their favorite FM station…

  4. My brother, Dave Weiss, worked there in the 70’s (I think). I was a kid and don’t remember the exact years. Unfortunately, I can’t ask him as he passed away.

  5. My father, Dave Plunkett, was a broadcaster for years during the 1970’s at WBKV-FM. He worked afternoons, evenings and nights. His ‘Nightwatch’ program started at 9PM ending at midnight. He would take song requests to add into his music lineup. He had a very large fan base. Occasionally, some nights I would go with him to work and answer the phones to take song requests and pull the LP albums that he was going to play that night from a list he would give me. Tainter, his boss, was jealous of my father’s popularity and when the time came to move from vinyl records to tapes, Tainter took that opportunity to let my father go, not allowing him the opportunity to learn how to work the new technology. When my father asked if he could purchase the library of albums for his own collection, Tainter refused. He was afraid that my father would start his own radio station and Tainter didn’t want the competition. Tainter subsequently destroyed hundreds of valuable music albums in spite. I have photos of my father in the recording booth at the station when it was on Decorah Rd. I wish I could post them here.

  6. The engineer’s last name may have been spelled “Krejci”, but God only knows why I would remember that.

    Randy Graff
    WBKV News Director Oct. ’76 to Apr. ’77

  7. While I didn’t remember your dad by name, I do recall him and how the listeners loved his show.

    Randy Graff
    WBKV News Director in 1976-77

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