WNAX: Grandpa Windpenny
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When Lloyd Reedstrom began working for WNAX radio in 1948, one of his duties at the station was announcing for the WNAX Missouri Valley Barn Dance. Listeners throughout the Midwest knew him by two names. His radio announcer name was “Lloyd Grant,” and a character he created for the Barn Dance sketches was called “Grandpa Windpenny,” a comical character based on several different colorful people Lloyd had known early in his career. As Grandpa Windpenny, Reedstrom would warm-up the radio audience then disappear backstage for a quick change. He would then reappear as Lloyd Grant and begin announcing the Missouri Valley Barn Dance.
Lloyd left WNAX in 1955 to become the Program Director of KYNT radio in Yankton, helping to launch the station when it went on the air on March 15th, 1955. He purchased the radio station in 1960 and sold it in 1973 to begin a new career as Regional Radio Stations Relations Manager for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He worked for ASCAP until he retired in 1994.
Lloyd's son Grant Reedstrom remembers being a toddler sitting on his father’s lap while he announced for WNAX as both Lloyd Grant and Grandpa Windpenny. Grant remembers a story his parents told him about one of their dates
“I think Dad always liked being around crowds, and I think he really enjoyed performing. I believe Grandpa Windpenny was a character that he formed from perhaps a lot of people that he met in his early career, for example, the first-generation immigrants that he knew from his family and his family's friends. Later, he would use this character to... Well, he had Grandpa Windpenny's Trading Post on WNAX, and people would call in, and there's an article in a book that I read about WNAX that indicates that... I remember when Dad went in for surgery, and people in the area learned that Grandpa Windpenny was very ill and having surgery, and he got, they said, 800 cards wishing him to get well and recover from this surgery. He was one of the stars, I guess.
I do remember as a little kid sitting on his lap when he was doing one of these shows. I have a memory of that. And he would have his Grandpa Windpenny voice, but when he went public, you wouldn't recognize him, as he'd have this big white beard, which I think also doubled as his Santa Claus beard when he played Santa Claus at McAvoy's store in Yankton. He'd have a beaten-up old hat on, usually a flannel shirt or bib overalls, and he'd carry a railroad engineer's lantern, and he'd carry around. I think part of his job was not only as an announcer for the Barn Dance and his own Grandpa Windpenny Trading Post, he would be part of the crowd to warm up the audience part of the warm up routine, which is where my mother entered the scene when they first started dating.
She knew that he worked... My mother was Bernice Keller at the time, and she knew that he worked at WNAX, but little else. She knew that he was an announcer, and one of the things that attracted her to my dad was his sense of humor. And my dad had a very good sense of humor, and he liked a practical joke as well. And unfortunately, at one of these Barn Dances, my mother inadvertently became part of the warm up routine.
And as she told me this story a few years ago before she passed, Dad invited her to one of these Barn Dances. She knew he was the announcer, but she didn't know very much else. And he seated her in the front row and left a chair next to her and said, "I'll come back when I'm done with my duties," and he left. And a while later, this grizzly old guy wanders over carrying a railroad engineer's lantern. He had bib overalls, big bush white beard, bulbous nose, great big thick glasses, a wig. She didn't know it was a wig, but real long hair. A beat-up hat. And he sat down next to her. And she tried to explain to this guy that, "Oh, that's reserved for my date," and he said, "Oh, who's your date?" She said, "Well, his name is Lloyd Grant." "Oh, I know Lloyd Grant. Fine fella. Everybody loves him here." And he proceeded to pepper her with questions.
WNAX Missouri Valley Barn Dance
Now, everybody in the place knew who Grandpa Windpenny was. She didn't. And so she was getting frustrated with this old guy that wouldn't leave, and finally he did. And when my dad came back, she explained to him this guy that had been peppering her, and he thought about it and said, "Well, he probably won't be back." And so, he goes off again during the show to do his announcing duties, and meanwhile this old guy comes back and starts... and the crowd is watching all this, and nobody has let her in on the joke yet. And finally, at the end of the thing, he revealed himself to her, and she must have enjoyed it. My mother had a sense of humor. She must have obviously enjoyed it, because she would later marry him.”
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