In the summer of 1961 I helped sign on WERL radio a couple miles north of Eagle River, Wisconsin. In those days small town radio stations played a wide variety of music, had as much local news as they could get and did whatever they could to attract listeners and advertisers who ultimately paid the bills. Being involved in a new radio station was an exhilarating experience.
There was a radio station about 25 miles away, but the signal was not very good, and the station did not cater to the residents of Eagle River and the smaller communities nearby. People were excited to have their “own” radio station. People gave news tips to the news director, called in requests to the disc jockeys (of which I was one) and contacted the station to ask that an advertising representative (which included me) stop in.
We were all celebrities that summer. It helped that we did remote broadcasts from virtually every event that occurred in the area. If a business was having an anniversary sale and was willing to pay for an hour’s broadcast, we were there. When a community had its annual celebration, we found businesses to help sponsor coverage of the activities, and even individuals found ways to use the new station to celebrate family events.
One evening when I was alone doing my show at the station I suddenly was surprised by a huge happy man carrying a case of beer who walked into the studio. He set the case down and asked if we would announce that he and his wife had won the Vilas County Fair award for the largest family in the county. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was at least 14 children. I thanked him for the beer, got the details and had a story ready for the 8 AM news the next morning before I left for the day. We all enjoyed the beer.
Eagle River was and still is a vibrant resort vacation community. There must have been 50 supper clubs, cafes, bars and grills and resort restaurants open to the public within 25 miles of the station, and I ate at most of them in my sales territory.
A typical sales call went something like this: George, the station manager who was also the sales manager, would say, “Chuck, Luigi from the Black Oak Club wants someone to stop in as soon as possible. You should give him a call and go sell him.” He would give me a phone number and directions, and off I would go in my trusty DeSoto.
Luigi would buy a package of ads, give me a tour of the establishment and a copy of the menu and invite me back for dinner. “I want you to know first hand how good our food is,” he would say, “How can you write a good radio ad without tasting the food? And the wine,” he would add. I ate very well that summer.
One of those supper clubs was the White Spruce Inn, just a couple of miles from the radio station. It was located on the north bank of the Eagle River in one of the oldest buildings in town. Since George handled all the advertising accounts in the city, I did not get a complimentary dinner there, but all of us soon learned to appreciate the White Spruce pepper burgers for lunch. One day I asked for the recipe, and the chef obliged.
1 lb. lean hamburger or ground round
1/4 green bell pepper
1/4 red bell pepper or a fresh pimiento
1 T Worcestershire sauce
Salt & black pepper to taste
Wash and chop the peppers finely and add them to the hamburger along with the Worcestershire sauce. Grind a little black pepper and shake a little salt over the meat. Mix it well, make four patties and grill them over charcoal or fry them in a hot skillet.
NOTES: I use about a quarter teaspoon each of salt and pepper. The White Spruce Inn closed a few years ago but reopened as Eddie B’s White Spruce Restaurant and Tavern. I hope they still offer these delicious burgers.