KFJB’s Man on the Street

By: Jeff Stein
(Radio Waves) —

One of the longest continuously running “man on the street” programs was aired on KFJB in Marshalltown.  The program started in the 1930’s, and began with live broadcasts from Bliss Anderson’s pool hall and soda fountain on Main Street in downtown Marshalltown.  The program aired six days a week at noon, except during World War II when the federal government asked radio stations to stop airing such programs for fear that sensitive information might inadvertently be revealed by citizens.

During most of its more than 40-year run, KFJB’s “man on the street” show originated from the S.S. Kresge store at the corner of Center and Main streets.  While a number of personalities took their turns at the “main on the street” microphone-including originating host Chuck Cook, longtime station manager Bill White, Al Schrock, Jim Hyatt, Marv Baker and others-hosting the show was the primary daily responsibility of sports director Dale Smith for more than 20 years, primarily during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

One of the program’s longtime sponsors was the local Strand Baking Company, which provided KFJB with miniature loaves of Strand’s bread to hand out to program participants.  the souvenir loaves were a great audience attraction-not that one was really needed.  The program itself always drew a crowd.

“It started out pretty much as a discussion program with given topics. In later years it developed into sort of a community billboard type of thing,: Schrock said. “It was not uncommon to have 8 or 10 or 15 people lined up, literally queued, taking turns to plug various events that were coming up, church functions or high school events, things of that nature.”

The program was popular not only with listeners at home, but with the live audience, as well. “I do remember we had some regular customers there,” Schrock said, “some individuals that we knew by face that were there just to be on the radio. They really delighted in being on the radio, and I presume going home and talking about it to their friends.” Seldom was there a lack of persons to talk to on the air; “if the day was rainy, it might be more difficult,” he said, but KFJB’s “man on the street” host never had to worry about filling the 15 minutes of air time.

As citizens flocked to shopping malls instead of downtown areas, “man on the street” programs slowly died out.  KFJB’s midday program ended in 1980.  But the concept may be taking a comeback.  IN the summer of 2002, as part of a switch to an all news-talk format, KFJB resurrected “man on the street” as a weekly Friday morning feature, at a local coffee shop just a half block form where thousand’s of early “man on the street” broadcasts were conducted.  Presently you can find “man on the street” at the local Marshalltown HyVee Kitchen on Fridays at 8:30am,.