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Cooper family recalls history of KOLR-10

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

When Harry Cooper's father decided Springfield had room for another radio station in 1940, he probably never dreamed that his legacy in local media would last until 1998.

Last week's announcement of the planned sale of KOLR, Channel 10 in Springfield, was a little sad for the Cooper family, progeny of the man who started the business with KTTS AM, a radio station located in the former Chamber of Commerce building, which stood roughly where the Guaranty Federal building stands now, said Harry Cooper.

The Guaranty Federal building is now home to Radio 2000's offices. Cooper is now 71 years old, and became involved in the family business his father started when he returned to Springfield from serving in the Navy in 1956, he said. At that time, the television station was only 3 years old, and the studios were on the second floor of the Chamber of Commerce building.

"I remember they had to get props up to the second floor to be used in the broadcasts. I have a picture of them trying to get a horse up there," Cooper said.

Cooper's father had a partner in those early days in G. Pearson Ward, who became general manager of the radio stations and later the television station.

"In the very beginning, it wasn't very sophisticated. There wasn't a lot of programming. It came a long way very quickly," Cooper said.

The television station was in business with CBS from the very beginning because the radio stations had also been CBS affiliates, Cooper said.

In the beginning, most television stations were family-owned, Cooper said. "As time progressed, the ownership rules changed, and we are one of the few stations still owned by the people who started it," Cooper said.

When the radio stations were sold and the television station forced to adopt a new identity, the name KOLR came about because color television was new at that time, Cooper said.

Though the Cooper family owned the majority of the stock in Independent Broadcasting Company, there were several local businesspeople who also owned stock in the company, said John Cooper, Harry's nephew.

Among those were Peter Charles and Clyde (Bud) Martin, who are now deceased. "Those gentlemen were very supportive of the station and I'm sure would have supported this decision," John Cooper said.

Class A stockholders also included James Henry (Harry) Cooper, John Cooper and Stephen Reagan. Class B stockholders included Mrs. Pearson Ward, Charles W. Wear Jr. and Teresa M. Wear, Milton Thompson, George Thompson III, Lynn Thompson, Grady H. Sangford (trustee of the William P. Sangford trust), Elsie Plimmer and Boatmen's National Bank.

Lynn Thompson, of Thompson Pontiac-Cadillac, said he was always pleased to be involved with the station.

"I was always glad to be able to do business with a locally owned, hometown-based business. I think as big as the station has become, it was a credit to the Coopers that the station stayed locally owned for so long," Thompson said.

Thompson has been a stockholder in Independent Broadcasting for only three years, but has done business with KOLR for 20 years, he said.

"It will always have a special place in my heart," Thompson said. He added that the sale is just another indication that Springfield is "growing up from being a small town into a big city."

John Cooper said the decision to sell the station came because the prospect of passing it to the hands of the next generation was too costly.

"We had to look at what we would be responsible for when my uncle is no longer here. Often family businesses have to sell a business just to pay the taxes on the transfer," John Cooper said.

John Cooper was involved in researching the various firms who were potential buyers of KOLR 10.

"What stood out to me most about

this company was their long-term commitment to the station. It was very important that they not buy the station in order to turn around and sell it," John Cooper said.

The new owners, owners of U.S. Broadcasting, made their first visit to the television station during the week of Feb. 23, John Cooper said. KOLR will be U.S. Broadcasting's first acquisition.

U.S. Broadcasting was one of four or five firms, all of them with midwestern connections, that John Cooper reviewed when the station was offered for sale. The search for a new owner for the station lasted about four months, he added.

James Henry "Harry" Cooper and John O. "Jack" Cooper were the sons of J.H.G. Cooper, "the original Harry Cooper," John Cooper said. John and his sister Alison are the children of Jack Cooper.

"This transaction has been very bittersweet for all of us. Deep down, I never really thought this day would come," John Cooper said.

INSET CAPTION:

'This transaction

has been very bittersweet for all

of us. Deep down,

I never really

thought this day would come.'

John Cooper

KOLR stockholder[[In-content Ad]]

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