A few weeks ago, I attended a wake of a guy by the name of Don Ladas.
For 50-plus years, he was a sports announcer and ad salesman for WJOL radio in Joliet and hosted a long-running show dedicated to local bowling. He also published a sports newspaper in the area and was the second person to ever pay me money for writing.
He was a giant in the Joliet area. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few of our readers heard about him out here.
Ladas and the other people during the station’s heyday represented something that some people don’t get to experience – a community radio station.
While people around here have Chicago stations to turn to, people in Joliet and Will County swear by WJOL. Sometimes they swear at it but mostly they swear by it.
When I was growing up, it was local during all of the daytime hours and most of the nighttime hours with music, area news and sports.
Now it’s a part of a big media conglomeration, but still has local morning and afternoon drive-time programming and high school football and basketball games.
The rest is syndicated shows. It’s not the same time frame, but the reduced local clock they work with still has plenty of quality programming.
People turn to their local radio stations for news about what’s going on in their town. This station covers the usual stuff such as board meetings and elections. But Joliet is pretty lively with big time crimes and gang violence dotting the landscape and the Will County area has its shares of tornados and floods to report on.
Joliet is also a town with the Des Plaines River running through it and five drawbridges that could muck up traffic. The station used to announce which bridge was up and which bridge was next to rise. My old man always wondered how they knew that, but there was some electronic gizmo in their previous studios on what they called “Top Radio Hill’’ that would alert them when a bridge was ready to lift.