Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Neighbor Lady

Even among minor markets Yankton is diminutive. They air farm market reports. It's considered an unrated market area  among MSAs, but gets it's own book as a DMA in the bottom half of the list at #119. DMAs are generally kinder to the Midwest. The flat topography there milks extra miles out of each watt in ways that are impossible on the East coast. At 5,000 Watts, 570 WNAX-AM beamed the Neighbor Lady into homes from Sioux Falls to Sioux City. This is how the Neighbor Lady became an institution in Yankton, South Dakota for 66 years.

The 15 minute program broadcast weekday afternoons, first at 4:30 then 3:30. When she had her first child rather than let her quit she began broadcasting the program from her home. That continued until 1967.
Originally hired for ad work, she was later asked to do a recipe show. Needless to say it caught on. Wynn Speece began hosting the program back in 1939 (some sources say 1941). She was a fresh graduating of Drake University, located in nearby Des Moines. These days KDRA-LP operates from Drake, but they signed on only months after she retired from broadcasting. They did recognize her as a distinguished alumni in 2001. That same year she was commended on the floor of Congress.

Speece shared recipes, household tips and personal anecdotes. She did live cooking demonstrations, speaking appearances, county fairs, judged baking contests, and sometimes her daughter Gretchen came along. She plugged products too. Everybody needs a sponsor. Starting in 1941 she began publishing an annual Neighbor Lady book, mostly a collection of recipes and coupons.They even compiled a "best-of" edition in 1987. She won a Marconi award in 1992 for "small market personality of the year."  She looks elated in the pictures, but she'd already been doing the program for 5 decades. It was about time they noticed.

She retired in 2005 at the age of  90. She'd only been retired for 2 years.