Monday, December 29, 2014

The Last Scandihoovian

This may be hard to explain if you've never been to the North Central United States. Prior to WWI most immigrants to his region were of German origin, but after the start of WWI, it was mostly Scandinavians from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. While they comprise only 3.8% of the U.S. population, they comprise 32% of Minnesota. Let's just say there is a really good reason that the Minneapolis football team is named "The Vikings."

As in other parts of the country, eventually media comes around to the idea of marketing to specific ethnic groups. In 1930 Clellan Card hit it just right. He walked into the studios of WCCO-AM and got a bit part in a fishing tackle commercial. the stock market had crashed only a year earlier and him and his wife had been forced to move in with his parents. He was paid $4.50 for his radio work that day and he found his calling. More here and here.

Clellan Card was born in 1903in Minneapolis but graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey. When the economy crashed he sold bonds, pumped gas and whatever he had to to pay the bills. On WCCO-AM he learned the ropes eventually earning  a role as the host of the early morning "Almanac of the Air" program. By all reports he was popular but CBS killed the program for their national news show.

Card crossed the street to KSTP-AM. There he did man on the street interviews, a recurring segment called "Quiz of the Twin Cities" and a new music bit called Spinner Sanctum. He wasn't as successful on KSTP and moved later to WTCN-AM where he slowly started getting air time on their TV station WTCN-TV. In August of 1952, Midwest Radio-Television bought a controlling interest in WTCN and changed the calls of WTCN-TV Channel 4 to WCCO-TV to match their other AM property.. the CBS affiliate that Card just left. In 1958 he was cut from the schedule on WTCN-AM.. but he was taking off on TV so it was moot. More here.

On WCCO-TV he became the comic character "Axel Torgeson" a Scandinavian which he pronounced "Scandihoovian", Wisconcin in the same jest was pronounced "Sisconsin." The program "Axel and His Dog" was a very popular kids program. The Axel character was actually recycled from the Almanac of the Air, but on TV it really worked and Card continued the program until shortly before his death from lymphoma in 1966.