I was sad to learn of the passing of “Jolly Joe” otherwise known as Al Truszkowski. It was Jolly Joe who first got me involved with radio many, many years ago.
You see, Jolly Joe had a polka program on WARD-AM which aired every Sunday from 9am – 1pm. (Being Italian, I have no idea why I was listening to polka music!) Anyway, I used to listen every week and call in every Sunday to request a song. As one of, or “the” youngest caller to his show, Jolly Joe invited me up to the WARD studio to watch him do his show. I was 15 at the time, and this was exciting!
When I arrived at the studio, Jolly Joe put me on the air, giving me the moniker, “Jolly Scott.” Before leaving he gave me a copy of this two records and a passion for radio that never went away. From that point on, I made frequent visits to the station and was introduced to the other hosts who did the “Polka Weekend” shows as well as the talk shows during the week. I was even introduced to the legendary Jim Ward, who with his wife Dorothy, ran this powerful 10,000 watt daytimer in a run down building on Foote Avenue in Duryea, PA.
I was so intrigued with radio, I used to hang out at the station a lot, but I wasn’t young enough to work there. But Jim Ward said to me one day, “I’ll give you a job on your 16h birthday.” Well, that day came and as promised, the telephone rang and it was program director Sam Liguori offering me a part-time job as a jock doing two shifts on Polka Weekend. What a birthday surprise!
That 16th birthday present turned into 11 years at WARD and many church and fire company bazaars where I did remote broadcasts where polka bands like Jolly Joe’s were playing. At WARD there was no fancy station vehicle to drive, no booth to setup where you broadcasted from, no engineer to setup your equipment, no nothing. If you were doing a remote, you lugged the Marti unit, the Yagi antenna, an old suitcase full of microphones and cables and a battery powered transistor radio. If you were lucky, you had a banner to hang up with the station’s call letters on it. It was crude, but it was fun!
I remember cutting a remote broadcast early one night after thunderstorms rained out a church bazaar in Scranton. While I was lugging all the equipment back to my car, lightening struck the antenna I was carrying, shocked me, blew the antenna out of my hand and damaged the Marti unit. I also remember being “pantsed” at the Breslau Hose Company bazaar by two elderly listeners as I was broadcasting from the bandstand.
I haven’t talked to Jolly Joe in years, but learning of his passing brought back memories of visiting him at Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound in Midtown Village in Wilkes-Barre where he was doing a remote and he introduced me to his father another polka musician, “Lefty.” I remember listening to him play to crowds at the Kingston VFW and St. Mary’s Church bazaar in Wilkes-Barre. His audiences loved him and he loved them back.
I’ll remember him for his music, but most of all I’ll remember him for giving me my start in radio 23 years ago.
Thanks Al, rest in peace.