A Tribute to Jack Link

This is also the feature article in Issue 55 of our Magazine

As the Turn Table Turns - Published in November of 2020

 

by Art Gregory

 

President of the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation, Inc.

 

Jack Link has been someone I have looked up to ever since I first met him in 1975 while working for KIDO-AM. Jack treated everyone he met like they were his best friend, yet he still maintained a humble attitude towards his own role as the manager of all of Bill Boeing Jr.’s radio properties, as well as managing Bill’s many industrial-properties in the Seattle area. When I left KIDO at the end of 1976, Jack wished me well in my new job at KUUZ. It would be 31 years before I would hear from Jack Link again.

 

I founded the History of Idaho Broadcasting Foundation in January of 2004, and two years later, met Frank Aden Jr., who is now the Foundation’s Vice President. We held our first public meeting in May of 2006, and began holding regular meetings the following month in June of 2006. In 2007 we held a meeting at KTVB Channel 7 to celebrate the station’s 54th year on the air. We also published “Issue 7” of As the Turntable Turns in July of that year, which covered the early history of the station. One of the people attending that meeting was R.W. Egelston, who had worked at KIDO Radio in the 1940s. “RW” was in regular contact with Jack Link in Seattle, and sent him a copy of our magazine, and as they say, the rest is history! Jack was an enthusiastic supporter of the Foundation right from the start, and sent us a large “care-package” of original KIDO artifacts along with station sales and promotional literature! Many of these historic photos and documents ended up in my book “KIDO Boise’s First Radio Station.” It was published in 2012 and covers KIDO’s entire early history, starting 100 years ago in 1920 with Boise High School’s technical/trade school radio station 7YA. The book also covers the licensing of KFAU in July of 1922 as a limited-commercial station, and KFAU’s rapid growth and expanded operation through 1928 when it was sold to C.G. Phillips and Frank L. Hill and changed call letters to KIDO. The book then covers the “Kiddo” Phillips and Georgia Davidson eras, which lasted 30 years from 1928-1959, and ends with the “Bill Boeing/Jack Link Era” which ran for 17 years, from January 31, 1959 until June 30, 1976. I was working for KIDO at that time as an announcer, doing mornings for a short time, and then afternoon drive. After sending us that initial care package, Jack joined the Foundation and we set up a time for he and I to talk on the phone. I then called his Seattle office and we did an extensive phone interview, which we recorded and still exists in our massive audio archives.

 

The next year we celebrated KIDO’s 80th year using the KIDO call letters (1928-2008) with a luncheon at the Chrystal Ball Room at the Hotel Boise (now called the Hoff Building). To open the program, we played a recorded audio greeting from Jack Link to the attending guests. Jack was totally “on his A-game” and delighted the audience with his quips and quotes and really set the tone for what was truly a wonderful program! You can listen to it on line on our website which is www.historyofidahobroadcasting.org  - click on Foundation Info and then click on the meeting date November 2008. There are two segments of audio. The first is Jack’s intro, followed by Bill Gratton and Gene Perkins talking about announcer Dar Dodds singing songs on KIDO, much to the dismay of the station’s owner Kiddo Phillips! Vern Moore was next with an air-check recorded during “Golden Sounds” week in the early 1970s where he told us about KIDO’s early history during the 1930s and 1940s. The 2nd audio segment covered the remainder of the program as described below.

 

Included in this audio segment is the introduction of our four guests of honor, starting with KIDO Announcer Pete Furno. (pictured below);

Our 4 other guests of honor (in addition to Pete Furno) included former KIDO AM & FM Chief Engineer Jimmy Johntz, who was the first member of our Foundation. (pictured below);

 

R.W. Egelston, Foundation Member and former KIDO Transmitter Engineer in the early 1940s at the Wiley Lane site (pictured below);

 

Bob Vaughan, former KIDO announcer in the 1940s and early 1950s (pictured below);

And, former KIDO Chief Engineer Don Cederstrom during the 1960s and 1970s (pictured below).

 

After that meeting, we published three (3) issues of the magazine covering KIDO’s 80th anniversary. Much of the material Jack sent us went into the first 2 issues, #14, and #15, and Jack and Bill Boeing Jr. were both so pleased with the depth and accuracy of the story we told, they sent us a check for $1,000.00, which was then, our largest donation to date! That donation was the “shot the arm” we needed to grow the Foundation, so Jack Link’s encouragement and financial support was responsible for sparking much of our early growth!

 

Jack Thompson and I then hatched the idea of doing an in-person reunion in Seattle and inviting Jack Link! That event happened in May of 2010 and was called the Seattle Connection!

 

 

The list of attendees read like a “who’s who” in KIDO history.

Jack Thompson and Jack Link

 

Pictured here are Jack, Art and Del Chapman before the luncheon and panel discussion.

 

The following May (2011) we held the “Blast from the Past” reunion in Boise, where Jack attended via telephone hook-up during a live broadcast from the front window of KIDO’s former Vista Studios!

 

Pictured L-R are Member’s Larry Taylor, “J-3” (Joey King Jr.) from KIDO’s technical staff, Mike Lesh, Del Chapman, Jim Blossey, and Dick McGarvin.

 

Jack would join us again “live” via telephone in 2013 to narrate a slide show at Boise’s Parkcenter Smoky Mountain Pizza and Pasta celebrating Channel 7’s 60th Anniversary. I sent Jack a special binder that showed photos of all the slides the folks in Boise would be seeing. Jack then supplied a live audio description for each slide, and even took questions and comments from Doug Armstrong and the many members of the KTVB staff that attended the luncheon!

 

When my KIDO book came out a year earlier in 2012, Jack was very supportive, first by supplying rare photos and other materials for the book, and later by purchasing many copies to give to friends and family! We also sang “Happy Birthday” to Jack at numerous October meetings through the years, and often played recorded audio greetings from Jack, which he was always happy to do, and did so with great skill and expertise. Even in his later years, Jack “still had it” and could speak with wit and wisdom on command!

 

When we started the campaign to purchase the KFXD Building in 2017, Jack was an immediate and major-supporter, and sent us regular checks, donating hundreds, and in several cases, thousands of dollars! So the good news at the beginning of this magazine, where we were able to refinance the building, would not have been possible without the friendship and financial support of Jack Link. So enjoy our tribute to Jack Link. He was a major supporter of our Foundation, and a great broadcaster! But more important than that, Jack was a great person and a wonderful friend to me and to everyone he met. He will be missed, and in part, thanks to our Foundation, his legacy will never be forgotten.

 

Final Sign Off

Jack J. Link

October 25, 1925 – September 26, 2020

 

Jack Link passed away at his home in Seattle on Saturday September 26, 2020, just one month before his 95th birthday. Jack had Parkinson’s disease which had progressed into terminal pulmonary disease. His wishes were to be kept comfortable and pass away peacefully at home surrounded by family, including his two sons Timothy and Ted Link, which is exactly what happened. There will be no memorial services, as they are not being scheduled in the Seattle or Boise areas at this time. There will hopefully be a celebration of life in both Seattle and Boise, when the restrictions on public gatherings are lifted.

Jack Jamison Link was born on October 25, 1925 in Missouri, and loved to tell the story that when he was 7 years old, his folks moved to Idaho, and then adding, “but I found them!” Jack Link grew up in Boise where he attended school and began his radio career on KIDO as a Boise High School “Highlights of the Airwaves” student-reporter. Jack was also Senior Class President.

After graduation in 1943, Jack enrolled at Boise Junior College. He then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was stationed in Yuma, Arizona where he read that a new radio station was going to be built in Caldwell. According to a 2013 interview Jack did with Randall Post of the College of Idaho, Jack thought “Well, hey, “I’ll see if I can get into The College of Idaho and maybe this station will be built and I can get a job there. So Jack moved to Caldwell and started attending classes at the C of I and started going steady with classmate Ella Mays ’47. He also was elected student body president. Unfortunately, the new radio station— which would become known as KCID —was not being built quite yet. “I was a junior and I thought ‘I’ve got to get some radio training somewhere down the line if I’m going to get into the field.” Jack had a friend at Washington State University who could provide him with housing, so he transferred to WSU, even though that meant not serving his presidency at the College of Idaho. “I have the distinction of being the only guy elected student body president who never served at the C of I,” Link said.

The next year, in 1947, KCID finally was completed, and Jack worked the summer there. After completing his degree at Washington State College in 1948, he got hired full time at the Caldwell station. In 1950, he married Ella Mays, Choir Director at Caldwell High School, and that summer for their honeymoon, Jack and Ella went to Chicago where Jack enrolled in the NBC Summer Radio-Television Institute. Ella studied piano with Rudolph Ganz at Chicago Music College.

Upon returning to Boise, Jack paid a visit to KIDO General Manager Walter Wagstaff and told him about his television training at the NBC Summer Radio-Television Institute. The next year in 1951, Jack was hired away from KCID and came to work at KIDO, was soon promoted to Program Director. Jack and Ella had two sons, Timothy born in December of 1953, and Ted born in August of 1955

 

 

 

When KIDO-TV signed on July 12, 1953, Jack moved from KIDO Radio to Channel 7 television as Program Director. Commercial television was brand new to Idaho, and Jack worked all night long get the opening day’s programming ready to go. Jack composed a humorous poem called “Ode to an Ulcer” and read congratulatory telegrams from celebrities such as Groucho Marx, the star of NBC’s “You Bet Your Life” who said “I played Boise…and I hope your success is better than mine.” Philo T. Farnsworth, the “father of television” who attended Rigby High School, was also there for KIDO’s sign on.

After filling in on the “weather picture” one night, the sponsor liked Jack so much they asked him to do the weather on a permanent basis. Jack became known for his “happy highs” and “lunk-head-lows” - which is how Jack described approaching high and low fronts! When he was doing the weather for Purina, he had his own stationary listing his “incidental” occupation as Program Director!

Jack also hosted many local shows (which were all done LIVE in those days) including “Play Dutch” which was a television version of BINGO using the letters DUTCH which stood for Albertson’s Dutch-Girl” Ice Cream, which was made in their own manufacturing plant located at 27th and Regan Streets in Boise, just South of State Street. The ice cream plant has long closed down, but as of this writing, the original cinderblock building is still located there.

Jack was one of “7” channel 7 celebrities who hosted the station’s News & Weathercasts, as well as special shows for women and kids. In 1955, Idaho TV-Log did a full feature story on Jack and his career as KIDO-TV’s weatherman, complete with a handsome cover photo!

Jack served as program director at KIDO-TV until KING AM-TV in Seattle came calling. Jack and his family then moved to Seattle in 1956, where Jack became program director of  KING, also co-hosted a morning TV talk show. In late 1958, Jack interviewed Bill Boeing Jr. at the hydroplane races. Coincidentally, KIDO Radio had just been sold to Boeing, and Jack was approached by Bill about moving back to Boise and managing the KIDO. A deal was struck at a hydroplane race at Lake Mead, and Jack began his career with Bill Boeing Jr. on January 31, 1959. KIDO radio retained its call letters, prompting Channel 7 to switch to KTVB. Both the sale and the call letter change took place on February 1, 1959.

Bill Boeing operated his radio properties under the name Mesabi Western Corporation. “Mesabi” was the name of the Boeing Family Trust, which was owned by Bill Boeing Jr. and his family. Under Mesabi, KIDO evolved into Boise’s premier full-service adult radio station. The “Live Five” was what KIDO called their five fulltime air-personalities. KIDO also became Boise’s preferred audio production house, doing production work for clients and agencies such as Davies and Rourke and Albertsons. 

The photo below is from 1962, and shows the KIDO staff. Pictured from left to right are (sitting) Donnella Shulz, Jack Link, Vern Moore, and James M. Davidson, daughter of Member Anita Davidson. In the back row is pictured Grace-Farley-Ingalls, Bob Swanson, Jim Cowen, Cap Ingalls, John Maxon, and Live-Five Personalities Lon Dunn, and Program Director Jim Blossey.

From early 1959 until late 1962, Jack managed KIDO in Boise, until sales manager James M. Davidson replaced him as station manager. Jack and his family then returned to Seattle in the fall of 1962, taking in the final days of the Seattle World’s Fair! Once back in the Emerald City, Jack became the supervisor of not only KIDO in Boise, but also of KPAM and KPFM in Portland, and KETO AM & FM in Seattle.

In addition to being an excellent manager, Jack Link has always been highly involved in the communities he has lived. Over the years, Jack won countless awards for his community service work, both in Boise, and in Seattle. The photo below shows Jack when he was named the Boise Jay Cee’s Young Man of the Year for 1962.

Bill Boeing Jr.’s involvement in broadcasting eventually would come to an end. In the late 1960s, Bill saw the opportunity to expand into real estate and started buying up properties near SeaTac International Airport for warehouse use. Jack Link changed careers to commercial real estate and remained with Bill’s company, becoming the President of the newly formed Tri-Land Corporation.

The newspaper article below is from the July 28, 1971 edition of the Seattle Times, and tells of Jack’s coronation as “Prime Minister” of Seattle’s famous Sea Fair Hydroplane Races which take place in August of each year. The article also gives us a short “bio” as well as providing a “snapshot” in time of Jack’s home and family life and his important role in the Seattle community as viewed in 1971. The company had already sold KPAM AM & FM, as well as KETO-AM, but had not yet sold KETO-FM. Jack was moving into real estate as President of Tri-Land Corporation. Offices and warehouses and office building were easier to manage than radio stations, so once KETO-FM was sold, KIDO was the only radio station Jack was involved in managing. As it turned out, the Boeing family was doing their estate planning, and real estate was the direction they were going. So on June 30, 1976 KIDO was sold to New Executive Motel Inc., owned by Western Broadcasting Company of Missoula, Montana.

Before they sold KIDO, Jack served on the College of Idaho’s Board of Trustees for seven years starting in 1974. He also was the emcee at the National Oldtime Fiddler’s Contest in Weiser for from 1962 to 2005. “I was unstoppable for 43 years,” Link said. “I never missed a single one. It was a great experience.” When word of Jack’s passing got out, hundreds of people wrote warm tributes to Jack on the Old Time Fiddler’s website. Jack Link touched a lot of lives in his 95 years on this earth.

Jack Link was also well known to Boise television viewers for his 1970s role as “the man in gold” for the Albertson’s. Jack wore a gold jacket, which was the trademark uniform of an Albertsons store manager, and says the money he made from doing those commercials helped put his sons, Tim and Ted through the University of Washington. Lee Johnson coordinated Jack’s schedule for the ad agency Davies and Rourke.

In 1990, a life-changing tragedy happened to the Link family. While watching a New Year’s Football game, Jack’s wife of 40 years, Ella, suffered a debilitating stroke. Ella survived the stroke but was severely affected by it, requiring 24-hour-care. Jack and his two sons stepped-up, and together with a team of professional care-givers, took care of Ella for 25 years! We should all be so lucky at to have someone as loving as Jack, Timothy, and Ted Link in our lives to care for us when we need it. Ella and Jack were married for 65 years until Ella passed away peacefully at home in June of 2015 in the company of Jack and caregiver Koni. Ella's faith and determination was undeterred by the challenges which accompanied her stroke, and she was an inspiration to everyone who came in contact with her, including family, friends, caregivers, and even new acquaintances! Just like Jack, Ella's number-one philosophy towards living was to place others above herself, which she did throughout her life. A Celebration of Ella's Life was held at University Presbyterian church that July.

I never really knew Jack’s family all that well, but I have had a number of wonderful email conversations with his oldest son Timothy. The family of course wanted to do an in-person celebration of life like they did for Ella, but in-person gatherings are not permitted in Washington or Idaho at this time. What’s more, Oregon has since added even more restrictions, as have Idaho and Washington. Timothy thinks the most practical solution is to physically bring Jack’s broadcasting artifacts and historical items to Boise and donate them to our Foundation! On the same trip they could deliver historical items to the National Old Time Fiddlers in Weiser, visit with relatives in Boise, and perhaps do a celebration of life for Jack’s many friends and family, assuming it is allowed at that time. Timothy feels it would be a “fitting tribute to Jack for me to make that pilgrimage” and we wholeheartedly agree, and have offered to help with the expenses.

When Timothy first told me of Jack’s terminal medical condition prior to his passing, I alerted several of the remaining members of the “Live Five” who had attending the Seattle Connection Reunion in 2010. We all prayed for Jack but knew the end was near. When Jack passed away on September 26th I shared the sad news with Larry Taylor in Boise, Jim Blossey in Seattle, and Dick McGarvin in Los Angeles and received these heartfelt responses, which I also shared with Timothy Link:

Member Larry Taylor said:  “Thanks for sharing this with me, Art. Sad news indeed. My memories of Jack go back to 1953, and of course our professional lives were intertwined throughout the ensuing decades. Additionally, he and my aunt Doris Taylor (MacRae) knew each other in high school. He is a truly remarkable man with an indelible legacy. I have many great memories of him, as I’m sure we all do.”

Pictured L-R during the May 2011 “Blast from the Past” Reunion are Jim Blossey, Dee Sarton, Larry Taylor & Del Chapman at the KTVB studio tour and luncheon.

 

Member Jim Blossey said: “Thanks Art. Jack was a prime mover in my early broadcasting life. I will always remember him—not so much for his knowledge or his ability; not for his humor and charm; but for his character. Jack Link's remarkable character was reflected in everything he was or did. He was a perfect role model in that regard. I am so grateful that fate allowed his life to touch mine. What a privilege.”

Member Dick McGarvin from Los Angeles: said: 

“Thank you, Art, for letting us know.  As a result, I’ve been rather reflective today. Getting this sad news immediately took me back...not just to the late 50s/early 60s when I was at KIDO, but also to our gathering in Seattle 10 years ago. That reunion was a very special event. I’m so glad I had that chance in 2010 to see and talk with Jack, reminisce a bit on those days at KIDO and thank him for his support of a young guy who was finding his way in radio.  Jack Link - one remarkable person.”

 

Jack Link had a lot of sayings that have stuck with me over the years including:

It’s better to be a has been than a never was…

We need to do this on THIS side of the grass…

None of us come with a warranty…but we all come with an expiration date…

Jack lived up to all of those things and more. In fact, I can quote them all from MEMORY, and talk-up Jack Link almost every day. I will end this tribute with perhaps what is Jack’s best and most memorable quote. I try to live by it, and I know Jack certainly provided us with a living example of someone who did! 

We must aspire to inspire before we expire.

None of us are going to get out of this world alive.

So you just take it one day at a time.

 

Thank You Jack Link

We miss you, but will never forget you.