Robservations: WLS Radio celebrates 95 years on the air

WLS Radio engineers (1932)

Robservations on the media beat:

WLS 890 AM

On April 12, 1924, Sears, Roebuck and Company officially began broadcasting its new radio station from the Sherman House Hotel in Chicago, naming it WLS (for "World's Largest Store"). To mark its 95th year on the air, WLS 890-AM — now a conservative news/talk station owned by Cumulus Media — will host a daylong celebration on the air today. It will feature audio highlights from the station's illustrious past ("Oh, the humanity!") and interviews with former personalities and station bosses, including John Records Landecker and Roe Conn with morning host Mancow Muller, and John Gehron, Mick Kahler, Jeff Davis, Garry Meier, Tom Tradup, Phil Duncan, Tim Sabean and Landecker with late-afternoon host Big John Howell.

Scott Childers

In a cruel twist of fate, the man who wrote the book on WLS just lost his job. Scott Childers was cut Thursday after 15 years as program director and afternoon personality at WSSR 96.7-FM, the Alpha Media southwest suburban station known as Star 96.7. “The sharp knife of radio strikes again,” he told Facebook friends. A familiar voice on multiple stations and traffic services over his exemplary three-decade career, Childers is the author of Chicago's WLS Radio, a critically acclaimed illustrated history of The Big 89, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2008. He also created a tribute website on the station at

Roz Varon

Roz Varon, who segued from radio to TV as traffic reporter for ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, will moderate a panel of Chicago radio pros Cheryl Corley, Catherine Johns, Turi Ryder and Wendy Snyder Sunday at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 North State Street. “She Said What? The Women of Chicago Radio” will run from noon to 3 p.m. The event coincides with the release of Ryder’s “fictionalized memoir” of her radio career, titled She Said What? (Here is the link for tickets.)

Lilia Chacon

Lilia Chacon, the Peabody Award-winning former reporter for Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, has been hired as communications director for the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Before joining Fox 32 in 1989, she was a reporter for the former KGGM in Albuquerque. Chacon, who most recently worked as public information officer for the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2016.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Nancy Angell Babendir: I'm not a medical professional, but [Big John Howell's] co-workers should've called 911, and there's absolutely no excuse for anyone letting him drive himself home. The risks he's taking for himself are his business, but he made a bad decision when he put others at risk.