I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
Home | Columns |
Photos | Books
| Biography | Mental
Health | Links
Living legend Orion Samuelson still going strong
By Barry Schrader.................................September
Wandering outside the confines of DeKalb County, I headed
up north Sept. 4 to see the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings &
I had the good fortune to find WGN
broadcasting legend Orion Samuelson there, being honored for
his 50 years in radio.
Decked out in his cowboy
boots and 10-gallon Stetson, Orion sat atop his old family tractor,
a restored Farmall F-20 vintage 1939, as people greeted him and
had their photo taken next to the tractor.
$64 question everyone had for him was: Are you retiring
after 50 years? He quickly answered with a
WGN broadcasting legend Orion Samuelson recently was
honored for his 50 years in radio.
No. He said that rumor has been circulating for 20
years and that on Sept. 26, he begins his second 50 years on
Im Norwegian, so Im
only half done, he quipped. Mentioning that his good friend,
the late Paul Harvey, went until the age of 90, Orion noted that
he is only 76 and said that he has no intention of hanging up
He is still working a hectic schedule,
leaving at 3:30 a.m. each day from his Huntley home, getting
on the toll road with all the 18-wheelers, and arriving at the
WGN studio only 54 minutes later. His work day covers 16 on-air
reports beginning at 4:50 a.m. and ending with the 6:30 p.m.
broadcast. Then he and his longtime partner, Max Armstrong, have
their own TV network called RFD and do four shows a weekend called
This Week in Agribusiness.
Orion has another means of transportation for getting around
the Midwest his Cessna 210 single engine turbo-charged
plane that cruises at a cool 175 miles per hour. He keeps it
at the Aurora Airport and has two pilots on call who take him
to farm shows and special appearances as far west as Denver and
Bismark, then all the way east to Virginia. He had the plane
on display with the tractor at the Poplar Grove show.
over the pristine 1939 Farmall, I asked how it was saved. He
credits the IH Collectors Club No. 10 with restoring it. I
was 5 years old in 1939 when the dealer drove up to my dads
Wisconsin dairy farm and unloaded this tractor then running
on steel wheels as rubber tires were not added until after the
He said he learned to drive the F20
when my left leg was long enough and strong enough to push
the clutch. His folks sold the farm and the tractor at
auction in 1964. His father paid $720 for it and 25 years later,
it sold for $720, he explained. Over time it had been left outside,
abandoned in a field where it was a bushel-basket full
Orions friend Max arranged
to have it transported to Illinois, where it was auctioned off
at a benefit event; spirited bidding raised the price to $6,000
for the rusted carcass. Thats when the collectors club
stepped in and undertook a complete restoration that cost an
astronomical figure one Orion doesnt even know now.
He did learn that the race car red paint alone cost $14,000,
plus labor to have it applied.
The interview ended
then, as he had to dismount the tractor and do a live interview
with Ron Hightower, the new president of the Experimental Aircraft
Association who had flown in from his St. Louis home for the
show. Their discussion centered on the annual Oshkosh Airshow,
which Rons group organizes each year.
Orion spent the rest of the day meeting and greeting folks who
consider him a living legend among radio personalities and the
No. 1 agricultural broadcaster in America. Not much of a days
work for a 76-year-old Norwegian who, as he put it, doesnt
plan to quit until hes worked another 50 years
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115