from – PASSING THRU
BY John Rook
The estate like setting of my Northridge home had been all I ever wanted. Life in California was all I had imagined after living in the east. I spent many days on the beach at Malibu and Paradise Cove, often evenings at elite celebrity gatherings and traveling to Las Vegas via private jet on the weekends. Although life was good, I felt I had tasted most of the good wine in life and longed to return
to my earlier upbringing in a rural setting.
I had traveled the nation, humidity, heat, urban sprawl and crime
chased me to north Idaho, where all of that was missing.
Summer looking north
Views of my little sliver of Idaho Paradise
Winter looking west
Two close friends, Neil Bogart and Bill Gavin urged me to follow through. While sitting court side at a Lakers game Neil asked,”What do you want to do with the rest of your life John?”
Explaining my boredom and desire to return to a more reasonable life, Neil replied, “Then do it John….do it now before its too late.” A few weeks later Neil was gone, dead of cancer. One of the recording industry icons had died in his 30’s but not before calling me from his hospital bed to say “I love you John, Now go and do what we discussed.”
My search for a new life would start the day after his burial. I often think of both Neil and Bill and thank them for shoving me away from California.
“Advising associates of my decision to move from California to Idaho, one major recording executive asked if Coeur d’Alene was anywhere near Des Moines. “Idaho”, I replied…”not Iowa”.
Winter from our front porch
Son Clifford and I arrived on July 4th, 1983. Later David would arrive with his bride Rhonda and still later sister Dottie would call Coeur d’Alene home. In time brother Charles would take a job anchoring the news on a nearby Spokane TV station.
Raised in rural Nebraska, I grew up on the back of a horse. So following 25 years in Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles, I was eager to return to the sanity of small town America. Years earlier I learned of the beauty of north Idaho and especially Coeur d’Alene. In the early 80’s I visited and fell in love with what would become my new home. Purchasing a small horse ranch south of the city, I returned to a life of “fixing fence”, “cleaning the barn” and looking after my animal friends, Babe, Lilly, Topper and Missy who represented my equestrian family.
Sundance, Lady, Tiny, Tammy and Cinder my canine family, also allowed us to live with them in our new home.
In that first year I often questioned why I would have left “the good life” in California for what was a totally different existence. It was a time when Californians were not that welcome in Idaho and I was not comfortable with this strange new surrounding. The telephone kept me connected with my friends of the past, but except for the ranch, I felt disconnected here. It would take sometime before I began to be accepted as a resident of Idaho and no longer “a damn Californian”.
As the broadcast licensee of KCDA, I was first in the entire northwest to introduce satellite fed programming to radio stations.
The Transtar network was attempting to complete with the much larger Satellite radio network, so we were a prized addition to that fledgling company operating out of Colorado Springs. I think it took only a few days before it was obvious stronger air talent was available via satellite, than I could attempt to mold myself.
Even with my expertise in creating programming, I found myself faced with obstacles that would speed my decision to go satellite. The key was to localize the satellite programming and we did so. Most Arbitron ratings gave KCDA a #1 rating over all stations in North Idaho even with those in nearby Spokane as competitors.
My partner, Luke Williams, was a pillar in the Spokane community. As a pioneer and founder of American Sign, a forerunner of electronic billboards, Luke was a staunch Christian conservative who matched my financial stake in creating our broadcast company. I liked Luke, a good partner and a good friend. Watching me work for the first few weeks, he tipped,
“John, you’re too fast for the class”. Luke’s advice was invaluable and introduction to his friends even more so. I was surprised when the publisher of the nearby Spokane
Spokesman-Review, Bill Cowles, invited me to lunch, applauded my stance in exposing issues important to the public, and directed KCDA be given an annual advertising contract.
Ron Rankin, a brilliant gentlemen, was demonized by the local Coeur d’Alene Press and it’s owner, Duane Hagadone, who for years held court as the owner of the local radio station, the newspaper, various businesses and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. A year after giving his daily commentary an airing on KCDA, Ron ran for county commissioner and was elected. He departed this world in 2004…but I still think of him almost daily.
I personally manned our KCDA booth’s at the county fairs in North Idaho and Spokane and attended the various gatherings to enlist listener comments.
Mathew & David
In 1985 son David introduced me to my grandson Mathew Rook
Mathew Rook & Garth Brooks
Our Real Country KCDA presented Garth Brooks, who took time to furnish grandson Mathew Rook with a great “show and tell” at school.
In 2004, tragedy claimed son David’s life in a trucking accident. He would have been so proud of Mathew, who chose a career as a Georgia police officer.
Officer Mathew Rook
I was able to purchase Luke’s share of the company and became sole owner of KCDA. I joined in adding a new FM radio station to Casper, Wyoming. I also built new radio stations, KEYF in Spokane & KEYW in Pasco, Washington as I began to establish my “Key chain” of
stations. I also arranged to add three additional fm stations in the Spokane market in anticipation of congressional action deregulating broadcast ownership rules. I unveiled a previously unavailable format with Spokane’s Z-Rock and KCDA’s “Real Country”.
Deregulation of the media was even more destructive than I predicted. Perhaps it would have been best if regulators had not allowed the monopolization of radio that resulted. A feeding frenzy of unethical lawyers to devour anyone offering competition. Within days of congressional passage the nations media was gobbled up by three billionaires.
Deregulation chased most small owners out of radio and within a year I was no longer an owner. The system clearly didn’t work for the small broadcaster relying on regulatory agencies to protect them from the “over reaching” of big public funded companies.
Jason Rook & his Sheba
Another member of our Idaho Rook family is nephew Jason Rook. Over the years he brought great joy into my life. His good friend Aaron Culpepper took up the task of training our horses. Sadly while skiing with Jason in December 1997, Aaron would suffer a fatal injury, hospitalized in a coma, only to die a week later, one day after Christmas.
Aaron Culpepper, John & Topper
My favorite escape has always been the beaches of the Pacific. A close second would have to be riding the trails and fishing the streams of north Idaho. I awake every morning in deep appreciation of my “little sliver of paradise”, hidden from the harshness of the real world.
John & Missy
John fishin’ the St. Joe river Sister Dottie made quite a difference at the ranch.
Retirement for both of us has been enjoyable with our dogs, cats & horses.
Dottie with Topper & Lilly
That move to north Idaho more than twenty five years ago provided me with many experiences. The southern California I loved in the past is no more, the change is too much to bare. Life here in “gods country” is bout’ as good as it gets. I’m very appreciative.
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