Fields marked with * are required
A couple months ago we were introduced to Tom Kollins and had the pleasure of spending some time on the phone reminiscing about his days at WISL. Tom provided a wealth of knowledge, some fascinating recordings and just plain good conversation. We are honored to present to you the Tom Kalinowski story.
Thomas Kalinowski’s involvement with WISL radio goes back farther than anyone we have been able to interview for the WISL Hall of Fame. He was only 12 years old in 1948 when he auditioned with the Kelly Bogetti Orchestra for a live music spot at the station. Tom says that Kelly Bogetti billed him as the “youngest accomplished Hawaiian guitarist in the Anthracite area.” Although they didn’t get the job, this would not be the last time Tom would climb the stairs at Rock and Sunbury Streets.
By 1952 Tom was entering his senior year at St. Edward’s High School. For career day that year, St. Edwards students took over WISL. With some assistance from the staff, they read commercials and did the station breaks for the day. Through this audition, Tom impressed the management and was asked to join the station. His first role was night announcer. The shift began at 6pm and Tom would head to the station each night after school was out. His duties consisted of various station breaks, and reading news, sports and other announcements between the Mutual Radio Network programs the station aired in the evening. Tom said he would sign the station off by playing a transcription of the “Star Spangled Banner” around 11 or 12 at night.
In June of 1953 Tom graduated high school, and about that same time John Persico, who was the morning disc jockey at WISL had a blow out fight with Charlie Petrie, the station manager. Petrie subsequently fired Persico and Tom was asked to take the morning spot. The morning program was called “Wislin’ Time” and was a typical DJ show. Tom says they would play records, do interviews, and give the news, sports and weather. This was local radio and Tom was a one-man-band. He said “you needed a lot of energy to run that kind of a program.”
According to Tom, you needed to be a jack-of-all-trades to work in local radio at that time. While at WISL Tom was a Disc Jockey, play-by-play announcer for both football and basketball, did remote broadcasts and even tried his hand at advertising sales, “because every station wanted you to hit the streets and try to sell.” Some remotes that stood out in Tom’s mind include broadcasting live from a horse show held at a riding ring on Trevorton Road and broadcasting live from the American Legion when Ralph Marteri’s band came to play.
Tom remembered Jolly Jack Robel, an accomplished Polka band leader from Shenandoah, who would come to WISL once a week for an hour long Polka show. Tom said that they would have a great time doing the program, but would have an even better time hitting up a local saloon after the show was over. Other memorable programs included The Little Giant’s Sunday program. The Little Giant owned a meat market at the east end of Independence Street. Legend has it that during the war, his was the only shop in town with meat, leading to questions of the quality and source of his stock. Nevertheless, in the post-war years, The Little Giant’s program on Sunday mornings was very popular. So popular in fact, that many would catch the early mass on Sunday to be sure they wouldn’t miss the program. In addition to the meat market and radio show, Tom also remembered The Little Giant having a zoo of sorts, located at the entrance to Irish Valley, where kids could see and pet deer, goats and the like.
Tom’s time at WISL would come to an end in 1956 when he auditioned for and won a job as the morning man at a brand new radio station in Chambersburg, PA; WCBG. With this move also came a name change, he now began going by the name Tom Kollins, a name that would stay through the rest of his radio career.
Shortly after joining the staff at WCBG, Tom was approached by the local competition, WCHA, to come work for them. Tom agreed and found himself back in Central Pennsylvania working for another station owned by WCHA in Milton, WMLP. Tom recalled that one of the new hire rituals at WMLP was to send the new guy to the Buoy Hardware store, located across the street from the station, to try to sell advertising time. Tom says that the joke was that “old man Buoy was like Ebenezer Scrooge, was grumpy, would keep all the lights out in the store except where he knew you would be, and would never buy advertising.” That is until Tom went in. He said that either Mr. Buoy was trying to play a trick on the station or he was just simply ready to advertise, because when Tom went in, he bought some spots. When Tom returned to the station with the spot order, no one could believe it.
Tom’s time at WMLP didn’t last long, as soon as contractual obligations were concluded with WCBG, Tom was brought back to Chambersburg and began working at WCHA. At WCHA Tom hosted a music program and did play-by-play for various sports. You can hear Tom at WCHA in the audio exhibits section of this post. These recordings were found by Tom on reel-to-reel tapes in his home and have not been heard for many years.
By 1960 Tom would find himself moving halfway across the country, thanks to a major market disc jockey who was traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Tom says this disc jockey caught his program and told his boss in Detroit about this guy he heard in Pennsylvania. Tom was offered a job with WCAR in Detroit where he would finish his radio career.
In 1965, Tom decided to make a career change, following a passion he had for Billiards and began playing pool professionally. Tom was a very accomplished pool player winning the Michigan Straight Pool Championship twice. From 1968 to 1973 he was the Billiard room manager at the prestigious Detroit Athletic Club. By 1977 Tom had found a new passion, one for the game of Snooker. This passion would find Tom traveling the world playing the game and holding the UnitedStates National Snooker Championship title five times. CLICK HERE to learn more about Tom’s fascinating Snooker career.
Today, Tom enjoys retirement with his family and lived in the Detroit area. We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share in Tom’s interesting history, we sincerely thank him for allowing us to make another WISL friend.
WCHA-AM, Chambersburg, PA (Tom Kollins Music Program) circa 1960
WCHA-FM, Chambersburg, PA (Tom Kollins Play-By-Play) Littlestown vs. Greencastle Basketball Championship Game circa 1960
WCHA Chambersburg, PA (Tom Kollins Football Play-By-Play)
WCHA-FM, Chambersburg, PA (Tom Kollins Play-By-Play) Chambersburg vs. Cedar Cliff Basketball Championship Game circa 1960
WCHA CHambersburg, PA (Tom Kollins Basketball Play-By-Play)
Fields marked with * are required