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July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Otto Schultz served up polka with large side of kraut

Eins, zwei, oompah... This Throwback Donnerstag is a visit back to Jan. 2, 1977. That’s the day Belleville lost some of its German flavor, the day you might say the polka music died.

Eddy C. George passed away at age 65. Never heard of him? Well most Belleville residents of a certain age knew him as Otto Schultz, the favorite little Dutchman of radio station WIBV-AM 1260.

Schultz was George’s creation dating back to 1925, when he was a 12-year-old playing the character in St. Louis vaudeville theaters. He wasn’t German, he just did a German accent better than any other.

For 26 years he portrayed Schultz as host of a daily program on WIBV, giving the community German-flavored jokes, beer hall music and wit. His tales often involved his fictional family, Fritz, Lena, Little Willie “and the whole schmier.”

“It works out very well for the Belleville area because of the number of German families in the area. We’ve got quite a listening audience that enjoys soothing and enjoyable music along with some laughs,” he said in 1976.

George also soothed the local German soul as a musician, playing tuba, organ and accordion. His German band was a regular at the Strassenfest. WIBV was Belleville’s radio station, starting in 1947 when two World War II vets with investor backing used a converted oil derrick to begin broadcasting from the Dutch Girl Restaurant, which became Fischer’s Restaurant, at 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville. The station later moved to the open fields south of Belleville on Illinois 159.

Besides George, WIBV had Moe Harvey on the air for decades, Joe May broadcasting local prep sports, Bob Hardy getting his start before becoming synonymous with KMOX, and several flirtations with country music.

The station came to an end in 2002, when the call letters were retired and the station became Radio Disney. A Mount Vernon family in 2006 revived the call letters, and the Centralia-based station plays country music as WIBV-FM 102.1.

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