SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since hitting the air in the 1950s, one of the most visible elements of KELOLAND News has been the vehicles that have transported us around the region as we carry out our reporting.
Things have changed a lot.
Back in the day, KELOLAND News personnel hit the road in classic station wagons. While roomy and more than up to the task of hauling equipment, they did have some drawbacks.
“When I started — it didn’t make any sense to me — but we only had one 4-wheel-drive vehicle,” said KELOLAND News Assignment Editor Dexter Gronseth. “It’s difficult to go out and get to the bad stuff when you only have front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive vehicles.”
Eventually, the wagons began to make way for the larger front-wheel-drive vans, which KELOLAND Chief Photographer Kevin Kjergaard recalls did better in the snow. “We didn’t realize how hard it was to get around in the wintertime until we got the vans,” he said. “The vans were really nice — there was a lot of room and we carried a lot more equipment back then.”
These days, KELOLAND reporters and photographers travel the region in a variety of cars, including Subaru Outbacks, Honda CRVs, Fords Explorers and Toyota Rav4s.
These modern cars are great, and hands down better for the work we do than the old models, but Kjergaard still found time to reminisce about some older technology.
“The station wagons were all equipped with two-way radios,” Kjergaard said. “The nice thing about two-way radios — they were more reliable than cell phones — I was never out of range on a two-way radio.”
In addition to the cars, news vans and SUVs, time also brought about other innovations such as a mobile studio, live news vans and the Spacelink.
“Spacelink was my favorite satellite truck — back then the driver was Craig Floyd — we would spend many a day together editing stories,” Gronseth said. “We would take that to Chicago for Morrell talks — we would be able to do live shots out of there, plus we had the equipment to edit our stories. That Spacelink covered a lot of stories for us — a lot of big stories.”
The real gem of the fleet for the longest time, however, had to be the KELO plane.
“The plane was one of my favorites,” said Gronseth. “We would fly to a lot of events. Back in the day, I remember we would go to shoot all of our candidates voting — I remember one time we were on this small grass runway, and there’s a grove of trees at the end of it and [the pilot] has me standing on the brakes — he’s like ‘you gotta stand on the brakes until I let you go because we gotta be able to build up enough thrust so that we can get above those trees at the end of the runway.'”
Gronseth stood on the brakes, and the plane cleared the trees, just in the nick of time.
Unfortunately, for those of us today who may find a thrill in a bumping, jolting, tree-clipping takeoff, the plane is firmly in the past. Like many things over the years, while it would be a convenient and valuable mode of transportation for the studio, costs took their toll.
Amid the other vehicles were novelties, such as golf carts at the state fair, a Captain 11 set, and a KELOLAND-branded riverboat.
Gronseth’s favorite vehicle overall though? A Chevy S-10 Blazer. It was 4-wheel-drive.
Of all the historic and nostalgic vehicle photos that we’ve uncovered, one stands apart from the crowd. Many years in the past, a KELOLAND Weather “Dorothy” Doppler van sits at a fairgrounds. Before the open door of the van is a small red wagon in which sits two young girls.
One girl sits contently in a blue dress, chewing on the lid of a water bottle, while the other is twisted around in her seat to face the camera, smiling in her red shirt in front of the van. This second girl?
None other than KELOLAND News’ own Meghan Chada, a meteorologist from the start.