LOUIS K. BIENKOWSKI
Undated Photograph of Louis K. Bienkowski at the WIBX Radio Studio - Utica, New York
(Andrew Bienkowski Collection)
In 1927, Louis K. Bienkowski left California and went East and settled in Utica, New York. In 1929 he took his oath of allegiance to the United States of Ameica. Upon a return trip to Poland for a visit he happened to listen to a radio station in Poland which was featuring music by the Paul Whiteman orchestra. It was then that Louis decided that if the people of Poland enjoy American music, why couldn't the Polish people in America listen to their music? And so a legend was born. Upon his return to America, and to Utica, New York, Louis sought out the owner and operator of WIBX Radio and presented the idea to him. And so Echoes of Poland radio began an era in foreign language broadcasting which continues to this day on the same radio station, the longest running Polish language program in the USA.
Louis would canvass local business people and sell advertising on his program on WIBX. And he did extremely well. Almost all local business was located in the downtown Utica area. Because of the large Polish population in Utica, Louis did extremely well in moving goods and services to the delight of the advertisers. Zosia's Bridal on Blandina Street, men's clothing stores on Columbia Street as Kowal's Men's Store and Koenig's Men Shop located on the opposite side of Columbia Street. Farther down Columbia was the Utica Hammer Supply, another weekly advertiser, to mention just a few. His radio program time on air was jam full of advertisers; it brought in a lot of revenue to WIBX.
At the same time, Louis Bienkowski was associated with the only Polish language published in the Mohawk Valley, Slovo Polski ("The Polish Word"). The newspaper was owned by John and Maria Kowalski. But the very clever Louis Bienkowski was able to move out the husband, win over the hand of the wife and made her his wife. They also operated the Fort Schuyler Printing Press as well. It worked just fine that while Louis attempted to sell newspaper space in his Polish language, he was able to sell air-time on his radio program, Echoes of Poland. The printing operations and the publication of the Polish language newspaper ended when Maria passed away in 1965.
Louis Bienkowski promotional photo.
My personal highlight occurred when I had the opportunity to be selected to run for Utica Public office. Of course, I had to purchase radio time on his highly successful radio program. But he did me a personal favor. He prepared the script in Polish which he wrote phonetically. I would read the Phonetic polish words. The recorded announcements “spots” were advertised on his program. Well, all I can say, I won that election and all others when I advertised on his Echoes of Poland radio program.
His last year was spent as a guest of the Presbyterian Home in New Hartford. And it was here he passed on to his eternal reward December 15, 1984 at the age of 87 years. Louis, Bog.