Fort Dodge enjoys unique culture, robust history

Richard “Dick” Johnson, 95, of Great Falls, Montana, passed away on Feb. 21, 2024. For many people and kids in Fort Dodge and the surrounding communities, Dick Johnson was known as Uncle Dick. “Uncle Dick’s Fun House” hosted by Dick Johnson was a kiddie TV show that quickly found a huge audience with FD children.

In 1953, Dick Johnson came to KVFD TV at Ed Breen’s invitation. He served as an announcer, weatherman and newscaster. A time slot opened after the “Eve’s Kitchen” show and Breen asked Johnson if he would host a children’s program at that time slot.

During this time, Johnson wrote, directed and starred in “Uncle Dick’s Fun House,” a children’s program that is part of Fort Dodge’s folk tradition. Dick Johnson was a talented sketch artist and cartoonist.

The success of the show shocked WHO in Des Moines, which lost all its audience in the FD area in that time slot due to the popularity of Uncle Dick. The show was televised from 5 to 5:30 p.m. five days a week and it ran for more than six years. Later, the show’s name changed and it was called “Birthday Party.”

For 17 years, Dick Johnson put smiles on the faces of hundreds of Fort Dodge girls and boys and helped them celebrate special birthday parties on television. The show went off the air in 1970.

Fort Dodge is blessed with unique culture and dynamic history, filled with rich traditions and interesting nostalgia. Learning about and celebrating the history of our community is important because it allows us to know our past, understand our present and shape our future. It helps us appreciate the context of how our community’s history and how it is notably integrated into the history and development of our state and the pioneer movement that built and expanded our nation.

Our history provides us with insights into our community’s culture, traditions and folklore. It details the progress and growth of our community and how it happened. Celebrating our history helps us gain greater understanding, appreciation and respect for the amazing leadership, commitment and sacrifice that early Fort Dodgers made to build our community. And it creates greater appreciation for the place we call home.

The Fort Dodge history website (www.fortdodgehistory.com) encourages people of all ages to learn, embrace and enjoy the robust history, abounding culture and fond memories of our community. Plus, reading about our community’s history and nostalgia is just plain interesting and enjoyable.

Reasons why learning, embracing and celebrating our history is important

1. It helps us understand Fort Dodge and its culture.

2. It helps us understand change.

3. It helps us relate our own history to our nation’s history.

4. It helps us preserve stories.

5. It offers us incredible nostalgia.

Please visit our Fort Dodge history website (www.fortdodgehistory.com). If you would like to receive our weekly emails that highlight aspects of Fort Dodge history and nostalgia, just email me your email address and I will add you to our distribution list.

If you have information that can enhance our website, please contact us and let us know. You can reach the Fort Dodge Community Foundation at (515) 573-3171 or email me at rk@fd-foundation.org.

Randy Kuhlman is the chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.


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