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Man behind the mic: Broadcaster plans to share lifetime in radio with audience at Adventures in Lifelong Learning series

Paul Bunyan Broadcasting’s Mardy Karger sits behind a microphone in the studio, a place he has been for more than 40 years. Submitted Photo

BEMIDJI – For many residents living in northern Minnesota, the voice of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting’s radio personality Mardy Karger has been a staple of their morning commute for years.

Karger has worked at the radio station for more than 40 years and still co-hosts the Morning Show on KB101.

Today, people can put a face with the voice, as Karger will speak about the impact of media in his life as part of the Adventures in Lifelong Learning speaker series.

“(Media) has been central in my life, that is for certain,” Karger said. “It pays the bills, keeps me occupied and I think it has instilled a little source of pride that maybe somewhere along the line I said something from which someone benefited.”

Karger, a 1972 graduate of Bemidji State University, began his radio career in 1971, when he got a part-time job with Paul Bunyan Broadcasting. At the time he was working to finish his bachelor’s degree in biology. He also had a minor in mass communications.

It was in his news writing and reporting class that he first got the idea to look into a career in radio.

Soon after taking a radio broadcasting course, Karger took a part-time job at KBUN, which turned into a full-time gig in 1974, when he became the news director, a position that is now held by Kelly Stone.

Karger’s first idea of radio broadcasting may best be seen through Robin William’s role in the 1987 movie “Good Morning Vietnam.” He served in the Air Force in Korea during the ‘60s, when he saw how much fun the broadcasters had.

“I got to see what the radio people were doing,” Karger said. “They had a lot of free time. They were either sleeping, or in the pool or on the golf course, or at the NCO club drinking. It was then that I thought there might be a future for me here.”

Though his exposure for military radio was brief, Karger has had a long career behind a microphone at KB101, often accompanied by his 33-year co-host of the Morning Show, Todd Haugen.

“(Karger) is great at research,” Haugen said. “He has always been a person that is readily able to get the facts about a situation, having been in news for so long. He has to be able to understand facts and retain things better than most people.”

Haugen was originally hired by Karger to broadcast sports, but shortly after his hire he joined the morning show team, never to look back.  Even though the two radio personalities do not always agree on topics, he said he has valued their time together on and off the air.

“The most fun people, for me, are the people that I can discuss things with that we may not agree upon; yet we can listen to each other and both become a little smarter about the issue,” Haugen said. “That is certainly the way I feel when I talk to (Karger) about issues.”

Karger said it helps to have someone else in the studio with him, but from the very beginning he was always taught to imagine himself in a room full of people, not in a room talking to himself.

“I have to imagine people, in various degrees, listening to my show with great intent,” Karger said. “After a while you begin to realize that there are other things that people do besides listen to the radio, so everything you say is not as near and dear.”

Karger has seen Paul Bunyan Broadcasting grow from one station, when he started, to the five stations it has now. He remembers the days when Minnesota Twins’ games were cut out in the middle because of Federal Communication Commission regulations that required the station to cut wattage when the sun went down.

He said that technology has come a long way since those days, where now the stations broadcast much further, reaching a larger audience.

Being behind the microphone has been much more enjoyable since Karger left the news director position, he said, adding the preparation is much less and he is able to have more fun.

 Media has played a major role in his life and though his voice may not be the same as it used to be, Karger said he still has a desire to broadcast.

“I had a much richer voice when I started,” Karger said. “It went through some modifications because at one time in my life I was yelling at my kids, yelling at the dog, playing softball, coaching softball and trying to do play-by-play sports. I was constantly yelling so I am lucky I still have a voice period.”

Karger’s “Media in My Life” begins at 10 this morning at the Beltrami Electric Cooperative at 10 a.m.

Adventures in Lifelong Learning Series Schedule

The Adventures in Lifelong Learning speaker series takes place on Tuesdays in the Beltrami Electric Cooperative’s community room, 4111 Technology Drive Northwest. The public is invited to attend and a free-will donation will be accepted.

Each speaker begins at 10 a.m.

The upcoming speakers include:

-- Oct. 9: Local author Wendell Affield, who will share the story of “Muddy Jungle Rivers” and talk about what he is working on now.

-- Oct. 16: Patrick Lochwood will give a talk on “Understanding Medicare Open Enrollment Period.”

-- Oct. 23:  Therapist Riki Scheela will share her experiences working with sex offenders and what the outpatient treatment program entails

--E Oct. 30: President of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation Nancy Vykoscil will share stories and pictures from the foundations new headquarters in the renovated Lumberman Bank.

-- Nov. 6: George-Ann and Steve Maxon will share their experience from their recent safari to Kenya.