ARCHIVED  November 1, 1996

Phil Walker – Storyteller lives his passion at KCOL

FORT COLLINS – Phil Walker’s trained voice booms from room to room as he moves quickly around radio station KCOL, his face set in a frown of concentration.His dark eyebrows begin low over his nose and rise sharply toward the outer edges of his forehead. He is very much at home at the station, as well he should be. Now middle-aged, he began working at KCOL the year his voiced changed at age 13.
By the time he entered Army Defense Information School, Walker was already an experienced radio announcer with hours of practical training.
“I grew up thinking Fort Collins was without a doubt the dullest place on earth,” Walker said in a recent interview, “that nothing of any importance had ever happened here, that it was not remarkable in any way.”
Despite this, he was at heart a hometown boy who attended Colorado State University and, after serving in the military as a public information officer, returned to Fort Collins in the early 1970s. He then put his tremendous energy to work selling air time and producing commercials and features for his old station, KCOL 1410 AM.A man of boundless energy
“Phil’s a super high-energy guy,´ said Will Huett, who worked with Walker during this period. “That energy allows him to pursue and follow through on ideas that are good and workable.
“That enthusiasm and his boundless energy helped me be more open to my own ability to generate ideas,” Huett said.
Walker’s best idea to date first occurred to him about 20 years ago, when he produced a one-hour radio drama about the history of the Poudre Valley for an advertiser. Drama it may have been, but history it was not, Walker readily admits now.
Fifteen years later, an advertiser, Charco Broiler owner Gib McGarvey, recalled the drama and told Walker he wanted to sponsor a series of short local history features for radio. The result was a very popular daily series called “Visions Along the Poudre Valley.”
The series demanded Walker undertake far more-detailed and careful historical research than he had before attempted. He told the stories in a casual and dramatic style that held his radio audience.
Next, Walker decided to market an audio cassette series of “Visions Along the Poudre Valley,” relating events from local history in his by now familiar dramatic style. Again, he undertook demanding research in local history that resulted in an enormously popular product.
“We made 500 cassettes, and they were gone instantly,” Walker said.
“Visions” has most recently become a book on local history, and again Walker’s dramatic storytelling has met with remarkable success. His book is now available for use in Poudre School District grade-school classes.
Despite these successes, Walker insisted he is not a “real historian.”Nevertheless, many local historians appreciate Walker’s ability to make history compelling. This spring, the Fort Collins Historical Society gave Walker the President’s Recognition Award “for creating an interest in local history” with his book.
Mike Koury, of Old Army Press in Fort Collins, said he has found some errors in Walker’s work. In particular, he said, Walker perpetuated the mistaken idea that the Cache La Poudre River was named in 1836, when there is a written report from 1835 that calls the river the Cache La Poudre. There are other errors, too, Koury said, mostly because Walker and other historians have leaned too heavily on Ansel Watrous’s history of Fort Collins, which itself is full of inaccuracies.A storyteller at heart
“But they are errors that don’t change the meaning or the gist,” Koury said. “Basically, Phil’s a storyteller. That’s a talent that many historians don’t have. Phil has sold thousands of books and interested thousands of people – and kids – in the history of Fort Collins, and in that he’s done a great service.”
Walker’s success with Visions Along the Poudre Valley and his political and historical grasp of Fort Collins prompted general manager Gary Buchanan to promote Walker to news director for the three radio stations owned by Two Eagles Communication (KCOL, KGLL “the Eagle,” and KPAW “the Bear”) in June 1995.
Buchanan also talked Walker into hosting a call-in radio talk show on local issues. Of the sudden promotions, Walker said, “It took me 39 years to become an overnight success.” Buchanan’s enthusiasm for Walker seemed boundless.
“For a local talk-show host on local issues É I can’t think of anybody better than Phil Walker,” Buchanan said. “He’s very well-informed on local politics and issues. He has a passion for his town. He has a passion for what he does. I’ve never met a broadcaster who loves the community like he does.”
Generating, as it has, a popular radio series, cassette series and a book, it is a love that has turned into a livelihood for Walker. And the livelihood continues to feed his passion. On his first day as talk-show host, Fort Collins mayor Ann Azari was Walker’s guest.
“I said, ‘Mayor, it took us 130 years to get to 100,000 people,'” Walker said, “‘and it’s only going to take us 20 years to get to 200,000 people, and I want to know how we’re going to accommodate all of those folks without destroying my quality of life.’
“I know the answer to that question now,” Walker said, “because the smartest people in the world come in [the studio] every single morning and give me a 90-minute lecture, and I get to ask them questions.”
Walker enjoys the “consensus-building process” he says his talk show fosters, and he enjoys the education it affords him.An evolutionary process
“You move through an evolutionary process when you’re deciding what do I think about anything,” Walker explained. “And you think well É I think this. I’m going to get somebody in here who I know I disagree with É You walk away with a different point of view because of that interview.
“Then you get somebody in who hates what they said and you think, yeah, well, that’s right, that’s crap, that’s pretty good. After awhile, you don’t know where it all came from, but you know that your world has evolved in such a way that you’re confident that you’ve got the right answer.
“It’s a constantly changing state of equilibrium. When that process ceases, then the entity is dead,” he said.
There is no sign that Phil Walker is coming to the end of that process. His latest project is a video version of “Visions Along the Poudre Valley,” to be produced by his old friend Mike Koury at Old Army Press. The video, whose production is being sponsored by Schrader Oil, will premier Nov. 20 at the Fort Collins Lincoln Center.
The video will cover from the Ice Age until the railroad’s arrival in Fort Collins in 1877.
“We move it along a little breezily, but it’ll be the story of the Poudre Valley,” Walker assures.
The event is to be a fund raiser for the Fort Collins Museum.
“I really do believe,” Walker said, “if you’re going to write about your community and for your community, the first dollar you make ought to go back to your community.”
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FORT COLLINS – Phil Walker’s trained voice booms from room to room as he moves quickly around radio station KCOL, his face set in a frown of concentration.His dark eyebrows begin low over his nose and rise sharply toward the outer edges of his forehead. He is very much at home at the station, as well he should be. Now middle-aged, he began working at KCOL the year his voiced changed at age 13.
By the time he entered Army Defense Information School, Walker was already an experienced radio announcer with hours of practical training.
“I grew up thinking Fort…

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