KOOV alumni gather for 45th year reunion in Copperas Cove
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Dozens of former employees of the KOOV 103.1 gathered for a 45th anniversary bash Saturday evening at Giovanni’s.
The radio station was on the air, playing country music from 1977 until 2001 when it was sold.
KOOV was owned by Gaylon Christie and Ted Connell. The station broadcast from 108 E. Avenue E in downtown Copperas Cove.
Sherry Hoffpauir organized the reunion after hearing about another radio station that held their own reunion. When she realized that this year would have marked the station’s 45th anniversary, she decided to reach out to the people who also worked at KOOV 103.1 way back when. The KOOV Alumni group on Facebook served her well in getting ahold of everybody to invite to the reunion dinner, she said.
“It’s just special,” Hoffpauir said about the reunion. “We have people that came in from Arizona, Florida, all over Central Texas and from all over the state of Texas too, and we even have some flying in from Colorado.”
Hoffpauir estimated anywhere from 43 to 45 people were in attendance for Saturday night’s event.
As the guests enjoyed their dinner, there was also a moment where the group remembered those who had passed, before each member shared a favorite memory of working at the radio station.
“It was locally owned, which is different than it is today with radio stations being corporate, and also we were a family,” Hoffpauir said about KOOV 103.1. “We cared about each other. My mother, when she was alive, they always invited her to the events and made it seem like she was a part of the KOOV family. We’ve all kept in touch, and so it’s just special to have everybody here tonight, and we can celebrate the radio station and what we mean to each other.”
KOOV came on the air in November 1977, and the first record ever played on the station was “America” by Elvis Presley because the station didn’t have a copy of the National Anthem, according to Joe Lombardi, who was with the station for 22 years.
Lombardi joined the station in January 1978 and stayed with the station until it was sold. He became the newsman for Christie’s morning show and then hosted his own midday country music show.
He also started calling the Copperas Cove football games in the fall of 1978, which is something he continues to do to this day.
In 1992, Lombardi was honored with a national award, the Country Music Association’s Small Market Broadcaster of the Year.
“The station always had a really good reputation for being a community service outfit,” Lombardi said. “We were involved in a lot of charity, and we raised a lot of money, and we did a lot of good things for the community, which radio does not seem to care about doing much of that anymore.”
He mentioned the Victory Corner, when the KOOV 103.1 staff, including Joe, met every flight of returning soldiers coming back from the Gulf War in 1991.
Another instance was Billy Ray’s ‘Waltz Across Texas’. Billy Ray started as part-time at the station in 1984 and then worked overnights before eventually working middays and then eventually became the music director for KOOV 103.1. Ray danced with women volunteers for the Waltz Across Texas, dancing from Austin to Killeen and raising $10,000 for Santa Pals and Toys for Tots.
“It is really beautiful to see all these people here that I haven’t seen many of them in over 30 years or longer,” Lombardi said. “Just to see everybody in one place and telling all the stories, the stories and the remembrances and the fact that some of us are still involved [in radio]. Seeing these people again after all the years, everybody looks different, but everybody feels the same, and that’s the fact that we all feel that KOOV was a cutting-edge country radio station that really cared about the community, and when I say community, I don’t mean just Copperas Cove. I mean Copperas Cove, Killeen, Lampasas, Harker Heights, Temple…We always cared about the community, and I think that’s what set us different from the way radio is now.”