Notes for Leonard Everett Wilson

A Wilson Family Tree

Notes for Leonard Everett Wilson



Leonard Wilson was born in Denver, CO, in 1904. He was an only child. His parents were divorced and his father left when he was only two. His mother had a series of husbands and he practically supported himself from an early age. He and Elizabeth Trinaistich were both working for the Trinidad Creamery Company in Trinidad, CO, when they married in 1926. They lived in several towns in Colorado and New Mexico before settling for good in Albuquerque, NM, in 1947. He died in Albuquerque in 1981 at the age of 77.

Len had to get a job at the end of his third year of high school in 1922 to help support his mother. I think his stepfather, Edward Cookingham, might have died at that time. (I tried to find out when he died, but the State of Colorado was unable to find a death record for him.) Len got a job at the Trinidad Creamery and went through a number of jobs there, starting at the bottom and rising to manager of sales and credits for New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. Betty was also a bookkeeper there. Two of their children, Donald and Dorothy, were born during this period in Trinidad, in 1927 and 1930. Jack Jacobsen, owner of the Creamery, became interested in radio as a way to get his pricing for cream out to the farmers much faster. Len was already an active amateur radio operator ("ham"), so Jacobsen approached him about building a radio station. This inquiry led to building radio station KGIW in 1928. Its first commercial broadcast was in February 1929. The station did not pan out to Jacobsen's satisfaction and he wanted to shut it down. Len was a believer in this new technology and had saved up enough money that he offered to buy the station from Jacobsen, which he did at the end of October 1929. Len and Betty remained good friends with the Jacobsen family for as long as they lived.

In 1932, Len moved KGIW to Alamosa, CO (several mines in the Trinidad area closed, causing a big hit to the local economy). He continued to own KGIW until 1939, but it was being run by employees while Len went on to other projects. He started radio station KIDW in Lamar, CO, in 1932, sold it after only a couple of months, but then returned and managed it under lease from 1935 to 1938. He owned and managed KICA in Clovis, NM, from 1933 through 1935, when he sold it because it was too far from his other stations in Alamosa and Lamar. He owned and operated KOKO in La Junta, CO, from 1937 to 1946. (The KOKO letters had previously been used by the Navy. A few years after Len got them, the Navy wanted the call letters back but Len would not give them up. The Navy got them back after he sold the station.) Len traveled a lot managing all these stations. His family moved to Clovis at the end of 1933 or beginning of 1934, to Lamar in 1936 and then to La Junta in 1937. Their third child, James, was born in 1939 in La Junta. Also, Betty's sister Mary died in 1937 shortly after her son John was born. Betty and Len took in the baby and raised him with their own children. Mary's young daughter Elsie (six years old at the time of her mother's death) lived with them for several years as well.

Len was in the Naval Reserve from 1930 to 1934 as a radioman first class. After war started in Europe, Len wanted badly to help with the war effort. Starting in 1940, well before the U.S. entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was trying to join the British trans-Atlantic ferry service or the Royal Canadian Air Force as a radio operator or pilot. (Len had taken up flying in the late 1930s and had a private license.) They wouldn't accept non-British citizens as radio operators on the trans-Atlantic ferry service. In early 1941, he tried to fly up to Regina or Winnipeg to see about joining the RCAF Signal Corps, but couldn't get permission to fly across into Canada.

Len was on his ham radio with a friend who was on a ship at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese bombing. Len broadcast the news about the bombing before anyone else knew, and then got a visit from the government, wondering how he knew about it! It was a long time before he knew if his friend was alive or not.

After Pearl Harbor, his efforts to join the war effort switched to U.S. possibilities. He got a position as an assistant intercept officer with the FCC in Los Angeles in March 1942, thinking that Betty would be able to run KOKO for him while he was away. However, this didn't work out and he had to go back to La Junta after only a month or two. He got a position as an aircraft communicator at the La Junta airport after that, while also continuing to manage KOKO. He wanted to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, but they rejected his application because of his eyesight and physical condition. At some point he did start flying for the Civil Air Patrol; I'm not sure when he started with them, but he was promoted to captain in the CAP in February 1946.

Len sold KOKO in the fall of 1946. After selling the station he stayed on, managing it for the new owners while he started looking for something else to do. During this search he had occasion to talk to Larry Walker, who owned the L. B. Walker Radio Company in Pueblo, CO. He had been a customer of Walker's for a number of years, buying electronic parts for his various radio stations. Walker suggested opening a branch somewhere. (At this time Walker had no other branches. He eventually opened several other stores in Colorado.) They decided to open a branch in Albuquerque, NM, which resulted in the opening of the L. B. Walker Radio Company in Albuquerque on 6 May 1947. There were originally seven people involved in the store: Len and Betty Wilson, Larry and Mildred Walker, Bill Thomas and his wife, and Margaret Johnson. Bill had worked at the station in Alamosa and Margaret had worked at KOKO. After a few years, Walker sold his interest to Len because he wanted to open a store in Denver, which he did in 1952 or '53. The name of the business was shortened to Walker Radio Company. Margaret and Bill worked at Walker Radio for many years, but they eventually sold their shares to Len as well, leaving Walker Radio Company owned entirely by the family. (There was a rider on the stock giving Len the first right to purchase the stock, which he did.) Years later, after Len's death, the name of the business was further changed to Walker Electronic Supply Company Even though Larry Walker was involved in the business for only a few years, it continued to carry his name because of concern that customers would be confused if the name were changed. Len ran Walker Radio until the time of his death. His son Don joined him in the business in 1958 and carried on after his death. Betty was also active in the business, acting as the bookkeeper and president of the company for many years.

Through all of this, Len remained active in amateur radio. His final call letters were W5NVT. His original two-letter call was lost during WWII, when all hams were shut down and the government bought all their equipment. In his younger years, he was also quite an outdoorsman and loved to fish. In addition, he was active in the Knights of Columbus fraternal organization for many years.


Transcriptions of several letters from and to Len can be seen at https://archive.org/details/FamilyLetters and https://archive.org/details/LEWinfo.


The name on his death certificate is Leonard Everett Wilson. Cause of death was multiple myeloma. He died at 221 Washington NE [home].
Headstone of his grave says Leonard E. WILSON, 1904 - 1981.


1910 census
Listed as Lenard E. Sickler, age 5, born in Colorado, father born in Iowa [this isn't right], mother born in Colorado. Living with his mother and stepfather, Rose and Elijah J. Sickler.

1920 census
Listed as Leonard Wilson, age 16, born in Colorado, both parents born in Colorado [this isn't right]. Attended school this year. Living with his mother and stepfather, Rose and Edward Cookingham.

1930 census
Image 6 on Ancestry.com (District 54, Trinidad, Las Animas Co., CO)
Listed as Leonard E. Wilson. Address, 410 South Oak St. Renting home, $25 per month. They had a radio set. Age 25, age 22 at marriage. Born in Colorado, both parents born in Colorado [this is not correct]. Occupation, radio-station operator. Not a U.S. military veteran. Household consisted of Leonard E., Elizabeth, and Donald E. Wilson; Ernest Trinaistich [Elizabeth's brother]; and a servant, Mildred Lenich.

1940 census
Image 23 on Ancestry.com (Districts 45-9, La Junta, Otero Co., CO)
Listed as Leonard Wilson, age 35. Address, 502 Cimarron Ave. Renting home, $35 per month. Completed three years of high school. Lived in Clovis, NM, in 1935. Born in Colorado, both parents born in Colorado [this is not correct.] Occupation, radio-station manager. Worked 52 weeks in 1939. Income in 1939, $950. Received $50 or more from sources other than money wages or salary. Not a U.S. military veteran. Household consisted of Leonard, Elizabeth, Donald, Dorothy, and Jimmie Wilson; Johnny and Elsie Malovich [children of Elizabeth's deceased sister, Mary]; and a housekeeper, Katie Porter.


Note: Some of the information in these pages is uncertain. Please let me know of errors or omissions using the email link above.    ...Mike Wilson

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