Perspectives: Southern Utah storyteller reaches milestone

OPINION – For as long as radio has been a method of mass communication, it has never been a particularly stable career field for its on-air personalities. Turnover is quite high, even if it’s just the same people being shuffled around on different stations.

In most radio markets, large and small, you can count on one hand the number of personalities who have remained on a particular station for more than four or five years. Ten years is an anomaly. Twenty years or more on the same station is almost unheard of.

For people who do radio part time, those odds grow even longer. But Al Cooper is a personality who has made his mark on Southern Utah.

This past Monday was a time of celebration on KSUB 590 AM in Cedar City as Southern Utah’s oldest radio signal celebrated the milestone of the 600th weekly broadcast of Cooper’s program “Provident Living – Home and Country.”

Al’s program has always been a treasure trove of timely information about living self sufficiently and being prepared for the future. When Cooper talks about preparedness, his listeners feel a sense of being enlightened and empowered rather than bogged down by thoughts of impending doom and gloom.

Whether discussing the innumerable varieties of apples and their histories, favorite methods of gardening and home canning, or finding the most elusive flavor of honey, Al invites his audience to join him in the thrill of discovery. The fact that he can draw upon eight decades of experience is an added bonus.

Cooper also spent a number of years as a preparedness expert for the Utah Department of Public Safety and is still a highly sought after presenter for preparedness expos throughout the state.

Not surprisingly, Al is a prolific writer and has penned many essays and articles over the years. His knowledge of American history is remarkable and has provided his audience with insights into the parts of our history that are often overlooked. His time in the armed forces during the Korean conflict served to broaden his worldview and refine his love of America.

It’s not an accident that Al’s radio show has developed a large and faithful audience. Al’s distinctive New England accent is immediately recognizable and more than a few listeners have recognized him in public when they overheard him talking.

I first met Al shortly after I moved to Cedar City and began working for KSUB 590 AM. I knew that Al had a radio show that aired every Monday afternoon, but I knew little else about him.

When he handed me his business card and I saw that it simply bore his name and the title “Storyteller”, a light went on in my head. Despite all his other gifts and talents, this is Al Cooper’s defining characteristic.

To understand the importance of the storyteller in any society, consider the words of author Brandon Sanderson who said:

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.

This is where Al Cooper is a master.

As he relates his stories of historical battles won and lost, you can almost hear the flag snapping in the breeze and smell the smoke in the air. His Christmas story of “The Black Boots” has become a holiday standard on KSUB and can always be heard on his broadcast closest to Christmas Day.

Al’s stories not only create a clearer picture of the historical setting in which they take place, but they also cause his audience to think more deeply about the characters involved. We learn from their strengths and flaws and can take inventory of ourselves and where we stand.

Cooper doesn’t waste time trying to preach to the ideological choir. He leads his readers and listeners to a place where they can discover truth on their own terms. This is the mark of a true teacher.

Al has racked up more than 70,000 miles driving from his Rockville home to the Cedar City studio each week to do his show. He’s written hundreds of thousands of words over the years.

As a man who has traveled the world and seen what it has to offer, Cooper has very kind words for the corner of Southern Utah which he calls home. On his 600th broadcast, Cooper stated:

If you are fortunate enough to live in America, you should thank God. And, of all the states in this nation, if you’re fortunate enough to live in Utah, you should be very grateful. And if you are fortunate enough to live in this part of Southwestern Utah, you should consider yourself extremely blessed.

Tune in Al’s show on Monday afternoons at 4pm on 590 AM and learn how storytellers still play a vital role in our society.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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