In 1971 the films "Love Story" and "The French Connection" were released, the national average price of a home was $25,250.00, and a gallon of gas was around 40 cents.*
It was also the year the Mike O'Connor Show debuted.
Born and bred in Balinameen, Co. Roscommon, Ireland, Mike was the third of six children born to Thomas and Mary (Roche) O'Connor. His father was Principal of the local National School, and his mother a trained teacher. Mike arrived in Chicago via New Orleans, via Boston, via Connecticut, via New York, via England...he always loved the adventure a work transfer brought. Now he was in his late 30's with a wife, three little ones and a mortgage. It was time to grow some roots.
After working most of his adult life as an underwriter, Mike itched to get back to his first love. Selling. The chance to fulfill his dream was delivered via a pink slip and a severance package.
To support the dream, Margaret(Mike's wife) decided to return to work. Sears Roebuck & Co welcomed her into their mammoth offices. She worked on Homan Ave, the original home of Sears. This campus housed both offices and warehouses. She would continue with them until the catalog was eliminated in 1993. This gave Mike the freedom to pursue his dream.
Passport photo. Mike with Michael Jr, Siobhainn
and Mary Ellen around 1970.
He continued to meet and get to know Chicago's enormous Irish community. Mike always enjoyed socializing, so he felt completely comfortable digging in and getting more involved in various clubs and benefits. He regularly volunteered to visit the Gibbons radio program on WOPA radio in Oak Park to publicize upcoming events. Tommy Gibbons Sr got to know and like Mike. He noticed how comfortable he seemed behind the microphone. Tommy thought Mike would make a great radio show host. He encouraged him to start his own show. Mike wavered, worried about the commitment of both time and resources. Tommy persuaded him, reminding him the show would allow people to get to know and feel comfortable with him. In other words, it would be good for business!
Mike was always a staunch advocate of all things Irish. He loved discussing sport, politics, and of course, the music. Mike loved Irish music-he realized he could fill time with his favorite tunes even if nothing else interesting was happening in the studio. That decided it.
On November 5, 1971, the Mike O'Connor Show made its debut. Mike became so involved in visiting with the folks in the studio, the music, sports, and news from home, that most of the time he forgot to mention the fact the he sold insurance. It was something of a shock to Mike and his wife that he absolutely LOVED hosting the radio show. It wasn't long before he became known around town as Mike O'Connor, radio show host. And, oh yes. He sold insurance too.
Breege Looney (former owner of The Abbey Pub) joined the program around 1986, and Mike's daughter Siobhainn came on board in 1991. Mike retired from the show in 2005. The Mike O'Connor Show, now Chicago Irish Radio-The O'Connor Show, continues today run by Siobhainn O'Connor with Breege Looney.
*information found on http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971.ht