Lunch with Marjorie: Career change, gumbo and chicken cordon bleu

Choices. Choosing Tim Scholten for my first “Lunch with Marjorie” column was simple. He’s the most naturally funny guy I know. My husband agreed—“He’s funny.” But, when talking with Tim about his decision to switch from a dream career in broadcasting to selling radio advertising, Tim turned serious.

We paused to tackle Rockton Inn’s lunch menu—a clear dilemma for Tim.

“It’s a dead heat between navy bean and seafood gumbo in my world today. Gumbo? Good? Bad?” Tim’s blue eyes sought help from me.

“The gumbo’s great, very New Orleans,” I assured.

“I’m on it! Sold!” Tim proclaimed.

“Sandwich?” I asked.

“Man, oh, man, a lot of good things to eat—the chicken cordon bleu special—and yet the barbecue pork sandwich is also tempting,” he said. He opted for cordon bleu; I had Oriental chicken salad.

Growing up in Beloit, Wis., Tim’s teens were filled with sports, cello, plays. He loved performing.

“I was at Starlight in the mid-’70s. I did Music Man with Jody Benson—went on to be The Little Mermaid.”

“Jody Benson!” I was impressed. Tim wasn’t.

“She was in the chorus,” Tim said. “She was nothing, and I was nothing. We were nothings together, and it was fun.”

The year Elvis died, 1977, Tim went off to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to major in radio and television.

“I had a fantastic adviser there,” Tim remembers. “A guy named Jim Duncan, and he sold it for me. All those years, he was the voice of the Drake Relays, America’s athletic classic.”

Des Moines broadcasting began for Tim with weekly co-hosting stints at KRNT, reporting campus news. Then he became head statistician for The Drake Sports Network.

“That was wonderful,” Tim said. “I would be the guy that would copy down all the statistics during all home Drake men’s basketball and football games. And both sports were Division 1. And he would look at my stats, and he would check with me, and I wouldn’t really say anything at all, but we became a linked unit—a guy named Larry Morgan, who now is the voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes on television.”

Tim had the sports bug, the news bug.

Post-college, his career began at Beloit’s radio 1380 WBEL, on air as “The Jock.” He left to co-anchor the now defunct Beloit Cable News.

“Then my friend Jerry Huffman made it possible for me to work for WREX-TV,” Tim said. Tim became the first Rock County reporter in 1983.

“I was kind of an experimental guinea pig there,” Tim said. “They sent me out with my inferior equipment—but I did have my own station vehicle. And I would take it back to my apartment every night, wake up early in the morning, and they’d say: ‘OK, you need to go out, cover it, take pictures.’ We worked til 6, 6:30 most nights, editing what I had shot, writing what I had shot, and producing the stories. That’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in the media.”

A few bumps and station changes moved Tim to news reporter for WIFR-TV.

Spring 1987, Tim married Lisa Johnson and made a dramatic career change.

I realized his gumbo-navy bean struggle was somewhat thornier than the decision to leave broadcasting:

“Was it an emotional decision?” I asked.

“Yes. But Marjorie, I can tell you that reason in five words: Fourteen thousand dollars a year.” He couldn’t support his family on that salary.

Lisa was a dental assistant. “She was the breadwinner in the soon-to-be-family. She was out-earning me,” Tim said.

“A little bruising to the ego? Hard to give up celebrity status?” I asked.

“A little bit,” Tim said. “But that doesn’t put food on the table. I doubled my income with a stroke of the pen.”


Cordon bleu? He liked it.

“Gumbo?” I asked.

“It’s spicy, hard-hitting gumbo…I’ll make it through,” he said. “It’s all part of the culinary experience.”

“Career choice—are you satisfied with your accomplishments?”

“So many people answer that question the wrong way: ‘It’s my Beamer, my Lexus, my yacht, my getaway place,’” Tim said. “Wro-o-ng! It’s your kids!”

Tim added, “I’ve seen it backfiring for others…the guys on the second, third, fourth marriages, scrambling to find out what it is—when all the while, it’s right in front of them.”

Seventeen years later, Tim’s choices have clearly brought him joy. He gets animated talking about coaching youth baseball in his new hometown, Rockton, and spending quality time with sons, Alec, 12, and Austin, 13, who both have the sports bug. He still does “creative”—commercials, voice-overs. But he’s primarily a father, a people-person.

“I don’t live to work, I work to live,” Tim declared. “You reap what you sow—that’s the total philosophy. Life’s a trade out.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!