“Here Come The Indians!” This familiar phrase has echoed over Bill Buxton Stadium in Indianola for as long as most people in the area can remember. Behind that voice is Jim Ford, who has been the voice of Indianola and Simpson College football games for 47 years. He has presided over three generations of football memories.
Jim is a home-grown product of Indianola, graduating from the local high school in 1949. After graduation, he attend Simpson College, where he met his future wife, Marty, who was also attending college there. They married in 1950. Shortly after their marriage, Jim went into the Air Force. After military service, and with two daughters, they moved to the GI Housing in Ames where Jim entered Iowa State University.
Upon graduation in 1957 with a degree in Technical Journalism, he started his radio work sitting in for Cap Bentley and giving the noon farm market report over WOI Radio. He also worked at the local KASI Radio station in Ames, spinning the hot wax on the afternoon “Iowa State House Party” rock and roll show. This was back in the days when the raw news was read off of the teletype as it arrived hot off the press. One morning after a violent weather storm in neighboring Allamakee County, he announced to his listeners the details of the storm in “Al – a – mack – ee” County. Shortly after finishing the story, the station phone rang. A disgruntled listener blasted to him “It’s Al – a – ma -kee County! Get it right next time!” So, the next time that he gave the local news, Jim attempted to pronounce Allamakee County again and proceeded to pronounce it wrong again. The same listener called him back and said “If you can get it right, just give it up.” Let’s say he never forgot the correct pronunciation after that! But he was relieved that he had at least one listener out there!
Jim and Marty moved to Atlantic, Iowa later in 1957, where Jim took a job as a Pfizer Pharmaceutical salesman, and sold medicines to area veterinarians. With their household expanding to include three girls, they looked for a nice community to raise their family. Their hearts called them back to Indianola. Jim was able to transfer his job to Indianola in 1959 and continued to work as a veterinarian specialist until 1968.
During the time that they returned to Indianola, the local high school was looking for a public address announcer for their football games. Louis Smith, the Indianola principal, approached a local businessman, Bob Hornaday, and asked him if he would like to do the announcing. Bob declined but had a suggestion. “Ask Jim Ford. He’ll do it!” And the rest is history.
In 1959, Jim Ford joined the crew at the stadium and began his announcing years in Indianola. Football facilities were much different in those days. Jim was a roving sideline announcer, holding a microphone and clipboard in his hands. He was trailed by a high school student, toting a long microphone cord. The student tried his best to see that Jim didn’t trip over the cord. Jim would travel up and down the sideline reporting everything that took place on the field of play. You can’t get any closer to the action than that! He continued as the roving sideline reporter for two years until a press box was built. After that he moved his deep baritone voice to the top of the bleachers and into the warm – and dry – press box. His brother, Frank (Jr.), joined him in 1965 and stayed by his side in the box until 1990 when health problems forced Junior to retire from announcing.
In 1968, Jim decided that a career change was in order. When a vacant building became available just off of the city square in Indianola, Jim entered into his own business venture – Ford Real Estate. His winning personality and easy going nature made him a great person to do business with. In 1975, his brother, Junior, joined him in the real estate business.
Jim’s talents were not just limited to Indianola High School activities. Jim has also been the announcer for all of the Simpson College home football games since 1961. He even tried his hand in announcing a Simpson softball playoff game a few years ago. He is also the voice of the Indianola High School Hall of Fame Inductions.
As a witness to over 400 high school and college football games, Jim has never failed to acknowledge both starting lineups – home and visitors. He was always a cordial host to the visiting crowd and welcomed them to Indianola. If an injury would occur, Jim always took the time to acknowledge the injured player and never failed to “we wish them well.” Jim always checked with the press box crew for the proper pronunciation of the home and visiting team’s names and made a concerted effort to pronounce everyone’s names correctly.
Jim has always helped out with the Simpson College fundraising drives. He helped with many military funerals as a member of the American Legion and participated in the annual Veterans Day observance at the local middle school. As a member of the Indianola Noon Lions Club, his booming baritone voice carried the festivities in the Annual Showboat Revue. He has also acted in a number of productions of the Carousel Theatre in Indianola.
Through the years, Jim has witnessed the development of many athletes. Some of these athletes include – Casey Blake, Kyle Orton, Chris Street, Vern Den Herder, Joe Blake Jr., Wilbur Young, Ricky Gales, as well as Joe Blake, Sr. He has seen coaches come and go, and seasons fly by. But as things changes on the field of play, there remained one constant – Jim Ford – the Voice of Indianola and Simpson College Football.
Jim and his lovely wife, Marty, have been married for 56 years and still reside in Indianola, just two blocks from the stadium. Their three daughters, Diane, Mary Kay, and Jeannie, all live in Iowa. The Fords have been blessed with seven grandchildren. They remain active in the Indianola community.
So if you are even in the Indianola area on a crisp autumn Friday night, stop and listen. You may be one of the fortunate ones to hear the voice of Jim Ford booming through the air.
We thank Jim Ford for his commitment to Indianola Football and the athletes of Indianola. And, we thank his wife, Marty, for letting Indianola fans borrow him on Friday nights for the last 47 years.