KVPI office manager Bonnie Fontenot is pictured here sitting at her desk inside the station for the last time as she retired this week after working for 60 years. Her time at KVPI also included her doing local and state news broadcasts in the afternoon every day at 3:00 p.m. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)

At the end of the dial

Bonnie Fontenot retires after 60-years of working at KVPI as office manager and news announcer

Ever since Thomas Edison uttered “Mary had a little lamb” into his phonograph as the first ever recording in 1877, the radio medium has brought news, information, and entertainment into homes world wide in large and small markets. One of the small markets to have a local radio station is here in Ville Platte. With some smaller radio stations fading away like their signal and with others being bought up by large media companies, KVPI has remained locally owned and has continuously kept Ville Platte informed since its beginning in 1953.
“When we started, it was something that brought a lot of interest to the City of Ville Platte,” said KVPI office manager Bonnie Fontenot. “I think we still have a lot of years left for radio because it’s good for any area to have something like that.”
Part of the consistency at KVPI has reached the end of its dial as Fontenot has retired this week after working full time at the station for 60 years. “It has not sunk in yet,” she said about her retirement. “I know I’m retired, but, after working for so many years, I think it’ll take some time for that to sink in.”
“It feels good because it’ll give me more time with my family,” she continued, “but, at the same time, there’s a little sadness because I’m leaving the gang. The gang has been together a long time.”
Fontenot started working at KVPI when the station was still housed on the second floor of the Evangeline Bank and Trust Company’s building on the corner of Main and Court Streets. “The bank was on the first floor, and we were upstairs on the second floor along with a small room that Floyd Soileau had rented to sell his records because he had a little record shop up there,” Fontenot said. “At that time, there was an office for the draft board, but we had three or four rooms up there.”
“We had to take the stairs everyday up-and-down and up-and-down, but I liked it,” she continued. “I was younger and could go up-and-down the stairs with no problem whatsoever. I just liked working at that old bank. It was no problem for me, and no one else complained, ever.”
Fontenot explained that she started working at the station part time as a typist. “I went to apply, first of all, for a job as secretary, and the job had already been filled,” she said. “Chris Duplechin, who was at the time manager, asked me if I could do some typing because he needed a typist for a few weeks, and I told him I learned how to type in high school at Vidrine.”
She continued, “I was like a jack of all trades in the office until I started full time in 1958. I never stopped and never looked back.”
Since becoming full time, Fontenot has worked as office manager. “It was mostly bookkeeping, bills payable, and anything else that was needed,” she said. “For so many years, I did everything manually, and I was hard on myself because things had to be done well.”
Her job as office manager changed completely when the station got its first computers in 1998. Fontenot said, “I learned what I had to learn to do my bookkeeping, payables, and everything else, but it was always kind of difficult because every time I just learned something then it seemed like it changed.”
While most of her time spent at KVPI was as office manager, Fontenot also was on-air doing the afternoon news broadcasts. “When I was working one day, Chris Duplechin came up to me and said he had something that he wanted me to start doing,” she stated. “He said he wanted me to start giving the news on the air, and I said that I couldn’t give the news. He said that I read well and had me do a few spots on the air. We went back-and-forth like that for a while, and, finally, he convinced me to try it. I started, and I did the 3:00 p.m. local and state news for many years.”
“I just took to it right away,” she continued, “but I was never on-air like the rest of the DJs who are on for an hour show or something. It was just going in to give the news, getting out, and doing a few spots if I needed to do them. I enjoyed the news, and that was a break from the office work.”
Through her work in the office and in the news room, Fontenot has seen many Swamp Pop and French singers walk through the KVPI halls, most notably was Evangeline Parish native Jimmy C. Newman. She has also worked for every general managers of the station from Duplechin to currently Mark Layne.
“I met the best people in the world,” Fontenot expressed about her job. “I have enjoyed my work tremendously, and I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. It was part of my life, and it will always be part of my life.”
She concluded, “By the grace of God, I hope I can be here several more years to continue listening to KVPI and just knowing that at one time I was part of it.”

Evangeline Today

145 Court St.
Ville Platte, LA 70586
Phone: 337-363-3939
Fax: 337-363-2841