Content sharing in the ’30s

It’s probably 16 inches wide, and you hold it carefully by the edges. It could be made of glass or aluminum, coated with black cellulose nitrate. If you’re lucky the coating hasn’t started flaking off yet. Alternatively it might be made of vinyl, like an LP, but bigger. It plays at 33 1/3 RPM, holds 15 minutes of recorded sound, and was a key tool in the development of syndicated radio programming in the United States. We’re talking about transcription discs.

lacquer_metal

Picture 1 of 4

A cellulose nitrate over aluminum transcription disc. Note where the coating has flaked off. When that happens, that part of the recording is lost.

In the 1920s, radio stations needed a way to replicate and share programming consistently. They weren’t allowed to play commercially released records on-air because musician’s unions believed that hurt record sales. So radio content had to come from somewhere else. Live broadcast was inconsistent, time consuming, and expensive. Not every radio station could afford to have its own in-house musical groups, but all stations wanted to attract more listeners. At this time the first radio networks were beginning to form. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was created in 1926, and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was formed in 1927. As these networks made more programming and acquired more satellite stations, they needed a way to distribute programming. Larger radio stations were creating programming of their own that they wanted to share with the networks. In short, there was a huge market for pre-recorded radio programming, but distribution of content was still a major hurdle. Transcription discs were the solution.

By the 1930s, transcription disc recorders had become ubiquitous at larger radio stations. Program producers were able to pre-record a program, make copies, and distribute it to other radio stations for future broadcast. This meant that stations in networks could all get the same programs. Individual stations could also add out-of-network programming to their repertoire by purchasing them from distributors. A station could also record its own unique local program using transcription discs, and then re-use it later. As a result, small stations could avoid the expense of live programs. Bigger stations and networks could get their shows to a wider audience. This meant listeners in Boston, Kansas City, and San Francisco could hear the same program at the same time. The ability share programming is a big reason why radio contributed to the growth of popular culture across America. To paraphrase Marr Sound Archives director Chuck Haddix, “radio was like the internet” because it brought people closer through information sharing. Everybody got to hear the same radio programs and news broadcasts, giving people similar cultural and political knowledge. We take this for granted today. Imagine for a moment a conversation with someone from two or three states away. They hadn’t heard Adele’s latest song or weren’t able to listen to that Ted Talk that enthralled you. Of course the opposite would be true as well. Its 75 degrees here in Kansas City. What snow storm in Ohio? That political protest in Washington that they went to? You had no idea until weeks later. Certainly newspapers allowed content-sharing, but radio was a huge leap forward, and it’s largely thanks to the humble transcription disc. One of the big 1930s radio stations that made a lot of transcription discs was KMBC here in Kansas City. Many of these discs are now held in the Marr Sound Archives.

KMBC joined CBS in 1928 as the 16th affiliated station. In 1930 station moved to the eleventh floor of the Pickwick Hotel. Under the direction of Arthur B. Church, KMBC became a model for other stations. Church and KMBC produced a wide variety of syndicated shows which were recorded on transcription discs and then distributed. One of these programs was the Texas Rangers. Another example from the KMBC collection that highlights the importance of transcription discs is a recording of one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats.” The recording can be heard below. It was made by CBS at the White House on May 2, 1943. It was then presumably broadcast by all CBS network stations, including KMBC. FDR could not have reached the entire country without transcription disc technology.

Sources

Museum of Broadcast Communications. Encyclopedia of Radio. Edited by Christopher Sterling. Vol. 3. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004.

 

Tales from the Archives: Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. Please enjoy this series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the fourth in a series of Tales from the Archives.

Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

The KMBC Texas Rangers

The KMBC Texas Rangers “Gentlemen in the White Hats.” Credit: Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, Marr Sound Archives, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It seemed like everyone on the project team had discovered some new interest when working with the collection. One student became so engrossed in the developing drama on the show Vic and Sade, she hoarded all the discs to herself. For me, it was the Western swing group, The KMBC Texas Rangers. The unedited cuts of this musical octet perfectly demonstrate the unique chemistry the group had. It was hard not to be captivated by them, with names like: Clarence “Idaho” Hartman (bass fiddle), Gomer “Tenderfoot” Cool (fiddle), Joe “Monty” Strand (accordion), Herbie “Arizona” Kratoska (guitar and banjo), Fran “Irish” Mahaney (tenor), Rod “Dave” May (tenor), Robert “Captain Bob” Crawford (baritone), and Edward “Tucson” or “Tookie” Cronenbold (bass).

Garbed in Western wear, topped with classic white hats, their versatile musical repertoire included hymns, cowboy songs, novelty, and western swing. When I guest lectured for the Conservatory (UMKC), I ended with the Texas Rangers’ rendition of “Hand me down my walking cane” which inevitably got stuck in everyone’s head. It’s entertaining and hopefully served as a distraction from the terrible guest lecture they just sat through.

Tex Owens

Image above: Tex Owens, the original Texas Ranger? Image courtesy of Orlene “Kit” Johnson and Irene “Kay” Dierks.

As we soon discovered, the Texas Rangers weren’t without their own drama. In their early radio programs, they were often fronted by special guest, Tex Owens. Owens, who played guitar and sang with the group on occasion, was never officially a member, but somehow left his mark in history as “The Original Texas Ranger.” There seemed to be a great deal of tension between Tex and the boys which reached its climax when Texas Governor, James V. Allred, commissioned the musical group The Texas Rangers, along with Tex Owens, as honorary members of the state’s famed law enforcement group. The honor bestowed upon the Rangers prompted them to compose an interoffice memo expressing their disappointment that Tex would be honored alongside them considering he had not been a member. The memo also included some disagreements between the group and Tex. You can read more about this controversy, see the original memo, and learn of the outcome from a blog post written by one of the project students: Tex Owens: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Black History Month: Zora Neale Hurston on American School of the Air

hurston

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The American School of the Air was an educational radio program aired on CBS during the 1930s and 40s. The long-running show tackled American history, science, music and literature under the heading of daily subjects such as “Frontiers of Democracy,” “Science Frontiers,” “This Living World,” and “Gateways to Music” and broadcasts were often used as a supplement to classroom education across the nation.

On December 8, 1938 the umbrella title was “American Literature of the Twentieth Century” and the guest was author, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. In this very rare episode of American School of the Air, Hurston tells African-American folk tales from her collection entitled Mules and Men. These may be the only audio recordings in existence of her reading these particular works.

Among the folktales heard here are “Why There Are Negroes and Other Races,” “How God Made Butterflies,” a series of animal tales as well as tales of exaggeration as heard below:

[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Zora-Neale-Hurston-tells-an-exaggera.mp3|titles=Zora Neale Hurston tells a tale of exaggeration.]

Perhaps best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston was active during the Harlem Renaissance alongside such contemporaries as Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. She received widespread criticism for her heavy use of dialect in her writing. Critics felt she was perpetuating a longstanding tradition of racially charged stereotypes of African-American men, women, and children in literature and popular culture.  She was also praised, however, for her use of idiomatic speech and her dedication to preserving and handing down the grand tradition of African-American folklore and oral history.

Hurston’s work as an anthropologist led her to back to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, where she recorded oral histories and gathered ethnographic research on music and folklore dating back to the days of American slavery. She gives a brief history and explanation of “negro folktales” and their contribution to American culture at the begnning of the episode.

[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Zora-Neale-Hurston-explains-folk-tal.mp3|titles=Zora Neale Hurston provides a brief explanation of negro folk tales and their origins.]

The Marr Sound Archives holds approximately 162 episodes of The American School of the Air within the J. David Goldin collection, all of which are all searchable in the library catalog and RadioGoldindex and are available upon request.

Venereal Disease and Country Music

2013-08-05_VD_Goldin_RoyAcuffFor the seventh time, folk singer and songwriter Tom Glazer picks up his guitar, sees the red recording light go on, and sings at the microphone in all sincerity:

Don’t take a chance go see a doctor
Don’t take a chance go get examined
Don’t take a chance go see a doctor now.

Glazer was taking part in an experiment by the Public Health Service, began in the late 1940s, called “VD Radio Project” (the “VD” was a nicer way of saying venereal disease).  He wrote and performed this little song to introduce seven short announcements about venereal disease and the importance of getting seen by a doctor.

VD Radio Project’s goal was to educate the public and dispel taboos about syphilis, gonorrhea, and other venereal diseases. Other than the seven short recordings done by Glazer, the rest of the series consisted of fifteen minute episodes. Some were straight radio dramas, and some were real life stories and voices from those affected by venereal diseases. But the episodes of “VD Radio Project” that had the most impact used a powerful weapon–popular musicians like Tom Glazer, Woody Guthrie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, and Hank Williams.

These episodes were typical radio dramas in one sense but were also partly told in verse and sung in ballad. The guest stars functioned as sort of narrators and sort of troubadours. These mixtures of music and drama Erik Barnouw, creator of the series, called “hillbilly operas.” The songs were sometimes reactions to situations, but also were used to move the plot forward. Alan Lomax, a pioneer in collecting and preserving American folk music, was key in creating this style of radio musical drama.

One episode written by Lomax, Looking for Lester, integrated Roy Acuff and His Smokey Mountain Boys into a drama based on a true story. The episode is about Lester, who falls in love with Ann, but sleeps with another girl and contracts syphilis. Or as Roy Acuff put it: “Old Lester was fit to be tied, went to the bar and got fried,” and then, “went on a spree that was a dilly, with a filly named Millie!”

Lester returns to Ann, and the young couple marry.

Sound your “G” chord boys and I’ll tell Lester’s story.

A chord is strummed on a steel string guitar and Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys play this tune:

Is there anything nicer in the whole round world my honey
Is there anything nicer in the whole round world My babe.
Is there anything nicer in the whole round world
When a girl loves a boy and a boy loves a girl.
Honey o baby mine.

Lester and Anne got married in May my honey
Lester and Anne got married in May my babe
Lester and Anne got married in May
Life was happy and life was gay
Honey o baby mine.

But, alas, everything is not so happy. Ann gets pregnant and during a checkup with her doctor she finds out that she has syphilis. Lester leaves in anger and shame. Roy Acuff gives the drama a touch of reality by informing the audience that this is about someone he really knows who might be listening. He begs his friend to come back to his wife and their child, and tells him that syphilis can be cured.

J. David Goldin calls this radio play, “Good radio!” And I agree. Especially since it and the other “hillbilly operas” treaded new ground artistically for radio. They combined the popularity of musical celebrities, original song writing and singing, radio drama, real life experiences, elements of radio opera, and medical advice all to an altruistic end.

These musical episodes of “VD Radio Project” are getting attention today for the stars that were in them. The episode with Hank Williams has understandably been given much attention. A researcher in New Hampshire, Fred Bals, is currently writing a book about the series and plans to do research at Marr. We say, “good luck!” to Fred, and hopefully, lots more books will come out of the J. David Goldin Collection!

Troy Cummings, guest contributor

Wartime woes with Whitehouse

Vic & SadeNowadays, the experience of living in a country at war often appears to affect only those Americans whose friends and family members deploy to combat zones. In the 1940s, however, the experience of war pervaded nearly every aspect of everyday life in America. For people living during those dark times, listening to Vic & Sade — one of America’s most beloved radio dramas — was no exception. The show, which centered on the life of a married suburban couple, Victor and Sade Gook, and their adopted son, Rush, had been extremely popular among radio listeners for almost a decade prior to America’s entrance into the Second World War. The demands of the war, however, quickly tested the program’s durability. According to Wikipedia:

“During World War II, the actor who played Rush, Bill Idelson, was called into military service, and he left the show. The spring months of 1943 were a tumultuous period, but eventually a second son figure, Russell Miller (David Whitehouse), was brought in, and the program continued as it always had. The show faltered somewhat with Whitehouse, who sounded as if he was reading his lines aloud in school. Idelson later returned as Rush.”

The Arthur B. Church collection contains numerous episodes of Vic & Sade from the program’s later years on the air. While cataloging, we’ve come across only one episode from the Whitehouse run. Nevertheless, it was enough to convince us of the fairness of Wikipedia’s assessment. Listen to a sample here. [audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2012-03-22_VicSade_Church_kmbc-258.mp3|titles=Vic and Sade]

It might be a stretch to propose that the failure of this substitution led to the discontinuation of the show only shortly after Bill Idelson’s return in 1945. Nevertheless, listening to the sample that you’ve just heard lead us to believe that it contributed to what was likely a premature end.

Christina Tomlinson, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student

National Women’s History Month

2012-03-08_WomensHistoryMonth_Goldin_we-can-do-itNational Women’s History Month was initially only celebrated for a week during the month of March. In 1987, United States Congress passed a resolution expanding the observance from a week to a month due to the appeals made by the National Women’s History Project (NWHP). In celebration of National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, I would like to highlight a few of the various radio programs available in the J. David Goldin Collection that feature women.

The collection contains interviews with the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Adele Astaire, Marian Anderson, Hildegarde, Ilka Chase, Gertrude Lawrence, (Savings Bond campaign. Prominent women series. Program nos. 7-12), and Jessie Street (A look at Australia. Program no. 42, Women in the United States) just to name a few.

In addition to interviews, the collection also contains dramas, such as the story of well-known suffragist, Susan B. Anthony who was arrested for trying to vote on Nov. 18, 1872 (Lest we forget. Second series, program no. 17), stories about women’s rights (The U.N. story. No. 55, A little bit of justice; U.N. story. #16, Adam’s rib), and stories about how women have contributed and been an integral part of society (Lest we forget. 5th series, program no. 8, A better world for youth; A story for you. Program no. 6, Princess Kartini schools for girls). Besides interviews and dramas you can also find debates with female political figures, music programs featuring a variety of female singers, and much more waiting to be discovered.

Patricia Altamirano, Library Specialist, Special Formats

Good radio

J. David GoldinWhen J. David Goldin visited UMKC in May 2010, I could not pass up the opportunity to speak with him. He has listened to and annotated thousands upon thousands of hours of historical American radio. He has a passion for radio, as he said in our conversation, “I collected the stuff because I like to listen to it.”

There are not many people in the world with his knowledge and exposure to radio. So I decided to ask him the ultimate question:

“What is good radio?”

He replied, “It’s a tough question. How can one put that in words?”

“It makes you use your mind…it actually makes you think about what you are listening to. A lot of people listen to the radio, but don’t really hear it today.”

“Good radio makes you want to listen.”

“What are you looking at when you listen to the radio? It’s one of the few things that you do, where you don’t need your eyes. And so, do you look at the radio receiver, do you look across the room, let your eyes go out of focus? My favorite program would be the kind where you forget your eye completely and just listen with your imagination.”

I asked him to give me some examples of good radio. He said as far as writers, Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin are high on his list.  If he was stranded on an island with one radio series it would be the Jack Benny program. He also mentioned a specific play titled The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice.

“[The Dark Tower] was totally different from anything else I had ever heard before. I would pinpoint that one as the most interesting program that I ever heard. It was totally different then any of my other experiences.”
The radio play is a fantasy about the youngest and last son in a family of many sons. All of the men in his family including the father have gone to fight a dragon and never returned. As he travels toward the dark tower where the dragon lives, he battles with his loyalty to his family’s history and his own personal desires. The story takes him through many magical and metaphysical situations, and has a profound, thrilling ending (you must hear it!).
“Good radio should be intrinsically radio,” Goldin also said. And The Dark Tower is an example of this. It is a play that is so engaging because it plays in the mind in fantastical ways that would be spoiled in a visual medium.

While the actual recording of The Dark Tower is very hard to get a hold of, there is a recording of an interview with its author and Edward R. Murrow and also a disc of MacNeice reading some of his own poetry in the Marr Sound Archives.

Goldin emphasized at one point, “There aren’t that many people interested in creative radio, or radio as an art form. It seems to have gone far away.” But thanks to Goldin and his preservation of so many historical American radio recordings there is a chance for this situation to change. “Good radio” is worth the listening.

Troy Cummings, guest contributor

Celebrating Black History Month: Remembering Where We’ve Been and How Far We Have to Travel

Richard WrightWithin the Goldin collection, the political roundtable debates, dramas with social commentary, and panel discussions about real and significant problems, most of which have no answer and are still legitimate problems in America and abroad, are very relevant, despite the age of the recordings.

There are occasionally discs that will always stand out, such as This is South Africa: South African Problem. The “problem” referred to in the title is the “natural” cultural and developmental differences between indigenous South Africans and white South Africans. As the speaker explains it, racial segregation was necessary to allow particular races to enjoy their own cultural differences; indigenous tribes like the Zulu (there is an interesting, if not completely related, program on polygamy in Zulu society on the reverse of this disc) could continue their traditional ways of life without interference, and Europeans and European descendants were free to abide by their own ways of living. The real and harsh reality is that those justifications are false, almost laughably false if not for the terror they conceal. A point that the speaker stressed throughout was the different technological developments that separated the indigenous ethnic groups from the white South Africans. They never used the phrase, but “separate but equal” sums up his argument. We all know the history of that thinking in our own homeland.

Racial segregation in South Africa had begun during the colonial period, but didn’t become official policy and law until 1948. The South African general election of 1948 which created the system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party government that would later be known as apartheid was held May 26, 1948 and this disc was broadcast Dec. 12, 1948. The proximity of this broadcast to the passage of that law is astounding, and one assumes, a broadcast like this, intended for an international audience (and in this particular case, an American audience) was to present it in a positive light. When this vote was cast in South Africa, Jim Crow laws in the United States, in some form, had been around for over 70 years.

The reverse side of this disc features its own stand-alone program not meant to have any connection to this one, but featured a speaker making a statement about South Africa’s hospitality, weather, and other pleasantries saying, “[T]here’s something very familiar about South Africa to an American, so very much like our own country.” Heard in the context of the entire disc, this statement takes on a very different meaning than it was intended, but is all the more poignant.

Thankfully, there are many more discs in the Goldin collection that feature far more positive and progressive messages. New world a-coming is one outstanding example. This series focuses on many of the problems and challenges faced by racial and ethnic minorities in the US, and several programs focus on African Americans specifically.

Most of the programs focused specifically on discrimination in employment, such as A job for Jane which is about how labor unions are a solution to problems of unemployment and underemployment, and how everyone has the right to fair and equal employment, despite their race or gender; Black boy which is based on the autobiography by Richard Wright (pictured above), follows the difficulties faced by a young African American man trying to get a fair and decent job in the American South; and Color scheme is about a man hired to be the manager of a pharmaceutical factory (we’re to assume he’s white, because it’s never mentioned), who hires an African American to run one of the labs, and the discrimination he faces by his subordinates, as well as the factory’s owner. These dramas, in my opinion, are very impressive programs for 1945-46.

As important as these examples of the message that the American dream is for everyone, they aren’t too far removed from the reality of the time: as Goldin notes on the inventory form for Black boy, the part of the young African American man, Richard Wright, is played by a prominent (white) Jewish actor (although another post in itself, “New pilgrim,” deals with the discrimination faced by Jews in America.)  So was the reality of show business in America.

With the risk of continuing this increasing long blog post, let me briefly mention a few other programs of note, Neither free nor equal: The hate merchants is a dramatic-documentary about intolerance and discrimination in the United States, including useful ways to deal with hate mongers. Groups highlighted as being discriminated against include Jews, African Americans, communists, Catholics, and Protestants. A program called Creighton University of the air: Contributions of the colored race to the American heritage is a panel discussion about the contributions of African Americans to American society and takes the stance that greater equality for African Americans will be of benefit to the entire country by allowing more people to be working towards the greater good. Finally, there is a very interesting discussion from a program called In our opinion: The Negro and communism which discusses if communism is a more effective system for African Americans than the current system of capitalism. Whether it was or not is irrelevant when put in the context that this was 1947 and being an American and communist, or the mere appearance of “communist sympathizing” was dangerous for anyone of any background, to say the least.

There are other such programs in this collection, and I’m sure, there will be more to come. For assistance searching the Goldin collection, or any other, you can contact your friendly neighborhood reference librarian or Marr staff.

Anthony Prince, Goldin Project staff

Phenomenon: Electrifying history, but not advertisers

PhenomenonOf the numerous radio programs produced in the 1930s, few seemed to have caused more stress for Arthur B. Church than Phenomenon: Electrifying History. Written by long-time radio personality Ted Malone, this series is one that always proved to be entertaining for the listeners, but fell short of attracting lucrative sponsors.

After days of listening to the series, a number of us considered Phenomenon a favorite among Church’s productions. It can only be described as a science-fiction historical drama, rife with all the archetypes that make such shows enjoyable. The story follows the adventures of Jerry Powers, your typical man about the world. He has all the character traits of the overly confident hero, always finding a way to get out of a tight spot. Dr. Light is your mad scientist to the townsfolk, but a real genius among his friends and family. Light’s daughter Katherine is naïve but sweet, naturally playing the role of the sheltered damsel. She falls in love—and danger—at the drop of a hat. Then there are comedic caricatures like the stereotypical mobster henchman Slim McGuiness or the always-helpful-but-difficult-to-understand Chinese manservant Charlie Wong.

The dynamic cast of characters is met with an extraordinary invention: Dr. Light’s anachrophone, a device that harnesses radio waves and uses them to propel a person back in time. With the anachrophone Dr. Light hopes to be able to pinpoint time-travel with the intent to find his late wife, but to test the machine he requires the brave services of Jerry. As Jerry travels back through time, he is charged with the mission to persuade historical figures to embrace electricity, thereby changing history for the better. In a typical episode, it is not surprising to find Jerry in the presence of a great ruler urging them to build a power plant in their ancient city. In fact, his salesmanship often produced positive results; in one episode Jerry convinces a number of Founding Fathers to build a telegraph network to help the colonies communicate in case of danger. As a result, they are able to warn each other that the “British are coming” and prepare for battle. Notice how Paul Revere didn’t get the credit for that one? What’s more is that these happy historical moments are often met with cruel twists in the plot as the local Murdoch gang repeatedly attempt to steal Dr. Light’s anachrophone invention and use it to gain power.

It had everything: action, suspense, humor, drama, and romance. Throughout the Phenomenon series we found ourselves interested in the next chapter, emailing summaries to each other so we were ready for the next twist in the plot. And now that it’s over, I must say it’s rather sad we don’t have the final episodes of the original run. What is sadder is that Phenomenon, with all of its time-traveling, has all but disappeared from history.

Phenomenon was originally produced in partnership with KCP&L to advertise electricity. After it became a local success, Church approached World Broadcasting System in early 1932 to record the series. Church pushed for syndication the following year, but the demand was insufficient. In the mid-1930s, it was made clear that KCP&L was satisfied with the original six month run and did not wish to record more episodes. Church, likely frustrated at being snubbed, then tried selling the series to other power companies and radio stations in the Midwest, broadening Phenomenon’s audience.

The series was re-recorded with a Hollywood cast in 1937 and broadcasted to new regions throughout the 1940s. National reviews for the show were mixed. A number of telegraphs to KMBC indicate that audiences enjoyed the series. It was argued that the war in Europe allowed audiences to be more publicly aware of the global locations discussed in the show and were therefore more interested in the story. In spite of the positive reception, those that were in charge of actually purchasing the program were hesitant. One of the reasons, as suggested in a meeting among KMBC executives, was that the power and light companies that were being targeted for the show either weren’t interested or didn’t understand the need for radio advertisements. They were more likely to spend their money on newspaper ads or persuading local government to achieve success rather than use radio.

In 1943 Church’s Chicago-based salesman George Halley suggested in a memo that Church pursue national advertisers for the show and abandon the urge for local power and light sponsorship. It was also suspected—and feared— that Ted Malone was considering selling his idea elsewhere. One can get a sense in the forties that some big changes were needed to salvage the dwindling program. Sadly, the national sponsor that Halley had hoped for was never found and the tangles among the local stations’ executives were never solved. As a result, future episodes of Phenomenon were never recorded. Church’s business records follow Phenomenon until the late forties and then drop like a brick in the wake of Texas Rangers’ national syndication and rapidly growing fame.  This program ran for more than ten years, yet all we have left is a treasured collection of episodes and a couple boxes of paperwork that reveal its struggle for success.

Selected episodes and resources from Phenomenon:

•    The first episode.
•    How electricity was advertised.
•    How Jerry Powers played a vital role in the American Revolution.
•    For information on electric products advertised on Phenomenon, see Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, box 1, folder 29 in LaBudde Special Collections.
•    The promotional portfolio.
•    For transcripts of the conferences on Phenomenon and Church’s plan for the show’s national success, see Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, box 1, folders 4 and 5 in LaBudde Special Collections.

Christina Tomlinson, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student

Back to school

2012-01-04_BackToSchool_Goldin_CollegeStudentsStuding1941As another semester begins on campus, it is an appropriate time to highlight some of the recordings in the J. David Goldin Collection that feature colleges and universities. From academic pursuits to student life to college songs, many aspects of the college experience are captured on these recordings from the 30s through the 50s.

From the academic side of college life, the collection contains a large number of forums and debates hosted and produced by various colleges. The two most prevalent titles of this genre come from a pair of Chicago schools. Northwestern University reviewing stand and the University of Chicago round table brought together various experts, many of them faculty at each respective school, to debate current political, social, and economic topics. Recordings from forums and debates at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School can also be found.

In addition, several recordings of lectures can be found in the collection, including a large number of lectures from Ohio State University. These lectures on topics ranging from philosophy to radio were recorded in the classroom and not intended for broadcast. Lectures and appearances by faculty made on local radio stations can also be found. For example, recordings on topics such as St. Patrick and modern Ireland and literary criticism were broadcast over the air.

Study abroad is an important part of the college experience for some students. There are several programs in the J. David Goldin Collection that capture interviews with American students studying abroad. Most of these programs focus on American students studying in Europe at schools such as Oslo University and Heidelberg University. These students were generally interviewed about the differences between student life in Europe and the United States, both in the classroom and outside of it. For the opposite perspective, there are programs featuring foreign students speaking about their experiences studying at colleges and universities in the United States. A good example is Dutch students speak, program no. 10, which features interviews with Dutch students who studied in the United States. These recordings offer a unique insight into the characteristics of American colleges and universities.

School songs, while maybe not as popular now as they once were, have a special place in college tradition. The J. David Goldin Collection contains a large amount of music, and within these musical recordings are many school songs. Some notable discs are two by the U.S. Marine Band, program no. 21 and program no. 23, that contain school songs from Georgia Tech, VMI, Cornell, and many others. Another is a transcription disc of Clyde Lucas and his orchestra featuring songs from Notre Dame, Purdue, Illinois, and the University of Chicago.

These recordings, along with many more from a wide range of genres, are waiting for your use and can be found in the J. David Goldin Collection housed in the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Timothy Gieringer, Goldin Project staff