Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Death of a President: The Way It Was, 12 April

1945---His thinning, weakened appearance has startled some of those who've seen him in person, as Congress did upon his return from the Yalta conference two months earlier. At his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, preparing for an anticipated appearance at the founding conference of what will be the United Nations, the 32nd President of the United States, who has made old-time radio his own via his Fireside Chat series and other appearances, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after complaining of a severe headache while sitting for a portrait.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's death probably hits with such ferocity of grief because---aside from the shock of any President dying in office, never mind one conducting a war of the magnitude and ultimate ramifications of World War II---his presidency coincided with radio's unquestioned height as a primary and rapid mass medium. And radio now brings so stunning a death (such were the times that Roosevelt's health issues and private life were not dissected contemporarily, as will occur in later generations to later Presidents) to the country's homes with shattering immediacy.

The place for analysing Roosevelt's life, work, and legacy is not here. The place for reviewing the manner in which radio accepted, conveyed, and discussed his death and its immediate impacts, and shepherded a nation if not a world through its gravity, is.

A BULLETIN---Breaking into a broadcast to announce the news of Roosevelt's death from a cerebral hemorrhage.

A NEWS SUMMARY---CBS World News editor John Daly and CBS correspondent Robert Trout review the doings and undoings surrounding the President's death immediately, including early reaction from around the world and a report of the last legislation Roosevelt was known to have signed as President.

A REPORT FROM WARM SPRINGS---CBS's Don Fisher delivers a gentle report from Warm Springs itself, including reaction to Roosevelt's death from around the small region he made his second home.

THE ORDER OF SUCCESSION---From Washington, CBS's Bill Henry delivers a formal introduction of newly-sworn Harry S. Truman and a discourse on the constitutional order of succession.

A CRITIC EMPATHISES---A frequent, often unapologetic critic of Roosevelt's New Deal delivers a brief, sober, but implicitly empathetic report: Fulton Lewis, Jr. for Mutual.

"MR. ROOSEVELT PILOTED THE NATION TO WITHIN SIGHT OF VICTORY"---The Blue Network, not quite yet known entirely as ABC (it was spun off from NBC following a Federal Trade Commission round a few years earlier), with continuing coverage of the President's death.

"THE GREATEST CASUALTY"---New York's usually ebullient Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia sounds anything but, when he goes on city-owned WNYC to discuss Roosevelt's death.


1924: PASSING THE TESTS---After two days' testing, Chicago's Sears, Roebuck & Company launches their new radio station officially, assigning it call letters that stand acronymously for "World's Largest Store."

As I remember, the call letters WLS were not definitely selected until that afternoon (of April 12th). Much consideration had been given to other call letters, among them, WBBX, WJR and WES.

---George C. Biggar, WLS farm/market director and eventual program director.

Launching WLS officially at 6 p.m. Central Time: stage/screen legend Ethel Barrymore . . . whose attack of mike fright caused her to launch the station on-the-air rather unforgettably: Turn the damned thing off!


1947: MARRIAGE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL---A newspaper article cautioning against taking marriage for granted catches Peg's (Paula Winslowe) eye and Riley's (William Bendix) cynicism ("I'm particular about the kind of trash that goes in my head")---until it begins getting into his head after Peg questions his attentiveness following an evening out, on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Junior: Scotty Beckett. Babs: Sharon Douglas. Waldo: Dink Trout. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Robert Sloane.

1948: TWELVE TO FIVE---In an episode that might inspire the eventual television series Early Edition, an easygoing disc jockey (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) receives an unexpected visitor who reads the news on the air---with the only problem being that the events are half an hour from actually happening, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (Mutual.)

Intruder: Jack LaSculi (an actual disc jockey and commentator). Additional cast: Connie Linton, Merrillee Joel, Ed Lattimer. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


1899---Boake Carter (as Ephraim Boake Carter; news commentator), Baku, Russia.
1902---John White (singer/actor: Death Valley Days), unknown.
1904---Lily Pons (as Alice Josephine Pons; singer: The Voice of Firestone, The Bell Telephone Hour), Draguigan, France.
1912---Herbert B. Mills (singer, The Mills Brothers: The Fleischmann Hour, The Mills Brothers Show, Piqua, Ohio.
1914---Ken Williams (actor: David Harum), Canada.
1918---Helen Forrest (as Helen Fogel; singer: Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Harry James and His Orchestra), Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1923---Ann Miller (as Lucille Ann Collier; dancer/actress, Forecast, Hollywood Hotel), Chireno, Texas.
1926---Jane Withers (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Atlanta.


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