Sunday, July 27, 2014

Out of the Past

Even though I've finally retired, I still "play" radio and TV.  I've left instructions that when they send me to "the Home," they are to include a cardboard mic and toy TV camera that I can amuse myself with while I wait for my final ride home.
Ed, Chuck Langdon, Sam Donaldson

Meanwhile, I'm still doing my OUT OF THE PAST show interviews on Virginia's Fairfax Cable Channel and posting them on the Internet. 

 My focus lately has been  WW2 veterans. I want to get as many of these heroes' stories on Video as I can.
Just last week we had scheduled  a US fighter pilot named Bob Clark to appear on the show who had fought in the Battle of Britain during the summer and autumn of 1940.

Unfortunately, just a few days before the interview we learned that Bob had passed away.

Bob's participation in England's famous battle was very unusual because the US was
officially still "neutral" then and it was illegal for any American to participate in "Europe's War." The penalty for doing so was imprisonment and loss of citizenship.

In spite of that, at least 9 American pilots flew for the Brits. 9 was the "official" number, but there were others, Bob Clark being one of them. Only 9 admitted their American citizenship and revealed their real names. The others, like Clark listed false names and citizenship. 
Billy Fiske

One of the volunteers was 29 year old Billy Fiske, one of the most spectacular sportsmen in Olympic history.  He had completed the Le Mans 24 hour auto race when he was only 19 and earned the title "The King of Speed" by dominating bobsledding at the age of 16, the youngest ever winner  of a winter Olympics gold medal for the bobsled.

Fisk and, I believe, most of the other American pilots were killed in those dogfights. I understand that Hollywood either has or is thinking about a movie about Fiske. There is also an Aspin Colorado connection. Fiske was responsible for construction of the first ski lift at that location.

Technology moves so fast these days that it's almost impossible to keep up. In 1951 our  music was all on 78 rpm records. A few years later the 45's and 33 1/3 came along. Then 8 track, then the cassette...etc.

Now, I'm not sure what the most popular listening device is for music.  The Ipod?  Heck, I can't keep up, but I know the audio cassette has almost disappeared.  I received one last week that the person found in his parent's old cedar chest and had no idea what was on it or how to listen to it. But he suspected it might contain some valuable "family history."

It does, but the quality is poor.

It's of his father describing his adventures in WW1.  If it's as interesting as I think it will be, I'll pass along a few excerpts. It would not be unusual for a few in our class to have had fathers who fought in WW1.

I've only been able to "skim" the tape, but one thing that got my attention was the fact that he mentioned "Peach Pits" a number of times.  He said that Americans were collecting peach pits.  I immediately thought of our childhood and the collection of tin cans and "silver paper."
Peach Pits for Victory

Well, it turns out that peach pits saved thousands of lives on the battlefield since it was learned that the dreaded poison gas the Germans were using could be subdued with activated charcoal, made from peach pits.

Nobody talks about WW1 anymore, but I believe most historians now agree that it shouldn't have happened.

They say it started almost by accident. So many nations had so many "treaties" that the one nut who shot the Archbishop Somebody of Somewhere more or less automatically triggered that horrible war.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War 1 was over 37 million.

The Battle of Verdun lasted 10 months, the French suffered 540,000 casualties and the Germans 430,000 and no strategic advantage was gained by either side.

After I've listened to the whole tape, I'll let you know what that voice from the past has to say.

Stay tuned.


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
 I am the grass; I cover all. 

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
     What place is this?
    Where are we now?

     I am the grass.
     Let me work.
-Carl Sandburg

Monday, July 21, 2014


I was saddened by James Garner's death last week, although anyone who lives a life as successful and long as he did left "on quite a rush;" which is a card shark's term meaning running extremely lucky and winning a large proportion of hands.

Bret Maverick, the adroitly articulate card shark on Maverick is the way I remember him.  That show premiered on TV in September of 1957 nine months before I went to work for my first commercial TV station, WSOC-TV.  As I recall, it was the most popular non CBS show to ever compete with the Tiffany network up to that time.

By the summer of 1958, it had really begun to get high ratings and those of us at Charlotte's channel 9 were ecstatic to know that we finally might beat WBTV, the big boy on the block, in at least ONE time slot.

We were well aware that we were number two in town, not only the second TV station to go on the air (Channel 3 had been broadcasting since 1949. It was the 13th TV station in the entire USA at the time.) we also were affiliated with the number two (and 3) NETWORKS, NBC and ABC. There is a truism in TV that if you owned a CBS Television station in the 1950's and 60' was impossible not to become rich.

The building that now houses WSOC-TV was in the process of being built in the summer of 1958, so we broadcast our shows from the small transmitter building located in the Newell-Hickory Grove neighborhood, just outside Charlotte's northeastern city limits. Our one studio was less than the size of the average living room. All of our live shows came out of there, including Jimmy Kilgo's Saturday dance parties. In addition, all of our electronic equipment was also stuffed into that small building

So we were struggling. However, our management was eagerly looking forward to the next rating book to come out showing how strong the Maverick time period was.  That would mean a lot of money for the station. Plus, psychologically, it would have been a big boost for us. Almost everyone who worked at the station were pros with the possible exception of members of the "floor crew," and these were "trainees," many of whom worked their way into full time positions.
However, as in any business, there were some "clunkers."

James Garner
It was one of those who, on the first day of the rating period, accidentally spilled his soft drink into the main "switcher" and knocked the station off the air...for a week.
What a week to be off the air! So much for our first small victory over channel 3.

I'm not saying that had it not happened, Channel 9 would have overcome Channel 3's nine year "head start" and its CBS affiliation advantage but it sure would have felt good.

However, to quote Maverick himself,

''As my old pappy used to say,  Never cry over spilt milk. It could've been whiskey."


*Actually, WSOC-TV was Charlotte's third television station, after WBTV (channel 3) and WAYS-TV (channel 36, which operated from 1954 to 1955); it was Charlotte's second station on the VHF band. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I was wrong when I said (a couple of posts ago) that the first thing I was taught as a young radio announcer was that "silence was deadly."

That was the second.

The first one was, DON"T CURSE on the air.

Francis Fitzgerald and Ed Myers 1951
(Actually, Mr, Fitz, WGIV's owner, and the best boss I ever had in all the 63 years after that said "Don't CUSS on the air.)

Of course, the words he was talking about are considered mild, and even acceptable today.  "Damm" and "Hell" were the ones he had in mind. I think those were just about the only ones anyone knew back then.

It only required a little common sense to instinctively know not to spout obscenities over the airwaves intentionally, but he was warning us about accidentally letting something slip out.

Art Van Damme
There was a popular musical group called the Art Van Damm Quintet in the early 50's that we were required to announce as the Art Van Darn or the Art Van Dern Quintet.
Sometimes we called it the Art Van Heck Quintet.

The first person that I ever heard let a cuss slip out on WGIV was Eric Dehlin who ended the first half of his morning music show one minute before Julian Barber sat down to read the 12 noon news.  Now, WGIV only had one studio, one mic...and one chair for the on the air personality;  Julian, being the great prankster that he was would occasionally, while waiting for Eric to close out the first part of his show, click the switch to a different speed on the turn table where Eric had his theme song "cued up"  for his opening of the second half of his show. Then, he and Eric would quickly change places.

Eric Dehlin
Julian Barber

After the news, they would again, swap places.

Following that particular newscast, what the listener heard was Eric re-introducing his show, "Hi folks, Eric Dehlin back again with the second half of our Morning Serenade"
Then he would roll the theme song...which back then was on a 78 rpm record...but because Julian had changed the turntable speed it started playing at 33 and a third.

That's when Eric made WGIV history with a loud "G--Dammit"...with the mic still on.

I'm not sure what Eric said after that, but if it had happened to me I think I would have started "vamping" like crazy, hoping the listeners hadn't been paying attention, or convinced themselves that they had only imagined that they heard....what they heard.

As fast as I could, I would have begun rattling off any and everything that I could think of hoping to distract the listener:

What is called a "French kiss" in the English speaking world is known as an "English kiss" in France.

"Almost" is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.

"Rhythm" is the longest English word without a vowel.

Right handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people

Your ribs move about 5 million times a year, every time you breathe!

The elephant is the only mammal  that can't jump!

One quarter of the bones in your body, are in your feet!

Like fingerprints, every one's tongue print is different!

The first known transfusion of blood was performed as early as 1667, when Jean-Baptiste, transfused two pints of blood from a sheep to a young man

Fingernails grow nearly 4 times faster than toenails!

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian.

Now, something tells me that I might have written about this before.  The elderly are known for doing that.

We are also known for not remembering stories that we have read before.  And since this website checks your ID before you come in, I think it's a wash.

While I have such a mature audience together, I'll pass along a very funny and equally true story that happened over at WBTV on Fred Kirby's popular kiddie show.
Fred Kirby WBTV

Even though It was a live show he would often take the mic into the audience and interview the kids.  That's a very dangerous thing to do, but for a pro like Fred Kirby, he and his producer were confident he could handle just about anything. And he could!
On this occassion, he was talking to a group of kids...and suddenly over on the side a cute couple of 7 or 8 year old black kids started laughing hysterically.

So Fred couldn't resist going over to them to find out what was so funny. It was good TV...the pictures of the kids laughing were precious...their laughter was contagious...and Fred kept asking what they were laughing about...they wouldn't say. The boys kept laughing, and Fred kept asking....

Until finally one of the boys gave in...and with Fred holding the mic 4 inches from the kid's face still pleading to know why he was laughing... the boy replied,  "Leroy F..ted!"

Well, they say Fred began strumming his guitar faster than anyone had ever seen before......

Moral of the story:  Be careful what you ask for....for you shall surely get it. -Ed

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Just the Facts. Mamm"

Henry Morgan and Jack Webb
of Dragnet
Legendary CHS RAMBLER reporter and editor Warren Sparrow, who was well on his way to an outstanding career as a journalist and newspaper reporter before discovering that there was a lot more money to be made in the lawyer business checked in regarding my story about "silence."

The premise of my story was how loud silence is on the radio.

Warren agreed, and added that it was also a "no, no" in the newspaper business.


He explained:

 "Your endless facts drove me to another place and another time. I may be a tad fuzzy on the time, the summer of 1964, but the place was the Winston-Salem Journal newsroom.  

I was in law school at Wake and was working as a copy editor at the Journal.  It came to pass that a long list of your "facts" landed in my basket, meaning I had to write a one-line headline for each of the little gems.  These items were stock-piled in the composing room and used as fillers.  You might say they were the print version of what you said on the air.  Blank space, like silence on the radio, could not be tolerated in the newspaper.  If a story turned out to be too short, a filler was tacked on at the end.

Now back to the story....  Being the conscientious type, I started grinding through my stack of "facts," using much energy to write the perfect headline for each filler.  After about 20 minutes I came upon one which said something like this:  "There are 23,251 railroad ties between Richmond and Petersburg."  By this time I was out of "good ideas" so my bad side took over.  I chose "Useless Information" and sent the completed set to the composing room.
Wallace Carroll

A few days later a big note signed by the publisher (Wallace Carroll) was posted on the bulletin board. He said the paper would no longer use fillers.  He had seen "Useless Information" in the paper! From this point forward the Journal would add extra space between each line of type in order to make the stories fit.

There you have it.  It was my "finest hour."  Thanks for reminding me.



Thanks Warren, that's very impressive. I think most other newspapers followed suit soon after that.  I hope you got "royalties" for your forward thinking!

I also heard a story one time about silence being very loud in the "Light House" business.It seems that the old lighthouse keeper had been the perfect man for the job. He was what you call a loner. He had never married, didn't particularly like people, loved solitude,was never bored, and didn't like working hard.

He was required to live there, and because it was in a very remote location, in all the 40 years he had been on the job, only 2 ships a day passed by. One at 12 noon each day and the other at exactly midnight every night.

As each of these ships passed the light house, they would sound their loud horns. (Those of
you CHS54 grads who remember Lifebuoy Soap commercials on radio know exactly what they sounded like.)

For the first 10 years, the ship that passed at midnight would wake the lighthouse keeper. But as the years went by, he became very used to it and he would sleep right through the former midnight salute.

Just before the old man retired, he got word that the company the midnight ship was attached to was going out of business and would cease its shipping operation.

The day finally arrived and for the first time in almost 40 years at the exact stroke of midnight.......there was total silence!

At that very moment the lighthouse keeper jumped straight up in bed, and exclaimed,  "WHAT WAS THAT!"


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When in Doubt...Rattle On

Being chronologically gifted comes with its downsides.  Among them are:
  • Forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.
  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment.
  • Having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.
  • Walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
  • Becoming easily distracted.
  • Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.
But the experts say that's normal, so relax and forget about dementia.

But darn it, those brain burps sure are annoying.

What bothers me most is when I'm having a conversation with someone, or often a small group of people, and when it finally comes my turn ...and I'll all primed to make a powerful point....I suddenly forget what I was going to say. I draw a complete blank....and it usually takes a good long 15 or 20 seconds for the thought to come to me....

Well, if that ever happens to you....  instead of saying something like, pardon me, I'm having one of those "old codger moments" brain suddenly went completely blank......Or, even worse, allow the conversation to stop completely while you wait for your brain to get back into gear...

try an old radio announcer trick and ...vamp.
Ed and Barry calling UNC baseball game for WCHL

That's what we used to call it when we were describing something like a rain delay during a baseball game, or a parade or any live event that has moments when there's no action. Because the first thing you learn in radio is that silence is deadly. 

Perhaps that is also the best way to approach those brain freeze moments.

Try it. 

Next time it happens to you, instead of pausing to wait for the original thought to return...vamp:

 "It takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year's supply of footballs."

"The average life span of a major league baseball is 7 pitches."

"The airplane Buddy Holly died in was the "American Pie" (Thus the name of the Don McLean Song)

"Snails can sleep for 3 years without eating."

"Months that begin on a Sunday will always have a "Friday the 13th"

"The Eisenhower Interstate Highway system requires that one mile in every 5 must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies"

By this time, your original thought will have returned and you can continue with your conversation.

But, you say, "What if I can't remember those facts?"

They are so "out in left field" that I can almost promise that you will remember at least 3 of them, probably more. And I'll prove it.

Right now...without looking...see how many you can remember?

See. I told you.

"Keep those cards and letters coming folks."


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Look What I Found

Maybe it's been there all along, but I sure didn't see it until a day or so ago.

It's a digital collection of almost ALL of the Snips and Cuts annuals, ever printed!

The first one was published in 1909, before Central was even called Central!


And guess who it's dedicated to....

Charlotte North Carolina High School Yearbooks

These are a variety of  Charlotte NCHigh School yearbooks for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. If your ancestor attended high school during the years of 1909-1962 in Charlotte North Carolina then the following yearbooks may have a photograph of them. This is part of a collection of free yearbooks being scanned and placed online by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. Yearbooks provide a window into student life. From sports teams to clubs, fashions to hairstyles, these volumes document the changing attitudes and culture of students year by year.
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing programhoused in the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at New Bern. The Digital Heritage Center works with cultural heritage institutions across North Carolina to digitize and publish historic materials online. The Digital Heritage Center provides libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions with the opportunity to promote and increase access to their collections through digitization.

You will, no doubt, notice that the only annual that has our class in it is the 1952 Snips and Cuts.
It seems to me that it is very strange indeed that this organization was able to find as many annuals as they did including the 1909 version, but was unable to locate a copy of the 1953 and 1954 versions.

 Weird, huh?
Well, anyway, here's the LINK.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Say Cheese

"Those who don't"
I hope you got as big a kick out of that picture titled "Those who DON"T" as I did on the post announcing this month's LDL.

It got me thinking again about why people didn't smile in those old photographs of the late 1800's and early 1900's.  I always thought it was because of technology.  To properly expose the early film, you needed the shutter of the camera to stay open a fairly long time in order for enough light to make the image on the "slow" film.

The very first photograph  taken in 1826, View from the Window at Le Gras, took 8 hours to
World's first photograph 1826
expose. When Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype in 1839, he managed to shave this time down to just 15 minutes. This was a revolutionary breakthrough for photography, but still not good enough for smile-friendly portraits.

For most of the studio photographic portraits of the early 1900's the camera shutter had to be held open for about 60 seconds or a little longer, and that's a long time to hold a smile.  Too long, the theory goes, to keep the lips from moving even slightly which would have caused a blur.

The solution it seemed was to NOT smile.

Mystery solved.

Mark Twain
But maybe not.  I think I can hold a smile for 60 secs. Others say they can

So perhaps that wasn't the only reason. Bad teeth and the fact that having your portrait taken was considered a rather formal occasion have also been cited as causes for such serious poses.
That makes a lot of sense to me because if any of us were to go back in time I think the first thing we would notice about the people of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would be their rotten teeth.

Abe Lincoln
But Nicholas Jeeves, writing in the Public Domain Review has come up with a couple of different conclusions. He says that rotten teeth were so common back then that they weren't even noticed and certainly didn't detract from what was then considered "attractive."

We think of smiles as warm and friendly. But Jeeves points out that,

"By the 17th century in Europe it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment."

Mark Twain once wrote that,  A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

Apparently, that mindset remained until the Kodak Brownie became popular.  The very first Brownie was manufactured in 1901. A popular story Explaining how Kodak got its name claims that it was named for the sound the Brownie made when the shutter was pushed. (Frankly it sounded more like "KaPlunk" to me, but no company named KaPlunk would have been the same.)  

But that story is not true. George Eastman, the founder himself said that he'd simply made it up.
"I always liked the letter "K." It seems a strong and incisive kind of letter. It became a question of trying a great number of combinations of letters starting and ending with the letter "K" and "Kodak" is the result."

The "Brownie" was named after cartoon characters drawn by Canadian Cartoonist Palmer Cox which featured little fairy like figures called "Brownies."  (Notice original Brownie Box above.)

Anyway, Kodak began advertising it's camera, which sold for $1 dollar, by showing happy
Picture from early Brownie ad
people taking pictures of other happy people smiling and having fun.  Gradually, the message got out that it was OK to smile in photographs. Besides, these were a different kind of photographs. They were informal photographs of ordinary people.They were "snapshots." 

By the mid-20th century, photography in general had become much faster, much cheaper, and much more casual. People were also taking better care of their teeth. Smiling became, not only accepted, but almost mandatory when posing before the now ubiquitous ( I love that word) Brownie. "Say Cheese" were the magic words that 97.5% of the time preceded the "KaPlunk" of millions of Brownies.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

There are 2 Types of People

Those who DON'T

And those who DO!

Attend the CHS54 LDL's (Let's Do Lunches) !!!

And you are in luck....there just happens to be another one this Tuesday at Jimmies of Mint Hill (of course)!

Jerry Gaudet has the details:

This month's "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 11:30 AM
at "Jimmies" Restaurant in Mint Hill.
You are invited to join us. Spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! 

The food is great and the companionship is spectacular!

You'll meet those great high school buddies of yours plus make some new old buddies you didn't know that well when you were at Central.

There will be cheerleaders

and Athletes


PLUS....the food is GREAT.  Don't miss it. It's an EVENT!
and...if you can,

Bring a friend.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Time Machine

“How did it get so late so soon?” 
― Dr. Seuss

Elgin made in 1927

How I cherish this family heirloom. It was my father's watch. He purchased it in 1927 and probably pulled it out of his pocket to check the time at least 15 times a day for the rest of his life.  

It got him to the Church on time to marry my Mom.

It got him to work on time each day.

He kept checking it while waiting at Mercy Hospital for my sister and then, me, to be born and finally 21 years later at that same hospital he checked it for the final time on Christmas Eve 1957.

Unfortunately, I don't believe I'll be able to pass on anything as personal and meaningful as that to my children.

My Timex just won't cut it.

The thought of wearing a wrist watch never even crossed my Dad's mind.  To him, and his generation, it would have been the equivalent of wearing a dress.  A wrist watch was something women wore.

It took a world war to change that attitude.

A great article in the June SMITHSONIAN magazine explains that,
WW1 Pilot
"... during World War I. Officers began using wristwatches to coordinate the new style of attack: opening with a barrage of gunfire to stun and destabilize the enemy, followed immediately by an onrush of soldiers.“You’d want the soldiers to be alert to the fact that the guns were about to stop, and be ready to spring,” says David Boettcher, a British horologist who has researched wartime watch-wearing. This required precise timing, and officers fumbling around in the dark for a pocket watch wouldn’t do. To make the wristwatches easily legible in battle, watchmakers fashioned them with large, round faces that had prominent dark numbers set off by a white porcelain backing and coated in radium that glowed brilliantly in the dark."

And Suddenly, wrist watches became Manly!

Men began to realize that it was difficult to reach into your pocket to check the time when you were "on the go," such as riding a bicycle, a horse or driving a car.  Besides, it was dangerous. Men might have figured this out earlier, but there was no TV back then of course, and radio PSAs (Public Service Announcements) had not been invented yet, so they had to figure it out on their own that ..."watching?"...or "timing?" while driving, or whatever some ad agency would have eventually called it, could be hazardous to their health.

PSAs on radio didn't exist until the government started selling War Bonds during WW2. 
By that time 90% of American men were wearing wrist watches. So no ad agency had to figure out a clever name for "pulling your watch out of your pocket."

Fashion Statement
Those watches of the early 1900's, like my Dads, did more than just tell time. They made a statement. As Alexis McCrossen of Southern Methodist University wrote, "You were a modern person, a timekeeping person, a regular person."  He pointed out that a 1913 Hamilton watch ad described the watch as a tool for moral improvement. "The Hamilton leads its owner to form desirable habits of promptness and precision."

A new word for a person like that found its way into the dicti0nary:  A "Stemwinder." someone who habitually wound his watch.

But Don't be surprised if before long watches start going back into pockets or maybe even drawers.

The battle for the prime techno real estate on the human body is heating up and the head ain't it.

Although,  people who wear a computer on their head
are also making a statement, which, in my opinion is "I am a freak!"

But mark my word, it won't be long before we'll be saying goodbye to the wristwatch and hello to some form of the computer whose first name will be wrist.