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Historical Fun

Dan’s feelin’ old

Some people call old times “the good old days,” and I think the older I get, the more I start to see this.

For those of use in radio pre-2000s (I’d say “pre-1996”) we knew a MUCH different version of radio than what exists today. I remember the day I walked in QFM, WLVQ, in Columbus, Ohio, where I was doing some part-time “rock jocking” and found a BE AudioVault monitor in front of me. The week before I was cueing up CDs, playing carts, and cueing up the occasional vinyl. Now I would be just standing there waiting for the computer to tell me it was “my turn”.

The week before, you had to plan “bathroom breaks” based on seeing “Stairway to Heaven” or “Low Spark of High Healed Boys” on the playlist. Now you just looked at the countdown time to the next break The announcer interaction with what was happening on the air went from every 4 to 5 minutes (on the average … less the previously mentioned “bathroom songs”), to every 15 to 18 minutes (since automation would just kept on truckin’).

Ahhh, “the good old days.”

Most of us pre-’96 remember carts and the boneheads that would push “stop” and pull the cart and put it back before it was recued … then we’d select it, go to play it, and have “dead air.”

Most of us pre-’86 remember cuing 45s and that familiar “cue burn” sound at the beginning or the fear of skipping as we checked the UPI or AP wires. We remember putting the turntable in cue, playing to the first sound, grabbing the disc by the edge and backing it up one-quarter of a turn. Some of us “slip cued” (meaning the turntable was moving as you held the disc and released it when you wanted it to play), while the luckier we’re using quick-start direct-drive turntables (often made by Technics).

Ahhh, … and the sound of the teletype machine in the newsroom, or realizing you just went three hours without bothering to “clear it” (pull the never-ending paper, rip the stories, and place them in the appropriate “subject bin”); or finding out you ran out of paper about two hours and 50 minutes earlier so your poor news people wouldn’t have stories from AP or UPI. (Oh, and back then there was no internet so having that paper print-out actually was important!)

Dang … I just realized I think I MIGHT be OLD!

So this week let’s just look at some old historical items (including some radio history) and reflect on “the good old days.”

The Good Old Days or Weird Old Days of National Public Radio
I’m a fan of NPR. There’s some awesome radio being produced by NPR and the affiliate stations from all over the county. However, I miss Click & Clack,. the “Car Talk” guys who were always a hoot! Hoping our own government continues to support our NPR and PBS stations, but that’s just me. I grew up with both and have worked for both so I have a deep appreciation for their mission and the skill and talent of the people behind our NPR & PBS stations. On this link, a reflection of NPR in the old days.

Here’s Smoke in Your Ear
Those of us over 50 remember days of babies sitting on parents laps when in a car and even cars without seat belts (certainly no shoulder restrains nor air bags). Okay, not all the “good old days” were actually good! Over the years, parents did a lot of things considered “good for the kids” based on misinformation, bad information, and wives’ tales.

For instance, I clearly remember being about six years old (1969) and having an earache. This is going to sound hilarious, but mom actually blew cigarette smoke in my ear! Really! No kidding! Somehow these nicotine infused cancer sticks had the “magic power” to cure ear aches! (I laughed out loud while writing this). Here’s a look back at some really interesting and certainly funny pieces of parenting wisdom from the past 100 years.

100-Year-Old Color Photos
While working on my degree at Ohio University in Athens, I did work on a corollary sequence in the School of Film. Like broadcast history, film history was interesting with Edison’s involvement and people like the Lumière Brothers and their work in film. In many film schools, the Lumière Brothers receive much of the credit for film techniques. They also get credit for Autochrome, an early color method that used dyed grains of potato starch to color film. I’m still fascinated to see 100 year old pictures in color. I really creates a different image and impression of life a 100 years ago when you see it in color.

’70s TV
I have to say that I’m a fan of old TV shows from every decade, but shows from the 1970s (including “reruns” of 1960s TV shows like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Star Trek”) stick out most in my mind. One of my favorite CD collections I have is actually six or seven CDs called “TV Toons,” which is nothing but all the theme songs from TV shows from the 1950s through the 1990s. Here’s a link to information and shows from the 1970s, from the Classic TV Database.

And if you want more information, here’s a “rerun” of a link that is my favorite link for TV and movie research. It’s the Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb.

And Speaking of Star Trek
I thought this was an interesting story from CNET. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” died many years ago (1991), but can you imagine finding 200 floppy disks with content he created? It would be interesting to see what story ideas he had or maybe some undeveloped “Trek” episodes. Of course, reading a 5.25-inch floppy disk from about 30 years ago isn’t simple. First, what program wrote it (hopefully simple ASCII info)? What drive put down the data and can you find a drive that can read it? Then what OS will you need to run the whole thing on? It’s interesting even in the fact that computers (for most of us) is still a relatively new technology, so having the ability to recover very old archival information isn’t something we’ve done a lot of (although disaster recovery has been done plenty of times). So here’s a good story related a little to “Star Trek” history, but mostly on the technology of recovering historical digital information.

Old TV
Like most things, TV has changed from the days of 12 channels (if you were lucky and had cable in the 1960s and 1970s) to hundreds of channels and in HD. But that’s technology, and it evolves.

Some things aren’t always improvements. It seems to me that a lot of the “goofy” local TV programs have nearly all dried up. As a kid growing up in the Cleveland TV shadow, we had Ghoulardi, Hoolihan & Big Chuck, then Big Chuck & Little John, Superhost, The Ghoul and other “late night hosts” or people on TV just having fun and playing bad movies. Hoolihan was actually a man named Bob Wells, who I got to meet in about 1985 on a flight from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. He had just finished filming a movie with John Candy, “Summer Rental.” We sat next to each other on the plane, then had a beer in the lounge at the airport. It was so cool to meet a guy I used to watch on TV (and a huge coincidence since I had just met his son Bobby at Lackland Air Force base).

Big Chuck is Chuck Schodowski, who was a producer and production person at WJW(TV). He got the gig hosting with Hoolihan after Ghoulardi gave up his show for Hollywood.

And who was Ghoulardi? His name was Ernie Anderson. In the 1970s you heard his voice everywhere on TV from saying “Parkay, it’s easy to spread” to saying “Coming up this Friday on A-B-C… it’s the Loooooovvvvveeee Boat!” with his beautiful baritone voice!

So the local TV station had a lot of fun and talented local people on the air producing a lot of good programs. Then along came inexpensive syndicated stuff (which only got expensive when it was good and had a following) and we saw most of these locally produced shows start to disappear.

Ernie Anderson is reflected in this link from his days as Ghoulardi at WJW TV 8 in Cleveland, though most people over 50 probably only know him as the voice of ABC in the 1980s.

And since we’re on Anderson, here’s a great link of him doing his voice-over work for ABC in the 1980s.

And finally …
A great old song, relived. Here’s Simon & Garfunkel reunited for a classic! Though this is 53 years after they originally recorded it, they still nail it with every perfect bit of harmony that existed decades ago.

If you stumble across a good or unusual website that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. My email address is [email protected].