Wednesday, December 31, 2014

" the voices we would hear on the radio..."

"I never forgot that New Year's Eve when Aunt Bea awakened me to watch 1944 come in. I've never forgotten any of those people or any of the voices we would hear on the radio. Though the truth is, with the passing of each New Year's Eve, those voices do seem to grow dimmer and dimmer."

                                                                                                                - Radio Days
                                                                                                                     written and directed by
                                                                                                                            Woody Allen
Gosh things have been busy around here lately.

At the beginning of December, I was asked to return to the Board of our Community Radio Station and to resume its Presidency. I can't say I was very happy about this turn of events. The request should have been enormously gratifying to my ego, but it wasn't. I had been enjoying a time of just working on my own show while others ran the station. It didn't help that shortly after returning to the Board, our ability to broadcast over the airwaves suddenly ended. Our webstream was still running, so it was fairly evident that there was a problem at our transmitter site. Our studio is downtown, but our transmitter and antenna are on a hill on one edge of town at the Austine School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. With enrollments falling since the recession started in 2007, the school found itself in trouble and cancelled the 2014 - 2015 academic year. A short time later they went bankrupt. The bank is currently managing the property.

Our signal gets from our studio to the campus via the internet. One day, without any warning, the internet company that provided DSL to the campus decided to shut down the school's service over unpaid bills. And we were off the air. It took a day to figure out what had happened. I had to go through two lawyers just to find out with which bank I needed to negotiate. Then it turned out that the bank was unaware of our close to 8 year presence on the campus. So our lease had to be produced. Then came negotiating with the internet company that provides service to our studio, which was the same company Austine used. They wouldn't turn the account back on due to the bankruptcy, the involvement of State funds, and etc. but they would open a new account up there for us. Of course, it would involve wiring by the phone company, which is on strike. The estimate to complete the job was over two months. If we were lucky. Finally we opened a business account with the local cable provider, which they installed in a little over one days' time. There were a number of further complications, of course. But we got back on the air.

It's taken me until today to get this week's radio show posted. I really should start a blog just for the show, but I've no idea where I would find the time. So here's the end of the year broadcast, beset by problems in production (my computer acted out) as well as with the internet delivery from our studio to our transmitter (old wiring installed at the school years ago failed - that's been fixed, too).


With Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to All.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Once more I find I'm not sure how to begin.

I look at the words I've typed and found them wanting.
Nothing seems quite right.

When I was a child, I was given swimming lessons at a not quite local pool. I have a vague memory that this was through the auspices of the Cub Scouts. I do remember that it was a bit of a drive. There were diving lessons, and I liked jumping on the diving board, savoring the spring of my body as it arced into the air while I aimed myself at the water which always smelled of too much chlorine. The instructor then sent me up the ladder of the high diving board. As I walked out to the edge to prepare for the dive, I was consumed by fear. Well, actually, it was more like absolute terror. I could not bring myself to do it. I may have climbed back down in ignominious defeat. The fact is, I don't remember. I do remember that finally there was nothing to do but to jump, which I think I did rolling myself into a cannon ball shape. Writing has become like that; I stop, look, and  while I don't exactly experience fear or terror, there is this hesitancy, this unsatisfied pause until the only thing to do is to dive in, whether it be graceful of form, or rolled into a ball which will splash anyone nearby.

The Brook House (reopened this year after years of darkness due to fire)
at the main corner of downtown, and the little park where the Dunkin'
Donuts parking lot used to be  - lit up for the Holiday Season 2014.
It is the day before Christmas, 2014. This is my 20th Christmas in Brattleboro. I have lived here longer than I lived in any other town or city. There is something about the Christmas - New Year axis, perhaps due to the cultural indoctrination of media seeking something to write about, that sends me wandering through the twisted paths of memory until I pause in summing up reflection and move on, ready to dive in elsewhere. (I pause again - reading "the Christmas - New Year axis" conjures a sense of evil and forbidding that was unintended, but perhaps a bit accurate.) These last few years, one thing has stood out to me each Christmas season - the lights are disappearing.

When I was a kid, we always put up outdoor Christmas lights. Ours were always a tasteful affair, simple strands entwined with laurel around the windows, on the square arch of the porch, and spiraled around the lamppost. The windows had electric candles (each window a set of three) with orange bulbs. My father insisted on order, so the lights had a simple color pattern that was repeated - there was no willy-nilly blend of color, no bulbs of the same color together. Our neighbors' lights were a glorious mess. I adored them all. I loved the trips around town, shopping errands, visits to relatives' homes, any chance to drink in all the color warming the cold dark night.

A few years ago a tree started appearing in the old bandstand on
the Brattleboro town Common. This was taken a couple of days ago.
In those days, most towns had strands of lights which ran across Main Street. Stores were decorated inside as well as outside. Memory suddenly finds myself shopping at the 'Gilded Age' B. Altman's store in New York City, a gift purchase from an upper floor secured under my arm, riding old wooden escalators down toward the entrance. The main floor suddenly pops into view, several stories of open space beneath me. It is decorated with Christmas trees, colored lights everywhere, red ribbons tied into giant red bows draped across gleaming polished brown wood. It was startlingly, joyously beautiful.

When I moved to Brattleboro, the stores still decorated for Christmas. There were strands of old colored lights running across the Main Street business area. The lights were considered shabby and in need of replacement. Much money was raised, many thousands of dollars were spent on new lights entwined with sparkly garlands. The company which made them was hired to put them up, maintain them, take them down, and store them until the next season. When the next season arrived it was discovered that the concern had gone out of business; the lights had disappeared.

The former parking lot of the Dunkin' Donuts as it appeared many years ago
 after a hefty pre-Christmas snowfall - long before the little park was created.
The mural style painting behind it is a view of Brattleboro
as it appeared from a local hill in
the early 1800's.
A downtown business association purchased bunches of those little white lights that were popular for about 5 minutes in the late 1990's. They were strewn throughout the branches of trees. It looked like we were attempting to be a ski resort. A park was created at the town's center in what had been a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot. A tree was put in the center of the space, and decorated with those little colored lights. It wasn't long before the tree lights were all white too. The last few years, after the terrible fire at the Brooks House, only the lights in the little park went up. This year the lights came back to the downtown trees, but wrapped around the trunks instead of being spread through the branches.

Around 2007, the start of the recession,  Holiday lights on people's homes began to vanish. Every year there seem to be fewer decorated homes. I haven't had a car for a few years now. Last night I joined with a couple of friends as we went driving around to see the lights. There weren't many. The owner of the car used to live in Keene, New Hampshire - a half hour away. As it is a much larger, more prosperous college town, we drove over to see the lights there. Again, there were very few.

One of the few houses with lights this year in Brattleboro
- and on one of our less reputable streets at that.
One of the things I discovered my first Christmas in town 20 years ago was that there was a tradition of putting a giant star on the top of Mt. Wantastiquet, which is on the New Hampshire side of the river.
After a visit here in 1856, Thoreau wrote of his sense of it looming over Brattleboro.
The star was a merit badge project of a local boy scout. The Scouts adopted it, and saw to its maintenance. The past couple of years, trees had grown up around it and the light from it had grown dim. This year there is no star on the mountain.

Memory plays its hand and a quote floats out of the past from the eve of World War One. To paraphrase British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, 1st Viscount of Fallodon,  "The lights are going out all across the country. We will not see them lit again in our lifetime."

All of this is, I suppose, a little odd considering how some people go insanely overboard with Christmas lights; there are television programs showcasing the most vulgar displays. In a way, that's what Christmas has become - that crazy house with all the lights, loud music, an overbearing show. You wouldn't want to live next door to it, but it sure is fun to drive by now and again.


At the beginning of December, I was asked to return to the Board of our Community Radio Station and to reassume its Presidency. Since then I have been so busy, I haven't even gotten the last two weeks of my radio show posted here. This is spite of having decided to push ahead with keeping more than three weeks of my shows available. As I have no more time to devote to this entry, here without all the charming and wonderful newspaper articles is the show from December 13th, (the Frank Sinatra's birthday edition):

.. and my Christmas show from last week...

The show after mine last week ( December 20th) didn't make it in. There I was with all that Holiday music with me... so I stayed and played such classics as "Boogaloo around the Aluminum Christmas Tree", and "I Saw Hanukah Harry Beat Up Santa Claus".

I hope anyone kind enough to listen to these shows will enjoy them.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sargent Santa

To paraphrase one of the characters in the Charlie Brown comic strip, "Oh, Good Grief". I never got last Saturday's radio show posted. At present, I can only keep the recordings of my show active in the service I'm using to stream them (here and on Facebook) for three weeks. Hopefully I'll have something better soon. My apologies.

This was a show that kept me on my toes. In order to produce one of these, I use records, CDs, and MP3s played on the station's iMac. (I used to tape record my 78's and play those too.) I also edit sequences out of old radio shows, and burn most of them to disc. For this show, the last 50 minutes were going to be played on the station's computer, and were in a file folder that turned out not to have copied properly to my flash drive. Luckily, I remembered how to get to an online library for radio show collectors, so I was able to deliver the 'featured' program (promoted on Facebook) of the Kraft Music Hall originally broadcast on December the 2nd, 1943. Hosted by Bing Crosby, the episode's guest was Ed Gardner from the "Duffy's Tavern" program.

The characters of 'Duffy's Tavern' (l to r) Miss Duffy, Eddie the Waiter, Clifford Finnegan, and Archie the manager.

The opening of Duffy's became one of those oft repeated phrases from what we now call "pop culture". (A tack piano begins to play "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", a phone rings) "Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Duffy ain't here. Archie the manager speaking. Oh, hello Duffy..." Gardner played Archie, and co-created and co-wrote the show with Abe Burrows. Duffy's was a bit of a dive bar on an unfashionable stretch of the East Side of Manhattan. There were regular characters like the man crazy Miss Duffy (originally played by Gardner's wife, Shirley Booth), and a dimwitted barstool jockey named Clifford Finnegan. Abe Burrow's son James would later co-create a tv show about a bar in Boston where "everybody knows your name", which had regular characters including a man crazy waitress and a barstool jockey named Cliff.

As November gave way to December that year, a story appeared in the news that the "Big Three" were meeting. That meant Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States; Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain; and Premier Joseph Stalin of Russia were meeting, and there could only be one topic - they were planning the invasion of Nazi Europe. The United States had spent the two years which had passed since Pearl Harbor retooling its industries to produce tanks, planes, ships, and other devices of war. Millions of its men and women were either fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, bombing Germany, or waiting in England for the build up to finish and the invasion to begin.

Here in Brattleboro, for a few days in early December, Christmas advertising featured "Sargent Santa". There was a campaign to sell War Bonds. If you couldn't afford a bond, which would be repaid with interest in 10 years, you could buy War Stamps. Save enough Stamps and they became a Bond. Brattleboro's three movie theatres (they only had one screen each in those days) provided entertainment to weary patrons....

I hope anyone kind enough to listen enjoys the show, as well as the panic in my voice (accompanied by a sense of impending doom).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanks or Franks?

November the 26th, 1940 was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The war in Europe had intensified with the near destruction bombing of Coventry, England by the Nazis a week before. Here in Brattleboro, folks were getting ready for the holiday - well, the one as celebrated in Vermont, anyway. See, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had declared Thanksgiving be held a week early on the 3rd Thursday of the month. The idea originated with merchants who were hoping the extra shopping days would be a boon to their businesses at a time when the country was finally emerging from the great depression. Republican Vermont decided that setting the holiday was the state's right, and declared it to be the traditional 4th Thursday of the month. As the kids might have said, it was Thanks, not Frank's.

At the very end of October 1940, a new venue opened in Los Angeles called the Palladium. On opening night, 10,000 people showed up to dance to Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, with vocalists Connie Haines, some new kid named Frank Sinatra, and the Pied Pipers. Dorsey and company were still there on November the 26th when the sustaining remote featured in this week's show was broadcast. (A 'sustaining remote' was unsponsored, and usually late at night. Of course, it didn't hurt that the show was broadcast on NBC whose parent company RCA also owned the record company which released Dorsey's recordings.)

That Tuesday night here in Brattleboro, it snowed (over 6 inches deep) which made it a little difficult for those going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving dinner. The paper had contained a couple of suggestions for those dealing with the season... as well as ads for holiday shopping.


There were quite a few ads for Thanksgiving dinners out. The minimum wage set by President Roosevelt's two year old  Labor law was 30 cents an hour, with the average work week being close to 50 hours - although attempts were being made to restrict work hours to 40 per week at regular pay and an extra four hours at time and a half.

The Latchis was one of three movie theatres in Brattleboro, but that Tuesday it had the best movies in town. Well, the Auditorium did have - for one day only - The Grapes of Wrath on Tuesday. It usually showed westerns and serial chapters on the weekends. The other theatre, the Paramount, usually had the best pictures, but the Latchis had the good ones that week. (Including West Brattleboro, the 1940 census showed the population at almost 11,000. Today it is 12,000.
We're down to one movie house - the Lacthis, whose main auditorium is still intact; three newer, smaller auditoriums have been added in the old ballroom. the old crying room, and one of the attached storefronts.)

The auditorium of the Latchis Hotel and Theatre as it exists today.


With one of those Philco's you could have easily heard that broadcast with Tommy Dorsey, even though it was broadcast from New York City on WJZ - 770 kilohertz on the AM dial, the NBC Blue network. (NBC had two networks, the Blue and the Red. The government told NBC they could only have one - so the Blue was spun off into its own network - which became ABC.) You too can listen to that Tommy Dorsey broadcast by the way. It's included in this week's radio show. 

Until I get a permanent home for my radio shows, these programs are only available for three weeks at a time. More clippings from the local newspaper can be found Monday thru Friday on the show's Facebook page. You can see those posts (click on one of the photos in each post to page through and see everything) even without having a Facebook account by clicking this link: Recycled Radio's Facebook page. I hope anyone kind enough to listen enjoys the show.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey Trottin'

Lots of fresh snow, power back on, warm place to park my hat, parades to watch on the tv, vittels to make for dinner... it's time to, well... you know

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

With Thanksgiving coming on...

On November the 21st, 1945, the United Auto Workers struck General Motors. The union claimed that G.M. was creating an artificial shortage of their product - which would drive up costs, slow sales, and result in layoffs and reduced wages for the remaining workers. The auto maker denied such claims. The union suggested that GM prove they were wrong by opening their books to scrutiny. G. M. refused. The strike lasted for over 4 months. Unions all across the country were trying to negotiate better contracts for their workers; even before the GM action, over 275,000 workers had been idled.

The War had been over since August; over 12 million U.S. men and women had gone off to fight it and were still returning home - and would be for some time to come. Housing shortages were common. Here in Brattleboro, the town purchased housing to be moved here, and put up Quonset huts for housing as well. A new High School was being planned, and development was becoming an issue.

Whoa! - That's my corner they're talking about!

The Government was still selling War Bonds, but had changed their name to "Victory Bonds".


One of the popular radio shows during the war years was the Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands sponsored by Coca-Cola. After the war, the show went back to its original name, 'Spotlight Bands'. On thee night of November 23rd, 1945, the spotlight picked out Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra. That broadcast is part of my most recent radio show, which also includes a birthday tribute to Hoagy Carmichael (born Nov. 22nd), and plays a couple for Thanksgiving.

While work is being done on a potential site where I can house my radio shows, the shows posted here on the blog are only available for three weeks at a time. If anyone takes the time to listen, I do hope you enjoy the results.