Radio history online archives

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Following up some email conversation about Tulsa broadcaster Hal O'Halloran, I came across an online treasure trove of radio history: Radio's Online History Resource. It consists of scans of radio industry publications beginning with the earliest years of the medium: Annual publications like Broadcasting Yearbook, Radio Annual; FCC rulebooks; and listening logs and station lists.

At the bottom of the site's main page, the proprietor, David Gleason, explains how he put the site together and why he does it:

1949RadioAnnualCover.jpgThe deterioration of the old yearbooks and magazines is just one factor in my decision to try to preserve the heritage of radio's premier publication. The other is the fact that most libraries are short on space and funding. This means that seldom used publications are sold to eBay merchants and every day that passes there are fewer places where this information can be obtained. Most of these specialized publications were not microfilmed... and who has a film reader at home, anyway?....

Since this is a free site, as it always will be, many have asked, "why do you do it?" since some of the Yearbooks have cost as much as $1,000 on eBay. Simply put, I celebrated 50 years in radio in 2009, and this endeavor is a small way to preserve the memories, the heritage and the events of that industry, particularly at a time when the death of our medium is so broadly predicted.

This site is my small contribution to the industry and profession that have given me challenges, joy, frustration and, of course, an income for half a century.

I spent some time browsing through just one of the volumes in the collection, the 1949 Radio Annual and Television Yearbook. Weighing in at just over 1200 pages, there's a wealth of information not only about the stations themselves, but about all the components of the broadcasting industry -- content producers, actors, announcers, advertisers. There are articles by industry leaders on the contemporary challenges and developments. These books, like city directories and phone books, capture irreplaceable, contemporaneously recorded details about the history of American culture.

Here's the section of the 1949 Radio Annual with Oklahoma's listings. It must have been compiled before KRMG's debut that year. Tulsa had KAKC (1570), KFMJ (1050), KOME (1340), KTUL (1430), and KVOO (1170). 1170's transmitters haven't moved in the last sixty years, but in 1949, KAKC and KFMJ had their sticks at 21st and Yale, and KOME's transmitter was at 3904 S. Newport -- now a residential section of Brookside. All but one of the stations had studios downtown -- KVOO in the Philtower, KFMJ in the Alvin Hotel at 7th and Main, KAKC at 412 E. 5th St, KOME at 8th and Main, and KTUL just south of downtown at Boulder-on-the-Park.

Further on in the same volume is a directory of radio and television artists, vocalists, newscasters, and sportscasters. It's interesting to scan through and see names that I know from TV in the 1970s. Paul Henning, creator of Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, and Petticoat Junction, is listed as a writer for George Burns and Gracie Allen (p. 802). Mel Blanc has a half page ad, featuring a photo of himself, pensive with cigarette in hand, next to a list of his credits -- Warner Bros. Cartoons, characters on the Judy Canova and Jack Benny shows, and novelty records for Capitol (p. 805). Mark Goodson has a quarter page ad -- just his signature -- p. 808 -- he went on to produce the most popular game shows of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Game show host Bill Cullen shows up in a photo on p. 814.

Page 841 has ads for New York Yankees announcer Mel Allen and New York Giants announcer Russ Hodges. There's a listing on p. 849 for Charlie Kuralt, WAYS, Charlotte, host of Jr. Sports Parade. Hugh Finnerty, long-time Tulsa sports broadcaster and promoter, is listed as having worked in 1948 at KBYE in Oklahoma City and KWFT in Wichita Falls.

On p. 865, in the list of newscasters, you'll find Hal O'Halloran at WHBL Sheboygan, doing a program called "Looking Things Over." (THat's probably Hal, Jr., who spent most of his career in Tulsa, not his dad, Hal, Sr., who hosted the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago in the 1930s, before going into TV in Wisconsin.) The same page lists Jack Morris at KTUL Tulsa. Paul Harvey's on the list, WENR Chicago, in the same column as wartime newsman Gabriel Heatter.

There's a photo of a very young Joe Franklin, then a disk jockey at WMCA, on p. 873. KTUL's "Sunshine Man," Glenn Hardman, is listed on p. 881.

Want to see a list of major radio network programs of 1948 and their sponsoring companies and products? It's here, starting on p. 962.

The next part of the book is devoted to television. There were commercial TV stations in only 30 cities, few enough stations that each had a paragraph and a photo of an executive. WGN Chicago boasted 45 hours of programming a week.

The last section of the volume includes television construction permits and FM radio listings. The networks were in their infancy, with stations numbered in the dozens. Two Oklahoma stations had construction permits at the beginning of 1949, WKY-TV, channel 4 in Oklahoma City, and KOVB, channel 6 in Tulsa. In 1949, Tulsa had two FM stations: KAKC-FM at 95.5 and KTUL-FM at 97.1.

There were commercial shortwave stations in 1949: CBS had stations in Brentwood, Long Island, NY, Wayne, NJ, and Delano, CA, NBC had stations in Bound Brook, NJ, and Dixon, CA, GE had stations in Schenectady, NY, and Belmont, CA, Crosley had stations in Bethany and Mason, OH. The Associated Broadcasters, Inc., transmitted from San Francisco, and World-Wide Broadcasting broadcast from Scituate and Hull, MA. Near the end of the book there are listings of radio stations in Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines.

All that was gleaned from just one volume in this immense collection. If you love the history of mass media and popular culture, you'll find this site fascinating.

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Nancy said:

What a find! I found my dad's name, working at KOME as program and music director (Larry Robertson). This is too cool- thanks for sharing Michael.


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