Frightened Stars, Silent Nights All In 25 Year Story


Judith C. Waller

[Curator's note: Judith Waller's recollections of WMAQ's early days first appeared in the April, 1947 issue of The Chainbreak, NBC-Chicago's employee newsletter.]

Do you remember? Well, maybe not---not all of you certainly. But there are views that come back to mind, like a kaleidoscope of time turned backward.

There was 1922, when one theatrical star after another came to broadcast for publicity. Some were scared, like Sir Gilbert Parker who asked, after the broadcast, "This only went over to the Daily News Building, didn't it?" Ed Wynn reclined on the floor and Morris Gest was so exhausted after an appearance he had to lie down for half an hour. Rosa Raisa, the famous opera star, wanted to "sing one more leetle song, it is sooch fun'' and Casella, the Italian pianist, wouldn't use our Mason and Hamlin---so his own was hauled in.


Fortunately we only had two hours a day to fill---since all radio stations shared time on the same wave length. We had silent night in those days and no Sunday broadcasts until 1927 because the owners of the Chicago Daily News objected to issuing a paper on Sunday and carried the rule over into its broadcasting operations.

The year 1927 brought our first commercial broadcast, too, The Golden Rose of China, broadcast by Pratt and Sherman for the Baldwin-Knight Company.

Back in 1926 the son of a friend of mine was bemoaning the fact he couldn't go to ball parks. I wondered why baseball couldn't go to him and so, timidly, I approached Mr. Wrigley with the suggestion. Whether the humor of the situation or the new medium appealed to him, I never knew, but WMAQ became the first station to offer such service to its listeners. At the end of the season the Cubs finished last in the league (through no fault of radio) but first financially--the women had taken to baseball and beseiged Cubs' Park in droves.


The Time Kaleidoscope is crowded with recollections---of Amos 'n' Andy arriving at the studios with a script done the day before and then ad libbing on baseball; Fibber and Molly worrying over each Smackout script and not at all sure they wanted to sign with a network---they couldn't see any future in it. We thought ourselves quite a station when we carried a full daily schedule of local programs, CBS features and fed Amos 'n' Andy to NBC. No other station in those days had two network affiliations. You know what WMAQ means to you today. Maybe you can guess what it means to me after 25 years of watching it grow.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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