OPNION: THE IDLE AMERICAN – Old-time radio ‘goofs’

Published 12:43 am Sunday, January 23, 2022

Time delay–a feature that allows deletion of serious blunders–has not always been a “backstop” when there’s tongue entanglement on radio broadcasts.

A classic, of course, was the announcer who said he “got his tang toungled up.”

Perhaps the first nationally-recognized blunder occurred in June, 1921, when Harry Von Zell needed to make just one statement to introduce the new US President for his inaugural address: “Ladies and gentlemen, President Herbert Hoover.” What he said, however, was definitely mangled: “Hoobert Heever.”

Groucho Marx, radio and TV personality who appeared in several thigh-slapping movies with his brothers, had a keen mind and an ever-present cigar. He was a comic weekly on his radio show, “You Bet Your Life.”

One night a contestant who was basically out of it after she’d stated her name listened intently when Groucho asked the ever-so-simple question: “What does one add to water to produce soap suds?”

Pausing, she finally answered, “Lye?” Ever the quick thinker, Groucho answered, “That’s a lie, but we’ll take it anyway.”

   Many of the best “foul-ups” have been in local situations, dying when radio signals and word of mouth ended near county lines. This day, I will share some accounts I’ve come across, starting with yours truly.

I recall ending a New Year’s Eve sports broadcast on KBWD in Brownwood.

I wished listeners a “Happy Newbury.”

My friend Gilbert Stogsdill remains amused by a radio station story involving his late brother, Jim Stogsdill, 13 years his senior. They were living in Guymon, OK, where their father was on a church staff.

Jim had a radio “gig” at KGYN, providing him “walking around money” during his college days at nearby Panhandle A&M College.

Each afternoon, he made on-the-air phone calls to local residents, ending each session up with small gifts to the lucky listeners.

One day, he reached a youngster who provided limited conversation. Jim asked if the kid’s mother could come to the phone.

Jim complimented the young man, admitting to the mother that he didn’t even know her son’s name. “It’s Gooey,” she responded. Jim figured she hadn’t had much schoolin’ herself. Taken aback, he said he’d never heard the name before.

“We hadn’t either,” she remarked. “But I read it in a book before he was born, and my husband and I both liked it.” The rejoinder came when Jim asked about the spelling. “Just like it sounds,” she responded, “G-U-Y.”  (Maybe she thought herself to be a resident of “Gooeymon,” OK.)

Here’s another foul-up with a hospital setting. I can’t verify it, so there’ll be attribution to exactly no one.

Having given birth to a daughter, the mother said she’d call her new baby “Fee-molly.”

Taken aback, her nurse said she’d never heard the name before. “I hadn’t, either,” the new mom confessed, “but I saw it on the hospital registration form.” (The word she had seen was “female.”)

No radio personality provided more good cheer than the late Joy Culwell, albeit pretty much limited to the confines of Colorado City and Mitchell County. She had a daily chit-chat on Radio Station KVMC, rarely failing to joke about her size, which was, well, ample and then some.

A woman with many stories, she recounted an unlikely experience in an Abilene department store. “I got stuck in the revolving door,” she laughed. Emergency personnel urged her to “turn sideways.” Joy responded that she “didn’t have a sideways.”…. On another program, she bragged about being hugged by three Texas governors, but “not all at the same time.”

In Snyder, a student of Western Texas College was a part-time announcer at Radio Station KSNY. President of WTC at the time, I watched as a tornado bore down on Snyder. It made a welcome turn, but the announcer’s warning is memorable. “A tornado is approaching Snyder. Details in a moment, but first a word from Piggly-Wiggly.”

 

Dr. Newbury, a longtime university president, still writes weekly and speaks to groups of all types throughout Texas and the Southwest. Contact him at 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.