WTIC Alumni Site

      In Memory of and Designed by Bill Clede

David Wilkinson wrote and produced “The Broadcaster at 40”. There was a three-hour program on Wednesday night of the anniversary week and on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday each night was scheduled a one-hour program, each program exploring ten years of TIC history.





This summary is courtesy of listener Robert Paine.

Notes from “The Broadcaster at Forty” – Program 1.
The First Decade – 1925-1935.

Shortly after applying for license, the positions of Chief Engineer and Assistant Chief Engineer were filled by J. Clayton Randall and Herman Taylor, respectively.
In the fall of 1924, the Department of Commerce granted The Travelers a license to operate a 500-watt station on the 860 kilocycle frequency. Two steel towers were erected atop The Travelers Grove Street building.
Two major test broadcasts were planned for December 1924. Talent was recruited from the ranks of Travelers employees.
By February 10, 1925, new studios had been constructed on the sixth floor of the Grove Street building. Dana S. Merriman, formerly supervisor of music for West Hartford Public Schools, was appointed Musical Director. Ralph L. Baldwin, supervisor of music for Hartford Public Schools, was made Consulting Musical Director.
Signing on the station, Mr. Cowles said, “When it was decided the company would undertake the broadcasting service, President Butler’s requirement was that we should have a service which in every way would be representative and worthy of the company, the name of which it bears. We believe we have met this requirement fully.”
A few months after opening, WTIC carried a direct broadcast from Washington by Col. Billy Mitchell. Mitchell, who was detained for court martial, delivered a talk on behalf of an air show being held in Hartford. But his remarks were critical of the military establishment, which he held as short-sighted regarding the future of military air power.
Shortly after the first broadcast, on February 17, Norman Cloutier and his orchestra modulated the WTIC airwaves. The band performed from the Joseph P. Neville Dancing Academy. One of the most popular tunes that was offered by the Cloutier orchestra was, “I Have A Feeling You’re Fooling.” Fred Wade was one of the vocalists with the Cloutier ensemble.
Cloutier, a violinist, also directed the first instrumental group hired by WTIC, The Travelers Jongleurs.  The quintet also featured Edward Anderson, violin; Lee Keevers, bass; Roy Tuttle, cello; and Laird Newell, piano.

Remotes were many during those first weeks and months, emanating from Foot Guard Hall, the Colt Park Pavilion, the Austin Organ Studio, Club Palais Royale and other locations.   
    Originating from the Hartford studios of WTIC, Norman Cloutier’s orchestra became popular throughout the nation as it was heard on the noontime program, “Merry Madcaps” over the NBC Radio network.
    Milestones were passed rapidly. In March, 1925, WTIC joined in the first coast-to-coast broadcast of a presidential inauguration, as Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office.
    Radio drama and discussion shows became popular, as well as live bands and choral groups. A series of health talks began on WTIC in 1925 and continued for more than two decades. New Englanders were treated to the first network broadcast of a college football game when the station carried the Penn-Cornell football face-off; the sportscasters were Phillips Carlin and Graham McNamee.
    Broadcasts from Connecticut’s institutes of higher learning were featured. WTIC installed broadcast lines to Yale University. All this time, no advertising was permitted on the air. A firm could present a program under its corporate title, without commercial announcements. There was no charge for the time; the firm was responsible only for time and production costs.
    The greats of vaudeville appeared from the stage of the Capitol Theater in Hartford – Bergen and McCarthy, Phil Baker, Jack Benny and “Sliding” Billy Watson – introduced by theater manager James S. Clancy.
Clancy was an enthusiastic showman, who later became manager of WTIC. Walter Dawley presented recitals on the great theater organ, and it was from backstage at the Capitol that the great Houdini, who claimed to be puzzled by no mystery, admitted that he was baffled by the mysteries of radio.
Al Jackson, an early WTIC engineer, was known as the “chief remote man” of the station. After his
training period was completed, he and another engineer did most of the remote broadcasts in those early days.
    Jackson recounted how on Thursday nights, the pair handled several outside broadcasts around Hartford:
    At 6, they picked up the Heublein Trio from the old Heublein Hotel. Next came the Emil Heimberger Trio from the Hotel Bond. After that, they picked up (the equipment) from the second remote and went onto:
The Loew’s Capitol Theater, where they set up SEVEN carbon microphones in the orchestra pit - while the movie was in progress – plus a mike backstage for James Clancy, who announced the acts. The whole vaudeville show was carried (live – of course). After the show, the movie came on and they would have to crawl around the orchestra pit in the dark, and take down all the mikes…not an easy job, according to Jackson.
    Then –
    It was back to the Hotel Bond, where Emil Heimberger’s dance band performed from the ballroom. Meanwhile, one engineer went BACK to the Capitol and set up a microphone on either side of the organ loft, where Walter Dawley presented a program of organ music, after which the station signed off for the night.
    And that was just one evening’s remotes.

    WTIC was one of the first half-dozen stations to affiliate with the National Broadcasting Company, which made its debut on the evening of November 15, 1926. The inaugural program originated from the ballroom of the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, now the site of the Empire State Building. Featured that night were the New York Symphony Orchestra, the Goldman Band, B. A. Rolfe and his band, Tito Ruffo, Harold Bower, Mary Garden, Will Rogers, and Weber and Fields.
    In 1927, the first public broadcast from a flying airplane came when Connecticut’s flying governor, John H. Trumbull, and aircraft builder Igor Sikorsky conversed from one of Sikorsky’s planes flying over Hartford. The transmission was picked up via short-wave radio and re-broadcast over the WTIC airwaves.
    Charles A. Lindbergh made Hartford the first stop of a cross-country tour, following his epic trans-Atlantic flight in May of that year. And a rather nervous young man led the Yale Band in his WTIC debut. Rudy Vallee played the saxophone for about half his performance into the dead side of the microphone. It did not stop him, however, from going on to a stellar career in radio, film, recordings and television. One of his very popular records was “Betty Co-ed.” 
    On February 10, 1930, WTIC’s fifth anniversary, Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees were featured on a special NBC broadcast honoring the station.

    In 1928, WTIC engaged The Hartford Times sports editor, A. B. “Art” McGinley, to broadcast a regular weekly commentary.
    Newspapers were still suspicious of radio, fearing the new medium would put them out of business. One evening, two minutes before McGinley was to interview boxers Max Baer and Jack Dempsey, he received word from the paper not to go on the air, and to turn the fighters over to a station announcer. He recalled also that Baer and Dempsey, two rather big chaps, took a female vocalist known as “The Melody Maiden” and swung her between them “as though she were a rag doll.”
    Another “first” for McGinley, was the night he brought John “Pepper” Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals’ famous ‘Gashouse Gang’ to the WTIC microphone. He came direct from Bulkeley Stadium, his face and uniform caked with dust and perspiration and, in one cheek, a big chaw of tobacco. Martin proved to be an entertaining guest, telling stories and singing.
    He also interviewed ‘The Fordham Flash’, Frankie Frisch; Henry Armstrong and John Henry Lewis (sp?), boxing champions who, when asked about their post-ring plans, said both planned to go into the ministry.
    In a 1965 conversation with Bob Steele, Art McGinley told of a Hartford lawyer, considered by many as unflappable – my words – who was completely intimidated by the microphone. Coming to the studios for a rehearsal, he was so upset that he went out and took a strong drink.
    Art McGinley felt that radio was one thing he was not cut out for. He vividly remembered leaving the microphone, walking to the far corner of the studio for a drink of water and returning to the mike with “as I was saying.” He mused that he left dead air during the time he was away from the mike.

    In 1928, it was announced that the technical staff had concluded that, because of poor ground conductivity, the only way to increase coverage would be through an increase in power. The station applied for, and was granted, authority to raise power to fifty-thousand watts on a frequency of 1060 kilocycles, with the provision WTIC share time on the frequency with WBAL, Baltimore. It was not an ideal solution, considering a half-million dollar investment in property and facilities, but it was hoped that another wavelength would be found and the station would be able to broadcast fulltime.
    On July 30, 1929, Travelers vice-president Walter G. Cowles, the man who had four years earlier introduced the station on its inaugural broadcast, signed-off the old transmitter with a program of talks and music. He said, “We believe this conservative course is necessary, and that the reason for it will be fully understood and appreciated by our friends of the air. During our experience with the old station, we have accomplished a great many of the remarkable things which I almost recall seeing. We have originated and developed entirely new things, later copied by other stations, and in many ways we have proven our ability to handle a broadcasting station to its extreme limits, rich in the experience which the station has given us and pledged to a service strictly in the public interest, convenience and necessity as the law requires.”
    The station returned to the air on August 2, 1929, with increased power. The broadcast schedule was: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and half of Sunday each week. The other time was used by WBAL. Within the year, the station was broadcasting at full power and was heard around the world, as cards and letters from Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Africa were received.

    “It’s how do you do from Hartford town, the studios of WTIC, as the National Broadcasting Company brings you ‘Madcap Varieties,’ presenting the music of Norman Cloutier’s Merry Madcaps, assisted by the voices of Durrell Alexander and Brad Reynolds. Madcap Varieties. The orchestra takes the curtain cue with Irving Berlin rhythm from ‘Top Hat,’ ‘Isn’t This a Lovely Day.” The group featured “snappy syncopation in special arrangements.”
      Norman Cloutier and the musicians offered not only dance music, they were regularly called on to provide background music for dramas, written and produced by the station’s – and New England’s – first continuity writer. Hired in 1929, Leonard J. Patricelli was given an old Underwood typewriter and an office next to the control room, and was told to write.
    Patricelli, who later became President of Broadcast Plaza, Inc. and its successor, the Ten-Eighty Corporation, recalled the workload he faced in those early days.
    It began with the program manager handing him a list of programs for the day, and he would write the copy for the announcers. He wrote speeches for men who had been invited to speak over the station. Mr. Patricelli would write the basic material and give it to the person, who then could adapt it as he wished. His first effort was for Connecticut Governor Trumbull. Besides writing for dramatic programs, he typed the copy for programs of popular music, string quartets, quintets, vocal works, symphonic and operatic works. Soon he found himself studying when he wasn’t writing.
    The total number of programs soon averaged between 16 and 20, and was never less than 13. The work day was from 8 to 6, but Mr. Patricelli often toiled until 8 or 9 in the evening.

    In December, 1929, Paul W. Morency, a native of Oak Park, Illinois, took charge of WTIC. Although he achieved success in the newspaper field, he recognized radio’s potential. Taking first a job as field representative of the newly-formed National Association of Broadcasters, then headquartered in New York, he traveled the country to persuaded stations to join the organization. 
    In a conversation with Dick Bertel for the program “The Broadcaster at 40,” Mr. Morency recalled his early days with WTIC.
    The only policy, as it were, that existed at his joining the station, was the edict of The Travelers to run a quality organization. The station had no commercials. If a business furnished the program material, WTIC gave it air time.
    The station also was not on the air all of its allotted time. Sharing time with WBAL, Baltimore, the station was on the air during the day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as Sunday evening. For its daytime schedule, WTIC would operate from 8 to 10 a. m., then go off the air for a few hours. Operations resumed in the afternoon and continued until sign-off at 6 p. m. One of Mr. Morency’s first acts was to sign the station on at 7    a. m. and broadcast straight through until 6 o’clock.


    As the 1930’s dawned, Moshe Paranov and Christiaan Kriens were heard directing symphonic works from the station’s studios. In 1929, however, the E. T. was introduced. No, not “Extra Terrestrial,” this ET stood for “electrical transcription,’ aka, the phonograph record. And it soon accounted for the demise of the studio musician.

    In 1930, The Travelers found it no longer practicable to support the station without commercials. The first rate card was prepared and issued, and the first commercial time was sold.

    One result of the station’s expanded schedule was 10,000 requests for a cookbook offered by Florrie Bishop Bowering, a home economist hired by WTIC to host a home and kitchen program, which became known as “The Mixing Bowl.”
    A series of farm and home forums were instituted in September 1930, and Mike Hanapi and his Ilema Islanders became a popular feature on the station. Moshe Paranov and Christiaan Kriens collaborated in many more serious musical efforts. Later in the year, Hank Keene and his Connecticut Hillbillies became a popular daily feature throughout Southern New England.
    As network programs became more plentiful, the WTIC schedule was heavy with soap operas from early until late afternoon. The station instituted an early morning program, which ran from 7 to 8 a. m.
    In those early days, the newspapers were concerned that competition from the new upstart would hurt circulation. The Associated Press, a newspaper-owned co-operative; the United Press and the International News Service (owned by Hearst), were pressured by the papers to restrict the flow of news to radio stations.
    An agreement between the two sources was reached, and news was severely limited. Any story was delayed for two hours. Only the barest of facts, amounting to little more than a headline, was made available to stations, which were obligated to urge listeners, “For further details, read your daily newspaper.”
    The situation, of course, could not endure. Herbert Moore founded Transradio News, which supplied the stations with news by Morse Code on the shortwave radio bands. WOR was the first station to subscribe to the service, and WTIC is believed to have been the second. As a sidelight, the station’s first news director, Tom Eaton, managed the Boston Transradio office.
    The other incident that ended the stalemate was the efforts of newscasters, such as Lowell Thomas, who started their own news-gathering efforts. According to Mr. Morency, they had several men make calls to whomever was in the news, and get interviews with the individual.

    Also in the early 1930’s, WTIC developed a repertory theater.
    On September 23, 1931, the WTIC Playhouse, under the direction of Guy Hedlund, debuted. Mr. Hedlund, who was killed in an auto accident in January 1965 in California, had considerable experience in silent films, having worked under the director D. W. Griffith. The company featured actors and actresses from the Hartford area – Jay Raye (sp?) and Charlie Richards were two - and was a starting point for Eddie (Michael) O’Shea; Ed Begley, Sr.; Gertrude Warner; Louis Nye, and “Madge the Manicurist”, Jan Miner.

    In March 1932, the infant son of Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped. The WTIC staff stayed on duty for forty hours and when word came that Red Johnson, a suspect in the case, was taken into custody in Hartford, WTIC had microphones set up at the Hartford County Building and at Brainard Field, and fed the largest network to date – 60 stations of the National Broadcasting Company.

    In 1933, residents from the town of Wrightville took up residence at WTIC’s sixth floor location. Elisha Wright, editor of the town’s newspaper; his sister, Janey, and their somewhat eccentric cousin Zeke Peck, became fixtures on “The Wrightville Daily Clarion.” In their real guises of Paul Lucas, Eunice Greenwood and Fred Wade, they entertained Hartford listeners from May 1933 to March 1939, with another brief go-round in 1949 under the title “Wrightville Folks.” Others in the cast were Louis Nye as Professor Schultz, who was madly in love with Sister Janey; Ed Anderson as Doodad; Eddie O’Shea as Deuteronomy – a Casper Milquetoast-like town official and office helper, and as Wellfleet Patterson, a Cape Cod character, possibly Bob Ellsworth or Bill Hennessey? Ed Begley also took part in the madness.
    Paul Lucas wrote the scripts and ideas sometimes came with some bit of difficulty. Fred Wade spoke with Bill Hennessey for the 40th anniversary program and related that Lucas would sometimes be finishing the last page with just about a minute left until air time. Often Wade had the punch line and would walk down the hall, reading the script to find out what he was supposed to say. Lucas also wrote long speeches for Cousin Zeke, Wade’s character, then sat back and listened to him, all the while silently roaring with laughter. “A good many times he’d write himself out and go home and listen….” Wade played as many as six characters: Twinkletoes(?), the parrot; the advertising manager – in his own voice; and the Widow Brown – would you believe – was also played by Fred Wade.
    Hennessey recalled an incident that occurred one night as he was the show’s announcer. The “Clarion” worked from Studio “C”, which had a large glass window with a roller shade.
    The story proceeded to the end of a particular act, after which he read the commercial.  As the action resumed, he read his line, “As the curtain goes up on Scene _,” – and the roller shade did go up, as if on cue – rip-rip-rip or whatever sound it made. Scared the heck out of the whole crew.

    Fred Wade, one of the finest singers at the station, also appeared with “The Men of Song,” a vocal ensemble organized by Leonard Patricelli.
    Mr. Patricelli had been a member of a group, the name he recalled as being The Travelers Chorus, which was directed by Christiaan Kriens, who also conducted the orchestra. The group, consisting of eight men and eight women, followed social etiquette of the times, placing the women - sopranos and contraltos – before the microphone, with male tenors and basses at the rear. The old mikes couldn’t pick up the male voices and, according to Patricelli, the balance was just horrendous.
    He experimented with members of the glee club and formed his own group, The Modern Symphonic Choir, made up of sixteen men and six women. By positioning the vocalists around the mike, he achieved balance and blend for the first time. A second group was called The Men of Song, and, later, a quartet was added.

    In 1934, arrangements were made for WTIC to operate full-time. The station would move to 1040 kilocycles and share the frequency with KRLD, Dallas. Utilizing a directional antenna at sundown Dallas time, and with KRLD using a similar system to protect Hartford, WTIC was finally able to bring Hartford full-time service. WBAL, Baltimore, the station with which WTIC had shared the 1060 frequency, would then share with a station in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thus, all four stations were able to broadcast on a full-time schedule.
    Authorization for the change did not arrived until late in the day of May 7th. There was no time to obtain factory-made parts, so the necessary equipment was manufactured at the Avon transmitter site.
    The quartz crystal needed to maintain the new frequency was ground to specification on site by Plant Manager J. Clayton Randall. On the morning of May 8th, WTIC signed on with a new frequency and a new set of programs.
    When factory equipment was installed, the crystals ground by Mr. Randall were sent for inspection to the RCA factory. There, they were found to be correct to a tolerance of three-points within a million.

    New programs meant changes. Structural changes were made in the studio facility and transcribed music was contracted for.

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