Famous Wethersfield Voices on the Air
by Cynthia Lang
From the youngest announcer in the history of WTIC to Vice President and General Manager-Radio-TV, Channel 3
"We were young and crazy then," Wethersfield's Robert S. Tyrol was reminiscing about an earlier day at WTIC. A day when the station was located in the Travelers Building on Main Street and Central Row. The days before Broadcast House on Broadcast Plaza was built to house the 50,000-watt WTIC-AM-FM-Radio TV Channel 3 station of which Bob Tyrol is Vice President and General Manager-Radio-TV.
The "we" of whom he spoke were Floyd Richards and himself. For five years the two did the "Cinderella Weekend Show." A quiz show for women, it was on the air daily, Ryan's Restaurant (then on Pearl Street) the point of origin. "We took the stage version of the show to almost every town in Connecticut. It had a long life for a show of its kind."
In his not so very long life Bob Tyrol has done a lot of things. Among the things were some pretty impressive "firsts." But first he was born; in East Hartford on May 3, 1923 the son of Mr. and Mrs. Otto R. Tyrol: "Dad is still in East Hartford. Mother is gone. My sister Elizabeth lives in East Hartford." Bob graduated from East Hartford High: "I came her (WTIC) in 1940 when I was 17 years old. My record-keepers found a picture that goes all the way back." he grinned as he slid a photograph of the 17 year old youth (the youngest announcer WTIC has ever had) across the desk. "I was a mail-boy here for six months and worked closely with the announcers. They all helped me and finally persuaded the boss, then Paul Morency. to give me an audition which I passed."
In the year 1940 he was also attending UCONN. In 1942 he was assigned to do a program, "The U.S. Coast Guard on Parade," direct from the Academy in New London featuring the Academy Band. "I think that as a direct result of this I joined the Coast Guard." He left the station for the Coast Guard in 1942 and in 1943 received his commission and command of a subchaser. An Ensign, Bob was the youngest officer in the United States Coast Guard.
In January 1944 he married a Hartford girl, Virginia G. Stoneburner, who worked at Travelers (the same place Bob Steele, Floyd Richards and Leonard Patricelli met the women they were to marry).
Bob's ship was assigned the Key West to Havana run: "In the spring of 1944 my ship caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, a gasoline fire. We were dry-docked in New Orleans after the fire and my wife came to New Orleans and spent some time there." Then to Long Beach, California where Virginia could be with him before Bob took off for nine months in the Pacific, "Saipan and Tinian."
After the war-back to WTIC
Discharged from the Coast Guard after three nd one-half years he went back to WTIC and it was very shortly after that the Station established "Cinderella Weekend" the program which was to become enormously popular.
"The other show I was best known for was "Songs from New England Colleges," for which Al Jackson was the engineer, I was the announcer and Leonard Patricelli was the producer." Of Leonard Patricelli, his immediate superior, (Mr. Patricelli has been President since 1967 of Broadcast Plaza, Inc., which includes Broadcast House and all of the Plaza) Bob said, "He was then one of the troops. The three-some comprised a broadcast team." The program was a college choral concert broadcast weekly on Sunday, live, from the campuses of each of 26 colleges from Yale to the University of Maine in Orono. We traveled every weekend. Worked 60 or 70 hours a week. The program was sponsored by Monsanto Chemical Company, starting in the early 50's and continuing for four years." The program went out over the New England Regional network.
From Groton, Connecticut on January 21, 1954, Robert Tyrol broadcast the launching of the first atomic submarine, Nautilus. "Fortunate or Unfortunate, it was my job to cover the Worcester tornado in 1953, Hurricane Carol in 1954. I "did" the dreadful disaster on the carrier Bennington at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, May 26, 1954 ... over 100 men were killed that day as a result of the fire and explosion on the ship of which Captain William F. Raborn, Jr. was the skipper. All the coverage was cost-to-coast in addition to WTIC."
"Those are the big ones. There were news-casts, weather reports, commercials, sports, things that make up a regular eight-hour da, 40-hour-a-week schedule in addition to the specials."
In 1956 Bob decided to leave the are and was asked by management to join the Sales Department. He then became the local Sales Manager, then General Sales Manager. Next, Vice President in Charge of Sales, then Vice President of Administration: "Then Vice President and General Manager and a Director of the Corporation." The duties as Vice President of Administration were then dual administrative roles including radio and TV, still under his aegis.
Future of radio and TV
His feeling regarding the future of TV? "The future of TV, I think, is bright and will be extended through the introduction of cable TV this giving the viewing public an even greater diversity of programs."
Does he feel the same about radio? "The future of radio,. I think, is extremely bright because it will always be a very personal medium. The reason for that is that radio is a companion-medium, it permits you to do other things while being informed or entertained. Let's speak to FM (radio). In recent years it has shown just tremendous growth potential." There is much t be gained in the marketing approach to this field.
Since we were discussing present and future roles of the media I asked Mr.Patricelli (a resident of West Hartford, home of the Post's sister paper, The West Hartford News) his opinion of the role of the weekly press. His reply, concise and without hesitation: "It plays an important part in the community. Weeklies fill a role the daily press cannot fill."
WTIC-TV has recently taken steps in the area of the interchange of idea and cultures with the Japanese through the establishment of a sister-station relationship with Sanyo Broadcasting Co., Ltd., 2-1-3 Marunouchi, Okayama City (a city on SW Honshu, in SW Japan with a population of over 300-thousand). "We hope to being about a better understanding of our ways and their ways in keeping with the principles of President Nixon," Bob said. Morizo Tatsumi is President of Sanyo Broadcasting. "Leonard Patricelli went to Japan and the Japanese came here and planned. This will happen some more. It will be an interchange on an on-going basis. Some of our people will be going there, conceivably this fall."
On the local level, Robert Tyrol is proud, as a member of the Rotary International, to have been a Board Member and Part-President of Hartford Rotary. He is a member of the Hartford Club, Hartford Golf Club, Connecticut State Police Auxiliary, International Radio and Television Society, Broadcast Pioneers and is on the Media Associate Advisory Committee, Manchester Community College.
As Honorary Member, Connecticut Association of Chiefs of Police, a Board Member of Connecticut Broadcasters Association, he is also a Corporator of The American School for the Deaf; and a Faculty Associate; University of Connecticut School of Business Administration. Thirteen previous affiliations included such interest-spanning areas as President, Connecticut Broadcasters Association, Board Member: Retail Trade Bureau, Better Business Bureau, Broadcasting Executives Club, Travelers Aid Society; Board Member and Radio & TV Director, Connecticut Society for the Prevention of Blindness; Member, NAB Freedom of Information Committee; Vice Chairman Fund Campaign, Charter Oak Council BSA.
Being an advisor to the Cub Scouts in Wethersfield was a natural for Bob and Virginia Tyrol residents of Ridge Road, Wethersfield, have two sons, both grown now and with children of their own. Lee Robert Tyrol is 27, The State Marketing Director of the Commission on Special Revenue ("a fancy way of saying The Lottery," according to his father) Lee, two, live in Glastonbury. Bradford Robert Tyrol will be 24 in August. He, his wife, and two-year-old Erik Robert live in Deep River.
Brad is General Manager of a nautical gift shop owned by his Mother. "It's called `Hull of a Ship' and it's located in Old Saybrook." The shop will be three years old this year; "A little of my Coast Guard influence; I always wanted to have a nautical museum but my wife if more of an entrepreneur." `Hull of a Ship' deals in binnacles, harpoons, ships-lamps, scrimshaw and French glass, Daum. "Probably second only to Steuben," Bob pointed to a beautiful glass dolphin in his fourth-floor office as an example of Daum. He smiled as he asked if we could print `Hull of a Ship' in the Post. I told him that we could. It sounds pretty see-worthy to me (a little of my Navy influence).
He spoke of Wethersfield;s Bob DuFour, now manager of Program Practices for Television, who was once a producer and before that an announcer. "He always did the 5:54 news which he began with `It's 6:54 with Bob DuFour'" (His son, Steve, has contributed some remarkable photographs to the Post, and his daughter, Lynn Low, fine prose and poetry).
There are and were many other Wethersfield people, part of the WTIC establishment. Channel 3-AM-FM-radio and TV where they are turned-on to the world. Tine in. You'll hear the Famous Wethersfield Voices on the Air.