Friday, April 27, 2012

Dwight Fuhro, Collector of THE SHADOW

Goodrich Advertisements of The Shadow radio show.
Among our friendly neighbors of the North is Dwight Fuhro, a collector of all things related to the pulp magazine and radio program, The Shadow. To refer to Dwight as a serious collector is an understatement. His collection focusing on rare Shadow items have become an obsession (in a good way) and his passion allows for the highest grade of quality in any private collection I can think of. His passion takes him all over North America (including the pulp conventions I have described in the past) to acquire the rare finds.

"I was first introduced to The Shadow through the pulps in 2002," Dwight explained. "I quickly determined that I was going to embark in not only putting together a complete Shadow pulp run, but the highest grade one in existence. Today I have completed this and need only a handful of upgrades including still needing a sharp issue number one. Well, collecting the pulps then led to wanting to acquire other rare Shadow radio, pulp and movie related collectibles. I have been very fortunate in acquiring many rare Shadow items from: Street & Smith, Blue Coal (the product of the D.L.&W and Glen Alden Coal Company), Carey Salt, Goodrich Silvertown Tires and others."

A few pieces of Dwight's archival collection.
A few of his favorite Shadow collectibles include two original Shadow pulp paintings of "The Creeping Death" and "The Third Skull," both used for the covers of The Shadow magazine. Dwight is the proud possessor of Walter Gibson's personal Shadow Salesman Book (promoting the Shadow pulps, radio, films etc.). The book was given as a birthday present to Arthur Emerson, a close personal friend of Water Gibson back in the 1940’s. It contains 48 pages of rare, original Shadow promotional contacts and promotional information, original newspaper ads, Shadow promotional deals & correspondence with various companies (Macy's, the Police Department), etc.

Interesting Trivia
The 1939 Christmas season opened the doors for promotion in New York City when R.H. Macy’s in New York made The Shadow a feature of its Christmas Toyland. A man dressed in cloak and mask awed and delighted thousands of children and parents in Macy’s “Radio Televisionland” (titled appropriately since the parade was first televised in 1939). Macy’s even planned to make a huge “Shadow” balloon for the 1939 Thanksgiving Day parade, but verification with department store records verifies that plans for it fell through.

Dwight's collectible piece, along with department store records courtesy of Macy's, helped verify the correct calendar year of 1939. For a short while, there was some debate as to what calendar year this event was done because one booklet in a Radio Spirits Shadow collection inaccurately claimed The Shadow was featured in the 1941 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Dwight helped pinpoint the correct year and records at Macy's substantiated that fact. (There could have been two years, but nothing has been found to verify 1941.)

A few pieces of Dwight's archival collection.
The same book also contains four original and rare Shadow signs: “The Weird Avenger of Crime” cardboard sign from 1933, the huge “Shadow’s Justice”  fold-out poster from 1933, the only known example of “The Shadow Goodrich Silvertown Tire” advertising cardboard sign from 1938-39, and another Shadow pulp advertising cardboard sign from 1933.

"I have acquired a total of 12 Shadow advertising signs from the 1930's and 40's," Dwight explains with pride. "My favorites are my Blue Coal Shadow silkscreen advertising sign (18” x 24”) which is pictured on the back of Martin’s fabulous Shadow radio book. I also enjoy have two 18" x 34" Shadow trolley signs from 1932 and 1934."

Trolley Car sign and vintage ad with same image.
Dwight recently just picked up Blue Coal promotional manuals from 1932 and 1934 that correspond directly with the two Trolley Car display ads/signs. It is believed the promotional manuals are the only ones known to exist in collector hands.

"I also recently acquired the only known Blue Coal Shadow Gum," Dwight continued. "I have a near mint example of the Shadow board game from 1940, a near mint example of The Shadow Blue Coal cape and the 1940 Street & Smith Shadow children’s costume complete with the only known original box. I also have the only known example of The Shadow stationery in the original cellophane from 1940."

Shadow collector rings

The proud possessor of complete sets of the Blue Coal and Carey Salt rings, Shadow Lapel Pin, and Shadow Glow in the Dark button; all with the original card and mailers, Dwight has arranged for most of his treasures to be professionally framed.

Other treasures in his collection include the 1934 Shadow wooden stamper, two rare Shadow postcards from 1931, a number of rare Shadow buttons some with the original cards, all of the known stickers from the 30's, and dozens of mint matchbooks used to promote The Shadow radio program.

In the summer of 1945, The Shadow graced the inside and outside of matchbooks. Matches were an obvious giveaway and always accepted by customers when offered free with deliveries of their coal orders. The matchbooks were velvet smooth and sold to Blue Coal dealers in multiples of 500. The price was $3.00 per thousand if the dealer wanted his name, address and phone number printed on them.

Dwight purchased this from Hake's. A vintage advertisement for Doc Savage on radio.

To promote the matchbooks, a marketing tie-in was featured in the broadcast of September 9, 1945, titled “The Shadow in Danger.” The story concerned the theft of $8,000 from the police fund and jeopardized Commissioner Weston’s reputation in an apparent ghost yarn. Cardona was held on suspicion of larceny when the funds for poor kids he withdrew from the bank vanished before he arrived at the police station. Lamont and Margot, victims of a similar robbery, suspect a stranger on the streets asking for a light is hypnotizing people so he can pick their pockets. When the Commissioner’s assistant, Muriel, is found dead in a hotel room with Cardona’s gun, and a matchbook bearing an image of The Shadow (shown cloaked and from behind) is found on the scene, Weston blames the series of crimes on The Shadow.

LAMONT: That’s the angle I can’t figure.
MARGOT: Will chewing on that package of matches help you? Want to get sulfur poisoning?
LAMONT: Huh? I didn’t realize I was doing it, Margot. By the way, how do you like the design on the inside cover? I just had them printed.
MARGOT: The figure of a man almost hidden by shadows. Are you anxious to let people know who the Shadow is?
LAMONT: You know I’m not.
MARGOT: Then, why advertise yourself on the inside of match covers? Suppose somebody looks like a shadow to me. I think it’s dangerous.

Discovering Weston is blaming The Shadow, Lamont realizes the newly-printed matchbooks may cause similar problems in the future so he tosses them all into a fire. He places an editorial in the newspaper to rout out the pickpocket and then makes arrangements for Margot to bring the police to an abandoned warehouse on River Street where the confrontation gets ugly. Cardona has been beaten horribly, and the pickpocket, Paul, attempts to eliminate The Shadow by turning out the lights and finding the outline of the invisible avenger. Moments after learning Cardona and The Shadow were not involved and now forced to defend himself, Commissioner Weston fires two shots in rapid succession, and Paul drops dead.

Blue Coal Salesman Book and green Trolly Car sign.
Dwight also owns original tickets for the general public to redeem at the Mutual Longacre Theater in New York, where many of The Shadow radio broadcasts originated. Attendees also received a theater program guide promoting the sponsor's product and a cast list for that day's broadcasts.

"I am still on the hunt and will pay record prices for other original Shadow pulp paintings, rare Shadow posters/signs, any of the signs that are in the Shadow Salesman book as I do not want to take them out of the book," Dwight explained. "Rare items such as The Shadow gun and holster, The Shadow disguise kit, The Shadow Tect-o-lite, The Shadow flashlight, The Shadow sheet music, Displays promoting The Shadow character (Street & Ssmith, Powerhouse Candy, Blue Coal, Goodrich Silvertown, etc.), a sharp copy of The Shadow issue #1, or a complete high grade Shadow pulp run and other rare items, even some that I already have."

Original radio scripts for The Shadow.

Just recently Dwight came across a rare advertisement (I think it is a trolley car sign) that features The Shadow, but is really promoting Boston Blackie. Various artists reusing signs from one radio program for another is not common... but have been found before. But this one is unusual and worth a peak.

I have often gone by the adage that how much money someone has is never impressive but what they did to make that money, can be impressive. Folks with super large collections are not always impressive but the quality of the displays... in this case, Dwight's collection... is impressive. If you ever come across any rare Shadow merchandise, especially high quality originals, give Dwight a call or drop him an e-mail. He's always on the lookout for additional items to add to his collection. His info is listed below.

Dwight Fuhro

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Three Stooges: Movie and DVD Review

The Three Stooges
I grew up watching The Three Stooges. Thanks to rabbit ears and a TV antenna, which did not limit me to the number of channel choices our local cable provider offers, I was able to pick up channel 17 or 29 from Philadelphia and tune in each week to watch three classic comedies. It wasn't until I was about twelve when I read an interview with Emil Sitka in Filmfax, that the shorts were originally created as fillers for Columbia motion-pictures and not for television broadcasts. (Hey, I was 12 at the time. I know better now.) 

The Three Stooges were not the only comedy shorts being produced by Columbia Pictures. Vera Vague, Hugh Herbert, Charley Chase and many others were filmed on rotation. But it is The Three Stooges that seemed to have remained popular over the years. Which makes me question whether or not Charley Chase and Hugh Herbert would be as popular among the mainstream market as The Three Stooges had the studio over the last few decades actually marketed their entire comedy lineup. Imagine what the studio would have accomplished had they released three shorts for every hour-long block with the middle comedy from one of the other comedians...

Anyone for a round of golf?
Just this past year I was privileged to be among a handful of people to watch Surprise, Surprise! (1937), a Columbia comedy short shot in color with Moe, Larry and Curly. It was screened at the 32nd Annual Cinefest Film Festival. It was, briefly, a comedy short specifically designed to promote Farina breakfast cereal, manufactured by Pillsbury. The theater audience was reminded to pick up two boxes of the fluffy stuff on the way back home and their purchase would qualify them to acquire a toy movie viewer. Pillsbury and Columbia put a lot of work into the short and The Three Stooges certainly do not appear as to have just walked off one set in costume and began filming another. Pillsbury, in 1937, even promoted the toy movie viewer in newspapers, store displays and during the commercials of Today's Children, a radio program Pillsbury was sponsoring at the time. This comedy short has rarely been mentioned or listed in Stooge filmographies or reference books, hence the rarity of the short. Until recently, it was thought that the short was not known to exist and was "lost."

Curly Howard, Moe Howard and Larry Fine
Fans of the shorts believe the comedy went by the wayside when Shemp Howard came into the pictures, but in fairness, the Shemp shorts are funny. Moe, Larry and Curly had just as much chemistry as Moe, Larry and Shemp. But one has to remember that The Three Stooges were created during the height of the Depression. You can tell by watching the first half dozen shorts that they were unable to figure out how to create the comedies. In "Women Haters," the boys are doing their schtick in rhyme. In "Men in Black," they were attempting to be as zany as the Marx Bros. Eventually they discovered a formula that worked with Laurel and Hardy and the Our Gang comedies: become victims of the Depression and routinely create disaster for the wealthy, upper class. This is why The Three Stooges are painters, plumbers, milk men, ice men, garbage men, pest exterminators, and so on. The upper class laughed at the "stooges" on the screen and the lower class laughed at how they messed up the rich woman's plumbing or crashed a wedding party with a cake fight. It was a formula that steered off in another direction by the time Curly was making his departure and Shemp was entering the picture. Now they were the owners of a respectable tailor shop and knights attempting to rescue a princess. The formula worked best when they were Depression-era stooges.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the slapstick. As an adult, I now enjoy the one-liners. When the Stooges enter a mansion owned by a wealthy industrialist, Moe remarks, "Just look at the joint!" And Larry adds, "Kind of reminds me of reform school." When the Stooges were doctors and asked, "What did you do for the patient in room 234?" Moe remarks, "Nothing. What did he ever do for us?" This I find funny.

The Chronological Series -- a must have!
On the plus side, from 2007 to 2009, Sony Entertainment released all of The Three Stooges comedy shorts on DVD, in chronological order. Prior to their recent release, Columbia put them out on DVD with three shorts on each disc, sometimes offering the option of colorized versions instead of black and white. The Columbia releases were not in chronological order and worse, the prints they offered were no different than the versions screened on television over the past few decades (and still are on AMC). The chronological versions released through Sony offer about 24 comedy shorts in each volume. Do your math: the price is a bargain compared to the former versions. And the best thing about the chronological releases is they are re-mastered from the archival 35mm masters. Which means they are not uncut (not cut like the TV airings). War bond promos are back on the shorts during the war years, anti-Japanese and anti-German references are not edited out. The picture quality is sharp and crisp. It doesn't get any better than this....

So you can imagine my surprise when, as a fan of The Three Stooges, the Farrelly Brothers finally managed to get their big screen adaptation up on the big screen. For more than a decade, the Farrelly Brothers attempted to revive the classic shorts in a motion-picture. At one time Sean Penn was interested in playing Larry, alongside Jim Carrey as Curly and Benicio del Toro as Moe. Warner Bros., MGM and Columbia were interested at one time, but it was 20th Century Fox that finally helped bring their project to fruition. And having just watched the film this past Tuesday, I can report that the movie was worth the high expectations and long wait.

The Three Stooges (2012 movie)
My wife and I were laughing and found the movie very funny. But in fairness, after more than a decade and assuming the Farrelly Brothers tweaked the script over the years with more added humor and one-liners, the film could have been funnier. But it works on many levels... especially placing three Depression-era characters into a modern-day setting. Curly is looking into an "eye" phone was a hoot. The slapstick was hilarious and when Curly attempts to give the Heimlich maneuver to a dolphin (you have to see it to believe it), the results are laugh out loud funny. Sure, Larry sings like an opera star when Moe throws a lobster in his pants... Moe makes a cameo on The Jersey Shore. But if you are going to modernize something from the 1930s and 1940s, you have to take some liberties. And for that, we can forgive the Farrelly Brothers. After all, these are the same guys who practically invented the R rated comedy.

The Three Stooges Movie Poster
What might not be the buzz on the internet these days was certainly discussed many times at the Cincinnati convention last weekend. No one wanted to see The Three Stooges on the big screen until they heard a report from someone verifying there were no poop or sex jokes. I am happy to report that the movie has a PG rating and if you can get past the first ten minutes (which is silly and ridiculous), the movie is just as funny as the original shorts.

Not a spolier: I enjoyed the little touches such as the orphanage "established in 1934," which was the first year The Three Stooges came into being at Columbia.

The movie did not flop. It earned $17.1 million during the opening weekend. “This was the hardest movie to cast,” explained Peter Farrelly. “Big-name actors would say, ‘I’ll be doing a version of Larry,’ or, ‘It’ll be my take on Moe.’ And we wanted to be very specific about what the Stooges did. It had to be faithful." And thankfully, the movie strikes the right chord. The Hunger Games was losing momentum and it was still number one for the fourth weekend in a row. The Three Stooges should have done a lot better. But movie studios look at the bottom line, not the lines outside theaters. If you want to send a message to Hollywood (especially Warners, MGM and Columbia), go buy a ticket this weekend and enjoy the movie.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention

Lon Clark, Bob Burchett and Parley Baer (L to R)
This weekend (April 13 and 14 to be exact) marks the 26th and final Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention held (where else?) in Cincinnati, Ohio. The convention promoters have decided, after 26 fruitful years, to hang up their hats and coats and close the doors to a successful run that is quickly becoming a sign of the times. FOTR closed doors a few months ago and I cannot say the hobby will be the same if this trend continues. One old-time radio convention last year wasn’t going to be held until they received donations and underwriting. With an aging fan base and a declined economy, all of this comes as no surprise. My wife and I attend over 20 conventions a year and, with but one or two exceptions, the attendance at film festivals and nostalgia events have been dwindling by the numbers. Everyone has their theories why this has been happening and I feel certain I’ve heard them all ranging from:

a) The internet killed off the need for vendor rooms.

b) Rising gas prices.

c) The fan base isn’t getting any younger.

Bob Hastings and Dan Hughes
I suspect the real reason is a combination of the above. Most important is number three. There are not enough young people involved in the hobby to ensure the longevity of these events. Thankfully, we have this one last weekend to celebrate in Cincinnati. An annual gathering where fans of a nostalgic bygone era can spend a weekend sharing a common interest. So it seems only fitting that we look back at 26 years of history.

The first annual Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention began in the spring of 1987. “Bob Burchett got his inspiration from the Newark convention and it was there that he was able to make the contacts so that we could have guests,” Robert Newman recalled.

Parley Baer, Bob Burchett and Bob Hastings
“I would go to the Friends of Old Time Radio convention every year and come back to give a report to our local radio club,” Bob Burchett recalled. “The question would always come up, why don’t we have a convention in Cincinnati? Nothing ever happened until one year we had a new member join named Jim Skyrm. Jim had some experience with conventions. He found a small motel in Kentucky where we had our first convention… The first convention was held on the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby. Everyone had a hard time finding a room with all of the hotels booked solid. It was the first of many learning curves. Afterwards, we made sure not to book the event on the same weekend as the Derby.”

"They were talking about for a year or two," recalled Jim Skyrm. "I'm one of those people who just sits up and gets the job done so I helped get the first one started. I only helped get the first one off the ground. Bob loved and it and took over for the remaining 25 years."

Barb Davies
The event was held in a small room of a motel in Kentucky, near the airport. There was no record of attendance so the head count totaling the number of attendees cannot be certain. There were a total of 17 dealers. There were no celebrity guests or radio re-creations. But attendees came and one highlight of the weekend was a bit unusual. A member of the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Club, Don Clayton, had painstakingly made a replica of the Jot 'em Down Store from Lum and Abner. “It was stocked and real so you could go in and jaw with Lum and Abner while you played a game of checkers with Abner,” Newman added.

“I had been going to the Friends of Old-Time Radio for eleven years, so I had made friends with a lot of the dealers,” Buchette explained. “When I asked three of them if they would come to Cincinnati if we had a convention, they said ‘sure.’ Terry Salomonson, Bob Burnham and Gary Kramer were the established dealers who came. Terry set a pattern of arriving late that he has kept up over the years… Gary’s daughter got married one time, and he almost didn’t go to the wedding. Bob missed a few but for the most part all three of them have supported the convention over the years.”

Small tid-bit: The name of the first convention was “The Old Time Radio & Nostalgia Collectables Show” because all there was were dealers. “We put an ad in Antique Week,” Burchett recalled. “An old guy walked in with a cane and said, ‘I drove 80 miles for this.’ A group came in and wanted to know if we had any X-rated stuff. When we told them no, they were disappointed.”

Robert Newman
For the second year, the event moved to the Marriott Inn on Chester Road in Sharonville, Ohio. The purpose of the move was because the hotel in Kentucky was insufficient to hold a convention. Bob Burchett built a good relationship with the hotel staff and the event remained there for many years. (The only reason the convention moved to new hotels in later years was because each of the hotels closed doors.) There were no celebrity guests for the second year but the attendance noticeably grew. “Dave Warren found the Marriott hotel with the Windjammer restaurant,” Burchett explains. “We added re-creations that year.”

“The first time I met Bob Burchett and Dave Warren was in Bridgeport Conn.,” Barb Davies recalled. “I was wearing a dress and most of the ladies were wearing pants. Bob ran up to me and said, ‘don’t move a damn inch.’ Then he took a picture of my legs… and he published it in the digest.”

Willard Waterman
The third year, while still at the Marriott, the event moved into the Windjammer portion of the hotel (best remembered for having a pirate ship sticking out of the hotel). If anyone questioned the success of the event, the third year eliminated all doubts. Willard Waterman, best known for playing the title role of The Great Gildersleeve on radio and television, was flown in from California to sign autographs, pose for photos and re-create his radio role on stage with a group of talented actors. “At the Newark Convention I met Willard Waterman. It was his first visit there,” said Bob Burchett. “When I gave my report to our radio club, I suggested we invite a guest – Willard Waterman. There was concern about what it would cost. This is when I went out on a limb and said I would foot the bill. I have been credited with staring the Cincinnati Convention but that is not the case. Our local radio club was the one who created it. The limb I was out on wasn’t a very long one as it turned out. The attendance spiked that year. We must have gone from 100 to 300.”

Bob Hastings
In 1990, Parley Baer and Bob Hastings were the celebrity guests. Hastings would return to Cincinnati more than any other celebrity. Quickly establishing himself as down-to-Earth and a warm human being, Hastings was never treated like a celebrity by the attendees. Instead, the actor became the neighbor-next-door who mingled, laughed and told stories. For those who attended Cincinnati over the last few years, it is kind of difficult to imagine the convention without Bob Hastings.

“What a great guest he has been,” Bob Burchett recalled. “He has always made himself available to the fans and to visit with them as long as they want to… At Newark on that Friday night, Parley Baer came into the room and Jay Hickerson stopped what he was doing and started playing the theme song to Gunsmoke. Everyone gave him a standing ovation. He was very moved by this. Later, he said he didn’t think anybody remembered him or his radio work. Also that year Bob Hastings made his first visit so for our fourth convention we had two guests.”

Radio re-creation with Steve Thompson on right.
Parley Baer was best known as Chester on radio’s Gunsmoke and as Mayor Roy Stoner of Mayberry on television’s The Andy Griffith Show for the 1962-63 season. “I fell in love with him immediately,” Robert Newman recalled, “and at some point during his visits to the convention over the years I told him I would buy a rocking chair, build a fireplace, and a couple of other things if he would come and live with Barbara and I.”

“One thing I remember was Parley’s sense of humor,” Rene Thompson, an annual attendee, laughed. “Parley Baer was ‘hiding’ at our vendor table and helping us sell stuff at the 4th convention.”

Terry Salomonson
“I was with Parley most of the day, and he kept asking me what time it was,” Burchett laughed. “I don’t wear a watch so I couldn’t tell him. Anyway, one the dealers gave me a picture of Parley so he could sign it and I passed it on to him. Parley put on the picture, ‘To my friend Bob who wouldn’t give you the time day.’”

Parley left such a big impression that an award was ultimately named after him. “I had been thinking about this award for a year or so,” recalled Terry Salomonson, “and over a private dinner with Parley in April 1996, I asked him if he would allow me to start the Parley E. Baer Award as a way of recognizing persons that go the extra mile, for all the right reasons, to continue to promote OTR. Without hesitation, he quickly replied that he could think of about 500 other people’s names to use before thinking of his. He was a very modest man with a zero level of ego. But he said he was flattered and would have no objections.”

Each year and until his death on November 22, 2002, Terry and Parley went over a list of names and Parley helped pick the winner for each Cincinnati Convention. Parley personally handed the first award to Bob Burchett. Then, because of an additional stroke on July 21, 1997, Parley was no longer able to travel to Cincinnati. “We continued to select each year’s winners via telephone calls between the two of us,” Terry explained. The following are the dates the award was given and how each was inscribed. On three particular years, two Parley E. Baer Awards were given and for two years, three awards were given.

04/19/1997 Robert P. Burchett
05/30/1998 Jay Hickerson
04/24/1999 Barney Beck
04/29/2000 Margaret "Peg" F. Lynch
                   Robert F. Hastings
04/21/2001 Robert W. Newman
04/20/2002 Thomas "Dave" Davies
                   Barbara Ann Davies
04/12/2003 Charles L. "Chuck" Schaden
                   Mary E. Ramlow
                   Donald D. Ramlow
04/17/2004 Rosemary Rice Merrill
                   Harold F. "Hal" Stone
                   Harold R. Zeigler
04/16/2005 Martin J. Grams, Jr.
04/22/2006 Edward S. Clute
                   Terry G.G. Salomonson
04/21/2007 Charles Franklin Summers
04/12/2008 John Delbert Rayburn
04/25/2009 Neal Stanley Ellis
05/08/2010 Kenneth F. Stockinger
05/14/2011 Roy George Bright
04/14/2012 To Be Announced

The inscription on the Award is as follows:
Parley E. Baer Award
Presented to:
(Name of recipient)
In Recognition Of ("His" / "Her")
Continuing Exemplary Efforts in
Supporting the Preservation
and Enjoyment of Radio History
(Date Given)

In 2006, the founder and creator of the Parley E. Baer Award was surprised as a recipient of the award when it was presented to him by Bob Burchett, head of the Cincinnati Convention, after the presentation of the award to Edward S. Clute.

Parley Baer answers questions from the audience.
In 1991, Ezra Stone and Barney Beck were the celebrity guests. With radio’s Henry Aldrich attending, the selection of a radio re-creation was a no-brainer. The Aldrich Family would become a highlight of the re-creations. But one incident went unnoticed by many of the attendees. “Our group, through twenty odd years, has seen births, marriages, deaths, all the things that go with life,” Rene Thompson adds. “This was never more evident than when Ezra Stone was with us the year after the death of his wife, Sara. The show we were re-creating was a version of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ and there’s a scene where Martin Vanderhof, the character that Ezra was playing, speaks to God. Unbeknownst to the audience, Ezra ad-libbed a beautiful request asking that the Good Lord remind his wife, Sara, that he still loved her. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage but we pulled together as a troupe and kept up the comedic pace and tone of the piece.”

“I saw later when researching about Ezra for a piece I was writing that this Cincinnati performance was listed in Ezra’s WHO’S WHO entry,” Steve Thompson adds.

Louise Erickson and Shirley Mitchell
After having such great success with Willard Waterman in 1989, Waterman was invited to return in 1992, along with Louise Erickson, Shirley Mitchell and Barney Beck. This time there was no mob scene, but a packed re-creation room was ensured. “When it came time for the re-creation I looked up and got the shock of my life,” recalled Robert Newman. “I could not see the end of the line. I went outside and looked and all I could see was people waiting to get in and see Willard Waterman perform. I left my wife at the check-in table and went to inform the cast of the problem and we got Willard to agree to do a repeat performance. I went looking for chairs that we could cram into the re-creation room. We got as many chairs as we possibly could into the re-creation room. Some may have been sitting in somebody’s lap. And then I faced the people that were left out… For a while it looked like I was going to be lynched.”

“The one to remember was the 6th convention,” Burchett added. “It was because we had three of the stars from The Great Gildersleeve show. Willard Waterman, Shirley Mitchell and Louise Erickson. I was in the dealers room and Robert Newman came up to me and said, ‘You had better look out in the hallway.’ I looked and it was wall-to-wall people all the way back to the registration deck and out the door. Robert said the ones in back of the line aren’t going to pay if they don’t see the show. So I made my way through the crowd to the re-creation room to tell them we had a problem. They didn’t mind in doing at least two shows. That, by far, was our best-attended convention. That night the three guests, myself, Barb and Dave Davies had a great dinner, and spent the evening talking OTR. What a great experience.”

Don Ramlow, director of the re-creations
In 1993, Parley Baer returned along with Barney Beck and Lon Clark. Dick Beals was supposed to be among the guests, but for reasons no one can remember, he was a no-show.

In 1994, Ezra Stone was heavily promoted as the weekend guest, but he died two weeks before the convention. Bob Hastings graciously agreed to fill in for Ezra Stone. John Rayburn was also a guest that weekend.

Bob Burchett decided to give an award every year at the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio & Nostalgia Convention. The Stone/Waterman Award was given to people who helped preserve old-time radio and was named after Ezra Stone and Willard Waterman. "We wanted to create an award to honor one of our two guests, Ezra or Willard. So we decided to name it after both of them," Burchett explained. "There was no problem deciding who was going to get the first Stone/Waterman award. It was Robert Newman, for all the hard work he put into running the convention." Burchett was unable to figure out who won awards on which specific years but a list of the award winners can be found below (subject to revisions and corrections).

Robert Newman (the first award winner)
Bob Hastings
Rosemary Rice
Hal Stone
John Rayburn
Fred Foy
Peg Lynch
The Dan Hughes Family
Martin Grams
Terry Solomonson
Chuck Schaden
Don Ramlow
Bob Burchett
Dave Warren
Parley Baer
Dave Davies
Barb Davies
Steve & Rene Thompson
Bob Burnham
Gary Kramer

Will Hutchins
Ryan Ellett (2008)

Fred Berney (2008)
The Crowne Plaza Hotel & Staff
Herb Brandenberg
Ed Clute
Eddie Carroll
 Neal Ellis (2011)
Ken Stockinger (2011)
Jim Beshires (2012)
Melanie Altman (2012)

Dave Warren

Peg Lynch and Fred Foy
 In 1996, Barney Beck, Fred Foy, Parley Baer and Peg Lynch were the celebrity guests. Parley and Peg teamed up to do Ethel and Albert and this became the highlight of the convention (and again in 1997 and 1998). Unfortunately, these were Parley’s last conventions in Cincinnati. “It was magic when it happened,” Burchett recalled. “Parley said it was the highlight of his career. He wanted to take it on the road.” Beginning in 1999, Peg teamed up Bob Hastings playing the role of Albert.

“Fred Foy was a real gentleman,” Burchett continued. “Class all the way. At local radio station WVXU, they would have our guests on the air for an hour promoting the convention. One time, when Fred was there, a 12-year-old boy came dressed in his cowboy outfit wanting to meet Fred. He had hand-carved guns made out of wood. Fred made a point to stop and have a nice visit with him. I invited him and his mom to the convention. I got to the hotel first and went around to the dealers to tell them about the boy. By the time he and his mom got there, I had a bag full of radio shows for him. I still have the wooden gun he gave me.”

In 1998, Barney Beck, Bob Mott, Bob Hastings, Peg Lynch and John Rayburn were among the guests. “That year Barney Beck wasn’t sure if he could come,” Burchett recalled. “He suggested we ask Bob Mott. After we invited Bob, Barney found out he could come. I told him I couldn’t afford two sound men. He said he wouldn’t charge me for coming. Our Playhouse in the Park had a play that took place in a radio station, and one of the main characters was a sound effects man. They invited Bob and Barney to give a sound effects demo before the play. Bob wrote a skit centered around sound effects about The Lone Ranger for Fred Foy. Fred couldn’t make it that year. When John Rayburn would attend, he was like a spark plug. He kept everyone going with his spoonerisms and fun-filled return to the Golden Age of Radio programs he use to do. At that time he had been in radio for over 50 years. As far as I know he’s still going at it.”

Terry Salomonson (left) receives the Stone/Waterman Award.
“Bob Hastings started doing Ethel & Albert after Parley could no longer come,” Burchett continued. “Peg said after she does it with someone new and gets used to their sound patterns, she can write for them. She wrote several new show for Bob to do. Not just changing old scripts, but writing new ones. She’s a younger Ethel doing it with Bob. What a talent.”

In 2002, Bob Hastings, Peg Lynch, Rosemary Rice and Hal Stone were guests. “Hal and I hit it off immediately,” Newman recalled. “He was sitting when I first approached him. He got up, made me sit and he jumped in my lap and said that from then on I was his Uncle Bob (he had an Uncle Bob; if you are ever at the house I'll show you the picture of him in my lap).”

Rosemary Rice
“I remember when Rosemary Rice started coming to join Bob Hastings,” Burchett added.” She is a really classy lady. In a re-creation of Richard Diamond, she used a hillbilly voice. I couldn’t figure out at first who was saying the lines until I figured out it was her. Then came Hal Stone to round out the cast of Archie Andrews. The three of them had a ball with the reunion. Hal passed away much too soon.”

In 2004, Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice, Hal Stone, Will Hutchins and John Rayburn were guests. “There’s a side note on Will,” Newman added. “On one of the nights of the convention the main group went out to eat and he got left behind. I offered to get him dinner at the hotel or take him out to eat, but he refused. He finally agreed to let me go out and get him something. When I got back with the food, he tried to pay me for it, which I would not allow, but he did absolutely insist that I take a one dollar tip.”

Attendees who flocked to Cincinnati every year became a permanent fixture. So popular were some of them that many believe the Cincinnati Old Time Radio & Nostalgia Convention would not be the same without them. Among them was Fred Korb, who came to most of the FOTR and all of the Cincinnati conventions. Between Fred and Ken Piletic, they videotaped almost every celebrity interview at both conventions for many, many years.  “Fred Korb (Naperville, Illinois) was an amateur archivist of old time radio programs,” Piletic explained. “Like myself, he recorded many radio programs off the air and put them into circulation on reel-to-reel tapes. At the conventions, once or twice, in the dealer's rooms he sold his ‘Water Method Kit’ to remove the ‘squeak’ from hydrolized Shamrock Tape without baking the tapes. Fred's method (which he discovered himself) was fast and easy. I don't know why it never caught on.”

Ken Piletic
“Fred was secretary of the ORCATS (Old-Time Radio Collectors And Traders Society) for many years,” Piletic continued. “He kept the ORCATS library of OTR shows well organized in several rooms of his air-conditioned library in the basement of his home. He never wrote any books or did any professional radio work. He was a technical person and a great organizer. He was well-educated about Personal Computers, and helped may collectors organize their collections on their PCs. I met him through Ham Radio.  His call sign was K9HWZ, and he participated on the ORCATS NETWORK on the 4Ø meter ham band (short wave) every week. He got many hams interested in Old-Time Radio via this net. He died due to an infection that began during heart surgery several years after the actual heart bypass. Although he continued to attend OTR conventions after this heart problems (and the infection), he was very weak and had to rest a lot in his hotel room during the daytime.”

“Ken Piletic and I got into a yearly ‘thing’ about him taking a picture of me, while at the same time, I was taking a picture of him,” Terry Salomonson added. “This ‘tradition’ has continued every year on the Cincinnati convention.”

Another attendee who was beloved was Paul Meek, who came to all of the Cincinnati conventions until his death on January 6, 2008. “Paul Meek was a neat little guy,” recalled Bob Burchett. “He had trouble getting around because he was born handicapped, but I never heard him complain about it. He collected old-time radio shows and comic books related to OTR and TV stars. He had a large collection of VHS tapes. I met him at my first Friends of Old Radio Convention in 1978. Dave and myself missed our flight home. He came over to my office and I wasn't there. Herb Brandenburg was looking for me also. They got together and started our Cincinnati Radio Club.”

Ted Davenport
One vendor, Ted Davenport, was also a staple at the Cincinnati event. “ He came for many years to Cincinnati until health issues with him and his parents, who he cared for, made it impossible for him to attend,” Terry recalled. “Ted gave many tapes away to convention attendees, especially younger children and early to the hobby collectors. He started my collection off when he befriended me in 1976. He paid for people’s rooms, meals and convention fees for those that helped him at the conventions. Over the years he has always been very generous with his time and the sharing of his collection. To this day, Ted and I are still trading and sharing with each other.”

“Esther Geddes was another dear lady who first came with her husband, Tyler McVey, and continued to come after he passed,” Burchett looks back fondly. “She was always a bright spot when came in to the room. She’s 95 and still swimming every day. She has a great smile.”

Like any convention, funny stories grow with each calendar year. Attendees have their favorite moments and Cincinnati retains a great number of them.

The Boogie Woogie Girls
“There was the one year, while I was setting up, that a tornado went over us,” recalled Robert Newman. “The hotel was evacuated into the area where I was trying to set up.  It was nearly impossible to work around all those people, some holding their plates of food that they had brought out of the restaurants. But we opened on time. I could mention that all those years we were in the Windjammer that the entrance to the convention was like a wind tunnel and Barbara and I liked to freeze to death, while being pelted by rain, ice, snow and anything else you can think of that a mailman, who had been on his route for 50 years might encounter, including the above mentioned tornado.”

“If you are going to be a radio re-creator, you have to have a sense of humor because with only an hour’s practice before you perform, once in a while, you are bound to goof in front over 200 plus people. That said, sometimes the goofs that are best remembered for us re-creators happened during the rehearsal,” Rene Thompson commented. “During a rehearsal for a Lone Ranger re-creation, Ken Borden was trying out for Tonto when he gave a blooper that became legendary among the re-creation clique. Tonto was to say ‘Hmmmm, little girl,’ pointing out to The Lone Ranger that there was a child in the area. Sweet Ken’s delivery was such that, well, to be blunt, he sounded like [you know]. And what made it worse was Karen Hughes who was playing the little girl back when she WAS still a little girl.”

Barney Beck
At the Ramada Inn, Parley Baer and Bob Hastings were in the lobby of the hotel and they were sitting by themselves when a group of ladies happened to come out of the doors of the ballroom. They were not there for the show but they recognized the stars and when they spotted Parley and Bob, they wanted have to there photos taken with them. The stars obliged graciously. Later, while Parley and Bob were at the convention, a bunch of cops came in and asked if they could have their picture taken with them and I told them they are accessible. They especially  wanted to have both of them in the same photo.”

“I do recall my sister Laura and I auditioning for parts in the recreations, getting in to the elevator afterward, and being joined by Payton, who was autistic and one of the nicest people you could ever meet,” recalled Steven Jansen. “At the time, we didn't know him at all, yet. He had been at the auditions, and heard us try out, he liked my sister's performance playing the typical frightened-woman-type. ‘I really like the way you scream,’ he says, with a nervous laugh. ‘Oh, well, thank you!’ replied Laura. The elevator stopped at his floor and he got off and said, ‘I'll see you later.’ As soon as the doors close, I turned to Laura and say, ‘Well, you handled that pretty well.’ Laura asks, ‘What?’ I told her, ‘Some strange guy gets in the elevator with us, and says he likes the way you scream, then says he’ll see you later -- some women might find that a bit scary. He didn’t even phase you a bit.’  ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘I didn't even think of that. You know, you’re right!’”

Dave Davies and Herb Ellis (left to right)
“I remember practicing Jewish accents in the bathroom before auditions for Allen's Alley,” Rene Thompson remarked. “Then there was the year they asked Steven, ‘Can you bark like a dog?’ I told them, ‘Yes, he can, but I’m not saying when or where.’”

“We became a real convention with the fifth one,” Bob Burchett explained. “Don Ramlow became the director of the re-creations, and we got a real sound effects man, Barney Beck. Without them the show would never have been a success. Don and his wife Mary helped carry this show as much as I have and without them there would never have been a 26th.”

Robert Newman remarked: “My most pleasant memories are of all the friends that I have made over the years. As far as I am concerned we never had patrons, ticket buyers or whatever name you care to call the public, we had guests. I did my best to treat everyone with the utmost respect, to meet all their needs, not matter what they were, convention related or not. I spent days driving all over Greater Cincinnati trying to find a car that was stolen. I spent most of two nights in the hospital with a guest that had medical needs, went and got any medicine they needed, and got them back to the hotel and tucked in bed (none of their friends were in sight at the time).”

Harold and Kathleen Ziegler and Bob Burchett
“For the 23rd convention, the hotel where we were going to have the event closed two weeks before the convention,” Burchett recalled. “I had saved a brochure from another hotel so I went out to see it that Sunday, and after looking around I decided it would work. I worked all day that Sunday designing a postcard to be mailed out on Monday. After I got the postcard in the mail, a few days later they changed the name of the new hotel. It’s a wonder anyone found it. Everything worked out and we had good attendance.”

“We have always kept Cincinnati uncomplicated, Robert Newman, Don Ramlow and myself,” Burchett concluded. “One year Robert was having health problems and couldn’t make it. They found something on one of my kidneys the week before the convention, and said it had to come out. I told the doctor I had a convention the next week. He said, ‘Do you want to go to more of them?’ So that year we were without two of the team. Everyone said it ran better without me, and I wondered if I should stay home every year. Barb and Dave Davies pitched in and saw that everything went well.”

Bob Burnham
“It is time for the convention to fade away, but there is never a time to be separated from cherished friends,” Robert Newman remarked. “I love them, pray for them and remember them often. Typing this has brought tears to my eyes at 2:30 in the morning.”

“There are several reasons why this will be the last convention,” Bob Burchett explained. “Old-Time Radio conventions have had their run. Attendance has gone down and the cost of putting one on has gone up. There are not enough younger fans getting into the hobby to take over for us old timers. Any guest that come to Cincinnati has to fly to get here and the cost of air travel has gone up. The stars live on the East and West coast so they have to fly. I’ve been throwing a party for 26 years hoping someone would come. Not as many come as there used to. That’s as good enough a reason as any to make this one the last one.”

For the record, the list below details the guests that attended over the years. (I avoided repetition by not listing the guests already mentioned above.)

1995 - Barney Beck and Herb Ellis.
1997 - Barney Beck, Parley Baer, Fred Foy, Peg lynch and John Rayburn.
1999 - Barney Beck, Fred Foy, Bob Hastings, Clive Rice, Rosemary Rice and Peg Lynch.
2000 - Bob Hastings, Esther Geddes, Tyler McVey, Peg Lynch and Rosemary Rice.
2001 - Bob Hastings, Peg Lynch, Esther Geddes, Tyler McVey and Rosemary Rice.
2003 - John Rayburn and Leo Jordan (a relative of Jim and Marian Jordan).
2005 - Will Hutchins, Bob Hastings, Esther Geddes, Rosemary Rice, and Hal Stone
2006 - Fred Foy, Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice, Hal Stone, Will Hutchins and Esther Geddes.
2007 - Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice, Hal Stone, Esther Geddes and Ruth Last.
2008 - Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice, Esther Geddes, John Rayburn and Ruth Last.
2009 - Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice, Esther Geddes and Eddie Carroll.
2010 - Bob Hastings, Rosemary Rice and Esther Geddes.
2011 - Rosemary Rice and Esther Geddes.
2012 - Bob Hastings and Peg Lynch.

Photo credits: Steve Jansen, Chris Holm, Bruce Raleigh, Steven and Rene Thompson, Ken Borden, Ken Piletic and Bob Burchett.