Friday, May 17, 2013

Revisiting Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention

For 26 years, Bob Burchett, a resident of Kentucky, hosted the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Last year he announced that the convention was closing doors. An aging fan base and a declined economy all played a toll on the longevity of the event, held annually every April. With the warmer weather creeping in, I find myself with that itch to drive to Cincinnati and hang out with friends I see once or twice a year. The Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention may no longer exist but I cannot help but feel a bit nostalgic for the convention and wish it was still continuing. I was an attendee and vendor for 14 of those years. Thankfully, Mike Wheeler decided to carry on the tradition, now referred to as the Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo. Before closing the doors to a great convention and opening the door to a new one, I decided it would be fun to look back at past years and reminisce about all the fun we used to have.

John Edwards and Ted Davenport were vendors at Cincinnati for many years. Ted has a heart of gold. With his mother and father ailing, he remained home to take care of them and missed the last few conventions. But even when Ted was a no-show, he still took time to pack boxes of donations for the raffle table to help support the convention. His company, Radio Memories, offers a great selection of radio broadcasts from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. We need more people like Ted in the hobby.

I don't know who the guy on the left is. Probably an attendee at the event. But Fred Foy is posing next to him (on the right). Fred Foyis best known as the announcer for radio's The Lone Ranger. Having Foy at the event was a treat and naturally, they did a re-creation of The Lone Ranger that year. Interesting trivia: When Brace Beemer had laryngitis and could not perform the title role, Fred Foy stepped up to bat for the broadcast of March 29, 1954, "Burly Scott's Sacrifice." Brace later told Fred that he would never be sick again. That recording exists so if you want to seek it out and hear Fred in the role of the Masked Man, it's a lot of fun.

All three of these photos feature Parley Baer, best known to radio fans as Chester on Gunsmoke. The other man standing next to Bob in the top photo is Lon Clark, radio's Nick Carter. The photo above and below was the year that Suzanne and Gabor Barabas, authors of a book about Gunsmoke for McFarland publishing, attended the event. Parley is seen looking over the book and admiring what all went into putting such a huge tome together. William Conrad was approached but he did not participate. Parley later told Terry Salomonson that after the book was published, William Conrad received a complimentary copy by mail. Conrad, having looked over the book himself, then admitted to Parley that he should have assisted by consenting to an interview.

The photo below is the hotel where the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention was located. The Windjammer was a cool place with pirate decor and a pirate ship sticking out of the hotel. This is the only photo I have to offer at the moment and if it appears too white in color it's because the snow came down the night before and covered most of the parking lot.

You never know what you'll see at a nostalgia convention. The license plate obviously belonged to someone in the hobby and not a stranger visiting the hotel that day. Transcription discs were always common to find and I remember one year when four men each held the corner of a wooden crate to carry a stack of discs out to the parking lot. The raffle table above was a staple at the event. You paid for a few tickets (as cheap as a buck a piece) and the money went to help the convention. Tons of goodies spread out over two or three tables for people to choose from.

Cincinnati was also an excuse to catch up with some friends I saw once or twice a year. (Thank goodness for e-mail now.) Gordon Payton, pictured above with Karen Hughes, is performing a re-creation on stage. Gordon was known as "The Sci-Fi Guy" and had the largest collection of science-fiction radio and audio dramas in existence. He spent years making contacts with people outside the U.S. to find those rare, elusive radio recordings. Thanks to Gordon's efforts, "lost" radio shows are available today for us to listen to. Gordon lived in New Jersey and, sadly, he got out of the hobby a few years ago.

The photo above is Sonny Raley. Sonny hailed from Western Maryland and sold autographs from celebrities. Looking for an Alfred Hitchcock autograph? Sonny is the man to contact. He suffered from Alzheimer's in his final years and I remember going to his house and driving him to a few conventions so he wouldn't be behind the wheel. Sonny will be missed.

Chris Holm, in the black tee-shirt, hailed from Michigan at the time. He lives in Virginia now. Chris is a very talented radio actor on the stage and it's a wonder why Hollywood hasn't taken notice. (Of course, that's why the vocal talents on reality shows who make it big came from small-town churches.) Chris helps with the efficiency of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention every year. Thank you Chris!

Dan Riedstra and Jim Widner are pictured sitting at the dinner table. They are two of the nicest people you'll meet in the hobby. On the evening of the final night of the convention, there is a dinner with live stage performances and awards. Always a highlight and a great way to close the convention and look forward to the next one. 

The Boogie Woogie Girls, a modern-day version of The Andrews Sisters, supplied "live" stage performances for a few years. They were a hit and Bob made arrangements for them to return year after year. The middle picture above is Harold Ziegler. He helped film many of the events during the convention. He died too soon. Ken Piletic, pictured with the walkie talkie, also filmed most of the events including the final year. A nice guy and some of his photos are used for this blog post.

The photos below are of the re-creations that were performed on stage. Hal Stone is standing in the center. Rosemary Rice is standing to his left. Bob Hastings is on the far right in blue. These three actors all starred on Archie Andrews and naturally, a re-creation of that show was done for a number of years. Hal Stone is featured in the photo below. A nice guy who liked to drink alcohol and tell dirty jokes. When he passed away, the convention was never the same afterwards. He is still missed today as people still mention his name from time to time.

The photo above: (left to right) Terry Salomsonon, Ken Stockinger, Jack French and Lara Jansen. Terry won the Dave Warren Award. Ken is holding his Parley Baer Award proudly. Jack won two awards that year: the Dave Warren and the Stone/Waterman Award. Lara also received the Dave Warren Award. Awards like these are given out every year. The photo below has Bob Burchett (left) introducing Terry Salomonson (right) to give out the next award on stage.

The photo above is Jim Skyrm. A nice man who helped get the Cincinnati Convention up and running and then handed it over to Bob after year one. Jim has been to the show all 26 years and it was great seeing him again last year. Like I mentioned above, I am happy to be going back to Cincinnati again after Bob Burchett's 26 successful years... my only regret is not having gone to the first 12 that I missed.

For anyone curious about the new convention, the Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo, click here:

Special thanks to Stephen Jansen, Steven Thompson, Ken Piletic and Bob Burchett for the photos.

No comments:

Post a Comment