Sunday, May 10, 2015

History of SPERDVAC

1999 Convention. Fred Foy and John Hart
The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy (SPERDVAC) traces its beginnings back to May of 1974, when Ken Stern's show debuted on KCSN-FM ,Cal State Northridge, California. Initially, Kevin played LP comedy cuts on his three-hour Thursday night program intitled "Canyons of the Mind." Getting permission from the program manager, he began airing tapes of old-time radio shows supplied to him by collector Jerry Haendiges. A listener, Gene Ward, suggested a new title for the show and "Don't Touch That Dial" was born. Another listener, Jim Coontz, contacted Kevin with the idea of forming a group consisting of enthusiasts & collectors, in which they could share their passion for Old-Time Radio (also known as OTR). The first membership meeting (with about 12 people attending) was held in November of 1974 and it was here that SPERDVAC was born. Jim Coontz was chosen to be the first president, a charter was drawn up with 7 goals and a California non-profit corporation status was applied for and granted. Over the years succeeding presidents were Joe Crawford, Bobb Lynes, Larry Gassman, Don McCroskey and Bob Steinmetz.

With Jerry Haendiges donating some of his OTR shows to start a lending library, other members and sources added more to the collection of reel-to-reel tapes. Soon after, there were hundreds of shows in the libraries,  both General and Archives [original source] which could be borrowed by mail by members all across the USA.

June Foray at the SPERDVAC dinner banquet.

Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett

Barbara Fuller

Stan Freeberg

One of the seven original goals was to honor those pioneers who had contributed so much to make radio the memorable medium it was during those "Golden Years." The first guest speaker at a meeting was Stan Freberg, who became SPERDVAC Honorary Member #1. Ever after, when a person (who worked in radio during the golden age) spoke at a meeting or performed at a later convention, they would become an Honorary Member. "Younger" people were given a Friend of SPERDVAC award. The Honorary Member list has grown to over 400!

Actress Shirley Mitchell
"At a meeting in 1982, Byron Kane suggested that he and a group of OTR actors put on a re-creation for SPERDVAC and that became the Suspense play done at the Capitol Records building in Hollywood," recalled Bobb Lynes. "Other re-creations followed, and the next step was a full-fledged OTR convention.  Using the Friends of Old Time Radio convention as a guide, the first SPERDVAC convention was held in November 1984, and annually almost every year since then. At those conventions and meetings and dinners, SPERDVAC has been treated to the talents of such OTR giants as Les Tremayne, Carleton Morse, Marvin Miller, Rudy Vallee, Arch Oboler, Norman Corwin, Jim (Fibber McGee) Jordan, June Foray, Himan Brown, Steve Allen, George Ansbro, Fletcher Markle and Ezra Sone, just to name a few."

Gil Stratton
Early on, SPERDVAC was chosen to be the repository for the Cecil B. DeMille Lux Radio Theater discs and scripts, George Burns donated his collection of shows, and many others have lent or given their discs to the collection including Dorothy Lamour, and a vast depository of Lone Ranger and Sergeant Preston recordings. The lending libraries (with thousands of shows) continue to grow as newly-discovered material is found, and SPERDVAC has archived (audio and video) most of its meetings and conventions over the years. These CDs and DVDs as well as hundreds of scripts, are available for members to check out.

Looking back over the years, SPERDVAC accomplished quite a lot. In 1982, six members of the CBS stock company from the 1950s was seated together for a reunion panel during one of the meetings. Norman Corwin spoke at SPERDVAC for the first time in 1978 and would return numerous times. From 1980 to 1982, the club had three dinners as the famous Brown Derby (Frank Nelson, Lurene Tuttle and Bea Wain spoke at those dinners). Jim Jordan was among the special guests. In 1987, Leonard Maltin taped a segment of SPERDVAC for Entertainment Tonight. The Larry King Show once contacted SPERDVAC in the hopes of securing a guest from Mutual radio. And the list grows on and on...

SPERDVAC has a monthly magazine/newsletter called Radiogram, that offers insightful articles about old-time radio programs, obituaries for OTR celebrities, news about the hobby in general, book reviews and much more. They send out eleven issues a year (they don't send one out in December) and the subscription rate is $15 a year. Patrick Lucanio is the editor and he's done a superb job. Personally, it's one of the three magazines I get every year that I enjoy reading and often find myself skimming through the pages while still parked at the post office.

Membership is still $25.00, with a $15.00 annual renewal. Membership not only offers a one-year subscription to Radiogram, but access to the lending libraries as well. For more information, call the toll-free number (877) 251-5771 or visit their web-site at

Mailing address is SPERDVAC, Box 669, Manhattan Beach, CA 92066