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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Also in the early 1930’s, WTIC developed a repertory
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
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
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.