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.
summary is courtesy of listener
Notes from “The Broadcaster at
Forty” – Program 2.
The Second Decade – 1935-1945.
WTIC was operating 17 hours a day on weekdays, and
14-1/2 hours on Sundays when 1935 was ushered in.
Regular reports on the Connecticut legislature were
featured in 1935.
1935 saw the arrival of commentator Andre Schenker,
associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut. Prof.
Schenker eventually became WTIC’s foreign analyst. His program was
titled, “History in the Headlines.”
Music programs featured Joseph Blum, Sid Pearl,
Salvatore DeSteffano (sp?) and John Gowan. A new name was added to the
WTIC announcing staff – Bernard Mullins.
In September 1936, WTIC joined the Yankee Network.
One of 1936’s most popular programs was “Hull’s Hour
of Cheer,” presented by the Hull Brewing Co. Featured on the program of
dance music were The Four Royal Waiters, “Your favorite voice in your
favorite song, Fred Wade,” and the dancing rhythms of Rudy Martin and
his orchestra. The program was produced by Leonard Patricelli and was
announced by Bob Steele and perhaps George Bowe.
Also in 1936, the Connecticut River spilled
rampaging waters over its banks, affecting Hartford and surrounding
towns and many of the station’s listeners. Paul Morency and engineer Al
Jackson recounted some of the problems WTIC incurred in staying on the
The staff worked by gas lantern, candle and
flashlight. The station used a battery-operated remote amplifier from
the Grove Street studios. Commercial electrical power was unavailable,
as the Dutch Point Power Station had fallen victim to the floodwaters.
The only communication between the power
station and city headquarters was by amateur radio. A friend of WTIC,
who worked for the power company, had ham radio equipment in his car.
As the waters rose, the car was raised until it was on the next floor.
WTIC had available equipment for the five-meter band but without
commercial power, engineers Al Jackson and Fred Edwards carried many a
storage battery from street level to the top of The Travelers
1937 saw the end of the station’s use of staff
musicians. Recordings and transcriptions took the place of live music.
Larry Kenfield, music librarian since 1929, took charge of the fast
growing collection of records and transcriptions. By 1965, he was
responsible for over 90,000 selections.
Staff musicians returned in 1938 when musical
director Moshe Paranov was authorized to assemble a group of fourteen
for a new string ensemble.
Announcer Bruce Kern introduced a new program with
the following: “The makers of the famous Branford Oil Burner present
‘Stories in Song.’ ‘Stories in Song,’ a quarter-hour of drama, music
and romance, brought to you by that colorful character and genial
teller of tales, The Old Colonel. This evening’s Story in Song, the
final one in the current fall series, dramatizes for you The Old
Colonel’s own version of the most famous of all poems by Robert
Service, ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew.’ ” The show was written and
directed by Leonard Patricelli, with Bernard Mullins taking the role of
The Old Colonel.
In 1938, Connecticut was again to feel the wrath of
nature, when one of the century’s most destructive hurricanes struck
Southern New England on a dark September day. The storm took out WTIC’s
wire to the Avon Mountain transmitter but, according to Paul Morency,
the station was back on the air in about twenty-eight minutes and
stayed on the air, around the clock, for several days. WTIC personnel
had to carry batteries to the sixth floor of the Grove Street studios
in order to power studio equipment. The station originated many feeds
to the NBC Radio Network during the emergency.
WTIC applied in June of 1939 to the FCC for
permission to operate a television station. Meanwhile, a young harpist,
by the name of Bobby Maxwell, was giving weekly radio recitals.
A new noontime music and variety program began over
WTIC. “Present New England’s own singing star, Fred Wade, and Bateese
himself from Canada.” “Noontime Varieties” featured Fred Wade, Harry
“Bateese” Crimi, announcer Bruce Kern and Hal Kolb at the organ.
A part of the noontime schedule in 1939 was occupied
by a farm and home series, “The Connecticut Farm Forum,” conducted by
Frank Atwood. Later, Atwood joined the WTIC staff as director of farm
It was also that year that WTIC listeners first
heard, “Good evening, sports fans and everybody, how are you tonight?
This is Bob Steele with ‘Strictly Sports.’ ”
Another day in 1939 heralded WTIC’s entry into FM
broadcasting. Still in the experimental stage, the station received
permission to build the necessary equipment to operate a frequency
modulation station. On February 5, 1940, the station went on the air
with experimental call letters W1XSO.
On August 3, 1940, Gene Carroll and Glenn Rowell,
known as “Gene and Glenn,” joined WTIC – along with their characters
“Jake” and “Lena.”
New programs appeared over the WTIC airwaves. One
very successful offering debuted on October 6. It began with the
question, “Is Springfield ready? Is Hartford ready? Then make way for
the Quiz of Two Cities, presented by Listerine toothpaste!”
“Quiz” pitted teams of contestants in a battle of
wits. The show actually began its run with Hartford matched against New
Haven. Later, Springfield took over as the challenging city during the
seven year run. Again, Leonard Patricelli was producer, with George
Bowe as Hartford quizmaster, while Fred Wade and Turner Cook emceed on
the Springfield end, and Bruce Kern serving as the announcer for
Listerine toothpaste. “Quiz of Two Cities” went on to play in other
markets – Baltimore and Washington, for example – but the Hartford
version was considered to be the most successful. The Springfield
location, by the way, was the broadcast lounge of the Sheraton Hotel.
In 1940 also, “The Sabbath Message,” began a long
run over the station. It featured representatives of the three major
faiths on a rotating basis.
In January 1941, General Manager Paul Morency
approached officials of The Hartford Courant with the idea of
co-sponsoring an annual drive, The Mile O’ Dimes, for the benefit of
victims of the dreaded disease, polio. On January 15, the first red,
white and blue booth was opened on Main Street, across from the Old
State House. Gene and Glenn exhorted listeners and passers-by to drop
89,872 dimes – exactly the number equal to a mile – on the line. The
first campaign, from January 15 to 30, did not go just as envisioned,
though. Instead of the announced goal – the total collected amounted to
$18,192.20, or more than TWO miles of dimes. The program was so
successful that it continued for fifteen years and collected a total of
From its inception in February 1925, WTIC had
broadcasted on a number of frequencies. On March 29, 1941, NARBA – the
North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement – had the station
reassigned from the 1040 frequency it had used since 1934, to its
present spot at 1080 on the dial.
That year also marked the end of the line for the
familiar yellow trolley cars in Hartford. Announcer Ed Anderson
broadcast on the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, one of the final trips
of the trolley. From shortwave transmitter WEKW, he sent back to the
station the sound of air from the brakes, the doors closing, of the
bell and the car slowly making its way to its next stop. The following
day, motorized transportation took up the job of carrying pedestrians.
On December 4th, listeners were concerned about the
worsening situation in Europe when a bulletin stunned the local
community. A portion of the new Charter Oak Bridge collapsed as workmen
attempted to complete the span. Announcer Bernard Mullins read the
bulletin, in which the Hartford Police requested the public stay away
from the site of the disaster that rescue efforts could go forth
unimpeded. The last span from the west bank and the first in the
Connecticut River, failed, resulting in several deaths and many
injuries. The scene was described by announcer Bob Steele from the west
bank, about two hundred yards north of the Dutch Point Power Station of
the Hartford Electric Light Company.
While Hartford residents pondered the possible
reasons for the disaster, The Sabbath Message was being broadcast as
usual on Sunday, December 7th. As the minister gave his sermon,
announcer Fred Wade was handed a message. The minister quickly finished
and Wade read the first report of the Japanese attack on Pearl
“Yale Interprets The News,” a new series of prepared
interviews with Yale faculty members, began in January 1942, with
Bernard Mullins as interrogator. It was later heard on Sunday evenings,
under the modified title of “Yale Reports.”
As of June 18, 1942, WTIC was operating in
accordance with the U. S. Office of Censorship’s Code of War Practices.
Shortly thereafter, WTIC was authorized to sell War Bonds.
In these early days of the war, one of the most
stirring programs on radio was originated from the United States Coast
Guard Academy in New London, “The United States Coast Guard on Parade.”
It was heard in the
U. S. on the NBC Radio Network and around the world on shortwave. Bob
Tyrol handled the announcing duties.
WTIC was broadcasting the “Daily Tune Test,” Victor
Arden’s orchestra, “Rally Round the Bandstand,” Harry Horlick’s
orchestra and, on May 8th, 1942, George Bowe gave a cue and the WTIC
cast swung into action. “Sign Up For Victory” originated from the stage
of the State Theater, featuring the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the
singing of “skinny kid from Hoboken”, Frank Sinatra; the Orpheus and
___ Club from Yale, and Gene and Glenn. The program was presented by
the radio stations of Connecticut in behalf of the Pledge Campaign of
the United States Treasury. Sinatra sang “Blue Skies,” and Gene and
Glenn contributed their own brand of humor. As the band hit the
downbeat of “Song of India,” the audience dug deep into their pockets
and came up with dollars for Victory Bonds.
In the WTIC studios, everyone worked hard to keep a
steady flow of morale-boosting programming coming. On July 4th, 1943,
the “V for Victory” time signal was introduced to WTIC listeners. It
continues to be heard at the top of the hour today.
New programs prompted listeners to support the war
even more. Among those heard were: “Connecticut Yankees at Camp
Wheeler,” “The Armed Forces Club Sing,” “Uncle Jim’s Victory Garden”
and “Here Comes the Band,” “Rationing,” “You’re in the Army Now,”
“Submarine Patrol” and “Connecticut on the Alert”, “Wings for
Tomorrow,” “Connecticut Men and Women in the War,” “Quartermaster
Quarter-Hour” and “The Victory Hour,” broadcast every Saturday night,
featured name bands such as the Dorseys, Hal McIntyre, Sammy Kaye,
Horace Heidt, Charlie Spivak and Louie Armstrong. Autographed albums
went to audience members who purchased $500 War Bonds. There were
remote programs too numerous to mention.
In January 1944, as American and Allied GI’s were
pushing the war into the laps of the Germans and the Japanese, WTIC was
pushing the war against polio with a goal of five miles of dimes. A
generous public responded with a total of $51,358.35, roughly 5-7/8
At approximately 12:47 a. m. on the morning of
Tuesday, June 6, 1944, WTIC’s program was interrupted by a bulletin
from the NBC Newsroom. The announcer, breathless, reported “The German
news agency, Trans-Ocean, said today in a broadcast that the Allied
invasion has begun. There is no Allied confirmation.” At 3:15, the NBC
Fourth Chime was sounded. At about 3:30, newsman Robert St. John said,
“Ladies and gentlemen, we may be approaching a fateful hour. All night
long, bulletins have been pouring in, claiming that D-Day is here;
claiming that the invasion of Western Europe has begun.” A few moments
later, St. John switched to an overseas shortwave circuit, through
which came the voice of Gen. Eisenhower’s aide, Col. R. Ernest Dupuy.
“This is Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary
Force. The text of Communique Number 1 will be released to the press
and radio of the United Nations in ten seconds – repeat – ten seconds
from now. (pause). ‘Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied
naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied
armies this morning on the northern coast of France.’ ”
It was official. D-Day, the invasion of Hitler’s
“Fortress Europe” had begun.
A month to the day later, on July 6, 1944, Hartford
area resident were enjoying a brief respite from the war. It was muggy
that Thursday afternoon, with temperature in the high 80’s or low 90’s
and humidity around 90%. The matinee started late. Around 2:30, as the
animal act finished and the Flying Wallendas were ascending to the high
wire to begin their act, came the cry of “Fire!”
By 2:45, the big top had been reduced to smouldering
ashes. Audience members lay dead and dying, or injured, while
pandemonium seemed to be the order of the day.
Around 3 o’clock, WTIC announcers Bernard Mullins
and George Bowe hurried to the Barbour Street circus grounds. Walking
about the area, they realized that panic would be exacerbated if they
broadcast live from the scene. After they gathered what information
they could, they went to the State Armory, which had been set up as a
temporary morgue. That night on the 6 p.m. news, Mullins said,
“Hartford this afternoon suffered one of the greatest tragedies in its
history.” Bowe recalled reaching into his pocket to discover the
tickets that he had purchased for one of the performances.
Bernard Mullins ended their part of the news by
saying that he hadn’t prepared the evening’s newscast because, frankly,
he didn’t feel like it. Instead, he said, he would turn the remaining
time over to announcer Russ Dollar.
The weatherman had unwelcome news that September, as
the worst hurricane since 1938 visited itself upon the people of
Connecticut. Bernard Mullins spoke to WTIC listeners from an open
balcony of The Travelers Tower, 500 feet above the streets of downtown
The city, he reported, had not lost power, though
some outlying areas experienced interruptions in service. The station
operated on reduced power because of the line being down between the
power house in Unionville and the Avon transmitter.