|Spring 1996||Thoughts Of A Collector||Summer 1996||Newark Convention Experience|
|Fall 1996||Tape Problems||Winter 1997||On Line With The Internet|
|Spring 1997||Squealing Tape Problem||Fall 1997||Thinking Back|
|Winter 1998||Going to Newark Convention||Spring 1998||1997 Convention Report|
|Spring 1999||The Fog Zone||Summer 1999||Analyzing Shows|
SPRING 1996, Vol. XXIV, No. 2
THOUGHTS OF A COLLECTOR
While talking with Jim Snyder at the 1995 Newark FOTR Convention, Jim said to me, "Why don't you send me an article for the NARA News." "I can't write", I said. "That's what everyone tells me", Jim replied, "send me something." Yeah.... I thought.... that's easier said than done. What could I write about? I'm certainly not an expert on any shows or personalities. I'm not good on remembering names, sometimes I'm caught off guard and can't remember my own kids names. How can I write about different programs when I can't remember names of people in the shows. "Don't you have an opinion on anything concerning the hobby?", Snyder asked. Yeah.... we all have opinions and thoughts concerning the hobby, but maybe no one else would care about mine.
This past year was my 20th year collecting OTR. It seems like many of the collectors started at about the same time. I remember the first "dealer" that I bought from.... probably most collectors starting out bought from him too because no one knew where else to go and find the radio shows that we all loved and remembered. TWELVE DOLLARS AN HOUR.... WOW....! Now Jim, do you want an opinion on that? Needless to say, no one could afford to do this too often. It's a terrible feeling to be looking through a catalog and seeing all the different shows that you would love to hear again and knowing that it is impossible to be able to get them simply because you just can't afford it. It's like an apple on a tree branch just out of reach, you can see it, but you know you can't have it. But I guess with time and patience, all of us new collectors eventually found other sources. It took time, but we slowly built our collections.
I was not one to collect everything and anything. I learned from the very beginning that with limited funds, you have to be very selective on what you collect.
In starting a collection you had to concentrate first on the programs you loved from way back.... Jack Benny, Phil Harris, Fibber and Molly, Mysterious Traveler, Escape, Gunsmoke. Slowly, as the collection starts to build, you are able to expand to other great shows.... Suspense, Great Gildersleave, X Minus One, Dimension X, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, Burns and Allen.
Who would have thought years ago when you heard these shows every week, that one day you would be able to pick any of these programs, at any time and listen and enjoy them all over again.
Besides being into OTR, I have been a collector of Big Band Music and Singers. I guess like most people, I got interested in the music while in high school and have been collecting the bands and singers ever since. As a little kid, music was nice but who really cared about Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, or Frank Sinatra. I remember hearing them on the radio but really never paid attention. There was always some band on.... playing music at seven or seven thirty at night, sometimes in between the "regular" programs, and if you happened to be up late at night there was some band playing from some hotel or dance hall in New York or Chicago. Again, as a kid, who really cared who was playing. Now 30 years later I like music and I am buying LP's of my favorite bands. I am now also starting to collect OTR and guess what.... I discovered that besides all the comedy shows, and besides all the mystery shows, and besides all the detective shows, there are music programs and a thing called remotes from hotels and dance halls in New York and Chicago. I can now hear "live" Glenn Miller from the Glen Island Casino, Les Brown from the Cafe Rouge, Guy Lombardo from the Waldorf Astoria, Tommy Dorsey from the Meadowbrook, Cab Calloway from the Zanzibar, Frankie Carl from the Mark Hopkins, Freddy Martin from the Cocoanut Grove, Chuck Foster from the Blackhawk and the names and places go on....
Suddenly I didn't have to listen to a LP with songs that some record company decided I should hear. The music was played live, good or bad, corny or great, just as the band leaders decided to play it with bad notes and all. The big name singers are here too.... Helen O'Connell, Bob Eberly, brother Ray Eberle (they spelled their last names differently), Doris Day, Joya Sherrill, June Christy, Ginny Simms, Harry Babbitt, Marjorie Hughes, just to name a few. If you did not care for the bands, then there was also country western and classical programs. Anyone who likes the remotes of the bands may be interested in a book that came out in 1991 covering the first 1000 shows of the AFR One Night Stand Series by Harry MacKenzie. It is an excellent reference book for those broadcasts.
In the music and variety programs, AFR had great shows in Command Performance, Mail Call, GI Journal, and Jubilee. I heard that there also is a book out on the Jubilee Series, but I have not been able to find out the name of the author or the correct title.
The music was great, the comedy was great, and the mysteries were great. How can anyone compare todays TV against Old Time Radio? They can't.... we know that.... that's why we are OTR collectors. Anytime we choose, we can laugh, we can cry, we can be thrilled or chilled, or just hear some old melody being played. All we have to do is put on a tape. It's a fun hobby. Now.... as I look out my window here in upstate New York, and watch the snow pile up in my driveway.... I think I will go and listen to Harry James as he plays at the Palladium out there in sunny California.
Just some thoughts of a collector.
SUMMER 1996, Vol. XXIV, No. 3
NEWARK CONVENTION EXPERIENCE
Being an OTR collector and living where I do, I am at a disadvantage as far as the hobby is concerned. I know a few people in my area that collect some OTR. Except for one person, they do not get involved in the hobby. By that I mean they do not belong to any OTR clubs, they do not subscribe to any of the newsletters, and they never attend any of the conventions. When I do see these people, there really isn't much to talk about concerning the hobby.
I belong to several OTR clubs, but have not attend any meetings because they are not in my area. But I do enjoy reading their newsletters, which is the only connection I have with these clubs. I find the articles educational on certain topics, informative with the hobby, and in general, very enjoyable. Even when an article is on a topic that I'm not really interested in, it usually tells me something that I didn't know before. We all can't have the same interests in the hobby, so with the variety of writers, the variety of topics, we all learn a little bit more about the personalities and the programs that we are not that familiar with.
I've been attending the Friends Of Old Time Radio convention in Newark since 1982 and have met a lot of very nice people from all over the country. Some, I like to consider as friends, even though we only see each other once a year. A few others I correspond with from time to time during the year. The convention itself is always pleasant and friendly. I can only remember one time that there may have been a problem and that was a personality conflict. That took place a few years ago when one of the "regulars" kept continually making comments and remarks about one of the "dealers" about how he conducted his business. The "regular" then made the mistake for some reason of going into a storage area behind the Dealers Room. The "dealer" saw this and wandered into the storage area too. I don't know what took place back there, but the "regular" came scurrying out with a pale look on his face, and the "dealer" came casually strolling out with a smile on his. After that everything seemed to be very peaceful. I think there was a lesson to be learned by all out of that situation.... that remarks made sometimes become worse then the conduct that one may find objectionable.
Anyone who has attended or has read about the convention in Newark knows what an isolated and strange place the Holiday Inn is located at. In 1982, the hotel was surrounded to the East by Route 1 & 9 , which is eight or ten lanes wide, and the New Jersey Turnpike, to the South was a large empty field, to the West was an abandoned railroad freight yard, and to the North was a huge junkyard with a car crusher in the center.... a big car crusher in the outback of the New Jersey wastelands???.... hummm. Today there is a big new hotel replacing the junkyard to the North and a new prison was built to the South, (you can look out your window and watch the inmates exercise out in the yard). The highways and the abandoned freight yard are still there.
I always go to the convention with John Furman. If you know John, the only way to describe him is that he is unique. He is a one of a kind and probably the most honest, sincere, and trusting person you could ever meet. When he sets up his dealers table you never know what "treasures" you will find. Besides the OTR tapes, there could be antique radios, regular radios of all sizes, tape players, headphones, LP's, books, hard covers, paperbacks, pulps, comics, games, videos, and any number of collectibles and surprises. You can never go to John's table and just browse, because somebody is always in the way.
John always looks forward to the convention and he starts getting a little antsy about a week before the event and his excitement builds as the week progresses. Traveling with John is a whole adventure in itself. We usually leave about 5 AM to arrive between 9 to 10 AM. At 4:30 AM I get a phone call from John's wife with the warning "HE'S ON HIS WAY." He picks me up and I drive the rest of the way. The trip down the New York State Thruway and the Garden State Parkway is uneventful until we get to Exit 140. That's where the adventure begins. That's when John starts getting nervous. Actually he starts getting nervous just before we cross the state line. He starts to peak at Exit 140. At this point I must tell you that in 14 years we have never traveled the same road all the way twice! We always get off at Exit 140, but from there on it's like traveling into uncharted waters, you never know where you are going to wind up. After turning off at Exit 140, the first thing you must do is go 180 degrees to 22 East, that is if you didn't wind up on 22 West. Next you turn right onto 22 East and then make a quick right again and do 270 degrees onto a road that runs parallel along the ramp you originally got off of now going in the opposite direction. Confusing??? This is where you first lose your sense of direction. The couple of years we missed the quick right was because the road sign was missing. How could a major road sign be missing for several years? The only reason I know it was missing is that a couple of years ago I noticed it was put back up.
One time while traveling those uncharted waters John said "There's a ramp coming up, I think we have to take it to get to the Holiday Inn." I told John I thought it was too soon, but John said "turn now, turn now" as we approached the ramp with a tractor trailer on our tail. So I quickly turned down the ramp and in a short while we turned into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn. John looked at me and said "I told you." I looked around and said to him "This parking lot looks awful small and there's no parking lot around back." We were at the Holiday Inn, but this was the Holiday Inn South, the wrong one.
Another time when traveling those uncharted waters, I pulled into a side street to turn around after missing a turn someplace. John said "There's a police car, let's ask them for directions to Route 1 and 9." "I don't think we should " I said, but John insisted and we got our directions to Route 1 and 9. "What was wrong with that?" John asked. "Nothing," I replied, "but I don't think we should have bothered them with directions when they have three guys spread eagled against a car." Needless to say we did find our way again. Actually the last two trips down were correct and without incident in getting to the convention. But I shouldn't count last years trip as correct because I really thought a made a wrong turn at Exit 140 and was mumbling to myself when I made that 180 degree turn and found myself at the right intersection. A pleasant surprise.
John did not attend last year because of other commitments but he does plan on going this year. Hopefully we will find our way without any incidents and save an hour of travel time. Jim Snyder, have your wallet ready, John wants to talk to you about something he has in one of his boxes.
It's fun thinking about and remembering the activities, events and friends at the convention. It's also fun thinking about and remembering how to get there.
Just some thoughts of a collector.
FALL 1996, Vol. XXIV, No. 4
I was talking with Phil Scott from the Metro Washington OTR club concerning video tape. I asked him "Why do you have to rewind the tape before you return it to the store?" "Because they will charge you a dollar if they have to do it", he replied. "Yes, but what difference does it make if you rewind it before you watch it or rewind it after you watch it", I asked again. "Besides the convenience of coming home and popping it into the VCR, why does it have to be rewound?" "I don't really know, but what's your point?" Phil asked. With store video tape, nothing, but we as collectors handle a lot of tape, open reel, cassettes, and video. How many collectors rewind their tapes after partially listening to them and then set it back on the shelf to sit for a long time before it is listened to again. It's OK to rewind the tapes so that they are back to side one or program one and are ready to go the next time. But probably in most cases when the tape is rewound it is at the fast speed and not at the regular or play speed, and that is the point.
How long is the average tape good for? What is the shelf life of the open reel tape? Can a little extra effort in taking care of these tapes prolong the life of them? When we put a tape back on the shelf, do we rewind at fast speed and have a tape with uneven and ragged edges? Or do we rewind it at regular or play speed and have a nice smooth even "new look" edge on the tape? I think it will make a difference in the longevity of the tape.
We as collectors all have some Ampex government surplus tape in our collections. How old was this tape before we got it and how long ago did we get our first reels? Some of the Government tape that I had purchased was wound smooth on the reels and seemed to record OK, but most of those that were not wound smoothly and had edges sticking out did have some sound drops and ripples. So I believe that care is essential if you wish to keep your collection intact and not lose any part of it because the tape went bad. Bad tape is bad tape no matter what you do. Cheap tape is cheap tape and will deteriorate no matter what you do. If you have good tape and take care of it, it can last longer than you expect. I bought my first open reel recorder in 1955. I still have those first tapes I recorded back then and they still sound the same today as they did when I first played them.
A while back Jim Snyder used to write articles and rate the different dealers that he had bought tapes from. Many times those who got less than a good review would use the excuse about being a one man operation, about being behind and having to rush orders, and several other reasons. To me this was no excuse. If you take my money, then you owe me the best you can provide. We all know that we shouldn't always expect broadcast quality sound from old recordings, but we are pleased when the sound is better than we expected. There is no excuse for dealers to mislead on sound ratings. Bad sound from bad tape is something else again.
I have received recordings from dealers on brand new tape and in some cases the first five minutes, and once the whole first side was flux. That means that the dealers master was bad, and not the tape they sent me. That also means that he, or the person he got his tape from never listened to the tape. At double speed it may sound alright on the monitor, but in reality it is a bad tape. Again, no excuse. It is quite possible that when he got that tape originally it was a good tape, but if it was rewound at fast speed and sat on the shelf for a long time without being used, it could have gone bad. Heat and humidity, excessive dampness or cold, whatever the reason, unevenly wound tape can dry out in spots and develop ripples and cause flux. A little extra effort especially with the last five or ten minutes of tape may prolong the life and sound of that tape. Rewind the tape properly and secure the ends. This could produce a happier customer and a more respected dealer. What collector is going to keep buying from a dealer who keeps sending bad tapes. Maybe that is why there seems to be fewer dealers today than there was a few years ago. Many got in and then got out in a short period of time. Here again if you don't have a good product, you won't keep or build a good flow of customers.
Too many of these "dealers" were just pushing as many programs as they could just to make sales. This is wrong. I believe every program that is offered for sale should be listened to first and sound rated before being offered for sale. Yes I know, sound ratings are a whole new argument. If you went to a video store and bought a movie, came home and played it, and as you watched, the picture jumped up and down, was "washed out," or had "flashes" or crackling and distorted sound, back it would go to the store. You wouldn't want to hear about it being the best copy available or if it's a one of a kind. If you can't enjoy watching it, then it isn't any good. I think enjoy is the key word.
If you can't enjoy an OTR program because of bad quality in sound, then it is simply a bad program that should not have been offered for sale without stating that the sound was not good. If I know before that the sound may be bad and I still want the program, then that is my choice. I think today most dealers work for better sound on what they offer by either improving what they have electronically or by coming up with new and better copies of shows. Of course, if you happen to order from a catalog that has programs that were obtained way back, chances are you may pick up some shows that are not up to par sound wise, but that is OK as long as they are labeled as such. I still order by reel and run into this problem from time to time. Although I am sometimes disappointed by less than good sound, I am still grateful for all the programs I have picked up in the past and the ones I am able to obtain now. I believe most of todays dealers and collectors are more dedicated to the hobby than some were a few years back. After all, if it wasn't for these dedicated hobbyists, I wouldn't have any collection today or be able to enjoy any of those programs from long ago.
Todays youth go to concerts. I just play a tape from my collection and can go to a "concert" at the Cafe Rouge in New York, the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, or the Hollywood Palladium and listen to one of the great bands from long ago. I may not be watching them in person, but I certainly can "see" them play.
Just some thoughts of a collector.
Send questions and comments about the NARA NEWS Magazine to: Hank Hinkel, Old Timer
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