David L. Stackhouse - WEAN - WJAR - WEAN - WSBE
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David L. Stackhouse - WEAN - WJAR - WEAN - WSBE

Presented for your approval.... found in a dusty box that had lain dormant for 15 years since I got this material....

 

 Many of the  paper items belonging to David L. Stackhouse were from the 70's and in  the late 1980's they did not seem old to me then... but just today after retrieving this box from a  journey it took, which details I will not elaborate on, I was to discover a 5 page typewritten document, I stayed up this evening,  fed it through the OCR software and think I got all the bugs out of the  text...  ( feel free to offer any corrections!) Unfortunately this is all we have on his early years here at the museum, we do have many interesting items that will be presented at a later date covering his involvement with WSBE, a PBS station. 

It is up to you, the reader, to go out and see what else we can dig up about David L. Stackhouse's early involvement in the broadcasting industry.

-Ed Sharpe, Archivist for SMECC

 

6/10/70 Statement of D. Stackhouse, Esq.    I hope this does not incriminate me.

I started announcing with WEAN in mid-1929, when it was owned by the Shepard Company, with studios on Mathewson St. over the restaurant. Manager was Chester Miller, well known as a local singer with (I think) the Overseas Quartet (Ray Gardner et al.) who introduced the silent version of "Lost World" with Bessie Love(?) at the old Keith's on Westminster, opposite Shepards (Now Brant store), singing in a transparent revolving globe mystically lighted, suspended high over the stage behind the movie screen, the theme song of the Movie, Hanging On For Dear Life. Miller later went to Chicago and disappeared.

Then came Ted and his Gang playing out of Boston on the new Yankee Network, but with a local "Ted" to do the local commercials lined up with script and stop watch in the local studio. Made a lot of money for Jimmy (?) Phelan in Boston, who used to raise racehorses out of the proceeds. Those were the days we used to broadcast Saturday nights the late dance orchestra from the Biltmore hotel, and earlier at 8 p.m. Charlie Culverwell and his Big Band (25 pieces) from the stage of Rhodes Ballroom over the entire Yankee network. 

As announcer on duty it was my turn every other week to do the honors. We thought this a great thing in early 1930 to be "on the network," and I guess it was. In return, on Sunday nights WEAN always received for broadcast the famous Walter Smith Band out of Boston, all thru the decade. Walter's son, Walter Jr. still has the old band library down at Duxbury, and his brother, Stewart, was leader of the Shrine Band here in Providence for a number of years until he removed to South. Carolina last year. 

 

Whispering Jack Smith used to do a solo vocal show at the keyboard on WEAN, soft popular song stylist, very romantical, married Marie Creamer in the office, but I believe did not live long afterward. We had the Dudley Radio Carollers, w1th Rev. Howard W. Ferrin, later founder of Barrington college and now retired in his 80's hale and hearty; long, bright bible and revival hour every Sunday morning. They were known throughout this part of N,E. Girls used to dress in middie blouses and bloomer:  and used two pianos for very joyous gospel hymns with all the gang. Then Bill Faucher, who was long in the pit at Fays Theater, moved into WEAN with a 12 piece concert orchestra which gave a full hour daily concert around supper time over a period of many months, "live."  Some of our best Providence professional musicians sat in that orchestra - Richard Di Benidetto on Oboe, I remember, Charles Dickerson (later concert master of the Prov. Symphony under Wassili Leps), Bob Austin on cello (also with the symphony); Rocco Litolf on doublebass (later went to  National Symphony in Washington); Jullo Capone,  flute (son Vincent has dance orchestra today); Ferdinand Rao, cello -retired and living on Broad Street; Sim Simonetti, clarinet; Henry Langevin, trombone (old time member of the famous American band); Alllie Alers, drummer at the old Emery Theater: Rocco Checca, finest trumpet with Bob Gray at the old Albee vaudeville theater.

Popular local announcer was Eddie Cashman, who afterwards went to New York and Hollywood with various advertising agencies and movie producers. He died in N.Y. some years ago, but his family is still here. Then there was Uncle Red, who did a school safety program over WEAN for many years in affiliation with the Chamber of Commerce and YMCA. I forget his real name, but the Chamber could tell you. He also died some time back.

Charlotte Presel, one of the Presel sisters long known for their classical 2- piano work in Providence, became staff member to play, run a women's program over the air and organized a kiddies show. Charlotte was a fine concert pianist. They still live up on Elmgrove Avenue.

 

Early in 1930 (summer) in a sudden surprise shift over the weekend I transferred from WEAN to WJAR, which then had two small studios lined in heavy, muffling, dusty burlap next to the executive offices on the top floor of the Outlet, in a corner of the present TV news section. James A. Reilly was the chief announcer and, manager from the beginning but now he was retiring. I worked for him his last two weeks at WJAR. He has since been associated with his brother (just recently died) in the local S?P?C?A, and still is. Jack Boyle, also now retired, took his place; and with a succession of hastily recruited, summer replacements we got thru the fall.  Some time within the year we were joined by Jim Brennan and Sud Abott, but I can't tell which was first.

We held down the fort for many years as a team, until a "young" generation named Arthur Lake, Ted Metcalf, and Russ Van Arsdale came along -also Jim Metcalf. Arthur and Russ were Emerson school grads, the first of the trained breed. We had all learned on the job the hard way. That would be in the late 30's.

WJAR was the first station of the National Broadcasting Company (Red Network), and together with WEAF, New York, for an hour broadcast from the Capitol Theater in N.Y. on Sunday nights, startling about 1926 or 7, comprised the NBC network - the beginning of network broadcasting.  I used to hear them on earphones as a kid. I also played over the air for WJAR as a kid, with a friend Steve Lincoln ,who was a young concert violinist whom I accompanied. We went to Brown together before I went into radio, but Steve died. That was when I first met Jimmy Reily for who I later worked (for 2 weeks). WJAR was NOT named after his initials!

At WJAR, We used to broadcast "drug store" hours. You worked from 7 to 9 a.m. and came back at 5 to do the late afternoon and evening shows, mostly network. The alternate days, you worked the afternoon shift, on the air from 12 to 1:30. This way you met yourself coming and going.

It was a long way from the straight 6 hour shifts which developed after full time network programming put us on the air all day solid. Then you could work at night followed by the next afternoon, and the following morning - then you had off until the following night. It was an ideal 30 hour week until we joined the Union and spoiled it all with another 10 hours work for a few lousy bucks.

In those days, it was forbidden to announce your name over the air. We were allowed to use our initials if we wanted, but annonimity was required. So I never would give my initials until times changed and we became human beings with a name. Now they put up billboards with the announcers picture on it.

Every Monday night we broadcast "live" at the complete RKO stage vaudeville show from the Albee theater for that week. I have probably personally announced every big name in show business of that era -Olson and Jobnson,  Cab Calloway's orch. singers, musicians, orchestras. Those old timers had it -the experience, the personality. They did not depend upon microphones or "arrangements" just their own ability -and they had it!

Two annual attractions were the Sunday broadcasts in the Park of the famous Goldman Band from New York, the Christmas eve broadcast also from the Park of the Providence Festival Chorus under John Archer (deceased). Three hundred voices sang on the snowy hillside beside the manger display. Of course you couldn't see them, but they were there. Radio always let you know where it was broadcasting from and the thrill was just as great as if you were there. One year, we got up on the hillside at midnight, with three minutes to go, and the mikes wouldn't work. I asked Roger Kennedy, the engineer, if there was any room up in the boathouse where his equipment was. He said, just about. So back we trailed, but not too fast or the singers would have lost their breath, rolling up the mike cable as we went. I told Mr. Archer to start singing as soon as he got a signal from Roger, who went ahead. I was the last to squeeze in the top of the narrow staircase that led up into the tower room, and the chorus was already singing an opening number which I was able to announce and introduce the program at the end of the number.

We also did the annual St. Vincent de Paul concert in the old Opera House at the corner of Dorrance and Pine. The great Graham McNamee was always the master of ceremonies, and he was the master, beyond a doubt. They don' t make them like that any more. One year he was delayed at the airport (air travel and the airport was new then, before 1935) and we started without him, but he arrived in good time to pick up the show. Our staff pianist Violette Marks always accompanied the show.

One day a man walked in and said he was a song writer and would we like to have him broadcast.  Every noontime, just after the one o'clock news we usually did something live, instead of playing Piccolo Pete or Barnacle Bill on records, so on he went. He turned out to be Harry Carroll and a famous popular composer for tin pan alley and the stage. Another stranger was a man with a saxophone who said he had played with Sousa. He played for an hour, without accompaniment, and the phone never stopped ringing. It was superb. I don't remember his name. He was not young; but he picked up a couple of cushy jobs for the weekend at some wealthy person's house, as a result of the broadcast.

Then there was Bill McKenna., who worked in the store and had a fine baritone voice; be and Roy Partington, a fine tenor, often sang for regular and special occasions on the station. Roy worked in the furniture dept. and filled in one summer as an announcer; but I guess there was more money selling furniture in those days. we were kids and radio was a novelty to play with. No one thought of it as a road to wealth, fame, or anything else. In the depression it was better than Walking the streets, and paid better than the average job, which often didn't even exist. I broke off in the middle 30's to finish college, but when I came out there still were no decent jobs, so I went back into radio and the Outlet and I got along famously. Broadcasting grew into a real future.

Other popular singer on WJAR were Madge Hart O'Rourke, a real concert singer and lovely person, Sud Abbott who had as fine a baritone voice as I ever heard anywhere (he worked on the JAR staff for many years until transferring to WERO-FM and retiring recently), Another excellent singing pair particularly at home in musical comedy numbers and light classics were Helen Place and Bill Carrigan. Bill also sold furniture in the Outlet but later went into high iron construction. He loved the job, the pay, and the out of doors life, and always seemed so unsuited to it - with his musical background, excellent voice and stage appearance, a big tall handsome chap as "smooth" as they come, as we used to say. Still he went into the rough and dangerous business for good He, too died, unexpectedly.

 

The Pawtucket Boys Club Harmonica Band was a real winner. Boys of all ages and walks of life, many "disadvantaged"  as we would say, they were a lively group under the tutelage of Eddie Caney ( ed. note not sure  of spelling this was  penned in...) .I meet them today: grown men, in business, with good jobs, and all the result of the fine work of the club which put them on their feet instead of encouraging them to be poor and on relief for the rest of their lives.

Mrs. Claire Wood was the station's homemaker for 23 years, and broadcast house hold hints, philosophy and recipes (she always called them "rules') daily and faithfully. She was extremely popular and well known. She had special FCC permission to speak directly with a Mrs. Wood who lived down on No Man's Land, a 3 square mile island at the seaward mouth of Elizabeth Sound, just about southeast of Martha's Vineyard. The island had no means of communication, so she was permitted to speak directly to her namesake, and addressed her daily with. friendly words and messages, ever the public broadcasting medium.

Radio was more live than recorded, locally, and we had. all kinds of local programs up thru early evening. The daily Council of Churches program was a regular 15-minute schedule of music and a short address, sometimes in the morning, sometimes early evening. The state college extension service also broadcast regularly, and broadcasting was veritably in touch with all segments and hundreds of individuals of Rhode Island life, not just by the cut and dried "community service" announcements which we have today. of course there were only 2, then 3 stations in town.

After the two networks (WEAN, CBS; and WJAR, NBC) came a number of local stations which successively had a try at it; but the competition was too keen and the advertising dollars not available. A $5 spot announcement was considered an extravagant fling for an advertiser in those days. Today they spend 25 times that in a. matter of seconds on TV.

WJAR got a house band in the late 30's -Earl Sheehan and his orchestra. Again, we had a dozen of Rhode Island's :finest musicians in the dance business. Billy Gaten on drums; I saw him do a rehearsal with the Shrine band last winter, spry as ever. Mike d'Ambra at the keyboard he still is, out at Asquino's restaurant in East Providence. There was also Walter Anderson on trombone, whose daughter was named Miss Warwick just a few years back. In the fiddle section was Jimmy Gagliardi who has been on the first desk of the Rhode Island Philharmonic :for years. All these bands have furnished musicians for the finest orchestras in Providence, playing everything :from the vaudeville pit to opera with the San Carlo opera Company which used to visit Providence.

Earl used to play at Rocky Point in the old dance hall with these same boy's when Louise, Am, I Blue, and Sam the Old Accordion Man were the hit tunes.

Broadcasting a message to the people of Rhode Island one hot summer nite in the middle 30's, Governor Norman S. Case first removed his coat, then his tie, and opened his shirt collar and rolled up his sleeves. There was no air-conditioning and with the door shut almost no air. He read his speech from a couple bits of note paper held high in one hand from his arm he had flung out against the wall to support him comfortably as he leaned in relaxed mood over the mike.

 

The earliest orchestra I remember was Benny Resh's over at the Port Arthur -we used to broadcast him at noon over WEAN, and when I went to WJAR I got him on over there. Benny went to Detroit and died a few years back. But Mike d'Ambra (only a kid then) is still around, as stated above. Saxophonist Ray Cohen (also a kid) is now proprietor of Lindberg's Stationery store in East Greenwich, and plays occasionally with the Shrine band, to keep hand in. Johnny Holland who did quite a stint in the early days of WJAR TV in the late 40's and early 50's as Johnny King, played in Resh's band, now lives in Wakefield.

Arthur Paquette was another early orchestra, concert type, we had on WEAN. He broadcast from the Asia restaurant, upstairs, next door to the Union Trust Bank on Westminster Street. He has since gone into public school music in Pawtucket. Then there were the Hawaiian bands -small groups of ukuleles, guitars, steel guitars, tipples and drums. We had one on the air almost every night over WJAR, all melodious, all in neighborhood demand for dance jobs -which is why they would play for free over the air, for the advertisement. I forget them all, except in a general way, but I keep meeting individual members of all these bands and orchestras and we always revive a tear or two as we recount this or that nostalgic incident.

It was the era of tuneful, harmonious music, between Dixieland and jump or swing music -and it would be very relaxing today, as indeed it was then.

One of the longest commercial programs on toe air was Jack Haley's Rhode Island Historian of the Old Stone Bank. For a quarter of a century at least, Jack wove his tales of olden times on WJAR every Monday evening. It was all his own research, and at least four volumes of his broadcasts were published by the bank. It was he who inspired the idea of celebrating Gaspee Day today in Rhode Island, although it took another 25years  for his patriotic message to take hold. Although Jack went on to a notable career as advertising man for toe Narragansett Brewing company, he stuck with his early love, the R.I. Historian for long years afterward.

Celia Moreau, who teaches piano  and singing, to youngsters, was long a featured personality  on WJAR with a Kiddie's Revue every Saturday morning that caused all dials to be turned. to 920. They sang, danced, played; and many have gone on to musical futures, others in the musical or teaching business. Celia started playing Piano in Woolworth's, demonstrating the latest popular songs, and built her own career from that early experience.

We always used to broadcast from some naval vessel on Navy Day, and one year I did a broadcast from the depths of a submarine at Fields Point. With a 300 foot mike cable and an assistant navy crew to handle it, we dove into the depths of the great craft. In the conning tower, as we were coming topside, we ran into the commanding officer who had been the man to lock the floors on the World War II sub that carried her commander to his doom When he was locked outside. The last order he gave was "Take her down" leaving himself outside -to save his ship.

Damn, I forget the guys name  ( penciled in here is a name Greeley -editor) -it was a great story (this was later in the 40's).  


Ok Folks, hit the streets, grab your phones, and hunt up more on him!

Email me at info@smecc.org If you have any other leads! thanks .....


 

Dave Stackhouse worked, for a time, at WKFD (now defunct) in Wickford, Rhode Island.  After a short time he hired on at WYNG (now WARV) in Warwick, Rhode Island.  It was around that time that I left WYNG, having been news and program director for about 3-years.  I think Dave was there only a few weeks when I left.

He was quite elderly at the time; had a lot of trouble running his own
board.  His speech was slowed considerably but was always very clear with
precise and accurate pronunciations.  That would have been in about 1964.  I believe he stayed with the station for 1-3 more years but I lost track....

Hope it helps,

Les Brown
KNOM, Nome Alaska
website at KNOM.org
 
You surely did put me down memory lane, and I want to thank you for all the wonderful history on broadcasting in Providence, of which I was totally unaware.

 

What led me to even look is that I just completed "Prince of Providence" and in it was reference to Celia Moreau and her kiddies revue, which led me to look her up, and this entire wonderful history popped up for me.
I am 67, born in 1936.  When I was three I sang every weekend on the WJAR kiddies revue with the name Baby Dolly.  I did that for three years.  And I have little records that Ms. Moreau recorded for us, which my grandchildren always enjoy hearing.  One of the drummers was Danny whose father owned the ice cream parlor on Atwells Avenue, and there were so many fun times associated with that program.  I spoke with Celia Moreau about ten years ago, and even at her age then, she remembered me.  I want to thank you for all this
research you have done and the information you have provided.

 

For a little while in the Junior Achievement program I spent my Saturday mornings being a d.j. on WHIM.  That
was the best time I ever had, the station manager was super (1951 to 1954) and encouraged all the young people to perform at their best.  I loved every minute of that experience. 

 

I wish I could provide you with details; however, I have unfortunately been out of Rhode Island for a very long while and have "missed the boat".  Gratefully--Mrs. Dorothy Baker
 
Back to Stackhouse: Here are my two anecdotes, for what they're worth:

[1.] Dave was extremely conservative, politically, and he didn't care to hide his positions regarding social and economic issues. It has been told that, more than once, he was "asked" by his GM to confine the writing of his charged letters-to-the-editor to his own personal stationery, rather than station letterhead, especially in view of the fact that the station was owned by the State of Rhode Island and its letterhead bore the state seal!!!!! Dave apparently never saw the conflict-of-interest---and I'd guess that he never paid for the stamp, either!

[2.] Much (if not all) credit must be given to Dave for spearheading and shepherding a community-wide colonial history project which brought to the fore a little-known fact of revolutionary days: About two years before Paul Revere's ride, a band of colonists from the village of Pawtuxet (located in what is now Warwick, RI), torched the British revenue schooner HMS Gaspee, in Narragansett Bay, just off what is now known as Gaspee Point. Dave's work would lead to what has today become a local tradition involving 3 or 4 consecutive weekends involving re-enactments, a well-attended parade, fireworks, as well as mercantile events. You can Google "Gaspee Days" for lots of photos. There has been talk that Dave spent much time organizing and promoting his concept while he was "on the clock" at the TV station. I wouldn't be surprised. In any case, Gaspee Days lives on, although hardly anyone has heard of the Gaspee Days founder, Dave Stackhouse.

That's all that I can offer!

Jim Gershman
 

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