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