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Raymond Forrest (January 7, 1916 – March 11, 1999) was a
radio staff announcer for NBC,
pioneering TV announcer, host and news broadcaster from the very
earliest TV era (pre-WW
II) through the 1960s.
Early life and
Forrest, then a 23-year-old junior radio announcer at NBC,
was not present at the opening of the New
York World's Fair on April 30, 1939, when President Franklin
D. Roosevelt and David
Sarnoff, the president of the Radio
Corporation of America, NBC's
parent, inaugurated regular television programming with a broadcast over
experimental station, W2XBS.
Indeed, for months the station employed no announcers, recruiting
them as the occasional need arose from NBC's
radio staff, a process that so irritated the radio network's crusty
chief of announcers that by the fall he had persuaded the station to
stop pestering him and take on one of his six junior announcers full
Forrest won the job, and for the next two and a half years almost
every time he opened his mouth he made television history.
He was the on-board announcer for the first airborne telecast, from a
U.S. plane flying low over New
York City on March 6, 1940, and later that year he was the NBC
announcer at the first televised political convention, in Philadelphia,
where the Republicans
which was racking up some firsts of its own, broadcast the convention in
The next year it was Forrest who read the formal announcement on
camera when W2XBS,
newly licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and renamed WNBT
(it later became WNBC),
ushered in the era of commercial television on July 1, 1941.
The first commercial, a film showing a ticking Bulova
watch, used no announcer, but three days later, on July 4, Forrest did
the first live television commercial, for Adam hats, a chore that earned
him no sponsor's fee unless you count the hat. Forrest got to keep it.
Later that year Forrest apparently became the first television
announcer to break into a program with a news bulletin, interrupting a
Sunday afternoon movie, The Playboy with Harry
Richman, to announce that the Japanese
had bombed Pearl
For Forrest, a native of Germany
who came to the United
States with his family in 1923 and got his broadcasting start at 20
with a job in the NBC
mail room in 1936, those were heady days.
War II interrupted both the development of television and his own
career, and by the time he returned from service in 1946, television was
in the midst of its postwar boom and he was no longer the only kid on
Still, he was almost as busy as ever, among other things serving as
the announcer for In the Kelvinator Kitchen, an early cooking
show, in 1947, and as the announcer and eventually the host of TV
Screen Magazine, one of the first television magazine shows, in 1948
Then he was asked to produce and be the host of Children's Theater,
and Forrest made what he regarded as his most important contribution to
Ray Forrest hosted NYC's
earliest and one of the most distinctive kids TV variety series called Children's
Theater, which was seen Saturday mornings on New
TV Ch. 4 (even before it became WNBC)
from 1949 to June
1961. Children's Theater first went on the air in 1949. Ray
Forrest, a veteran radio broadcaster, created a TV series that
encouraged the kids to explore many places of interest, read books, how
to care for animals and become involved in local activities.
"Children's Theater"would share the 1957 NYC Emmy award for
"Best Children's And Teenage Program"with WCBS TV's "On
The Carousel!".(Info about "Children's Theater"sharing
The 1957 NYC Emmy With"On The Carousel"can be found in
"The NYC Kids Shows Round Up"Section of"The TV
Party"website at www.tvparty.com).
During its long run, Children's Theater also screened the 1958
color versions of Crusader
Rabbit TV cartoons. Children's Theater remained on WNBC-TV
Ch. 4 Saturday morning lineup until Saturday, June 17, 1961.
If Forrest is better remembered among older New York television
viewers for the acclaimed educational program Children's Theater,
which he produced and hosted for WNBC-TV
from 1949 to 1960, there is a reason his earlier work has been virtually
Wearing a tuxedo to intone the formal sign-on when NBC
went on the air each evening, Forrest announced every station break and
every program. There he was, covering wrestling,
racing and movie premieres; interviewing men and women on the
street; introducing dramatic productions; serving as quiz show announcer
and variety show host and even becoming the network's first full-time
news anchor (after Lowell
Thomas, whose radio news had been simulcast on television, decided
to do his broadcasts from his upstate home).
At the time he became the most visible presence on television, there
were fewer than 1,000 television sets in existence.
Forrest would write, produce and narrate his own nature films as
well. Often he would shoot his shows on location (using primitive
videotape technology), as early as September 24, 1960.
Other notable location broadcasts, with Ray Forrest, included a
series of pre-taped shows from the since defunct, "Freedomland
Amusement Park" in the Bronx.
It gave his young viewers a chance to not only see the park but to
experience vividly, events that were a part of America's
Ray Forrest died on March 11, 1999.
- ^ "Ray
Forrest Is Dead at 83; Nation's First TV Personality". New
York Times. March 21, 1999. "Ray Forrest, who worked for
many years at his family's jewelry store in Paterson, N.J., died
on March 11 at a hospital near his home in Kinnelon,
New Jersey. He was 83 and all but forgotten as the man who
became a hero to hundreds in 1939 as the nation's first television