(Television History and Trivia)
Victor Edward Swanson,
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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 36 - - -
I have to open this edition of T.H.A.T. with background information about me. Between the fall of 1971 and the spring of 1977, I attended Wayne State University, and in 1977, I received a degree in Bachelor of Arts related to radio-television-film from Wayne State University; during the period from 1971 to 1977, I was a member of the student radio station at Wayne State University (information about which can be found in a document associated with the Web site of The Hologlobe Press--a document that can be reached by hitting this link: WAYN-AM 860). From August 1977 to April 2003, I did writing and broadcasting for AAA Michigan, which resulted in my doing work or radio reports on radio stations all over Michigan (if you wish to learn about the broadcast services once operated by AAA Michigan, hit this link: AAA Broadcast). Since 1972, I have been collecting information about television, and that hobby-type work has focused mostly on network television, syndicated television, and cable television, and I have been collecting only a little bit of information on Detroit-area television. Within the last two months, I have started to create a Detroit-television section in my fabulous files about television, doing that partially by spending dozens and dozens of hours at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library (the "Music and Performing Arts" section), the Purdy/Kresge Library of Wayne State University (Detroit), The Mardigian Library of the University of Michigan--Dearborn Campus, and the Henry Ford Centennial Library (a library of Dearborn).
In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I noted that this edition of T.H.A.T. would talk about a book entitled From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television, and, in essence, through this edition of T.H.A.T., I am going to show evidence why I do not trust From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television as a source of information about Detroit-television history, and I am going to show some of the errors in the book and show why the errors are errors, using information that I gathered recently from television-program listings and articles that I found in The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press (or Detroit Free Press), and TV Guide published between 1947 and the present and that I looked at during about ten days of research done at libraries--the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the Purdy/Kresge Library (of Wayne State University), and The Mardigian Library (of the University of Michigan--Dearborn Campus)--since February 10, 2007.
I must make an aside here. Be aware, the titles that I give for shows in this edition of T.H.A.T. may be incomplete, since I have not finished my research about the early years of Detroit-television history and since publications of the past, such as program listings, sometimes used shortned titles. For instance, if a show was officially called "The Victor Swanson Show" (such a show never existed), a program listing for it might only have "Victor Swanson Show" or only Victor Swanson. Over the years, I have regularly seen program listings give the incorrect titles of shows, and even publications of today do not always give the correct titles. For example, my files note that what is called House by many people is really House, M.D. (look carefully at the opening of the show), and my files note that October Road is really october road. (notice the title has a period after "road" and lower-case letters are used).
From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television (ISBN 1-879094-70-3) was published in 2005 by Momentum Books, LLC, and the author of the book is Tim Kiska, and I bought a copy of the book a number of weeks ago at a bookstore in Cheboygan, Michigan (as I reported in T.H.A.T. #34, which can be reached through this link: T.H.A.T. #34). The book has photographs and text about old television shows and television personalities of the Detroit area--such as, for instance, personalities from newscasters to children's-show hosts. My version of the book is a soft-cover book (or a book defined as having been produced in the "perfect-binding" format). The cost was $24.95.
The book has an "Author Bio" on page 217, and here is the material on that page: "Tim Kiska covered the television industry for The Detroit News between 1990 and 2002. A native Detroiter, he worked at the Detroit Free Press between 1970 and 1987, where he covered courts, the automotive industry and held various other reporting assignments. He joined The Detroit News in 1987. Kiska completed work on a Ph.D. in history at Wayne State University in 2003 and currently teaches journalism at the University of Michigan--Dearborn."
On pages 214 and 215, there are "acknowledgements" to those who in some way helped Tim Kiska put the book together. At least seventy persons are noted by name. Some of the persons were those involved with "The Detroit News library staff," those involved with the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, and those involved with the "Detroit Free Press library staff."
In essence, this section of T.H.A.T. can be defined as "editorialization" on my part, but it is editorialization that presents facts and is not based on "feelings" or "impressions," which, by the way, can be the basis of bad editorials.
On pages 28 and 29, there is a section about Rita Bell. On page 28, it has "Bell, Rita (d. 2003)", which is a heading for an article about Rita Bell, and on page 29, it states that "...She now lives in San Diego" (which refers to Rita Bell). You should see there is an error, but you may not think it a big problem, at least a problem that should make me find the book is not worthwhile. (At the very least, the problem is an editing problem or a problem that can be attributed to the copy editor or the author or the copy editor and the author).
Let me show a bigger problem. On page 10, a reader of the book will find part of an article talking about television-show host "Johnny Ginger," and part of the text on the page is "...He was hired at Channel 7 in 1956, where he hosted Curtain Time Theater." The sentence gives the impression that Johnny Ginger started working at Channel 7 (WXYZ-TV) in 1956 by hosting "Curtain Time Theater." I know not when Johnny Ginger was hired by Channel 7 to work at Channel 7, but my research shows that Curtain Time, as I found it listed in television-program listings, was first on the air on Channel 7 on September 1, 1958, and, originally, it ran from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, and the program was on the air through Friday, April 22, 1960, and then over the next several years, Johnny Ginger continued to host afternoon and early evening programs on a weekday basis for Channel 7 that had various names and ran at various times, one of which was Action Theater (incidentally, Johnny Ginger was hosting an early morning program at the station from July 27, 1959, through Friday, September 6, 1963, and the show was The Johnny Ginger Show).
On page 58 of the book, the author talks about "Tobin, Pat" (the heading of the article) and Pat Tobin's work on The Pat 'n' Johnny Show, and the author states "...The show went off the air in 1951, after which Tobin left town." My research shows that The Pat 'n' Johnny Show went off the air in the fall of 1953--specifically on Monday, September 7, 1953--and it was replaced by Strictly Female (the station on which The Pat 'n' Johnny Show was on was Channel 7); when Strictly Female began to run on a weekday basis from 2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., the main regulars were Joyce Jarvis, Hester Wright, Laurena Pringle, and Jean Loach. Wait! I must add more detail to the previous sentence about The Pat 'n' Johnny Show, since Pat Tobin and Johnny Slagle had their show run in two stages really; their first run was from Monday, December 1, 1949, through Friday, July 27, 1951, and their second run was from Monday, December 1, 1952, through Monday, September 7, 1953. At the very least, the sentence from page 58 of the book that I have presented to you is misleading.
On page 41, there is an advertisement for "Bill Kennedy's 'Showtime,'" which I have talked about in the past, such as in T.H.A.T. #34. The advertisement is misleading, since it--which was, for instance, put in the edition of TV Guide related to November 11, 1953 (on page A-13) by CKLW-TV--gives the impression that, at the time, Showtime was running on Fridays on CKLW-TV, but it was not, and what was running on Fridays was a program called Going Our Way, which featured Bill Kennedy as host; the problem was originally created by CKLW-TV, and then the author of the book did not provide information to show something incorrect could be inferred by a reader of the advertisement. (Incidentally, Tim Kiska should have put a date (at least the year) in a caption with the advertisement in the book about when the advertisement originally was used.)
A more complex problem shows up on page "vii" (of From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television), which has a "Foreword" written by Sonny Eliot, and Sonny Eliot stated within the "Foreward": "...When old WWJ-TV, Channel 4, fired up that mysterious maze of wires and electronic doo-dads back in March of 1947, it became the very first TV station in Michigan...." Here is what I know. First, in March 1947, "WWJ-TV" did not officially exist; what did exist was an experimental station call "WWDT-TV," which belonged to WWJ-AM/The Detroit News. Roughly speaking, WWDT-TV was on the air on an intermittent basis from Tuesday, March 4, 1947, to Monday, June 2, 1947 (actually, the first real broadcast day--or the first over-the-air broadcast day and not over-wire broadcast-like day--for WWDT-TV was Wednesday, October 23, 1946, but events of that day, I shall not talk about in his edition of T.H.A.T. and will leave to be talked about at sometime in the future). WWDT-TV had 500 watts of power, and it gave viewers and especially the operators of stores that were trying to sell television station sets test-pattern broadcasts and some simple shows, such as a little program involving a few people, such as Walt Koste, Dave Zimmerman, Randee Sanford (a girl), that was broadcast on March 4, 1947. (Around this time, Grinnell's was one store that advertised in The Detroit News for people to come down to the fourth floor of the store, which was located at 1515 Woodward Avenue (in Detroit), and see Tuesday afternoon and Friday afternoon test broadcasts.) It was on Tuesday, April 22, 1947, that the station was shut down and taken off the air so that a new transmitter and antenna could be installed atop the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit. The new transmitter and antenna became the first transmitter and antenna for WWJ-TV, which is what WWDT-TV became when the test phase for WWDT-TV was truly completed and the station became an official commercial-broadcast station. Tuesday, June 3, 1947--this day was a big day for people in Detroit! On that day, at 2:30 p.m., WWJ-TV (Channel 4) went on the air with a little dedication ceremony, which featured several persons, such as E.W. Scripps, who was in charge of The Detroit News, which owned the television station, and then at 2:45 p.m., Ty Tyson was the main announcer for the first baseball game to be broadcast on WWJ-TV that featured the Detroit Tigers (a team that still exists today), and the opponents in the game were the New York Yankees. By the way, around the time the television station went on the air in true commercial form, a person might think about buying a television set identified as an "RCA-Victor Television" set or a "DuMont" set, and if a person were to buy a set related to RCA-Victor from Ernst Kern Company, which was located on Woodward Avenue near Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, the set might be the table model that cost about $375.00 (the person would have to pay $2.60 in federal tax and $55.00 for installation).
On page 45 in the book, in a section devoted to J.P. McCarthy, it is stated that--"He had his own show on Channel 2 starting in 1983, but it was put to sleep in 1986"; I have found that J.P. McCarthy's show, which was a weekly show, first showed up on Channel 2 (WJBK-TV) on Saturday, September 25, 1982, and his last show, which was called J.P., was aired on Saturday, August 31, 1985.
On page 26, within a section about Bob Allison, it is stated that "Allison's ratings as host of Bowling for Dollars between 1973 and 1979 were amazing"; I have to say that Bowling for Dollars, which was a weekday series, did not show up until Monday, September 9, 1974, and, at first, Dick Van Sice was the host, and I can say that Bob Allison did not become the host until a few weeks passed and the final show of this five-day-a-week series was aired on Friday, September 14, 1979 (Bowling for Dollars was not gone from the airwaves after Friday, September 14, 1979, but I leave the story about Bowling for Dollars after September 14, 1979, untold for now).
On page 81, within a section dealing with a series entitled Club 1270, it is stated that "It went live from Channel 7's Broadcast House every Saturday afternoon..."; my research has found that the show premiered on Sunday, January 20, 1963, on WXYZ-TV, and that the show did not become a Saturday-afternoon show till Saturday, September 7, 1963.
A big problem exists on page 38, within the section talking about Bob Hynes, and, actually, the problem is right in the first sentence, a part of which is "He hosted The Morning Show on Channel 7 between 1966 and 1977..."; this program called the The Morning Show showed up on Monday, September 5, 1966, and Bob Hynes was the host, and the last show was aired on Friday, July 14, 1972, but even before Friday, July 14, 1972 came, Tom Shannon had been hosting the show for a number of months (The Morning Show was replaced by Kelly & Company (the first version of Kelly & Company), which would be replaced by A.M. Detroit on Monday, January 1, 1973).
Tim Kiska gives the impression on page 29 that Rita Bell's movie-hosting duties ended in 1978; Rita Bell may have left Channel 7 in 1978, but her job of hosting movies ended on Monday, September 5, 1977, when the last show of a series called The Movie Game was shown (on Tuesday, September 6, 1977, she became a regular on the second version of Kelly & Company, doing, for instance, interviews of celebrities or movie stars).
On page 182, it is stated that "...and Kelly & Company, which enjoyed impressive ratings success during the 1970s and 1980s...," and that statement can give a reader a false idea about the show; the second version of Kelly & Company ran on WXYZ-TV from Tuesday, September 6, 1977, through Friday, September 4, l992 (on Monday, September 7, 1992, Company with John Kelly and Marilyn Turner began to be seen by viewers).
On page 151, a paragraph exists that talks about Beat the Champ, which was a bowling-themed show, and it is a paragraph filled with unclear thought, such as "...Beat the Champ drew viewers by the thousands until Tom Snyder's national show knocked it off the air". In the book, it is not stated what the name of Tom Snyder's show was and when the show premiered, so I must state that NBC-TV began to feed Tom Snyder's show, which was called Tomorrow, on Tuesday, October 16, 1973, at 1:00 a.m. (which was like Monday night) to NBC-TV affiliates, and WWJ-TV picked up the feed (in essence, Tomorrow was a very late weeknight show or a very early morning weekday show). Now, here is information about Beat the Champ, in which amateur bowlers competed against professionals. The show had a debut on Sunday, October 10, 1965, at 11:30 p.m., and it ran for a hour, and each hour of show, which started out as a weekly show, was hosted by Don Kremer. Generally speaking, from September 1965 to May 1970, the series was seen up to seven times a week (or like seven days a week) and usually at least six times a week (or like six days a week), and most of the time, the shows were presented to viewers on weekday mornings at 1:00 a.m. (for a half hour or sometimes for one hour), but there were some daytime showings on weekends, and, generally speaking, from May 1970 through October 1973 and beyond (till it disappeared), Beat the Champ was a once-a-week show, shown during the daytime on either Saturday or Sunday. Tomorrow (a network show) did not displace Beat the Champ (a local show) on Channel 4 on weeknights (the weeknight run of Beat the Champ ended about three years--more than three years--before Tomorrow would show up).
On page 147, there is material that I call a really big problem, and that material, which is in a section about Paul Williams, is--"Detroit's first full-time anchorman and original sportscaster could claim an awesome number of firsts: He anchored Detroit's first newscast in 1947 and called the first Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and University of Michigan football games--also in 1947." First, the first newscast ever done over the air in Detroit on a Detroit-based television station was done by Ed Hickey over WWDT-TV on Wednesday, October 23, 1946. Second, it was Ty Tyson who did the first Detroit Tigers baseball game (the Detroit Tigers vs the New York Yankees) as the main announcer on Tuesday, June 3, 1947, and Ty Tyson was aided by or got assistance from Paul Williams. Third, I can argue well the "first-full time anchorman" was Ken Manuel, who did the first newscast for WWJ-TV, Channel 4, on Saturday, June 7, 1947, and then he did a few more newscasts over the following week on WWJ-TV, and then the main newscaster for WWJ-TV became Ted Grace, who had done work for WJR-AM (Ted Grace had worked for WJR-AM before he became a serviceman in World War II and had done work for WJR-AM after World War II had ended).
On page 178, a reader will find the fourth page of four pages of material related to Sonny Eliot. The page has this text: "...then there was At the Zoo, which ran from 1961 to 1979...." I have discovered the first episode of At the Zoo, which was a weekly series, was shown on Friday, May 18, 1962. (By the way, on page 27 of the book, it is noted that "... It aired between 1962 and 1979...".)
Many other problems exist with the book, only a few of which I will note within this paragraph. In the section about a program called Hamtramck (which is covered on pages 36 and 37), it is not stated when the one-shot program was aired, which was on May 14, 1987. The book notes that Romper Room ran on WWJ-TV for a while and on CKLW-TV for a while, but it fails to mention that the program ran on WKBD-TV for a while, too. Under the section labelled "Layton, Lord Athol (d. 1984)" (which is on pages 74 through 76), it is mentioned that Big Time Wrestling was on CKLW-TV for a while, but there is no mention of the show being on WXON-TV for a while (when the station was using Channel 62). On page 23, the book gives no time period (even a roughly speaking time period) about when Wixie's Wonderland (on which Marv Welch appeared) was aired on WXYZ-TV, and because of a sentence on the page--"During the 1950s and 1960s, Welch was one of the area's busiest..."--a person might think the show was on the air in the 1950s and in the 1960s, and the show was not. On page 177, a television show is called "Willy Dooit, which was a children's show on WWJ-TV, but in television-program listings for 1948, which were published by The Detroit News, which owned WWJ-TV at the time, I found "Let's See Willy Dooit." (Other problems that I know about, such as a problem related to Jerry Chiappetta and a problem related to Harry Jarkey, I will report on later.)
Incidentally, I have found what I call "logic problems" in the book or I have found writing that is unclear or vague, and I give only one example. The book states in a section about Sir Graves Ghastly (played by Lawson Deming)--"...A native of Cleveland, Deming started out in Detroit as a puppeteer for Woodrow the Woodsman, a Channel 2 children's show host who was seen here during the early and mid-1960s. But Woodrow liked Cleveland (whence he came) better than Detroit, and decided to return. Deming stayed and created Sir Graves...." I have not completed my research on the air dates related to Woodrow the Woodsman and Sir Graves Ghastly, but I do know, Woodrow the Woodsman was running for many months after Sir Graves Ghastly went on the air. So I wonder whether or not the statement in the book is true. If the star of Woodrow the Woodsman left Detroit, then either his show for Detroit was taped in Cleveland and the tapes were shipped to Detroit or the star of Woodrow the Woodsman came to Detroit (from Cleveland every week or every two weeks or every so often) to tape shows that could be shown in Detroit. The book should have had information to make the statement quoted within my paragraph clear.
I also dislike the book having too much white space and having too little information associated with the photographs (each photograph should have at least a "circa" and date associated with it)
By the way, in essence, I have only been doing research that--it can be said--is related to material in about one third of the book and the research focused on television programs (for example, I did no research that could be related to the chapter entitled "Backstage," which, for one, has informaton about television executives, and I did no reserch that could be related to the chapter entitled "News").
I am well informed about the history of network television, cable television, syndication, et cetera, but I am not well informed about local Detroit-area television. One reason for that is I did not start collecting information about television, such as shows of broadcast television networks, till about 1972, when the heyday for programs produced by local stations was done--that is, the period from 1947 to about 1972 when local stations produced a lot of different programs for viewers (and filled other time with programs from networks or syndicators, which often sold filmed off-network series or made-for-syndication series). However, through only a few days of work, I found information that disputes too many pieces of information in From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television to leave me with the feeling the facts in the book cannot be trusted. I will be doing more research about local Detroit-area television, and I now wonder how many other problems that there may be in the book that I will uncover in the future (when I find problems, I will pass them along to you in an edition of T.H.A.T.).
I have this thought related to From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television: Maybe, you are satisfied with or not disturbed by what errors that I have shown exist in From Soupy to Nuts! A History of Detroit Television, and your not being disturbed or not being unsatisfied could be because of many reasons. Maybe, you are a person who reads little and only looks at--mostly--the photographs of a book. Maybe, you feel the Internet is a better source of information than a book. Maybe, you do not see how a book with such errors can affect people in the future--you may not see how giving a person bad information upon which to attach other information today results in the person's making wrong conclusions about things in the future. Maybe, you are a person, such as a lawyer, who is unconcerned with doing precise writing and thinking; in the case of a lawyer, the lawyer may believe there is little harm in putting together documents that have misspellings and missing words (such as stated "subjects"). Maybe, you feel I should not challenge such as book, given how many people seemed to be involved in making it. Maybe, you are a person who always accepts what statements are made and what answers are given by television reporters and television newscasters and other reporters.
Now let me take care of some business that has been ongoing. Programs on which Bill Kennedy appeared has been an ongoing research project over the last couple months or so, and it was my going to Wayne State University within the last several weeks that allowed me to find information that has resulted in my coming up with some answers that I was looking for. I have found for my files that Bill Kennedy began hosting Going Our Way on August 10, 1956, and that means I have finally found the first day on which Bill Kennedy did movie-hosting duties for CKLW-TV, Channel 9, in Windsor, Ontario (Canada), a city that is across the Detroit River from Detroit (at the time, people in Detroit and the suburbs of Detroit could see the programming of CKLW-TV). In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I noted that I still had to find what the first day was and I speculated about what the first day might have been.
Oh! It is time for answers to questions posed in the previous edition of T.H.A.T. In the previous edition, I noted that Soupy Sales hosted a movie show in the summer of 1954 (Remember: A "movie show" is a show in which a host shows movies.). I can now report that the movie show was called Soupy's Ranch, and the name of the horse was "Philbert."
And now I shall give you a hard question to answer. One day in March 2007, I was doing research at Wayne State University, and I discovered that WWJ-TV, Channel 4, which has been known as WDIV-TV since July 1978, aired a "special" in1968 that was about the Detroit Police Academy (the program was about the recruiting program and more), and the featured reporter was Dwayne X. Riley. I report that the program was called Detroit Police Academy in television-program listings published by The Detroit News, which owned WWJ-TV at the time. What was the date on which Detroit Police Academy was shown?
It seems very likely to me it will take a great amount of work on your part to get the answer to the question that I have posed--Doing good research can take time, and in an attempt to answer a question, a researcher can go through stages of work that may or may not finally lead to the right answer to the question asked, and good research often has to be done the hard way--spending many hours going though articles or whatever, and although we have the "Internet," you cannot expect a simple search on the Internet to give you good information about television, as I have learned.
In addition, be aware a person's credentials may be meaningless and, in the field of journalism, if a reporter shows lax work in a big and important project, maybe that reporter has done the same low-quality researching-and-reporting work for other past projects (no matter what the topics) and is doing poor researching-and-reporting work on current projects.
copyright c. 2007
Date published: April 10, 2007
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