Mandel Kramer Commits Crimes on TV, Solves Them on Radio

Photo of Mandel Kramer when he appeared on CounterSpy radio series
Mandel Kramer during his years on CounterSpy

Ordinarily, on other programs in which he appears, Mandel Kramer is a two-faced, ornery killer, as likely to be erased on a show as not. It is seldom Kramer lasts to the end of any show -- except on CounterSpy, where he is Harry Peters, the hard-working associate of David Harding. At a time when TV has made tremendous inroads into the entertainment world, the 35-year-old Harrison, New York, gentleman is one of the handful of actors who has not been affected by the new medium. "I'm a product of radio," Kramer confesses.

Kramer is the sort of determined person who makes his own breaks when need be. He was brought up in Cleveland, where he attended Cleveland Heights High School and Western Reserve University. For no reason that Mandel can explain, he decided to become an actor. While he worked in his father's shoe store for the "fabulous" sum of $15 a week, Mandel studied in his spare time at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He then had a year in the Cleveland Playhouse, before getting a smattering of radio experience on station WTAM in Cleveland.

With $150 he had saved, Mandel set out for New York one day. He was sure that that great amount would see him through, and believe it or not, it did. Mandel won his first job by crashing an audition. He heard that a producer was auditioning for a role, and popped in at the studio declaring that he had already qualified for the tryout. She believed him, and the next thing you knew he was in front of the mike. They liked him, and Mandel launched his New York radio career.

In 1943, he tried out for Harry Peters, got the part, and has been successfully solving cases with David Harding week after week. When he's not doing Harry, he spends the rest of his working hours getting bumped off on other programs.

After work, Kramer commutes to Harrison, where he shares a lovely home with his family -- wife and two little girls. Once in his own backyard, no one would ever suspect Mandel of being an actor. He's a modest, likable guy, who wonders why anybody would ever want to write a story in a magazine about him.

From Radio-TV Mirror, March 1953

Bob Sylvester and his Orchestra Featuring Olga Vernon

Photo of the broadcast control desk at WJAZ in 1922, consisting of 15 dials, five gauges and other equipment
Associated Radio Artists ad from 1937

Five feet, five inches of scintillating personality, a voice with soft, mellow depths and a soothing quality, red hair (though she insists it's auburn), a creamy complexion. In short, an eyeful. That's Olga Vernon, the Sophisticated Lady of Song, who appears with Bob Sylvester and his Orchestra on a hand-picked network of Southern stations.

You can hear her every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. EST over WJSV, Washington; WRAV, Richmond; WBT, Charlotte; WGST, Atlanta; and WAPI, Birmingham, in a program sponsored by the Lance Company and originating in the WBT studios in Charlotte.

Vernon studied voice at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and got her professional start singing with Charlie Agnew's orchestra. Then came a number of appearances on various Chicago radio programs, in which she built up a reputation that reached the ears of Jan Garber. Garber lost no time in signing her up as his radio songstress.

Now Vernon's present boss, Bob Sylvester, enters the story. He'd heard her singing with Agnew and liked her voice, but he never met her until one day they were introduced by a music publisher. At that time Vernon was Hal Kemp's arranger, and it was through his influence that Kemp heard her and hired her away from Garber.

Five years ago, Sylvester became ambitious for a band of his own, and when he left Kemp and organized his own group Vernon went with him. The ups and downs of the band business left them stranded, at last; the band broke up and Vernon went on the musical comedy stage on Broadway while Sylvester returned to arranging.

He didn't give up his dream of having a band of his own, though, and eventually tried it again -- this time profiting by the mistakes he'd made before. Once more Vernon gave up her job -- which was then singing on a network sustaining program in New York -- to go with him.

The Cavalier Beach Club at Virginia Beach was the new band's first stop, and since then it has climbed steadily.

Vernon has a soft, deep alto voice that blends aptly with the original and distinctive style of the Sylvester arrangements. It's a combination that should prove a best bet on anybody's dial.

Don Senseney in Radio and Television Mirror, February 1940

Mexican Police Band Performs Concert to Entire U.S. on Radio

Photo of the broadcast control desk at WJAZ in 1922, consisting of 15 dials, five gauges and other equipment
The WJAZ broadcast control room in 1922

The Zenith-Edgewater Beach Hotel broadcasting station in Chicago on the evening of Sunday September 30 gave to its listening audience throughout the United States a rare treat which was fully appreciated, as evidenced by the thousands of letters pouring into the station. The official Mexican police band of 87 pieces, sent to this country by President Álvaro Obregón, appeared in full uniform and rendered a concert of continuous playing, lasting over one and a half hours. Many of this band stood during the entire time, and there was no intermission.

When the director of the band was asked if they did not desire an intermission, his reply was, "Oh, an hour and a half of straight playing is nothing. In Mexico we often play steadily for three hours.

This band came to the United States on the heels of the recent recognition of Mexico as a friendly handclasp from President Obregón. To put it in the words of the Mexican consul, "We can express our appreciation most appropriately through music." The Mexican consul stated this was the first appearance of this band at any radio broadcasting station.

The band was organized 20 years ago by Velino M. Preza, who still is conductor and has seen it grow not only in the affections of the Mexican people, but in the esteem of foreigners, and especially of the highest musical critics.

In 1909, when President Porfirio Diáz met President William Howard Taft in conference on the Mexican border, this band furnished the musical setting, and President Taft personally expressed his appreciation and extended his felicitations to the conductor.

It is a symphony band, and every member is a Mexican and a musical expert. The requirements for admission are extremely rigid. The youngest member is 22 and the oldest 65. There are no string instruments in the band other than two bass viols. There are 22 clarinets, 10 cornets, six saxophones, etc. An extremely difficult combination to put over the radio, and preparations were in progress five days to properly stage and reproduce this band from station WJAZ.

The name of this band is somewhat of a misnomer and would indicate a relation with the police force, but in reality all members are accomplished civilian musicians.

This mark of friendliness on the part of President Obregón in sending to the United States this wonderful band has cost the Mexican government approximately $100,000.

On Sunday evening, directly in front of the band in the Marine dining room of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, were seated as guests of the hotel at dinner the Mexican consul in the seat of honor and the consuls representing the following countries: Great Britain, Argentine, Columbia, Cuba, Czecho Slovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay. The consuls' table was decorated with the flags of the various nations there represented.

From Radio Guide, November 1923

The Mythical Town of East Tincup, Colorado

Postcard of sign at East Tincup theme park in Golden, Colorado
Postcard from East Tincup theme park in Golden, Colorado

Pete Smythe was a local Denver radio personality in the 1950s that many of us still remember fondly. His program originated from a mythical store called Pete Smythe's General Store from the mythical town of East Tincup, Colorado. He had a musical opening that was very familiar at the time, but something that I can't now remember. It was all about opening up the store and "now we're ready for business," etc.

He had an old player piano that we heard occasionally and plenty of folksy chatter. Several years after it gained popularity, a small commercial development sprang up in the foothills with the name Tincup. I don't know if it was connected with the program, but I don't think it survived too long.

Joe Flood was another local radio personality who I enjoyed. He had a program called The Upsy Daisy Show. During the course of the show, he would bang on the pots and pans and make up all sorts of noise so his listeners would get out of bed and get going. He also had an evening program that played some unusual records. I think they were classified as novelty tunes. At any rate, I loved them at the time.

Chuck Collins, the father of singer Judy Collins, used to play the piano and sing on a local radio program. Our school class went to see him perform in the radio studio once and then he visited our school and performed in the auditorium. He was blind and was a great example of how a person can overcome a handicap. His motto was, "Every stumbling block can become a stepping stone."

The last person I remember was Don Roberts. He had a morning show which always started with the Star-Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance.

There are still plenty of local shows, but I miss the down-home quality and folksy charm of the old programs of my youth.

Lon McCartt in Return With Us Now, January 1999

The Night Arthur Godfrey Fired a Singer On Live Radio

Cover of 1956 vinyl album Julius La Rosa, Joe Reisman and His Orchestra
Julius La Rosa's 1956 vinyl album with Joe Reisman and His Orchestra

The last memory I have of Julius La Rosa was seeing him at the Italian Festival on Hertel Avenue about five or six years ago. He was about 70 years old then. He looked good and sounded great as he entertained the friendly crowd. Nowadays his singing engagements are limited mainly to Italian festivals and some nightclub gigs. In between his singing he gave a little monologue, and naturally the Arthur Godfrey thing came up. I was surprised to hear him say that he harbored no grudge or ill feelings towards Godfrey for the ruthless way he fired him live on the show all those many years ago.

La Rosa made his debut on Arthur Godfrey and His Friends November 19, 1951. He shared the limelight with the other "friends" including Frank Parker, Marianne Marlowe, Haelokie, Jeanette Davis, and the McGuire Sisters. Tony Marvin was the announcer, and Archie Bleyer was the orchestra leader. Bleyer would receive the same treatment as La Rosa met only a few years later. Although La Rosa would never reach the fame of a Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, he was a very popular singing star in the early 1950s.

La Rosa was born in Brooklyn on January 2, 1930. La Rosa recalls those growing up days as wonderful. Even though times were tough and the neighborhood was a bit rough, he says he wouldn't have it any other way. You never had to lock your door or worry about getting mugged or be subjected to the more violent crime that is so prevalent today. He like many others grew up listening to Frank Sinatra. Frank was his idol. He also liked the big band leaders Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. "That was music," he would say. I tend to agree with him, considering what is forced down our eardrums these days.

After La Rosa finished high school he joined the Navy in the late 1940s. In his last nine months of service he had the opportunity to become the featured vocalist for the Navy Band in Washington D.C. It was here while performing that Godfrey first heard him sing. After the show Godfrey saw him backstage and said, "Young man, when you get out come and see me. You've got a job."

At this time Godfrey was a virtual superstar on CBS with three hit shows. Even before La Rosa left the Navy, Godfrey started promoting this new singing sensation he had discovered. When La Rosa joined the show he gave the appearance of being shy. La Rosa said, "I wasn't shy, I was scared to death." Considering he went from singing in the Navy to going on one of the most popular shows on the air, it was only natural to have a little stage fright. Anyhow the listeners loved him. After he was on the show for awhile he began moonlighting at clubs on weekends.

In 1952 Archie Bleyer formed Cadence Records and had La Rosa recording for him. La Rosa then hired a manager after his first hit record. This didn't go over too well with Sir Arthur, since none of Arthur's friends were allowed managers. La Rosa also refused (unlike all the other male stars on the show) to take dance lessons ordered by Godfrey. On top of this all, La Rosa had a thing for Dorothy McGuire. Godfrey himself also had a soft spot for McGuire. Finally on Oct. 19, 1953, La Rosa was canned right after singing "Manhattan." Godfrey called it La Rosa's "swan song."

Godfrey's reason for firing La Rosa was his lack of humility. For many years later, La Rosa contemplated what Godfrey meant by saying he lacked humility. Most of the press and all of the audience sided with La Rosa. Godfrey's popularity took a dip and he never regained the admiration he once held.

La Rosa had a few good years after he left Godfrey, including a number two hit record, "Eh Cumpari." Eventually things slowed down. Rock and roll evolved, and this was not in La Rosa's genre. He became a successful disc jockey in New York City and still sang occasionally. As I said before, he's still singing for ethnic groups and doing a little Vegas work. He lives in Westchester County. He is married with an older son and daughter.

One might wonder what sort of career could he have achieved if he would have remained on the Godfrey shows. One can only guess. Back in 1953 however, he was a somebody and he was also a contender.

Tom Cherre in The Illustrated Press, February 2007

New Diner Named After the Great Gildersleeve

Photo of Harold Peary and Jane Darwell eating a meal in the 1942 movie The Great Gildersleeve
Harold Peary and Jane Darwell in the movie The Great Gildersleeve (1942)

A new concept restaurant is coming to a familiar spot in Pueblo, with a 1940s-theme diner expected to be opened in late June in the former South Fork Restaurant location at 3510 N. Elizabeth.

Gildersleeve's Old-Fashioned Diner will be operated by Sonja and Perry Fields with assistance from Kristine and Michael Fields (their son). The idea for the restaurant sprang from Michael Fields' interest in old time radio shows. Opening such a restaurant, said Michael Fields, "has been a dream of mine for three or four years."

With the diner concept, especially that targeted toward the 1950s theme, becoming popular throughout the country, the sentiment of the owners was that now was the time to act.

The four owners all have a wealth of restaurant experience, some of it at the same location when a Sambo's did business there. Sonja and Perry, who most recently managed Goody's restaurants in Pueblo, will manage Gildersleeve's.

The owners have leased the building through Dan Molello of Jones-Healy Realtors and Kevin Krott of Barry Boals and Associates of Colorado Springs.

Gary Franchi in Pueblo Chieftain, June 1, 1989

What It's Like to Be in One Man's Family

Photo of Page Gilman as Jack Barbour in One Man's Family
One Man's Family cast member Page Gilman

The radio show One Man's Family seems as old as Methuselah, as time-honored as radio, itself, customary as a Sunday night supper. The show has been coming over the ether weekly for 11 years. Eight of those venerable mileposts have had the same sponsor, who still has seven years to go.

The program was first produced by NBC on the west coast as a sustaining in 1932. Two years later it went nationwide, has long since become a radio legend, earned its author half a million dollars -- added steadily to the fortunes of its cast.

In the history of "The Family" there have been four deaths, one divorce, 50 characters introduced -- 12 permanent Sunday night visitors. Out of the half a hundred who have played various parts, most of the original cast still remain through the perpetual saga: Some of them began as script schoolchildren and were written into adulthood, others who started as juveniles are now playing romantic leads. When a member of the cast is drafted, dies, or gets married, so it is written into the script and even though he returns no more, his memory is kept alive through references. Becoming a part of One Man's Family is almost a practical guarantee of a lifetime job, and pleasant security.

The mystery of its appeal is still a mystery. Its theme is nothing more complicated than the daily happenings of an average American home. Its institutional family attempts to intercept certain phases of ordinary happenings, philosophies, weaves in wars, floods and calamities to give it a timeliness, but it always remains the closely knit story of a family of 12. There is little or no conflict. On some shows, nothing actually happens. The characters merely sit around and talk. They aren't witty; they don't tear at your emotions, you are rarely perturbed -- they are certainly never profound. Paul, favorite and beloved character to millions of people, often engages in some quiet talk that is inspiring, but even these choice bits of inspiration are something that you know, already.

The most probable secret of the success of the whole thing is its seeming sincerity. The cast has been playing the parts for so long that they are almost as real to them as their everyday life. When they enter the studio on Sunday night there is a spirit of "going home" quite prevalent, they call each other by their script names and discuss things that happened in last week's show as if it were really part and parcel of their life.

When Page Gilman, who has played Jack, the youngest son, since the show went on the air, was drafted into the Army it affected the whole cast. Quiet, gray, velvet-voiced Mother Barbour called the cast together at rehearsal and said: "The war has come to our household." They were as sad as if Page were son and brother.

Each of them felt a new responsibility toward the war effort. Mother Barbour took up knitting to send him a sweater; Claudia, the script sister, went out and joined the motor corp division of AWVS; radio sister Hazel became a Hollywood canteen hosess. All of which impetus sprang from a radio brother going to the front. At another time the script called for Hazel to have a baby. The event was given a terrific build-up, week after week -- when the script baby finally arrived, it had all seemed so wonderful that Hazel had herself a real baby.

From Tune In, June 1943