In Search Of The Lone Rangerby Terry G. G. Salomonson
Many collectors in the hobby of collecting Old Time Radio programs already know me. For those of you who don't know of me, let me state that I've been around in this hobby for almost two decades now, and have touched many areas, which at least for me, have been interesting and hopefully for others I've been a little helpful. I've collected tens of thousands of programs, found missing episodes to a few serials, and have "sat" on programs for a number of years that others thought were lost, and I thought everyone else had. I've interviewed many celebrities from the "Golden Days Of Radio," whom I now look upon as friends. I write about those days (such as this article), and have hosted my own three hour radio program every weekend in St. Louis, Mo., over KSLH (91.5 FM). The Spring 1986 semester at a local college found me teaching a course in the history of radio broadcasting. I have authored and continue to author radio broadcast logs. In short, for those of you who didn't know me before this article, I'm very serious about OTR.
In 1984 "A Technical Guide To Collecting Old Time Radio Programs" appeared. I wrote chapter 18 entitled - "THE LOG - An Essential Tool For The Collector." That chapter was the basis of Part IV of this series. I won't go into all the points that were brought out in the chapter, except to say that logs, and more importantly CORRECT logs, are very valuable in collecting these wonderful programs of the past.
When I started collecting reels of these shows, a very good publication called THE NATIONAL RADIO TRADER was available at a very modest fee. I subscribed at once, because they ran pages of ads with names and addresses of other traders around the country, who for the cost of sending your catalog to them, would most of the time send you theirs. In short order, the mailman hated me because of all the different people I was trading with. The boxes that started to arrive at my door step were large and heavy, and there were many, many of them.
Almost at once, a problem developed that I didn't pick up on right away. Being fairly new to this exciting hobby, I was unaware of all the different ways of listing programs. One of the first shows I became interested in was AMOS 'N' ANDY. I combed closely through all the different catalogs that I had and tried to pick all of the reels that contained different programs that I didn't have from various collectors around the country.
I can still remember the three different AMOS 'N' ANDY shows as described in three different catalogs. There was one catalog that just gave a date, another catalog stated "problems with the phone company," and still another said, "the lost rare nickel." I sent three orders to three collectors and eagerly waited at the door next to the mail box. Imagine my surprise when the second show I listened to sounded like the first, and the third was a copy of the first two. Within the first three months of my introduction into collecting old time radio programs, I had already felt something had to be done. There was no clear standard of listing programs. Everyone it seemed listed to whatever sounded good to them.
As it turned out, most collectors are not to be blamed. They list in their catalogs what they get in from others. Some collectors would never have any way of being able to determine a correct date, or correct title to a show. Other collectors simply make up a title or description of a program. This all adds to the confusion in collecting.
I discovered shortly thereafter, that with a little work, logs could be put together and very accurately. At this point I should point out, that I didn't realize that it would take me almost eight years to put together the initial log listing 3,379 LONE RANGER broadcasts! What I did discover was the U.S. Government Copyright entries on microfilm. Most large city libraries have a microfilm department and these microfilmed copyright listings are available. You will find listings of many, many radio broadcasts of the past such as LUX RADIO THEATRE, SUSPENSE, THE SHADOW, THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE, THE LONE RANGER, THE GREEN HORNET, etc. Be careful though, as there are errors in these copyright microfilm listings and are only as accurate as the information provided to the government. I would say that the error rate could be in some cases as high as 10 - 15%. Sometimes only the broadcast date is listed to copyright the show and no title is given. The only way to get a title or synopsis of the program would be to get a copy of the script. Scripts can be hard to find, or if going to the National Archives, expensive to have an original script pulled for viewing. While not getting into a lot of the problems you can find with different programs, I will give you some of the problems that I encountered while gathering titles of THE LONE RANGER program and how I was able to solve errors and provide truely correct titles and dates, even when they weren't copyright listed correctly by broadcast date!
First, while using the microfilm copyright listings, I listed all of the entries that I could find about THE LONE RANGER. Starting about mid-1940 through to the end of the broadcasts in 1954 most all of the titles were listed. The real problem was getting some record of the broadcasts before the mid-1940 airings. More on this problem later.
Now, what was I going to do with the listing that I had of the last fourteen years. There were mistakes that I could see, even while gathering the information. One of these mistakes was with the two part "Ring Series." The first broadcast was listed in November of 1948 and the second part was listed months later. This also happened with the "Film Ring Series," in 1949. In both of these cases, the two-part broadcasts were aired together but for some reason the scripts were not sent together for copyright registration. Being that WXYZ usually sent three to maybe ten scripts together at one time for copyright registration, there were a lot of scripts between the first part of the story and the second part when it finally caught up. So it was listed months later in the records, giving the impression that the broadcast was months later. Also, WXYZ gave broadcast and transcription numbers to each script. Let me give you a quick word on this dual numbering system. The copyright listings do list these dual numbers, so it is important that you understand this system.
The broadcast numbers started January 31, 1933 with the first broadcast of the series. The transcription numbers started with the beginning of recording of these broadcasts on January 17, 1938 with the 776th broadcast. At this point a dual numbering system was instituted. The first number represents the broadcast number and the second number represents which recording it is. With the first recorded broadcast January 17, 1938, the numbering system was 776/1 (776th broadcast/1st recording) and a new problem arose.
Secretaries and clerks assigned the next available number of both the broadcast and transcription listings as scripts were prepared for the mailing to Washington, D.C. If a script was overlooked, as mentioned above, titles were listed out of order in all three categories: date of broadcast, broadcast number, and number of the transcription. Trying to figure some of these problems out half a century later can be real challenging.
Sometimes during the years that THE LONE RANGER was airing from Detroit, Michigan, scripts and story lines were substituted at the last minute. WXYZ most of the time forwarded scripts to be copyrighted ahead of time before they would have aired. By changing scripts at the last minute, there was no way of changing the copyright listings as to what really aired and more impor- tantly on what date. Sometimes the same date, or the same broadcast numbers appear in these listings for different scripts. This was solved for the most part by pure accident.
During one of my visits to Special Recordings in Detroit, I was about to leave when Tony Caminita, who worked as a sound effects man on THE LONE RANGER, happened to mention that he thought he could answer one of my questions regarding two titles that I had for the same broadcast date. From the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet, buried under a lot of other papers he produced a handwritten log that he kept broadcast by broadcast during those broadcast days. That was one of his assignments in addition to sound effects. Not only did it give the CORRECT script used that day, it was a title not even copyrighted and before that day one that I had never heard of. The other two scripts were copyrighted, (and listed in the copyright entries) but never used. It also produced the fact that the copyright listings by script title were off by one and sometimes two broadcast dates that the front office at WXYZ was telling Washington, D.C. I was having many problems over about an eighteen month period in which the copyright listings on microfilm were not matching the actual scripts that I had in my possession. This was quickly solved with this handwritten log that Tony had and didn't even know why he had kept all these years. (Since then, I have acquired all of these same original handwritten FCC broadcast logs of THE LONE RANGER, THE GREEN HORNET, AND CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON, (and several other series) as well as daily production calendars for years of WXYZ programs.)
The next task was to complete the log of THE LONE RANGER broadcasts from the beginning to mid-1940. The single biggest help came from Francis H. Striker, Jr. I first met Fran a number of years ago when I gave one of the many talks I've given about THE LONE RANGER program. Fran sat in the audience with an interest towards what I would say about his father's creation. We became very good friends. When the Striker family celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of THE LONE RANGER on radio, I was invited to be present during the three day event as the radio historian by the family. Fran granted me open access to his father's files. Francis Striker saved everything during his lifetime. Everything including scripts, newspaper articles, even interdepartmental memos. Among all this information was a listing of the first 712 scripts. There was some missing information and more problems to solve. A visit to the University Of Buffalo, many visits to the basement of the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., several visits to the main library in Detroit, Michigan, and many more hours looking at microfilms of everything from Variety to the New York Times, The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit Times, continued to solve these problems one at a time.
The trail continued with interviews of many WXYZ employees, and listening to many hours of interview tapes that were made years ago when Richard Osgood worked on his book about WXYZ. Many original studio managers and staff members heard on these tapes that were so important to the beginning of THE LONE RANGER, have long since died and these are the last remaining recorded records and interviews of those early beginnings and important clues as to what happened half a century ago. More importantly, many facts that were in the taped interviews, didn't make Mr. Osgood's book. The book's total scope was cut by the publisher as being too long.
If you think that this is going a bit far in the quest of an accurate log, the story doesn't end here. I can account for all 3,379 broadcasts in one form or another. But there were still a little over 400 broadcasts that I neither have the title to nor the story synopsis for. I knew the broadcast number and date to, and the transcription number of, but here the dusty trail grew cold. Because of governmental regulations, and many other problems that would take too much time to go into now, I had been blocked from getting the last small part to totally complete this large project. I knew exactly in which Maryland warehouse, owned by the Copyrights Office, where the scripts in question are stored, the names of the personnel involved in their safekeeping, the copyright numbers and dates assigned to each script, etc. The problem at the time had been one of access to these documents. I could not personally research these scripts myself.
For several years I tried all of the different approaches to this problem that I could think of. A Federal Judge I knew suggested that I present this problem to my Senator. For the next six months the Senior Senator from Missouri at the time, Thomas F. Eagleton, had intervened on my behalf. An exchange of letters and telephone calls produced an enormous amount of interest, not only within the Senator's office among staff members, but all the way up to Dr. Daniel J. Boorstin, at that time the Librarian Of Congress. I started a growing collection of letters that had been exchanged between staff members, other heads of departments within the Library Of Congress, and the two main principals. It seems for a lot of reasons, some of which are very understandable, I found that I was in the middle of a "Catch-22" area. But all is not totally lost. Estimates had been determined that it would take close to $2,000.00 to complete this project, which are the fees that would have to be paid for the Copyright Office archival staff to do the research. With the help of the Senator's office, I started looking into several different grant possibilities to help underwrite that cost. I was stubborn enough not to quit until THE LONE RANGER log was complete.
I decided to release the log, minus the information on those 400 broadcasts, and then do a major update whenever the facts became known. Not knowing how long it would take, prompted the decision to go ahead with the distribution of the log in 1985. After all, 90% of the information was completed and there was a need for this log among collectors.
In 1989, during a planned vacation to California for a visit with another collector, I had arranged the possibility of finally getting to the original scripts to get the needed information I required to finish the log. Dates and times were set for my visit to the Jack Wrather Corporation's storage facilities. A last minute snag prevented this visit just days before our departure to the Los Angeles area. While I immensely enjoyed our visit to California, it never the less was disappointing not to gather this last bit of information, after all these years of work on the log, especially when I was within just a couple of miles of it for a week.
It would take a few more years of searching and waiting to finally be given access to all the original scripts that exist. In 1992, after THE LONE RANGER property changed ownership several times, I was finally able to spend several days of unrestricted research with the scripts. Armed with a portable computer and the unlimited use of a Xerox machine, I was finally able to fill in the missing information I needed to complete THE LONE RANGER log. For the first time since the Ranger took to the air in 1933, there was finally a complete accurate record of what was done. My self satisfaction was short lived however. I was able to yield more data in those 400 previously missing scripts than I had included in my log on the other nearly 3,000 scripts. After seeing what was in the archive vault, I know that I can rewrite THE LONE RANGER log to about seven or eight times its present size. While I wouldn't release a log that large (the present log is 106 pages long), I do think that the information should be saved as much and as accurately as possible.
The information on the previously missing 400 broadcasts is now in my computer awaiting the work necessary to produce the expanded and revised LONE RANGER log. It will be several years before this project will be finished and available.
The one important fact is that the information after all these years, travels, telephone calls, interviews, microfilm searches, etc., is now saved. Someone starting the log building process on THE LONE RANGER today I do not believe could complete the log. It is not that I am so good as a researcher, it is just a plain fact that the opportunity to get to all the people involved with this property, and the documentation, are no longer here. Most of the production personnel, the directors, writers, actors, etc., have died, and if it wasn't for my being in the right spot, with the right people, at the right time, I wouldn't have gotten my hands on the original FCC station broadcast logs, production calendars, etc. Memories have faded during the past fifteen years. Scripts today are now missing pages and the earliest scripts are becoming almost invisible on the onion skinned pages that carbon paper helped to create. This is why logging of radio's history is so important.
More and more of the original recordings no longer exist today that did 15 to 20 years ago. I have tape recordings of original transcriptions that no longer exist, and in some cases my recordings are the only copy left of the broadcast as the scripts no longer exist. These copies were made many years ago and before several moves of the ET's around the country. Moving the disc's from Detroit, to Texas, to California, etc., were not kind to many of the ET's.
I have started two other major logs of this size and larger several years ago and work has been progressing on them very well. There is less dependable and good information on them so far than I've seen with THE LONE RANGER, but I'm determined. I'll announce the titles in the future, but one of the logs is larger than these three combined!
I will continue contributing more of these articles to THE OLD TIME RADIO DIGEST in future editions.
- Next Part VI - Serials: (PART 1) - Juvenile Radio Programs
If there is an area of information that you, the new or well established collector, would like to see in this series, please feel free to write me. Any questions, comments, or suggestions will be carefully considered. I can be reached through this internet web site or the following addresses:
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Last Updated: 04/27/15 07:37:41 PM