Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Career Academy School of Famous Broadcasters

I found these two LPs at a flea market. They both had identical sleeves, only the labels differ. Pictured on the jackets are Howard Miller, John Cameron Swayze, Robert St. John, Ulmer Turner, Fran Allison, Westbrook Van Voorhis, and Earl Gillespie.

I had no idea who any of these people were, but according to the jacket they were all famous. I have two of the LPs and The Transmitter, the newsletter of Library of American Broadcasting here tells me there are a total of 36 LPs in the series.
"St. John’s work as the Dean of the Directing Faculty of the Career Academy Division of Famous Broadcasters is represented by thirty-six LP records containing home study lessons and a copy of his textbook Encyclopedia of Radio and Television Broadcasting (The Man Behind the Microphone)."
Side A disc one was the program introduction. which told me that Robert St. John was the dean. He was born in 1902,and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 16 he lied about his age and enlisted in World War I. Upon returning home he enrolled at Trinity College where eventually he was expelled over an article he wrote for the Hartford Courant. He later became a writer for the Chicago Daily News and co-founded the Cicero Tribune. Al Capone bought out his partner and mobsters beat and hospitalized him over an anti-gangster article.

He survived the ordeal and he started working for the AP as a war correspondent in the Balkans. But AP writers were not allowed to publish books, so he secured a job at NBC Radio. We heard his voice on NBC on D-day, he stayed in the studio for 117 hours. He was fired from NBC for merely being mentioned in "Red Channels" an anti-communist mag. He had been using them as a source for one of his books. It didn't' stop him, he wrote another twenty books and used whatever sources he damn well pleased. He died in 2003 at the age of 101. It seems impossible he'd have had the time to be the dean of anything. But then I found a single collaborating reference.

Gary Knapp wrote the book "Building the American Dream".
"The mock broadcast studio at the school even had it's own call letters and was referred to as WCAB radio, named after Career Academy of Broadcasting, and used to identify our school station. the academy had both morning and afternoon classes; I was in the morning session. ...We were informed our school had a prestigious board of directors made of such dignitaries as Robert St. John, a world famous news correspondent for NBC news, an advertising expert John Cameron, Swayze from the famous TV watch commercial, (it takes a licking and keeps on ticking), and children's host Fran Allison from Kulka Fran and Ollie, to name a few. our Class got to meet Robert St. John one day as he stopped by the class on new journalism and he signed our broadcast textbooks. "
That's an affirmative. Knapp goes on to describe other visits by St. John and other staffers, field trips to the FCC and his later employment at KGPC. Other students that I've found include authors Robert Lewanski and Robert Zuraw. Jimmy Jet from KYA-AM, Rick Thomas of Kissin' Country and Elijah Mondy of KJIW-FM all were also graduates.

For a broadcasting school that apparently had branches in half a dozen cities that seems like a small crop. There's a lot more to this mystery. If any reader knows more, feel free to enlighten me.