Monday, February 07, 2011

4-H Club Radio

The four H's in the 4-H club stand for head, heart, hands, and health.Started in 1902, the growth of the program from experimental projects into formal clubs mirrors the growth of early radio.  There was no golden era of radio for the 4-H club. There was a period of time when they moved from experimental to instructional radio programs. We traffic in the arcane here, and this certainly qualifies.
In 1922 a 4-H Club leader wrote "This wireless nonsense is just a fad. It will never amount to anything. They might better spend their time raising chickens."  What talks happened between then and their later experiments remains a mystery. But seven years later, they made a full 180 on the topic. On June 23rd they did a test program and hooked up 21 radio stations. The response to the test was very positive and on October 1st 1928 an experimental radio service was launched.  They began with a set of 10 monthly programs relating to 4-H club work. This program was titled "4-H Club Crier" and was included in the programs of approximately 68 radio stations. I actually corroborated this in two separate newspapers: The October 5th, 1928 issue of the Catskill New York Recorder. It reads as follows:
"A weekly broadcast for farm boys and girls "the 4-H Club Crier" will be sent on Thursday or Friday evenings  by Co-operating stations."
The second reference came from the The August 23rd 1928 issue of the Tulia Herald, of Tulia Texas.  It reads as follows:
"A large-scale demonstration of radio's effectiveness in influencing rural thought and action will be carried on for a period of 30 weeks starting October 1, by some 60 radio stations and the Radio and Extension services of the United States department of Agriculture.. the national program will supplement State 4-H Club radio programs carried on by a number of land-grant colleges..." 
The article later claims that 61 stations in 38 states requested the program. But it also noted that Town Crier programs were being developed for the Eastern, Southern, central and Western groups of states. This intimates that the Town Criers content varied regionally with the activities of local 4-H groups. This mixed kids programs existed side-by-side with the state level programs and were aired on a mix of college and commercial stations.  This was a lot of content. The papers of the Federal Extension Service described the programs thusly:
"By means of the radio, club boys and girls were also given interesting glimpses into the world of literature and of birds and wild flowers, as well as of those other things that enlarge the horizon and give greater meaning to the everyday tasks of field and home."
The program was targeted at kids.  It explained how best to conduct their 4-H club activities, whether they be in the growing of crops, the raising of livestock, the preparation and serving of food, the selection and construction of clothing, or the general beautification of the farm home. One reference said they performed "music memory contests." These focused on "our best-known composers."  I can only imagine these as s precursor to the quiz shows that would predominate radio a decade later.