Friday, April 12, 2013

The Old Dirt Dobber

In the American slang of the last century "dirt-dobber" meant farmer or an unsophisticated rustic. On CBS the Old Dirt Dobber was Sam Caldwell who had  been on air for over 20 years. His book the Garden Gate was published in 1954. But earlier books like Thru The Garden Gate by The Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan list the Dirt Dobbler as a man named Tom A. Williams. The book Idiot America also refers to Tom Williams as host of the same Gardening Program broadcasting from the studios of 1510 WLAC-AM in Nashvile. It even correctly identifies his announcer as Paul Oliphant.

In 1944 Broadcasting Magazine described the program as airing Monday through Friday,
The program was running on Saturday mornings back in 1946, but was airing daily by 1954. But an Illinois Library trade magazine described "Open the garden gate," by the Old Dirt Dobber airing only on Saturday mornings. This matches the "airing each week" description on his book jacket.

The USDA lists horticulturist Tom A. Williams as being born in 1891. But the 79 year old dirt dobbler in 1983 would have been born in 1906. It seemed likely that Caldwell inherited the program from Williams, but there is little documentation. I confirmed this from a single article in the Sherbrook Telegram Newspaper from January of 1950. The program has been airing for 17 years at that time. That puts it's debut in1933. It was probably one of the first gardening programs anywhere, and it was syndicated all over the country and into Canada across over 100 radio stations..including 1010 CFRB-AM in Toronto.

References to the program seem to peter out in 1958. The original Dirt Dobber, Mr. Williams largely vanished from view in 1950. There is little written about him. From a single reference I know that Williams was big on Irises. From a much later reference I learn that at 79 years old he was still making celebrity appearances at flower shows. That would have been in 1970, a decade after his radio program ended.