Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hackberry Hotel

Hackberrry Hotel was amazingly racist. But in Dallas, TX in 1948 that's about as surprising as sunshine in the the daytime. The program was broadcast on 570 WFAA-AM and was 15 minutes long and at least in 1948, sponsored by the Armstrong Packing Co. The program continued until at least 1951. You can hear some episodes here.

The "two voice rural comedy" was set in a "mythical peaceful valley" according to it's promotional literature. Other characters appears only via the telephone who's ring opens every episode. In 1948 it was in it's 5th year. They advertised the program for syndication in Radio Daily, and it even ran during the Early Birds radio program according to some sources. The show announcer was John Allen, a WFAA regular.

The two main characters are Mr. Hack Berry the hotel manager and Willie Botts, an African American hotel worker. If you didn't notice in the above image, the one black character is played by a white voice actor. In their promotional ads and post cards he wears black face.Yes, black face.

Ben McClesky played Willie Botts a.k.a. "Little Willie."  He also appeared as the same character on The Saturday Night Shindig. He had created the role possibly as early as 1931 and was also a script writer on Saturday Night Shindig. Mr. Hack Berry was played by the Managing Director of WFAA, Martin B. Campbell. He had been with the station since at least 1934.