Monday, February 19, 2024

8TC Protective Cap

Here's an oddity, and I've never seen one before.  


It's labeled "8TC Protective Cape." The "p" is shaped a bit funny but only a couple possible words made sense. [I doubt it's cave or cafe.] I ultimately decided that it says "cap" because I found a few other related items. The usual 8-track websites don't seem to have them. Kate's Track Shack has a few [LINK] but they seem to be different makes. The UK eBay seller Retronical seems to have an exclusive supplier for new covers, they're calling it a "tape end cover protector" using that particular modern SEO grammar. Functionally it's no different than a lens cover.

8TC no doubt stands for 8 Track Cassette. The device simply clips over the end of the case to protect the exposed magnetic tape.  The function makes sense, and it certainly works. You just have to follow the two instructions "remove to play" and "replace for protection", "replace after playing" or "replace to store." A couple note that they're made in England.


With terms like cap, protector and cover I found a few more makes, with different colors, slightly different sizes and shapes.  Currently I think this was more of a a fringe UK, product. A semi-disposable plastic something, lacking the utility and ubiquity of a 45-adapters.  I looked through 1970s issues of Billboard and reviewed ads from LE-BO, for the cases, and suppliers like King Karol, Ecofina, Ampak, Crest, Recoton etc. and there was nothing, no ads, no patents, no trademarks... nothing. They remain a mystery.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

WAAT-AM in 1922

 

There are two gentlemen pictured here, C.J. Ingram and Frank Bremer and this is a Prohibition joke. It appears in a 1923 issue of Radio News. First the gag: In 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment passed in 1919 and was ratified by 46 out of 48 states. The Volestead act was then ratified, and the commercial sale of alcohol was banned in the U.S. based on WWI-ear anti-German sentiments, and Christian radicalism. 

Private ownership and consumption of booze were not banned, but some states were more restrictive. Home wine-making became very popular, with some wineries even producing a grape jelly product called "Vine-Glo" and another which was basically a grape brick. [LINK] In these cases as was with a pile of raisins, amateurs could make their own wine. So C.J. and Frank here are soliciting recipes, and apparently following some home fermenting difficulties.

Frank V. Bremer was the founder of WAAT. He appears in the book Airwaves of New York which states that Frank started tinkering with wireless as early as 1910. That year he also organized the Jersey City Wireless Club. He was born in 1894, so he would have been all of 16 years old. But we do have documentation that goes back almost that far, so this is a completely reputable claim. More here.

But I find the written record to be somewhat convoluted. 2IA, first appears in a July 1913 issue of the Department of Commerce Radio Stations report [SOURCE]. But at that time, it was owned by Royce A. Winfred located at 1329 49th street, in Brooklyn, NY and operating at 500 watts. The July 1914 issue is the same. That 1913 issue is literally issue #1 so I don't think we have an authoritative source that goes back further. Some websites claim that in 1914 Frank received both amateur and commercial radio operator's licenses. I've not been able to confirm that, but it fits the time line. More here.


In the July 1915 issue both Bremer and Winfred appear, but Frank is operating 2ARN, a different amateur station. (Starting in 1920 the annual Commerce Department station lists were split into two publications, separating the the Amateur stations.)  In the June 1920 issue of Amateur Radio stations of the United States, 2ARN, is now operated by George A. Bennett, on 40 Argyle place, Arlington, NJ at 18 watts. This is the same in the June 1922 issue. In the June 1923 issue George has moved to Twilight Ave in Keansburg, NJ. Bremer's first appearance with 2IA is in the June 1923 issue. The 1923 the Citizens Call book puts 2IA at 3613 Boulevard in Jersey City, operated by F. V. Bremer, a matching entry.


The station we know as WAAT was originally known was 2IA. Different sources put it's start in 1922, or as late as 1926.  The argument is mostly based in semantics, it goes back much earlier. Airwaves uses the 1926 date for the start of WAAT, but in 1926 Frank was operating a radio shop at 210 Jackson Avenue under the call sign 2IA, his amateur station. The August 1926 Bulletin refers to this station as WKBD in a list of "additions" to the June 1925 list. By September he got the call sign changed to WAAT.

One note on 2IA, The Jersey Review paid to broadcast from Bremer's facilities as early as 1920. There have been claims that this paid program was meets the definition of the first commercial radio program ever. It's plausible. You can easily find references to Bremer's radio operations like the below 1921 issue of Radio News:


The Jersey Review is where we meet C.J. Ingram. The Jersey Review was in publication from 1920 to 1941 when it became the "Jersey Guide." Even the authoritative Directory of New Jersey Newspapers 1765 - 1970 only has question marks for the end of the Jersey Guide. [SOURCE] A 1922 issue of the Radio Dealer names Frank Bremer as the "Radio Editor" of the Jersey Guide.  Mr. C. J. Ingram, was managing editor of the Jersey Review. [SOURCE] Ingram was also the vice president of the Radio Broadcasting Society of America. Though in 1923 they're described as "...thirteen or more small broadcasters." Members included WHN and WAAT at the very least. [The treasurer was C.B. Cooper, executive secretary George Schobel,  and President was John E. O'Connor]

In his autobiography I Have a Lady in the Balcony, George Ansbro puts C.J. Ingram at the Jersey
Journal as the radio Editor around 1932. His column was called the "One Dialer" still hosting a 30 minute Sunday afternoon program on WAAT. In 1935, the book Before The Mike by Ted Husing confirms the same. The November 1933 issue of the Crosley Broadcaster records the name of the program as "Stardust" airing from 12:30 to 1:00 PM. He continued to write the column through at least 1936.

Bremer continued to operate WAAT-AM for decades. They opened a studio in Manhattan in 1927 at 34 W. 28th Street. The station moved to the Douglas Hotel on Hill Street in 1941. Then in 1947, they got into FM radio and 94.7 WAAT began broadcasting. Bremer continued to run the show until 1958 when eh sold the AM and Fm stocks to the National Telefilm Associates. The big mystery in all of this, is the line "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN" below that comic that started all this. Both Bremer and Ingram were still very much alike, and even still on air in 1923. Prohibition lasted until 1933. I'm not sure what was gone by 1923. Maybe just 2IA being replaced by WAAT.

The Soul Express

On a drive across New England I picked up a free issue of Neighbors magazine. In it I found a lengthy article by Dean Farrell aka Dean Fiora. He was singing the praises of some obscure soul 45s. You know I can't resist that. In his byline it revealed that he's also a a 35-year radio-man currently with shows on two different stations WECS, and WRTC.

Dean turned out to be an absolute renaissance man: a fiction writer, a music columnist, a musician, a performer, a soul-man, and a rockabilly fan among other things. He's even written for Mad Magazine. We've even met some of the same radio folks in our travels. It was an honor and a pleasure to interview him. It'll take a while, but I do plan to read all of his Kolchak stories. (For you kids under 40, that was the X-files before there was an X-files. Wildly under-rated show with a cult following)


 JF: By my count you've worked at at least ten radio stations: 89.3 WRTC, 88.1 WESU, 100.5 WRCH, 1350 WINY-AM, 104.1 WIOF, 1590 WQQW-AM , 91.7 WHUS, 910 WNEZ-AM,  1220 WATX-AM and 90.1 WECS. Did I even get all of them? 

DF: One more. When I lived in Florida from 1996-97, I was involved with the non-commercial WFIT from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. It was mainly a jazz station, so that's what I played too.

JF: Your commercial radio tenure seems to have been relatively short. Any advice for would-be commercial radio DJs?

DF: For my piece in the Neighbors paper, I simplified the timeline. I actually worked part-time and per diem in commercial radio for five years (1990-95).

As for advice to would-be commercial DJs: you're better off trying Internet or satellite radio than terrestrial. When I worked in commercial radio 30 years ago, they were already busy replacing on-air DJs with network feeds and automation. I got out because I was never able to make a full-time living at it. And it's only gotten worse. However, if you really want to be on the AM or FM band, you might give news, talk, or sports radio a try.

JF: I saw on Mixcloud that you have been building Soul Express playlists from old soul radio playlists: WMBM, WAWA, WABQ, KDIA, WBEE, KXLW, WGOK, XPRS, WCHB, KDKO etc.The list goes on. I really like this idea. Where did this come from?

DF: I've collected Classic Soul music for about 35 years. During that time, I've amassed tens of thousands of individual tracks. Yet, whenever I do an old radio station countdown, there's always something I've never heard before. That's why I do them. Well, that and I've always enjoyed the countdown format. Casey Kasem was one of my heroes! I found the playlists at the ARSA website: http://las-solanas.com/arsa/index.php

JF: Is the program name "Soul Express" named after anything in particular? The magazine "Soul Express" or the band "Raw Soul Express?" Maybe the 1968 song by Lonnie Mack?

DF: It was just a name I came up with when I first put the show on the air in 1994. It also rhymed with the station’s call letters: “You’re listening to The Soul Express on ‘HUS.” Or now, ‘ECS.

JF: You've had two different shows on WRTC; Soul Express and Roots Rock Radio. I think a third one named "Something Different." These are very different shows with different playlists. Can you tell me how they're different for you?

DF: Thanks to my involvement with college radio, I discovered a lot of artists and genres that I never heard on the commercial stations. As a result, my musical tastes went all over the map. At present, I own approximately 5,000 CDs and file them by genre. (My 45s and LPs, I simply file by the artists’ names.)

JF. I read that soul singer Betty Harris made her re-entry into the music biz after an appearance on your show at WHUS in 2004. Can you tell me how all that came to be?

DF: In June 2004, I received an email from Betty's son via my (now defunct) Soul Express website. He advised me that his mother lived in Hartford and, after 35 years out of the music business, was looking to get back in. So I had her on my show, making damned good and sure the Internet soul music community knew about it in advance. And things just took off from there.

JF: I read in your bio that you resigned from WHUS in 2010. Do you care to comment on that at all?

DF: In 2008, UConn audited WHUS and decided the station was insufficiently student focused. They then demanded (under threat of defunding) a series of changes that made us community members feel increasingly unwelcome. For example, we were no longer allowed to serve on the Operations Board or vote on station-related matters. They also canceled Radiothon, our annual pledge drive, and demanded the station no longer maintain a booth at Willimantic's monthly Third Thursday Street Festival. And that was just the beginning.

I put up with the university's crap for two years before I walked away in September 2010. A year later, they fired John Murphy, who had been the GM for 33 years. The reason they gave was "organizational restructuring." At that point, I knew once and for all that WHUS was a lost cause. I haven't so much as tuned into the station since then, and neither has anyone else that I know--including people who had been devoted 'HUS listeners for decades.

UConn is hellbent on isolating itself from the surrounding community and demanded the same of its radio station. Never mind that WHUS has a 4,400-watt signal that reaches 60 miles in all directions. Those bureaucrats transformed WHUS from an award-winning non-commercial station into a desiccated husk of its former self. And they're damned glad of it. To this day, I can't help but feel disgusted.

Hardly anyone asks me about the station anymore; but if they do, I tell them, "I had sixteen good years at WHUS. Problem is, I was there for eighteen."

JF: How did you get started at WECS? Did you know someone there or did you just fill out an application?

DF: The general manager of WECS is also the chief operator at WHUS. I’ve known JZ [John Zatowski] for 30+ years. When I decided in 2016 that I wanted to return to radio after six years away, I contacted JZ and that was that.

I find it especially convenient to do radio at WECS because it’s only a five-minute drive from my house. Plus, there’s usually nobody on after me. So if I want to stay on the air late, I can do so.

JF: You've put out a few singles, even two with Bloodshot Bill. How did all that come about?  Covid-era side project?

DF:  One of the musical styles I love is rockabilly, for which there is an international underground scene. From 2013-2018, and then again in 2022, Beck Rustic put on the New England Shake-Up, a weekend-long rockabilly festival, in Sturbridge, MA, a mere one-hour drive for me. I befriended a lot of the performers and attendees, some of whom flew in from as far away as Australia and Japan!

After the 2017 Shake-Up, I spent two weeks deathly ill with a respiratory infection (as did a number of other attendees). That inspired me, at age 51, to write a song for the first time in my life. Since I don’t play an instrument, all I had was lyrics. However, Bloodshot Bill, a rockabilly performer from Montreal, took an interest in the song and set it to music. We recorded “Bop Flu” together at his home studio in April 2019. (He played all the instruments himself via overdubbing.) The following year, Bill got the Sleazy label inSpain to include “Bop Flu” on a 4-track various-artists EP titled, “Bloodshot Bill Present Rare Gems from Sin Studio.” (That’s what he calls his home set-up. It’s a goof on the iconic Sun Studio in Memphis.) Alas, it came out at the height of Covid, so there was no way to really promote the record. Consequently, most rockabilly fans still don’t know about the vinyl release.

To date, I’ve recorded five of my songs with musician pals, but only “Bop Flu” has been commercially released. You can hear them all at https://bopflu.bandcamp.com/

Alas, the New England Shake-Up ended in 2022 as it got to be a financial drain on the promoter. I still miss it, and so do thousands of other rockabilly fans worldwide.

JF: Would you also be the same Dean Fiora who wrote the story Kolchak: the NightStalker? 

DF: Yeah, that's me too. "Fiora" is my real surname. I Americanized it to "Farrell" when I got into commercial radio. Those Kolchak stories are my sole descent into fandom. I wrote eight of them in total. You can read them all at https://adventures-in-night-stalking.site123.me/

Monday, January 29, 2024

WDEL and WJIC in Salem NJ

Caveat: I do not normally watch this Youtube channel. This was sent to me in the form of a clip showing the inside of an abandoned radio station in New Jersey. From that clip I found this original video source (above). Salem is a depressed area with many abandoned buildings including this old radio studio.  The sequence is only a few minutes long. They seem to have a local contact who tours them in the rotting shell of it's rooms and equipment. There they briefly examine a record by McSweet that came out in 1989, the newest release seen on camera. The stacks of CDs are shown only in side view and probably are from the 1990s. 

I cringed every time one of the teenagers refers to a stack of LPs as "vinyls" but the station itself is interesting all the way down to the moss and mushrooms growing out of sodden record sleeves. But in in the end I had to watch on mute. The site appears to have become a stop on the urban explorer highway appearing in multiple other videos.

The segment that I saw starts around the 8-minute mark. The brand name KISS 101.7 FM actually refers to WDEL-FM licensed to nearby Canton, NJ. With the transmitter that far into South Jersey, the coverage area shoots across the Delaware Bay and into the Delmarva peninsula blanketing parts of both Delaware and Maryland. Only about half the coverage area is in New Jersey at all, and  Salem is quite north of the epicenter. Our first clues are the logoed items shown on camera. On a desk they find a 1150 WJIC-AM branded folder on a desk, in another room a WJIC 1510 AM News talk radio bumper Sticker adorns an equipment rack, a plain red "15•X" sticker is seen briefly on another door.


So lets look at the history of these two stations and find the connection. They start as brand new CPs under Vernon Baker. The FM stick signed on in January of 1972, the station signed on as 101.7 WNNN as a Vernon Baker station. Baker was based on Blacksburg and ran mostly Christian Contemporary stations. He was an engineer and a bit of a character, I will probably do a bio at some point. WNNN also was a contemporary christian station and in 1978 P.J.F. Broadcasters Inc. bought both WNNN and WJIC from Vernon Baker. Baker remained active in radio for decades after this. Why did he sell out? Well, there is a whole story there.  

There was a FCC case in 1975 that didn't go well for him, in FCC Docket 20268. Vernon was also 75% owner in Town and Country Radio inc. There were two mutually exclusive applications for a radio station in Suffolk, VA between T&C and another company Tidewater. That's Vernon's backyard. Tidewater had some pretty notable funding issues but Baker became the focus of the case. The case basically said that Vernon's staffing practices were racist enough at WNNN and WJIC that the FCC should not award him the CP. It starts with a EEO complaint from a community group named Voice of the People, Suffolk VA. I'll quote the relevant section here:
"Voice alleges that serious questions are raised as to whether T&C will operate its proposed facility in a manner consistent with Section 73.301 of the Commission's R in light of the past employment practices  at seven other broadcast stations in which Vernon H. Baker, 75% over of T&C, holds ownership interests. In support of its request, Voice attaches the Annual Employment Reports (FCC Form 395, 1971-1974), of broadcast stations wholly or partly owned by Vernon H. Baker. Voice points to the fact that the employment report reveals an absence of any full-time minority persons at any of these stations while the minority population statistics for the communities range from 12.5 percent to 52.7 percent."
The Commission didn't mince words at all in their decision. They put the burden of proof on Town and Country, and granted the request from the Voice of the People. Round two was in 1977, the FCC found Bakers EEO efforts to be wanting to say the least. The short version is that T&C lost the CP bid because Managers under Vernon Baker had been refusing to hire black people.
"...the record does indicate that Baker's stations have made a sorry and ineffectual effort at affirmative action, and that only under the pressure of events... Yet, he did little or nothing to correct the situation... It is concluded that this record fails to demonstrate that Town and Country will actually operate it's station in a matter consistent with rule 73.301, and, in light of that conclusion, it is further concluded that Town and Country lacks the requisite qualifications to be a Commission licensee.
Anyway, back to New Jersey. In 1992 Steve Hare [SOURCE] came a long and started 89.1 WXHL in Christiana, DE broadcasting the same format as WNNN with less preaching and in stereo. It killed WNNN's listenership on that side of the river. So QC Communications purchased the station from P.J.F. in 1997 and flipped the station to urban adult contemporary format as "Kiss 101.7", using the call sign WJKS. That's the banner we see in the main room, roughly dating the time of the studio's closure. In 2015, QC Communications sold WJKS to Delmarva Broadcasting, who had already been operating the station under LMA for a year. Delmarva flipped WJKS to a simulcast of 1150 WDEL. The call sign flipped to WDEL-FM to match expanding the coverage of that news-talker. That's the latest possible date I imagine for the studio closure.

The AM stick on 1510 started in 1966 as WJIC ("Jersey Information Center") broadcasting an MOR format at 250 watts. It's important to note that WRAN-AM signed on in1964 [SOURCE] also on 1510 but out of Dover, NJ blocking it's coverage to the north, focusing WJIC on South Jersey and the Delaware bay area. Most of Vernon's stations were Christian music so this one stands out as an oddball. In 1978 P.J.F. Broadcasters Inc. bought the station with WNNN. Lets ignore the period of time it spent as a country station as Country WJIC from 1981 to 1990-ish. Jersey Country is a think we don't talk about. Like most MOR stations it migrated to a News/Talk format by the 1990s. According to a cache of the old Pirate Jim Page in late 1997 QC Communications flipped the station to a Christian format as "Faith 1510" and adopted the calls WNNN and in 2001 changed the calls to WFAI to match. 


In December 2014, QC Communications sold both stations; WFAI and WJKS to the Delmarva Broadcasting Co.  The story keeps going of course. Forever Media bought Delmarva Broadcasting in early 2019. In October of 2019, WFAI-AM flipped to urban AC and the Jammin' 96.9 brand returned to Salem now simulcasting on translator W245CJ, with the new calls WVJJ. In 2021 WVJJ changed again becoming a simulcast of country-formatted WXCY-FM 103.7 FM out of Havre de Grace, MD with yet another set of calls WXCY. It's somewhat of a return to that unmentionable "Just Country WJIC" format in the 1980s.  They tried another change just this year. In October of 2023, Forever Media leased WXCY to the Voice Radio Network. It's now simulcasting their "Maxima 104.1" Spanish CHR programming. That originates at 99.5 WVCW in Wilmington. That begat a call sign change to WOCQ.


There's a little footnote to this story. The station is currently simulcast on a little 250 watt translator, W281CM at 104.1. That translator too has been around the block. Originally operated by Maranatha Ministries, as W289BY on 105.7. It was transferred to Ritmo Broadcasting in 2015 and began broadcasting Spanish CHR “Ritmo 96.9/105.7” from the HD3 subchannel of “Mix 99.5” WJBR-FM. They did the CP to move the translator to 104.1. In August 2023, Beasley agreed to sell WJBR-FM to VCY America, after the sale, the station turned off the HD channels so there's no going back. Ritmo sold W245CJ to Forever Media to simulcast their gospel station “Faith 1510” WFAI. More here.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Flour Power (part 2)

Early regional and national flour brands were frequent radio sponsors in the golden era. In a previous post, back in 2007 I wrote up [LINK] the radio contributions of nine brands Light Crust Flour, Hillbilly Flour, Bright Star Flour, Martha White Flour, King Biscuit Flour, Purity Flour, Bewley Flour, Red Star Flour and Mothers Best Flour. Of those only Martha White and Purity Flour still exist. I have found nine more flour brands with interesting roles in radio.

As early as the 1950s the FTC got involved in flour-industry anti-trust issues under the Clayton act. More here. The FTC ordered that Pillsbury divest itself of two competitors it acquired: Ballard & Ballard based in Louisville and Duff's Baking Mix, a division of American Home Foods, based in Hamilton OH. But the march of consolidation barely slowed down. In 2014 Horizon Milling and ConAgra Milling were permitted to merge under the new brand Ardent Mills which controls about 17% of the U.S. flour milling industry. That march of consolidation has further fueled flour's departure from radio advertising making relics of these old programs.

Sperry Flour - General Mills owns the Sperry brand these days. It's rarely used though. The original Sperry Flour Company was from Stockton, CA, founded around 1850. It operated 30-some flour mills around Spokane by 1920. Some of those mills still stand today. Their main product was a fine ground white flour they called "drifting snow flour." In 1929 General Mills bought them out. The mills kept running in Spokane until about 1965.  The buildings themselves were sold to VWR United  in 1966, then ADM in 1981. More here.

In the 1930s Sperry flour began sponsoring some radio programing. The window was short, they'd already been bought by GM. But in 1934 I found a listing for Helen Gladstone of the Sperry Company featured on KMTR. Their sponsorship of Eb and Zeb started as early as 1932, and appear on the same schedule as Helen but on KFOX.  Little is written about Zeb or Eb except that the scripts were written by John Hasty. It's an old fashioned rural comedy mocking the intelligence of country people. Every source I've found listed Shell as the sponsor but the above promo shot has a Sperry flour box on the front and the logo on the back. 

https://jeff560.tripod.com/kgfj.html

The cast get a full listing on the cards which even OTR guides lack: Mrs. (Mother) Pearce, Al Pearce, Cal Pearce, Morey Amsterdam, Mabel Todd, THE THREE CHEERS, E.J. Derry, Jr. Travis B. Hale, Phil Hanna, Yogi Yorgesson, Lord Bilgewater, Hazel Warner, Tony Romano, Bob Lee, Earl Hatch, Jackie Archer, Budd Hatch, Walter Kelsey, Carlyle Bennett, the Eb and Zeb, played by Al Pearce and W.A. Wright respectively. Pearce has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, having spent time at KFRC starting in 1928. Much of that cast had also been on the NBC Blue Network on the Pearce's The Happy Go Lucky Hour. Mr. Wright is the hardest of them to find, his wife appears in the both the August and February 1929 issues of Radio Life living at 1619 East 87th St. Los Angeles, CA. Then in 1941 W.A. Wright appears as the Vice President of the Fuller, Smith & Ross Advertising Agency. I guess he went straight.

Pillsbury Flour - This company has been around since at least 1869 or so says the official version. It was founded by Charles Alfred Pillsbury and his uncle John S. Pillsbury.  But earlier histories describe Charles becoming the third partner in an existing flour milling company in St. Anthony Falls, MN. So it's more likely that it was rebranded at some point after 1869.

Three different sponsored programs pop up the first is Todays' Children, a well known soap operate sponsored by Pillsbury. That sheet music above is from 1936, and the back even bears the recipe for the pictured wedding cake. The program ran from 1933 to 1938, then got a reboot in 1943 and ran to 1950 with a new cast. Today's Children started as one of three Phillips-created serials which made up the General Mills Hour, with characters and plotslines crossing between them. The three original serials were: Todays Children, The Guiding Light, and Woman In White. Pillsbury sponsored all three of course.

Pillsbury then sponsored Grand Central station, a dramatic program that ran from 1937 to 1954. It culminated in a Grand Central Station Radio Broadcasts LP, with Pillsbury on the back. The announcers were George Baxter, Ken Roberts and Tom Shirley. The programs were narrated by Jack Arthur, Stuart Metz and Alexander Scourby. Roberts started out on WMCA, and you might know him from The Shawow when it ran on Mutual. Scourby pops up on the 1936 CBS radio program Columbia Workshop, which connects the two via Orson Welles.

A third program, the "National Radio Homemakers Club" was heard over CBS starting in 1929. Her two biggest sponsors were Pillsbury flour, and Royal gelatin. The show ran until 1932. I wrote about her career here.

Gold Medal Flour - In 1931 the Washburn Crosby Co. of Minneapolis, MN ran its own radio station which I'll get to in a moment. Washburn was founded by Cadwallader C. Washburn in 1866. The biography doesnt say it but I suspect that he's Welsh with him sharing a first name with Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon was king of Gwynedd.  That's quite a handle. In 1880 his flour took three top prizes and he started using the "Gold Medal" brand as a superlative.

Gold Medal notably sponsored Beams of Heaven with Paul E. Brown on 860 WERD-AM. If you forgot, that is the first black-owned radio station in America. More here. The program was named after Charles Tindley’s song “Beams of Heaven (as I go),” published in 1906.The show's host was Paul E. X. Brown.

Paul E. X. Brown first became an announcer for WERD in 1949. He had previously been the editor of the Prince Hall Masonic Review and a DJ and sports announcer at WEAS. His tenure at WERD was short, as he took a position as chief announcer at WEDR in 1950. He left radio in 1962 for a marking job at coca-cola. He died in 2007 at the age of 96. For more on Mr. Brown You can read the book Black Radio ... Winner Takes All: America's 1St Black DJs by Marsha Washington George.

In 1956 the FCC considered an incident of competing broadcast applications. [SOURCE] It involved  WERD, WDMG and WAMI. But as a bonus they delved deep into the programming content of WERG on page 716. I am going to gratuitously quote an entire paragraph below. From it we learn that Beams of Heaven ran for 30 minutes 5 days a week playing gospel records.

"Musical programs proposed by WERD include the "Graham Jackson Show," 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, which will feature semi-classical and popular music played by the Staff Organist, together with guest appearances of musicians and vocalists from educational institutions and the community-at-large. "Sweet Chariot," a recorded program of religious music which has been requested by the listening audience. "Beams of Heaven," 11:30 to 12:00 noon Monday through Friday, will feature one-half hour of the best recorded gospel music. "Gospel Train," 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, will present a full hour of recorded songs of faith and worship, and will feature spirituals, gospel and sacred songs. "Old Ship of Zion," 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, will present one-half hour of the best recorded religious music."

Gold Medal also sponsored the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. I've made a number of references to Betty Crocker over the years but strangely seem not to have dug into it much except in cases of disambiguation. Gold Medal then operating as Washburn-Crosby flour, bought the failing and ironically named station WLAG in 1924, and renamed it WCCO. The station bore the name "gold medal flour station" on it's letterhead for at least a decade. The radio cooking school had recipe mailings, letters, mail-in tests and you can still find this ephemera today..

 

Victor Flour -  Crete Mills manufactured Victor Flour. The sponsored Uncle John and Aunt Minerva on 740 KMMJ-AM in Clay Center, Nebraska. A 1929 KMMJ guide describes Uncle John's temper and frequent insults directed at Minerva. [SOURCE]

Strangely their character names pop up in many places . There's an Uncle John and an Aunt Minerva in the 1943 comedy film So's Your Uncle. But Don Woods and Billie Burkes bear no resemblance to the above persons. There was also a pair of gospel composers “Uncle Wallace” and “Aunt Minerva” who may have had their names misappropriated. Details on their career are scarce, a few newspaper references in the Barnard Bee, and the Variety Radio Directory of 1938 both list them at KMMJ. So that's at least a decade on air.


Occident Flour - It looks like Arden Mills still makes unbleached Occident flour in commercial quantities at least. There are 50 lbs bags on some supply websites. But it seems to have also become shorthand for the type of flour used to make pan bread. (the square slices you use to make a sandwich) The image here is from 1939, of the WCCO Radio house band. Old advertisements seem to indicate that Occident Flour was made by the Russell-Miller Milling Company as early as 1911.

The Russell-Miller Milling company was founded in 1882, and operated in Valley City, ND. It relocated to Minneapolis in 1906, growing to become the 4th largest milling company in the U.S. by 1957. I was expecting to find that they were later acquired by Gold Medal but no, in 2012, Miller Milling became a part of the Nisshin Seifun Group of Japan.

How then did they end up sponsoring a program on WCCO, owned by the competition? My best guess is that Gold Medal was happy not to foot the full bill for WCCO's operations so the sales door was open even to competitors. A 1952 State Fair edition of the WCCO news parade Bob DeHaven of "Breakfast with Bob" plugs Occident Cake Mix but I can find no references between the 1939 post card and the 1952 morning program.

 

Gold Chain - The book The First Generation of Country Music Stars claims that Ernest Tubbs got his start with a flour sponsor.  He recorded a 78 in 1940 with Decco that sold enough to get him a regular slot on KGKO. Afterward Universal Mills sought him out and on air at least he became known as the Golden Chain Troubadour for Golden Chain Flour. He did at least one tour under the flour regime and then left to appear in some Charles Starlet western films in Hollywood.

But there's more of course. They also sponsored the radio show Hackberrry Hotel  which I've also explored in the past. [LINK] Hack Berry & Willie Botts were the main characters  program on KGKO and KXYZ in 1944. A promotional postcard reveals Willie Botts as portrayed by Ben McClesky in blackface. The show continued until 1951 probably making it one of the later programs to do so

 

Hecker's Flour - sponsored the Bobby Benson radio series in the 1930s. It was broadcast on CBS October 1932 to December of 1936. Then it was carried on the Mutual network June 1949 through June 1955.  I've seen it listed under multiple names: Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders, Bobby Benson & the H-Bar-O Rangers, and alternately as Bobby Benson and the H-O Rangers. You can see which ones were sponsored by Heckers. The original run of the series was just a 15-minute program, but the shows after 1949 were 30 minutes long.Four different actors played Bobby Benson in the series; Richard Wanamaker, William Halop, Ivan Cury and Clyde Campbell. Of the group, only Halop had much of an acting career. You might recognize him as Bert Munson from the Archie Bunker TV series.

The programs two main sponsors were Hecker H-O Company, and Kraft Foods. Heckers even sponsored Bobby Benson comic books. Don't recognize the Hecker brand? It is a sister brand of Ceresota. This brand was made by Northwest Consolidated Milling Company, which was  acquired by the Standard Milling Company in April 1902, they later changed their name to Uhlmann Company which they still use today

Aunt Jemima's Pancake Flour - I've actually written about this at length before, HERE.  But here I want to talk about the company. You will see in that post a flour sack with the name "The Quaker Oats Company", but other older ads refer to them as Aunt Jemima Mills Co. In 1888, Chris L. Rutt and Charles G. Underwood bought a small flour mill in St. Joseph MO. They operated that company as the Pearl Milling Company initially. In 1889 Rutt copied/stole the Aunt Jemima name and image from a local Vaudeville Act and began using it in advertisements. The Quaker Oats Company purchased the Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1926, and formally registered the Aunt Jemima trademark in April 1937 but the brand had been already in use for over 50 years!  Their most notable radio contribution was the The Aunt Jemima program on the NBC Red Network back in 1929, that's clearly before the brand change.

But this is where the official history might be lacking. The current owners claim that the Aunt Jemima Mills Co. name was in use 1914–1926. But you can easily find examples as late as 1929, even in legal documents. The official brand change in appears in the 1937 Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office as follows "
120,160 PANCAKE, BUCKWHEAT, CORN AND WHEAT FLOURS. Registered January 15th 1918, Aunt Jemima Mills, Company, St,. Joseph MO, Renewed January 15th 1938, to The Quaker Oats Company, Chicago, IL, A corporation of New Jersey, assignee.
"

Freedom Mills Flour - I never thought I'd find a contemporary example but here it is. Freedom Mills is a local and independent flour mill in Skandia, MI. They advertise pretty regularly with WKQS Sunny 101.9, an Adult Contemporary station based in Marquette. I appreciate the historical continuity of their recipes appearing on the radio station website.  Liberty farms started milling in 2017 and are now available in 50 stores. You can read more here. and here.