Monday, April 06, 2020

The Fraser Radio Gospel Hour (Part 2)

Courtesy of Bill Johnson

I got some new information on a post [LINK] from way back in March of 2012 and I am now able to post a Part 2 segment. My original research indicated that the program started "around" 1925 and ran until possibly as late as 1973 and was hosted by Rev. Robert Fraser, a Blind Radio Evangelist in Philadelphia. It even operated a gift shop at 36 North 8th Street, an area that's now prime center city real estate. a calendar I saw at the time listed the stations carrying the program in 1947, those were on Sunday from 4:00 - 5:00 PM: 1310 WCAM-AM, 1240 WSNJ-AM, 1110 WNAR-AM and 1360 WWBZ-AM. Then Sundays 9:00 - 9:30 PM: 990 WIBG-AM, WNAR-AM, 1360 WWBZ-AM and 1360 WPPA-AM. 

WCAM is particularly interesting as Camden New Jersey's oldest radio station. It dates back to September 1925, predating the program under the callsign WFBI-AM then on 1270. WPPA-AM was a share time with WCAM so it's all the more odd that both stations were listed. [More here] WSNJ-AM was in Bridgeton, NJ and had been since 1937. WNAR-AM only signed on in 1947 in Norristown so it would have been a brand new affiliate that year. WWBZ-AM was in Vineland, NJ, and WIBG was in Philly of course.

I had assumed originally that the program ended when host Rev. Robert Fraser died but that date was unknown, and  conjecture anyway. It took 8 years, but all of those questions have been answered.
Courtesy of Bill Johnson
Edward W. Fraser Jr. himself tell us that the program actually began in 1927 just after Robert Fraser and Ella Stark were married. Robert Fraser's prior radio experience was limited. He appeared with Christopher Graham "Uncle WIP" who read children's stories on WIP-AM. [More here] Later he was booked as the "Sunshine boy" at WCAU. He sang with Dumont and Emmett Welsch's  Minstrels on WFI-AM and WDAR-AM.

The Gospel Hour program ran until 1995. This end date is much later than I expected, as Bill Johnson confirmed that Rev. Fraser died April 11th 1957.  Mrs. Fraser (née Stark) continued to host the program. The speaker for the last 10 years of the show was the late Rev. Nelson H. Hill, Jr., of Aldan, PA. The equipment was run by James J. "Joe" Tolbert. His wife, Dianne, played the organ. Dianne's sister, Darlene, and mother Adele Marsh were on the program years before Mr. Hill was the speaker.  When the Gospel Hour program was finally discontinued, it was being produced at WVCH, Chester.
Courtesy of Bill Johnson
Prior to the studios of WVCH, The Fraser Radio Gospel Hour was produced at the Fraser Home for Elderly Ladies. Though at least some the equipment was still on site in 1972. He also operated a home for girls on 529 Tabor Rd in Olney, PA.  Chaplain Steve Phillips passed this information to us directly from Mr. Hill's wife, Lucille Mosher Hill. (Lucille, and Joe and Dianne are residents at Quarryville, Pennsylvania Presbyterian Retirement Community.)

Also interesting is that the program was also carried on channel 12.  While that is WHYY-TV today, that was WVUE-TV on the VHF band out of Wilmington back in 1957, as in the calendar below:

Courtesy of Bill Johnson
All of the above images came from Bill Johnson. He purchased a Bible at an Estate Sale in Southern California. Inside were several artifacts from the Fraser Radio Hour, including a card announcing the passing of Rev. Robert J. Fraser on April 11, 1957.

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