LIFE IN THE PAST LANE, VOLUME TWO: A LOOK INTO MEDIA HISTORY THROUGH THE EYES OF THOSE WHO MADE IT! by Jason Hill

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In a continuation of the popular Life in the Past Lane, author and radio veteran Jason Hill reveals a series of extensive interviews transcribed from his Life in the Past Lane radio show. Guests include many of the multi-talented folks who made radio tick.

Hear from:

Max Geldray on The Goon Show.

Alan Young on Mr. Ed and Allan “Rocky” Lane.

Radio pioneers from Chicago, such as Willard Waterman from The Guiding Light, Ma Perkins, First Nighter, The Halls of Ivy, The Lone Ranger, and The Great Gildersleeve.

Les Tremayne on radio show, such as The Romance of Helen Trent; Betty and Bob; Jack Armstrong The All American Boy; Ma Perkins; Chandu the Magician; The Kate Smith Show; Inner Sanctum; Grand Central Station; and One Man’s Family on television.

Olan Soulé on Orphan Annie;Bachelor’s Children; Captain Midnight; First Nighter; Grand Hotel; Amos ‘n’ Andy.

Jim Jordan on The Smith Family; Air Scouts; Smackout; Fibber McGee and Molly.

Fran Allison on Gary Moore’s Club Matinee; Clara, Lu, and Em; The Peabodys; and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

Also hear from Harry Morgan; Arthur Godfrey; Fred Allen; Spike Jones; Arnold Stang; Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding of Bob and Ray; John Dehner of Have Gun, Will Travel and many other radio and television Westerns; Parley Baer on radio as Chester on Gunsmoke; Ann Sperber; and Lewis Paper on William S. Paley.

The book is divided into three sections: The British Are Coming, The British Have Come, and Bridges Up, concluding with an Afterword, a Bibliography, and an Index. Also includes script excerpts and nearly 80 photos that recapture the excitement of Old Time Radio and Classic TV.

“I loved the organization . . . it is like an escorted journey through media history. –Dave White, KSAV Internet Radio, host of Dave White Presents, California

“What an important resource this will be . . . important to future researchers and chroniclers.” –Annette D’ Agostino Lloyd, author of Harold Lloyd: Magic in a Pair of Horn-rimmed Glasses

“Jason has done his usual great job interviewing these celebrities. I highly

recommend this book.” –Mel Simons, author and CBS, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, Audio Clip Trivia Quiz, Boston

“Thank you for including me in your wonderful book, as well as including my late husband, Bob Lee and our late mutual friend, Norman Corwin. –Janet Waldo, American radio, television, animation, and live-action film actress, best known as the voice of Judy Jetson.

“It was a guided tour of memories from entertainment’s Golden Years. Always entertaining. Each interview Jason shares makes me feel as if I am in the room with him and his special guest. One could not ask for a nicer diversion.” –Michael James Casey, Editor, Memos to a New Millennium: The Final Radio Plays of Norman Corwin


Review by Mark Anderson:

 

            Those of us who love entertainment history are always happy when an archivist publishes something new. Jason Hill, who has had careers in aviation, recording, and radio, has now turned to writing. He is close to completing a 3-volume set of interviews and reminiscences from his radio show “Life in the Past Lane.” The book in hand, Volume Two, focuses on old-time radio and early television. It showcases personalities who are dear to our hearts, and history we’re glad to be learning about. I had barely begun to read when I started drawing a flowchart. Willard Waterman was talking with Hill, in 1986, and stories about the soaps and Chicago led to mention of Detroit and New York, and the people who went one place or another to do shows. My chart soon had four labels: Cities; Shows; People; Quotes. By the end of my reading I had arrows pointing and converging, tagged by notes and page numbers. And while I never found out who-struck-John, I followed the threads of creativity and collaboration of those golden years.

            The conversations are affable, and Hill’s guests are at ease. He asks leading questions; he listens, and he elaborates. And, in the book, we are treated to excerpts of actual scripts from the shows under discussion. Hill would play audio clips on his broadcasts, and you might imagine his guests sitting back and smiling during those interludes. We are treated to some zany stuff from the BBC’s “Goon Show” (the Max Geldray interview). Likewise, in a 1986 interview, with Parley Baer, Hill played Baer’s turn as a shopkeeper on a “Johnny Dollar” episode; or, in 1987, Hill treated John Dehner to a clip of his lines as narrator of an episode on Norman Corwin’s “CBS Radio Workshop.”

            Scripts are sprinkled throughout the book, and so the interview with Fran Allison (1987) emerges as a gem, since Hill calls her the “Queen of Ad-lib.” Allison spent years working on two shows that were essentially unscripted: Don McNeill’s “Breakfast Club,” and her television show, with Burr Tillstrom, “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.” Typically, Hill could draw a guest out on lesser-known work, so he asked Allison about a show he recalled as “one of the earliest soaps on radio”: “Clara, Lu, and Em.” And Allison took the cue and talked wonderfully about the show, along with giving a nod to women in the industry: “The scripts were written by three enterprising girls who were at Northwestern University at the time.”

            An arrow on my chart pointed right to Hill’s interview with Henry Morgan, in 1986, which Hill entitles: “You Said What?” Morgan, it appears, usually wanted things his way, but he often met his match on a show called “Leave It to the Girls,” in which his talents were parlayed with those of Ilka Chase, Sylvia Sidney, and Constance Bennett, in discussions of whatever topic was current; “a forerunner,” says Morgan, “of what later became Women’s Lib.” Morgan continues rather quickly to say to Hill: “”Listen, Jason, I’m fascinated. I don’t know where you possibly get this material.” 

            Hill indeed was well-versed and could bring personal history to bear when, in 1986, he interviewed Ann Sperber, whose book, Murrow, His Life and Times had been published that same year. The interview is easily the longest in the book; the excerpts of Murrow’s writing are the most extensive. Sperber relates that Murrow saw himself as a “shoe leather reporter,” and thus a few of his signature remarks from famous reports will be: “This is Florida;” “This is Korea;” or: “The line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one…”. And Hill himself bristles when he speaks about red-baiting publications: “I have a copy of Red Channels. Many of the guests I have had on this show have experienced devastating consequences thanks to those people and their half-cocked bits of data.” Jason Hill surely had the well-being of the entertainment world at heart when he brought his guests to the studio. He says that he was glad he dusted off his tapes; and certainly the arrows on my chart went every which way. Is it true that all arrows point to “First Nighter”? I’m plenty stage-struck; I think I’ll download some shows to listen to.


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