“To the announcer himself, his glamor is a thing of ether and a bore forever,” the weekly news magazine — closely modeled after Time — reported. “He works irregular hours, eats on the run, looks forward to that bright say when he may become a program director or hit a spot on a network show.”
“An announcer, like an actor, climbs the steps to fame by the long way around. He generally starts out as an amateur dramatist or singer, edges his way into radio announcing by filling in as an extra. His first big moment comes when he is graduated from the monotony of announcing his station’s identification to the more diversified announcing on a commercial magazine.”
One of Pittsburgh’s few “disc jockeys” in 1940 was Walter Sickles, 32, a graduate of Carnegie Tech and program director at WWSW, which was then located at 1490 kHz with studios in the Hotel Keystone (now a dormitory for Point Park University).
Even Sickles wasn’t playing “pop” music — his program, “The Golden Hour,” was described as “a fine program of Columbia and Victor record classics.”
. . .
“Few Pittsburghers realize that their city’s five stations have among them 34 announcers, that small WWSW has as many as big KDKA, that WCAE has less turnover in its announcing staff than many of its rivals,” the magazine noted, adding that the reason was WCAE’s pay scale.
The Hearst-owned station, paired with the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph newspaper and located in the William Penn Hotel, started announcers at $35 per week, with a maximum salary of $60 per week. (That maximum salary works out to about $48,000 per year in 2009 dollars, for those of you playing at home.)
Since the outbreak of the second World War in September 1939, the magazine said, interest in news had “made the announcer doubly important.”
In 1940, KQV (a Mutual affiliate) had six newscasts daily, while WJAS (CBS) had 20 newscasts daily. KDKA (NBC’s Red Network) had both United Press and Associated Press newswires, according to the Bulletin-Index. “For foreign consumption, it schedules a 15-minute newscast which goes out daily over its shortwave outlet, WPIT.”
. . .
Besides Joe Tucker — shown above, who went onto a long run as the announcer on Steelers games — here some of the “faces on the radio” featured by the Bulletin-Index in November 1940.
(Check out the photo of a very young “Uncle Ed” — and that’s no bologna!)
. . .
“TAKING HIS EASE at home is Robert Philips Donley, 28, who came from WKY in Oklahoma to WCAE in Pittsburgh. Like many other announcers, he was an amateur actor.”
“WINNER of the coveted Harry Peter Davis Memorial Award made last week for good radio announcing was WWSW’s Walter Ellsworth Sickles. Announcer Sickles had come close to it in 1938 and 1939, when he won honorable mention. Award carries a gold medal, considerable prestige, $150 in cash. Walt Sickles joined WWSW nine years ago.”
“MUNCHING on a candy bar between broadcasts is WWSW’s Senior Announcer Raymond Schneider, veteran of seven years.”
“EDWIN LESTER SCHAUGHENCY, for seven years a KDKA announcer, studied medicine at Geneva College, gave it up, tackled radio instead. Here his pretty wife tackles a very obstinate collar button.”
“SPECIAL SPORTS EVENTS announcer for KQV is John Francis Boyer, 32, who also does regular sports newscasting. He has been in radio since 1924, in Detroit eight of them. He has been a singer and MC.”
“OLDEST ANNOUNCER in service and in age at KDKA is Baltimore-born Wilbur Clay (“Bill”) Sutherland, age 33.”
“NEWSCASTER Beckley Smith (left), 41, last week signed his seventh consecutive yearly news-contract with Kaufman’s. Announcer Smith edits and censors his own copy. Chester Henderson Clark, a newcomer at WCAE, takes a stroll before going in for rehearsal.”
“MOST radio announcers work irregular hours, have to grab their lunch where they can find it. Here WJAS’s Ken Hildebrand finds one.”
“WCAE PAYS its announcers the highest salaries of any Pittsburgh radio station, starts them out at $35 per week. WCAE’s Norman Twigger, left, 11 o’clock beer newscaster, takes time out for a shave. KQV’s John Herbert Angel scans script on way to newsroom.”
(Above: “Sportscaster Joseph George Tucker, 31, Canadian born, a fixture at WWSW, here looks up from his script. Tucker is a good hockey announcer, began 1500 Club.” From the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index, Nov. 14, 1940.)
. . .
“To the listening public, a radio announcer — known only by the radio time he keeps — is a kind of glamorous person whose voice is heard often and whose face is seen seldom,” reported the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index magazine on Nov. 14, 1940, in a photo spread called “Men Behind the Mikes.”
And it indeed was “men” behind the mikes, because few women were then employed as “announcers.”
They weren’t “disc jockeys,” either — not by a long shot. Although the concept of a “disc jockey” playing recorded music had emerged five years earlier at New York’s WNEW, where Martin Block’s “Make-Believe Ballroom” had become a surprise hit, most respectable radio stations tried to avoid playing recording music. Instead, they picked up live concerts or employed their own musicians.
Pittsburgh’s five radio stations were no different, generally paying their announcers not to spin platters, but to read news, time and weather checks and introduce both local and networked programs: “This is WCAE, Pittsburgh. The time now is 11:30.”
What a sweet gig, right? Not according to the Bulletin-Index.