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War of the World… and Costumes!

Let’s start out Our Monday Blog with two costume pictures from the past that make me laugh. Ultimately, for some reason, I am posting four pic o’s of Halloween costumes. And they all make me laugh!

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and these costumes are the greatest! Right?

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Let me squeeze in a quick blog before posting our last two pic o’s. I take us to a “This-Day-in History” from the History Channel.

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles caused the nation to go into an absolute panic with his radio broadcast narration of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. Listeners thought that the United States was being invaded by Martians.(Wikipedia of the book) (Wikipedia of the radio program)

The Mercury Theater company decided to do a radio version of  H.G. Wells’ 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds. At the time, Despite only being 23-years-old, Welles had been in radio for several years. He had “the pipes”, as they say.

Prior to this broadcast, he was known as the radio voice of “The Shadow”, a mystery program of the same name. “War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had no idea what was about to happen across the nation.

The radio show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”

It is hard to imagine now, but Sunday evening in 1938 was considered prime-time listening, as millions of Americans gathered around their radios. History tells us that during this broadcast, a majority of Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on NBC. That even seems crazier that a ventriloquist would be a radio show, although no one was going to complain whether he was moving his lips!

Over on CBS, Welles introduced the play and then an announcer read a weather report. Then, as part of the broadcast, the announcer “took” the listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.”

Unbearable dance music began to play. Then the scare began.

An announcer broke into the report with “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the horrible dance music came back on, followed by another interruption where listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.

Soon, an announcer from the “scene of the crash site” was describing a Martian that was emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

The announcer continued to describe the invasion. This included Martians firing “heat-ray” weapons at the people gathered around the crash site. The Martians also annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and then released a poisonous gas into the air. The radio broadcast included sound effects with the voice actors portraying terrified news announcers. Another radio news announcer then reported that widespread panic had broken out, including other sites where Martians were also landing in major cities.

That’s when the true nationwide panic set in. There were traffic jams in New Jersey as people were attempting to escape the invasion. People began contacting local police departments to beg for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas. It was reported that one lady ran into an Indianapolis church during the evening service and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!”

During the CBS broadcast, news of the real-life panic was conveyed to Orson Welles. He went on air as himself to remind listeners that the broadcast was just fiction. But full-scale panic was already in effect.

Over the course of the following weeks, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigated the program, but found no law was broken. There was widespread outrage that a network program could cause such havoc.

One of the show’s producers later described what happened,

Our actual broadcasting time, from the first mention of the meteorites to the fall of New York City, was less than forty minutes,” wrote Houseman. “During that time, men traveled long distances, large bodies of troops were mobilized, cabinet meetings were held, savage battles fought on land and in the air. And millions of people accepted it—emotionally if not logically.”

The power of persuasion of the media or just a gullible nation?

And now back to our pic o’ day costumes:

With a nod toward the Redskins/Cowboys game yesterday, I post an old costume picture where a creative kid was dressed as Tony Romo. I understand that Cowboy fans might not be humored.

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And finally, I know it’s not Swordfish Almondine… but Lobster Pup makes me laugh! All great costumes for our pic o’ day(s):

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Just Some Electronic Communications History

This is a blog about David Sarnoff. (Wikipedia) I am guessing that you might not know the name, but his story includes a wide spectrum of accomplishment. I am only going to hit a few highlights, which is why I have attached his Wikipedia entry.

His resume included leading the electronics company of RCA as well as the TV broadcast company of NBC.  And, he was a Brigadier General in the reserves. It’s not his titles that I find interesting, it’s some of his accomplishments.

He was the first person to quantify television with Sarnoff’s law, which states that the value of a television broadcast network is based on its number of viewers. Seems simple…that if there are no viewers, the programming has no value.

At the age of 20, he installed and operated the wireless equipment on a ship to be used for fishing and hunting. He ultimately used that technology to relay the first remote medical diagnosis from the ship’s doctor to a radio operator on land. A diagnosis of an infected tooth.

His background included being responsible for many advancements for radio and television. It makes me ask “what if he hadn’t done this”. That’s why the following story from radio history grabs me.

On the night of April 14th, 1912, Sarnoff was at the desk of the wireless station at a Department store in New York. History tells us that the ocean liner Titanic struck an iceberg. Almost immediately, the ship began transmitting distress signals.

It was radio to the rescue. he began sending out news of the disaster and ultimately contacted the ship Carpathia,  It was the only ship nearby the Titanic that was equipped to receive the radio signals. It picked up survivors from the Titanic and then began to return to New York. Sarnoff used radio to compile the names of the surviving passengers and forward the good news to their families. He credited that event as bringing radio into the forefront.  Without radio, perhaps there would have been no survivors.

It is again another reminder that one person can make a difference.

 

And for pic o’ day, these are great days for a walk. Right?

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