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Meredith Publishing gave the radio broadcasts prominent play in its special publication, "Boys and Girls Club Leader." "Club members having wireless receiving sets and others who can arrange to listen in on a neighbor's set... will hear something interesting and spicy about club work," the 'Leader' promised in its May 1922 issue.
For a few years the National Committee also provided "radio talks" for the weekly 4-H Radio Program on Station KYW headquartered in Chicago. Most of these talks were by agriculturalists and business men with Guy Noble arranging the programs. The "National Boys and Girls Club News" carried the announcements on the speakers in nearly every issue. For example, the February 1925 speakers included M. A. Traylor, President, First National Bank of Chicago, discussing "Boys Clubs and Bankers Clubs;" C. M. Long, Blue Valley Creamer Institute, talking about "Dairy Calf Clubs Bring Success;" Gray Silver, President, Grain Marketing Company, on "Grain Marketing and the Club Boys and Girls;" and Don Smith, The Cudahy Packing Company, discussing "Some Stories of Livestock Club Boys in the Corn Belt."
The radio programs for March 1925 included: Charles E. Snyder, Editor, Chicago Daily Drovers' Journal, discussing "The Greatest Thing in Agriculture;" Wm. E. Skinner, General Manager, National Dairy Exposition, talking about "What Dairy Calf Club Work Means to Dairyland;" F. W. Harding, Chief Executive, American Shorthorn Breeders' Association, talking on "Among the Baby Beef Clubs;" with the last two programs of the month featuring a group of 4-H Club songs by boys and girls, directed by Mrs. J. Lee Wright on one; and, a radio drama by C. E. Burns, Regional Director of the Children's Foundation, on the other. These two months worth of radio programs on Station KYW are representative of many other programs in the series with this broadcast station. It is apparent to see what Noble was doing here; not only was he expanding the 4-H message and providing quality programs, but he was involving key leadership from a wide variety of potential partners in the agricultural industry and others, leaders who could be involved in other ways as the opportunities provided.
By the next month, April 1925, through the National Farm Radio Council, arrangements were made to broadcast programs of Boys' and Girls' Club Work from three stations in addition to Station KYW Chicago. WRC, Washington, D.C.. WOC, Davenport, Iowa, and WGN, Chicago were the added stations (and later, KTCL and KOMO in Seattle, Washington; WDBO in Winter Park, Florida; WOI, Ames, Iowa; WGY, Schenectady, New York; WAIU, Columbus, Ohio; and KOA in Denver). This also provided for additional opportunities for radio talks and other entertainment. The April schedule included seven programs including: W. B. Remly, International Harvester Company, discussing "Boys and Girls Club Work" on WGN; C. B. Smith, Chief of the Office of Extension, USDA, talking about "Some Stories of Outstanding Club Boys and Girls and What Club Work Means to the Nation" on WRC; Mary Louise Doherty, National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work talking about "Some Stories of 4-H Club Work in the Southwest" on Station KYW; Charles E. Snyder, Editor, Chicago Daily Drovers' Journal, on "The Greatest Thing in Agriculture" on WGN; M. E. Bacon discussing "4-H Club Work in Rural Social Life" on WOC; a radio drama "Johnny Gets the Money" on Station WOC; and a radio drama, "Hot Lunch Clubs-Oh, What Fun" by Lulu Tregoning and party, on Station WOC. Undoubtedly, 4-H radio had become a major part of the National Committee's outreach program. Keeping in mind that this was shortly after the launch of the National Committee's magazine for leaders, "National Boys and Girls Club News" and the same year the National 4-H Supply Service was started, the still-small staff seemed to have a lot of energy and resourcefulness.
There also seemed to be a transition in the later years of the 20's to use more state and county 4-H leaders to make radio speeches, as well as some of the Congress delegates winning national awards, along with the corporate leaders. Examples include: Mildred Stevens, Assistant State Club Leader, New York, speaking on "Girl's Club Work in New York;" Josephine Arnquist, Iowa State Agent in Charge of Girls Club Work, speaking on "Glorifying the Iowa Farm Girl Through 4-H Club Work;" L. I. Frisbie, Junior Extension Leader, Nebraska, talking on "Nebraska at the National Club Congress;" C. L. Burlingham, Breeders Gazette, addresses "Impressions of the National Boys' and Girls' Club Congress;" Guy Noble, National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work, talks about "Looking Forward;" Ford Mercer, National 4-H Club Champion of Oklahoma addressing "What 4-H Club Work Has Done for My County;" Prof. F. G. Behrends addresses "Farm Mechanics for Farm Boys;" Elizabeth Wilson, Montgomery Ward & Co. talks about "Stories of Some State Champ Girls;" Jack Hill, Manager of the Stock Yard Inn addresses "Quality Boys, Quality Calves, Quality Meats;" C. A. Cairns, Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's speech was titled "Forward March Says the Farm Youth to Agriculture;" Dr. C. E. Ladd, Director of Extension, Cornell University, discusses "Boys and Girls Club Work;" and Mrs. H. O. Paulson, Orillia, Washington talks about "What Boys' and Girls' Club Work Has Meant to a Community and Its Club Leader."
The National Boys and Girls Club News of July 1924 carried an announcement that the names of the winners of the radio essay contest which closed on May 31st of that year would be announced by radio on August 1st. The National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work was now judging the essays, and report "an exceptionally fine lot". The boy and girl submitting the two best essays will receive free trips to the Third National Club Congress given by the National Committee. "Listen in on KYW Friday night at 7:20 p.m., Central Standard time, August 1st, for the results."
Radio programs expanded on Station WLS-Chicago in 1926 under the auspicies of the National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. the program - which was very "club oriented" - was broadcast. Although it may have started earlier, the November 1926 issue of National Boys and Girls News mentioned that every evening banquet program at the National 4-H Club Congress would be broadcast on radio so that delegates' parents, neighbors and friends could listen in.
Also, 1926 seemed to be the start of many state college radio stations, particularly land-grant institutions, offering their 4-H staffs air time to promote boys and girls club work and 4-H events around the state. Many of these were promoted almost in every issue of the National Boys and Girls Club News. More and more stations were broadcasting weekly 4-H radio programs. A brief article in the January 1931 issue of National Boys and Girls Club News offers one example: "Recognizing the increasing importance of radio as a means of organization, 4-H Club leaders in Indiana have taken to the air in promoting club work. A program broadcast last November by Tippecanoe county club members over the Purdue University radio station WBAA, was heard by nearly 3,000 club members and their parents, a check by J. C. Ralston, county club leader, revealed. The program occupied a full hour, and 37 club members took part."
The National Committee's annual report for 1929 made mention of 30 radiocasts made during the week of National 4-H Club Congress, most of them going out over the National and Columbia chains (NBC and CBS networks).
The biggest news in 1929 was a National 4-H Radio Party which took place on the evening of June 22, 1929 during the National 4-H Club Camp. As reported in the June 20, 1929 National Boys and Girls Club News, several hundred thousand are anticipated to "listen in" and thereby "attend." As reported in the magazine:
"4-H club members the nation over will join a national radio broadcast arranged by the Department of Agriculture and the National Broadcasting Company to occur on the evening of June 22, during the National 4-H Club Camp. Dr. C. W. Warburton, director of Extension, will make the opening remarks and preside. Among the other prominent speakers will be Miss Isabel Eebier, Dean Emerita, home economics division, University of Illinois, a pioneer in the development of the 4-H Clubs, and A. R. Mann, Dean, College of Agriculture and Director of the New York Experiment Station. Miss Eebier will speak from Chicago. Dean Mann will speak from New York City. Two club members - one the winner of the Warburton trophy for club achievement, and the other the winner of the Smith trophy for the same honor, will also make short talks. The program will be interspersed with music by the United States Marine Band orchestra.
"The broadcast will close with camp songs sung by the delegates to the National 4-H Club Camp and by the 4-H club pledge led by Dr. C. B. Smith, Chief, Office of Extension Work, United States Department of Agriculture, which will be repeated in unison by 4-H club members the country over. The time of the broadcast is as follows:
- Eastern standard time - 10 to 11 p.m.
"The following 31 stations co-ordinated by the National Broadcasting Company will send out the program:
WEAF - WGR - WFAA - KTRC - WTIC - WCAE - WJAX - WOAI
"This is a remarkable opportunity for county Extension agents and club leaders everywhere to arrange for county-wide club meetings in order that every 4-H club member in the United States may be taken on a visionary trip to the Nation's capital. Many leaders are planning for a local program and gala event preceding the broadcast."
In the October 1929 issue of "American Farming," Gertrude L. Warren, Organization of Boys and Girls Club Work, U.S. Department of Agriculture, writes a brief article entitld "The Radio in 4-H Club Work" which follows:
"Thousands of 4-H boys and girls, from coast to coast, were thrilled to hear over the radio the voice of Lou Henry Hoover, our gracious First Lady, speaking directly to them. Through the use of the radio that night an intimate contact was made by every farm boy and girl with an outstanding woman of rare personality and accomplishments, who had championed only the best things in life. I am sure that every leader listening in then gained a greater vision of what the radio means in the development of farm boys and girls, especially the thinly populated regions. At present, 18 state agricultural colleges have broadcasting stations and at least 10 more have regular hours over other stations for the broadcasting of 4-H club programs. In addition, through the courtesy of the National Broadcasting company, on the first Saturday of each month a 4-H club program is being broadcast by the United States Department of Agriculture and the co-operating state agricultural colleges.
"Picture hundreds, perhaps thousands, of groups of farm boys and girls with their local leaders - each group; for the most part, seated in a modest farm home, listening intently as a member of the state college staff skillfully explains to them in detail how to conduct the various phases of their club work, whether it be in the growing of crops, the raising of livestock, the preparation and serving of food, the selection and construction of clothing, or the general beautification of the farm home.
"In the past it has frequently been difficult for farm boys and girls to gain an appreciation of good music, of books which have stood the test of time, or of the wild flowers and birds that are an integral part of their environment. Now, over the radio, are being conducted music memory contests by means of which club boys and girls everywhere are gaining a real appreciation of music by our best-known composers, and some understanding of the circumstances under which the music was written.
By such means, club leaders are earnestly seeking to utilize the radio to its fullest extent in bringing the best to the 700,000 farm boys and girls enrolled in 4-h club work, so that they may be adequately equipped to take their place in community life, whether it be in the open country or the crowded city."
There is no mention of subsequent national "theater parties" in 1930 and 1932, however the September-October 1931 issue of National Boys and Girls News announces plans for the second nation-wide radio round-up for 4-H members to celebrate the close of a successful year to be held on Saturday, November 7 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. eastern standard time. The article explained that the program would be conducted by the state colleges and USDA and broadcast over the coast-to-coast network of 57 stations in 41 states of the National Broadcasting Company. The first 15 minutes would be given over to a national program including music by the U.S. Marine Corps Band and opening announcements by Mrs. Herbert Hoover; R. A. Pearson, Chairman, Executive Committee, Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, and President of the University of Maryland; and C. W. Warburton, Director of Extension Work, USDA. This would then be followed the next 30 minutes by state programs, and concluded with a 15-minute national program from Washington, D.C. (It sounds like this 4-H Radio Achievement Party may have replaced the National 4-H Radio Party.)
While the above paragraph from National Boys and Girls News describes the contents of a special radio program on NBC in the fall of 1931, radio broadcasts from the week of National 4-H Camp in the summertime did continue but were primarily made up of delegates giving mini-speeches which appeared to be scripted. A complete script of the 1931 radio program from 4-H Camp that broadcast over the Farm and Home Hour Network of the National Broadcasting Company includes 11 presentations.
1930 provided a "first" for radio broadcasting for the National Committee - an international broadcast from England. The 4-H Club girls and their leaders who won a trip to Europe in a demonstration contest occurring at the last Club Congress were put on the air from London by the British Broadcasting Company using a short wave length and was picked up by the Long Island station of the National Broadcasting Company and re-broadcast on 37 NBC stations covering the entire United States including the National Farm and Home Hour. Also during 1930 the National Committee established a monthly broadcast in cooperation with WLS, known as the "4-H Club Radio Round-Up." The feature was inaugurated in October with Melvin A. Traylor, president, First National Bank of Chicago and the National Committee's treasurer, as the head-line speaker. 4-H Club members from near-by states were brought in to appear in each program.
In March 1931 the National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work announced they were cooperating with the Columbia Broadcasting System in presenting a weekly 4-H radio program. Each Saturday afternoon from 12:35 to 12:55 Central Standard Time, the network would present a 4-H Club radio program broadcast over the Columbia Farm Community Network. The programs consisted of four parts - The first period is devoted to 4-H Club songs and music which every club member should know. A second period gives the latest 4-H news flashes direct from the field, which have been received from county and state 4-H Club leaders. Each program has a music appreciation period. Following an annotation of the composition selected and something about its composer, the selection is played by the studio orchestra. The final 10 minutes of the program is turned over to the Cartwright family consisting of Mr. And Mrs. Cornelius Cartwright and their two children, Edward and Jennie, who are both 4-H Club members. This family might be from any part of continental America, but for convenience they are described as a farm family living on a 120-acre farm near Brookfield, Missouri. Edward and Jennie are 14 and 11 years respectively. This is Edwards second year in 4-H Club work. He is interested in hogs so he is enrolled in a sow and litter project. This is Jennie's first year in 4-H Club work and she has joined a newly organized girls sewing club in the Brookfield community. Listeners are invited to tune in each week and hear the adventures, events, and the many interesting episodes in the life of the Cartwrights and those two lively 4-H'ers, Edward and Jennie. The Columbia Broadcasting System produced 23 weekly 4-H Club programs in 1931, reaching all states from the Rockies to the Appalachians and from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Gulf. The National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work furnished the continuity and CBS furnished the orchestra and artists on the sustaining program. This resulted in regular widespread publicity on the 4-H Club movement.
Weekly 4-H radio broadcasts were carried over the Columbia Broadcasting System network during the first half of 1932 (24 programs in total) however due to the discontinuance of the farm program, the weekly broadcasts from the National Committee were dropped in July of that year.
The April 1936 issue of the National 4-H Club News announces that "Songs That Live" would be the theme for the 1936 series of the National 4-H Music Hour, which was broadcast as a part of each month's National 4-H Club Radio Program. "The United States Marine Band will play and annotations relative to the songs and composers will be given. The National 4-H Radio Programs were broadcast 12:30 to 1:30 Eastern Standard Time - Always on the first Saturday of each month - over coast-to-coast network of the National Broadcasting Company." "A Musical Journey Around the World" was the theme for the 1938 series of the National 4-H Music Hour and "Stories Told By Music" was the focus of the series in 1939.
Apparently the special network radio programs emanating from the National 4-H Club Camp in Washington, D.C. continued on for a number of years. A notebook on the 1941 Camp (held on June 18-25, 1941) gives a prominent place to the radio broadcasts. That year there were two... both CBS and NBC had programs.
The Columbia Broadcasting System's program was on Saturday, June 21 at 11 a.m. on "Columbia's Country Journal" show conducted by Charles Stookey, director of farm broadcasts for CBS. It included 4-H Club songs sang by the entire camp delegation at the beginning of the program. There were interviews with representative campers: Helen Gibbons, Eldorado, Arkansas; Douglass Quinn, LeMoore, California; Shirley Jewett, Weybridge, Vermont; Priscilla Ellen Miller, Palmer, Alaska; Jimmy Batchelder, Columbus, Georgia; ElRoy Dannewitz, Somonauk, Illinois; and Irene Hotchkiss, Leon, Kansas. The program ended with a speech by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, on "4-H Club Members' Part in Selling Defense Savings Bonds."
The NBC broadcast from National 4-H Camp in 1941 was on Monday, June 23 at 11:30 a.m. on NBC Blue Network on "The National Farm and Home Hour." The program was presented under the supervision of William E. Drips, Director of Agriculture, National Broadcasting Company. John Baker, Radio Service, USDA, was the Master of Ceremonies. Music was provided by the United States Marine Band, Captain William F. Santelmann, Director. Ray Turner, Extension Service, USDA, did a music commentary [aka music appreciation time]. Under the heading, "We've Been Having a Good Time and Why," four delegates highlighted the central part of the program: Anne Stiegler, Missoula, Montana; Margie Martin, Seymour, Indiana; George Hoffman, Jr., Saugus, Massachusetts; and Raul Gonzales, Utuado, Puerto Rico. M. Clifford Townsend, Director, Agricultural Defense Relations, USDA, rounded out the program with a special message on "The Defense Crisis Challenges Rural Youth."
A word on the United States Marine Band... they traditionally provided music, particularly on the NBC network 4-H programs, for many years. A letter from William F. Santelmann, the band leader, to the 1941 4-H Camp delegates seems especially fitting:
"To the Delegates Attending the National 4-H Club Camp. The Band of the United States Marine Corps is again very pleased to welcome the National 4-H Club delegates to our Auditorium. Your presence here s a symbol of the interest manifested by our young people in making our nation a better place for the American people. The Marine Band welcomes this opportunity to see and hear some of the 4-H Club members to whom we feel such close connection thru our participation in your National 4-H Music Hour. We attach the greatest importance to these musical periods as it is a means by which we are able to bring the best in music to rural America. Your achievements in your chosen fields give promise of the great things that the youth of America is capable of doing and you are to be congratulated on your selection as delegates."
[Interestingly, the 1946 Annual 4-H Club Camp in Washington, D.C. - this event was not held during the war years of 1942-1945 - does not carry any mention of radio programs. Apparently by this time radio had almost become "routine" and the novelty of highlighting network radio programs as a major part of the Camp program had become history. Undoubtedly radio programs still covered the event but it was simply a part of the planning and operations, not a highlighted event.]
New Radio Boost Announced in 1936
In July 1936 the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work announced that the Radio Corporation of America (RCA)would become a national sponsor, funding a new activity for 4-H Club leaders and members working through their clubs - a National Program on Social Progress. [This was a program to help train and encourage 4-H members and adults in their communities to make the community more pleasant with quality living... being more "neighborly," and more resourceful through economic development, more education and creative community social activities.] As part of the announcement, Mr. David Sarnoff, President of RCA said the program sponsorship would include support from subsidiaries RCA Victor and the National Broadcasting Company. Sarnoff, one of the corporate "giants" in the communications industry, explained that he hoped to express audibly the interest of RCA in the efforts of every community to develop social and educational opportunities through radio which all concede to be one of the great modern arts. (David Sarnoff was also a long time board member of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work.)
In 1936, RCA was celebrating the 10th anniversary of their launching the NBC network. Sarnoff, in a statement that year before the Federal Communications Commission said that "the rapid development of broadcasting and communications [during the decades to the 1920s and 1930s,] due in large part to the pioneering work of the Radio Corporation of America and its subsidiaries, has placed the RCA emblem in a position of world leadership in its work. The accomplishments of the Radio Corporation of America have added much to the education, economic, cultural and social life of the people of the entire world." This statement parallels the intent of the new national 4-H awards program on social progress that RCA was launching that year. The program provided a full listing of awards at the local, state and national levels including trips to National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, complete libraries of 120 Victor records for music appreciation at the community level, in addition to radios and award plaques, and the top 4-H boy and girl chosen in the program at Congress (and their escorts) would win a trip to New York City as guests of Mr. Sarnoff.
In 1937, RCA distributed a special 32-page book, "Hints on Writing for Radio prepared for the assistance of 4-H Clubs in the 1937 Social Progress Program." Writing radio scripts and appearing on local radio programs talking about their club social progress projects was one of the major parts of this sponsored program.
Also in 1937, as part of their 4-H-sponsored program, the Radio Corporation of America announced a "Write for Radio!" contest. As announced in National 4-H News, "Every 4-H Club can have a lot of fun in writing a short, simple play for radio production. This will provide interest for every Club meeting. The work is easy, the rewards are big. It does not have to be a professional job-yet with the helps provided, it can be made a work of merit.
"In most states, the state-winning radio play will be broadcast over the principal NBC stations in the state. It can also be used as a local one-act play presentation by the Club.
"The national-winning play will be broadcast over a coast-to-coast NBC network during the 4-H Club Congress in Chicago. NBC expert continuity writers have prepared a booklet, "Hints on Writing for Radio," which gives all the pointers necessary to prepare a workman-like script. Phone or write your county agent today for your copy!
"The leader and one member of the Club submitting the best (national-winning) radio script will receive a trip to New York City to see NBC broadcasts and studios at Radio City."
Chicago Catalyst for 4-H - Radio Partnerships
Chicago was a radio broadcasting hub, and being the location of the headquarters of the National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work (later National 4-H Service Committee), this played well into 4-H's desire to reach broader audiences, particularly with direct interviews and success stories of the young 4-H boys and girls attending National 4-H Congress and other 4-H events in the Windy City.
For many years, the "National Farm and Home Hour," primarily an NBC network show headquartered in Chicago (WMAQ), beamed the 4-H story to listeners across the nation. The show ran in various formats from 1928 to 1958 aimed at listeners in rural America. It is considered the first regularly broadcast, nationwide show by radio historians. Its popular host, Everett Mitchell, over the years, interviewed hundreds of 4-H members and was truly a friend of 4-H. Mitchell opened each broadcast with his trademark line, "It's a beautiful day in Chicago," which became a familiar catch phrase. During most of those years, Everett Mitchell talked via radio to five or six million people each day six days a week.
While boys and girls club work was probably "a part of" the programming schedule during the first two years of the National Farm and Home Hour, an article in the March 20, 1930 National Boys and Girls Club News announces an innovation in the national 4-H radio program that would be broadcast on April 5 over th NBC network, the National Farm and Home Hour - the appearance of a former 4-H Club champion. A person who now is one of 50,000 volunteer club leaders whose unselfish efforts have played such a large part in the progress of the 4-H Club movement. He is Alfred Despres, East Jaffrey, New Hampshire, a 4-H Club member of 14 years ago and now president of the Cheshire County Farm Bureau. He was one of the first club members in his state. In 1916 Mr. Despres was a state champion pig club member. Ever since he has been associated with 4-H Club work, in recent years as a club leader. He will speak on, "The Place of Local Leaders' Associations in Club Work." Bruce Varney of Stratham, a New Hampshire state champion club member of today, will speak on, "Why I Chose Life on a Farm to Life in a Big City." Also in 1930, 4-H Club winners at the National Dairy Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri were announced direct from the Arena on NBC's Farm and Home Hour. Still later in 1930, a unique 4-H achievement program on th NBC National Farm and Home Hour was aired on November 8. Individual local state 4-H Club achievement day programs over each of the 45 associated stations of the National Broadcasting Company were a unique feature of the nationwide 4-H achievement day celebration. Outstanding club members from the different states played a prominent part in the local state programs broadcast in a unified and correlated program. Part of the program originated from Washington, D.C. and featured Secretary of Agriculture Arthur M. Hyde. In 1953, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the National Farm and Home Hour, Guy Noble, director of the National Committee, presented a citation to Everett Mitchell. The citation was a tribute to "the consistently fine programming which has advanced 4-H and its goals and benefited all of agriculture for a full quarter of a century."
The July-August 1938 National 4-H Club News carries a story with the title "Club Owes Start to Boy and Broadcast." It's a story of how the Warren Willing Workers 4-H Club of Macomb County, Michigan, was started through a nine year old boy having his interest aroused in Club work by one of the Farm and Home Hour programs broadcast over NBC the first Saturday of each month. The boy told his chum, also nine, and then both told the first boy's father how much they would like to belong to a club like the one described. So the father went to County Agent William Murphy and he came and talked to a group of boys and girls who by that time had become interested, and in the spring of 1934 there was organized a club in which Mr. Herbert Collin, the first boy's father, was elected garden club Leader, Mrs. John Derowski, Leader in canning, and Mrs. Collin in food preparation. The two little boys that had wanted the club had to be satisfied with being honorary members as they were to young to be enrolled. That fall the garden club placed first in the Michigan State Fair, and little nine year old Glen Collin exhibited in open competition where he won four first and two second prizes.
The popular network morning show, "Don McNeill's Breakfast Club," hosted by radio pioneer Don McNeill five days a week and having a live audience and orchestra, was broadcast directly from several Chicago locations over the years including the NBC Studios in the Merchandise Mart, the Terrace Casino in the Morrison Hotel, the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago (home of National 4-H Congress) for many years, and later on from the TipTop Room of the Allerton Hotel on north Michigan Avenue. It was initially started on the NBC Blue Network and later on the ABC Network. The radio program ran from June 23, 1933 through December 27, 1968. McNeill's 35-1/2-year run as host remains the longest tenure for an M.C. of a network entertainment program, surpassing Johnny Carson (29-1/2 years) on "The Tonight Show" and Bob Barker (34-2/3 years on "The Price is Right." The program also featured Fran Allison (later of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" fame) as "Aunt Fannie", plus Captain Stubby (from the "Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers" musical group on the WLS Barn Dance program. The hour-long program was broken into four segments which McNeill labeled "the Four Calls to Breakfast." Every quarter-hour came the "Call to Breakfast" with a portion of the audience marching around the breakfast table. Whenever 4-H delegates were in Chicago... be it for the National 4-H Congress, National 4-H Dairy Conference, 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium, or other events, selected delegates would appear on the network show and be interviewed by Don McNeill.
WBBM Radio and WBBM-TV-Channel 2, in Chicago, was also a major supporter of 4-H and interviewed delegates to many of the Chicago-based 4-H events. For 20 years - from the early 1950s to the early 1970s - George Menard was the WBBM Farm Director. In addition to reaching the rural audience, Menard did an evening TV show called "Farm Town U.S.A." targeting urban viewers, acquainting them with life on the farm, farm animals and demonstrating how farm tools worked. Menard worked in radio starting in the 1930s at WMBD in Chicago and also with WLS where he did the farm show "Dinnerbell" and sang regularly on the famous Saturday night WLS network show, "National Barn Dance" where he was known as the "WLS Prairie Singer." On one of his later TV shows at WBBM in the 1970's, Menard was featuring National 4-H Congress delegates and had 40 or 50 of them in the studio, plus a full-sized Angus bull!... the studios were located on the 19th floor of the Merchandise Mart. That well-behaved steer came up the 19 floors in the freight elevator and participated in a studio "game" where delegates would lead the steer through a maze of china cups/saucers sitting on poles, trying not to knock any over (aka "bull in a china shop").
As mentioned earlier, 4-H was prominently on radio station WLS-Chicago as early as 1926 with programs every Tuesday and Thursday evening. While the station... which started broadcasting in 1924, was initially owned by Sears, Roebuck and Company, it was purchased by the farm publication, Prairie Farmer, in 1928 and became known as "Prairie Farmer WLS". Since the station's main concern was the farmer, much of WLS broadcasting catered to the rural area. The WLS National Barn Dance on Saturday nights was one of the most popular shows on radio for years featuring a live cast which included such names as Pat Buttram, George Goebel, Gene Autry, the Arkansas Woodchopper, Patti Page, Les Paul, Dolph Hewett, Lula Belle and Scotty, and others. The show was broadcast from Chicago's Eighth Street Theatre from 1932 to 1957 and was traditionally a favorite entertainment experience for 4-H Congress delegates.
And, WGN Continental Broadcasting interviewed hundreds - if not thousands - of 4-H'ers over the years on both network radio and television, particularly on their early morning farm show with Orion Samuelson, "Top 'O' the Morning." Samuelson is currently the host, along with Max Armstrong, of "This Week in AgriBusiness." He has held the same job in the broadcasting industry for 50 consecutive years. A strong supporter of 4-H and of National 4-H Council, Samuelson is a recipient of the National 4-H Alumni Award and is on the Board of Trustees of National 4-H Council.
One more Chicago-based radio pioneer was a true friend of 4-H. Paul Harvey, who grew up in Oklahoma, moved to Chicago in 1944. His ABC network programs, including "The Rest of the Story," lasted into the 1990's. One of these stories conveys the high esteem he had for the 4-H achievers who annually won trips to the International Live Stock Exposition and to National 4-H Congress. He offered the following commentary on the ABC network on November 25, 1956, during the National 4-H Congress:
This is Chicago.
This is the week of the International Live Stock Exposition. And the 4-H champions are in town for their National Congress.
It is an annual custom by the Central Church of Chicago to welcome them to Sunday Service... in the Hilton Hotel.
At the invitation of Pastor Kenneth Hildebrand, it's also been an annual custom for Paul Harvey to read the scriptures at this service.
So I was there this morning.
4-H winners from every state and every territory. And they get better looking every year.
Whooeee, we're raising a fine crop of young folks on our farms!
Sometimes because the headlines get preoccupied with the weeds we forget to give thanks for the harvest.
We can get rid of most of those weeds, with a good threshing.
But more important, we mustn't let them discourage or dishearten us.
For every young hoodlum hiding a switch-blade knife, I can show you ten ridin' tall on the tractor.
For every young rascal sowing wild oats, I can name ten planting the tame kind.
For every one who makes of himself an enemy of men...
Ten make friends with them... and with the God of the sun and the soil.
As the big live stock show displays the best animals our farms have produced...
So we here display the best young men and women our farms have produced, too. And I tell you, we're going to be all right.
After this morning's service I stood talking to young Rodney Henderson, Hereford farmer from Jackson, Mississippi.
I'm six feet two, but I had to look up to this towering lad. Both ways.
And he can advise you on whitefaces, but he can talk to you about anything.
It's a fine crop of youngsters our farms are turning out.
One of the things I miss most about the automatic washer and drier in the basement is the way a pillow case used to smell when it had been sun dried.
And talking to these future leaders of the croplands, you recall that sun-washed freshness in the way they talk and the way they look and act and easy way they laugh.
All of us who participate in that annual church service for the 4-H'ers figure it'll inspire them...
And every year it's us who end up getting inspired.
Recent years the farmer has been getting th short end of the stick, you know.
He's had to dig and scratch and plow close to the hedgerows.
Because it wasn't easy, he had to be strong.
He had no choice.
He had to get smart.
Well, sir, every nation and every generation has made the greatest advances when it had to.
And in order to hold our agricultural family together in recent years the farmer has needed strong sons and capable daughters...
Well, he has them.
I spent the morning peeking over a pulpit at the finest cash crop this country has EVER produced. I mean ever!
So if you read of some misfit young product of our big city prosperity shooting up a tavern for kicks...
It's just because his one gunshot made more noise than two thousand prayers.
But it wasn't really more important. Not really.
Paul Harvey. Good Day!
Farm Broadcasters and 4-H
Radio farm broadcasting almost started at the same time as radio, itself, and certainly by the end of the 1920's, many stations had someone on staff responsible for broadcasting the grain markets and other farm news. Probably the first full time farm broadcaster was Frank Mullen with KDWA in 1923 who then moved to NBC in 1926 to be the host of the first network farm program, "The National Farm Service Home Hour," which worked closed with 4-H. The 1930s saw more stations hiring farm directors. By the mid-1940s many of the larger rural radio stations had a farm broadcaster on staff. Besides giving the market reports and covering rural stories and events in their listening area, these farm broadcasters worked closely with the Extension radio editors at the land-grant universities and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, they were most definitely friends of 4-H... many of them had grown up in 4-H and knew it well. For many years the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) had a winter meeting in Chicago at the same time as the National 4-H Congress and the International Live Stock Exposition. They would come to Chicago and spend the week doing interviews with Congress delegates from their state and covering events from early morning to late at night... some fondly called it "the week from hell" because it went non-stop. But, still, they came back year after year and helped greatly in annually making National 4-H Congress one of the four top media coverage conventions year after year - farm broadcasters like Herb Plambeck, Jack Crowner, Maynard Speece, John McDonald, George Stephens, Kith Kirkpatrick, Gene Milard, Ken Root, Wayne Liles, Orion Samuelson, Dean Curtiss, Dave Bateman, Marvin Vines, Ray Wilkinson, Craighton Knau, Art Sechrest, Evan Slack, Dix Harper, Charlie Slate, Bob Buice, Russell Pierson, George Logan, Dink Embry and dozens more. For seven days each year the Press-Radio-TV Headquarters saw hundreds of media reps register so they could cover the experiences of Congress. The 1968 media report states that 111 stations used the Congress recording booths, interviewing hundreds of delegates and 70 stations used a coupler unit for interviewing delegates and relaying straight commentary to home stations for news shows. Still many other broadcasters brought their own equipment and did recordings throughout the hotel. By 1971, 1,430 delegates were interviewed on radio by 703 stations in 49 states during the Congress. Some 1,430 additional stations were served through various network hook-ups. Fifteen media releases were sent to 7,300 radio and TV outlets prior to Congress. Over 120 delegates were on local shows on 20 Chicago area radio and television stations during Congress week. Nearly 500 media reps registered at the Press-Radio-TV Headquarters to cover the event. The 4-H - radio partnership had come a long ways in the 50 years since 1921.
In addition to the commercial stations and their role in providing helpful information to their rural audiences, the state land-grant universities... and, particularly, the state and county extension services were heavily involved in radio starting primarily in the 1930s and lasting well into the 1960s and 70s. In a feature story in the Texas Extension Service Farm News in July 1937, there was a report on the first radio institute ever to be held in the Southwest - at Southern Methodist University. The Extension Service was represented and conveyed the strong interest their county agents had for reaching their farming audiences via radio. As soon as the war was over, radio clinics and workshops became common within extension throughout the country. Many of these were conducted by radio specialists with the USDA Office of Information, and often also involved local commercial radio farm directors. For example,1947 clinics in several locations in Texas were conducted by Dana Reynolds from USDA and assisted by radio farm directors Murray Cox, WFAA; Layne Beaty, WBAP; and Bill Shomette, WOAI. At a similar clinic a couple of years later, Joe Tonkin, Extension radio specialist, USDA, advised the participants to just "be yourself" and "just talk with people." It was also pointed out that the folks in your county can help you do radio - so let them! Involve the farmers, involve the homemakers, the kids, the community leaders and the local businessmen. By the end of the decade - 1949 - over half the radio stations were regularly carrying extension programs, including much coverage of 4-H. The radio was playing in the house, the barn, the car - no longer a novelty, it was a part of our lives.
4-H Wireless Clubs
When 4-H history books discuss the early subject-oriented clubs they often place their emphasis on corn clubs, canning clubs, pig clubs and other similar specialty clubs. However, as early as 1920... perhaps even earlier, there were also 4-H wireless clubs (or radio clubs) in existence.
The April 1922 issue of "Farm Boys and Girls Leader" has a short feature about one of these clubs - the Ocean County Wireless Club in Toms River, New Jersey:
Wireless Concerts Given by Boys' Club Members
"A wireless concert was given not long ago by members of the Ocean County Wireless Club, for the entertainment of the Farm Bureau, at Toms River, N.J. This club, which was organized by the county club agent, had succeeded in getting a central receiving station installed in the courthouse. The program, which was heard by the entire audience by means of an amplifier, came from Newark, N. J. It consisted of operatic solos, orchestral selections, a speech, and the market report for the day. At 10 p.m. the audience set their watches by standard radio time given out officially from Arlington, Va, near Washington, D.C.
"This central receiving station is one of the achievements the boys in the wireless club have been working toward for some months. The club was organized shortly after the United States Department of Agriculture began sending out market reports by wireless. Under the general supervision of the county club agent it has developed to a membership of 52 boys in all stages of wireless knowledge and equipment. Their original intention was merely to broadcast market reports, but it soon became evident that a central station was needed that would take high wave messages that could be relayed at a lower wave length to those having small sets.
"As the club acquired better apparatus it was able to expand its activities and since the initial concert the boys have taken a complete wireless about the county to different community meetings and giving as many people as possible the thrill of hearing music that is being played miles away, and the satisfaction of receiving authoritative market information of value in the farming business."
Principal author: Larry L. Krug
Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.
The 4-H Name and Emblem are protected by 18 USC 707