Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Towers That Brought Me The Voice of Jean Shepherd Are No More

Doc Searls offers a link to a YouTube video of the end of the WOR Towers. Another icon of my youth vanished.

From those towers Jean Shepherd broadcast nightly on a clear channel that could be heard all over the eastern half of the country. If you're not from that time and place, you're most likely to know Shep from his movie, A Christmas Story. If you are, then you knew about Ralphie and the B.B. gun long before the novel was published or the movie released.

We had the privilege of listening night-after-night to a brilliant, unscripted monologist who wove memories of his youth, his Army service, and his sharp observations on the passing scene into humorous and moving tapestries that kept me up night after night.

Many of Shep's shows have been archived and are available on the Web. You can subscribe to The Brass Figligee podcast and The Jean Shepherd Podcast through iTunes and elsewhere. One of the best intros to Shep is a tribute by Harry Shearer broadcast on NPR in 2000, "A Voice in the Night"

Those towers also brought me the voices of Long John Nebel and guests. Here's one of his shows from the height of the fifties flying saucer rage. One of the guests reports on his trip in a flying saucer from White Sands, New Mexico to New York and back within a span of 32 minutes. "These particular people are not like us, but they have many advantages over us." they levitate... they have 32 eyes in a ring around the head.... they have a force-filed around them that can repel bullets.... and more.


Anonymous said...

Can you add a link to the Harry Shearer NPR broadcast? Thanks.

Mickeleh said...

I haven't found a free resource, but it's included in this collection.

Doc said...

For what it's worth, the dropped towers were in operation from 1968 to 2006. The best years of Jean and Long John (and the elder Gambling generations) were radiated through WOR's original transmitter in Careret, New Jersey. Jim Hawkins has some great pictures of that rig, plus the ones that preceded it here.

Even though that original transmitter used less-efficient quarter-wave towers, I thought it had a much better signal than the more efficient half-wave towers that just came down, or the almost identical set of three towers now being used.

In the old days, stations wanted to cover large regions well, and WOR did that. It was like a local station in Philadelphia as well as New York. You could get it in the middle of the day from Baltimore to Boston; and at night from Atlanta to Nova Scotia.

But the station's new pattern is optimized just for the city and its suburbs. And they hold a construction permit that will make the pattern cut even more out of coverage in other directions.

It's sad, but it's also progress, I guess.

Mickeleh said...


Thanks for the clarification, expansion, and especially the links. In the early days, a few stations were given what they called "clear channels," which meant they had exclusive licenses to their frequency so they could reach large territories.

The irony is that here from my desk, the Internet gives me a clear channel that has even broader reach than WOR had at its height. Smaller audience no doubt, but I have the reach.