Uncle Al, Gary Burbank, Skipper Ryle, Jim Scott, the Q102 Morning Zoo, Bob Shreve, Bob Braun, Ruth Lyons, WEBN's Jelly Pudding, the Cool Ghoul and "WKRP in Cincinnati" are "Living on the Air" in a wonderfully nostalgic display at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County downtown through January.
If you're heading downtown over the holidays, plan on spending an hour gazing at the Cincinnati TV and radio displays on the first and third floors at the main public library, 800 Vine Street.
"Living On The Air In Cincinnati - Cincinnati's Broadcasting History" is an amazing collection provided by Media Heritage, the local nonprofit TV/radio archives which has displays at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township. Media Heritage has dug up some great things that I'd never seen before – and I've been writing about Cincinnati broadcasting for 32 years, and have been fascinated by Cincinnati's TV/radio history for twice that long.
I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. It wasn't easy to photograph some of these through the display cases. But you'll get the picture.
CHILDREN'S TV: WKRC-TV's "Skipper Ryle Show," hosted by Glenn Ryle, is remembered with several photographs and his 45 rpm single of "Wolf Gal" on Saxony Records. (Never knew that existed.) His steamboat-themed children's show aired on Channel 12 until 1975.
Uncle Al and Captain Windy, who hosted the "Uncle Al Show" 35 years on WCPO-TV (1950-85), are represented with a color photograph and his 1961 record album, "A Visit With Uncle Al At His Happy Farm & Castle" with Mike Tangi and Larry Smith.
After working with "Uncle Al," puppeteer Larry Smith was the first big TV star on WXIX-TV when Channel 19 signed on as an independent station in 1968. His original Rudy and Teaser puppets are here too.
WKRP IN CINCINNATI: I've written a lot about "WKRP in Cincinnati," the CBS sitcom set in a fictional Cincinnati TV station which aired 1978-82. I've met most of the stars over the years. But I'd never seen an actual "WKRP" script until I checked out the library display. It's for the 15th episode of the third season taped on Jan. 27, 1981.
You'll also see a cast photo; publicity shots of Frank Bonner (Herb Tarlek), Richard Sanders (Les Nessman) and Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson); and actress Loni Anderson on the cover of Cincinnati magazine in 1980.
COUNTRY MUSIC: Media Heritage salutes Bonnie Lou, the "Midwestern Hayride" and "Paul Dixon Show" star who died two years ago, by displaying her 1926 Gibson Mastertone banjo and a photo from her first days at WLW-AM in the late 1940s.
Nearby is another case devoted to the "Hayride," WLWT-TV's weekly country music show, with an old black-and-white photo and a color souvenir program from a broadcast at Crosley Square, the station's home at 9th and Elm Streets until 2000.
In the third floor Cincinnati room, you'll see a yellow 1980s WUBE-FM T shirt for "B-105 FM, Great Country."
TV NEWS: Sure, there are pictures of iconic TV anchors Al Schottelkotte from WCPO-TV and Nick Clooney of WKRC-TV.
My favorite news picture is of WLW-TV's news team in the late 1960s. Peter Grant, a radio newsman hired in the 1930s, was still there, along with his successor Tom Atkins. Also pictured behind the huge "5 NEWS" letters were longtime meteorologist Tony Sands, features reporter Rosemary Kelly and sports anchor Phil Samp, who also was the original radio voice of the Cincinnati Bengals.
FUNNY MEN: Paul Dixon, WLWT-TV's daytime host who inspired David Letterman's comedic style, is well represented with a T-shirt, an apron, his Radio-TV Mirror Magazine Award medallion and a "knee tickler," the jewelry Dixon would attach to women's hot pants in his TV audience. (Yes, it was a different era in the 1960s.)
Bob Shreve, who hosted late-night movies on Channels 5, 9 and 12, is remembered with a couple of photos and a T-shirt from a 2013 reunion of his fans 21 years after his death.
You'll also see a 1972 T-shirt for Channel 19's "Cool Ghoul" movie host, photos and a copy of a record album I'd never seen or heard, "The Cool Ghoul's Phantasmagorical Funky Fonograph Record." The Ghoul was played by former radio announcer Dick Von Hoene, one of Channel 19's first employees in 1968.
ROD SERLING: A rare Rod Serling script is the highlight of the Serling exhibit on the first floor. It's rare because the man known for "The Twilight Zone" and other mind-bending dramas was writing patter for WLWT-TV's "Melody Showcase" entertainment variety show broadcast on April 1, 1951.
Serling, hired by WLWT-TV after graduating from Antioch College in 1950, was so frustrated that his employers didn't want him to write serious dramas that he free-lanced drama scripts for rival WKRC-TV.
BLACK MEMO: Hasker Nelson's long-running WCPO-TV public affairs show is remembered with a photo and logo from Channel 9, where he worked from 1973 to 1999.
RADIO: Photos of very young Gary Burbank and Good Ol' Jim Scott can be found inside locked cases in the Joseph S. Stern Jr. Cincinnati Room on the third floor.
A trip to the third floor is definitely worth it to see promotional items for WKRC-AM (illustrations of Stan Matlock, Jerry Thomas, Ted McKay and Will Warren sponsored by Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes); photos of Bob Trumpy and Samp; and a "WLW Radio 7" poster featuring the traffic helicopter.
Public radio is represented by a 1981 WGUC-FM newsletter; a WNKU-FM T-shirt for Katie Laur's "Music From The Hills Of Home"; and my Enquirer story about changes coming to WVXU-FM.
You'll see a WBLZ-FM T-shirt, photos of Lincoln Ware and African-American broadcasting pioneer Buggs Scruggs; WLW-AM's Arlington Street studio and manufacturing plant; and Andy Williams with the Williams brothers on WLW-AM in the 1940s.
Before Chris O'Brien was "Married with Microphones," hosting mornings on WGRR-FM with wife Janeen Coyle, O'Brien started in Cincinnati radio in the 1970s at WKRQ-FM. Jim Fox and O'Brien hosted the hugely popular Q102 Morning Zoo.
You'll also see photos of the Q102 Morning Zoo "Those Guys Are Bananas" billboard and Coyle's Q102 jacket with a hot air balloon on the back. Nearby is Dusty Rhodes' jacket from Oldies WGRR 103.5 FM, "Great Oldies All The Time."
WEBN-FM is represented by a WEBN softball jersey and a "Jelly Pudding" poster from 1969, two years after the station's debut, to promote the late-night rock show hosted by Michael Xanadu (Frank "Bo" Wood, son of founder Frank Wood Sr.) It boasts: "Cincinnati's Jazz And Fine Arts Station Offers A New Prescription. Jelly Puddy/Dosage Weeknights 10-12 PM, Saturday 10 PM-1AM."
RUTH LYONS AND BOB BRAUN: Of course, no holiday broadcasting exhibit would be complete without Ruth Lyons and Bob Braun, who hosted live WLWT-TV's live weekday variety/entertainment/talk shows from 1949 to 1984. Braun succeeded Lyons in 1967, and hosted the noon show until it was canceled in 1984.
The Media Heritage display includes the stuffed Santa which held the total for the annual Ruth Lyons' Children's Christmas Fund drive to provide toys and games to hospitalized kids ($849,938.29 in 1966). You'll also see Lyons' original hand-written music for her "Christmas Marching Song" in 1956.
But the most amazing display – which I had never seen – was a 1963 soap sculpture of Lyons' "50-50 Club" TV studio.
The library description reads: "Many years ago, Cincinnati's P&G sponsored Ivory Soap sculpting contests. The origins and artist who created this representation of the Ruth Lyons' "50-50- Club" is lost to history, but the detail remains exquisite over a half century after it was created. One can even identify Ruth's co-stars, and the mini-sheet music has notes.
My photos don't do this justice, or for the rest of the displays.
It's definitely worth a trip downtown to see Living On The Air In Cincinnati: Cincinnati's Broadcasting History through Jan. 31 at the main public library downtown. Enjoy!