Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Radio Nature League (1926 September to December)

Note: The Radio Nature League resumed on September 1 at 8:30. The Boston Daily Globe has it at 7:30 on September 8 and 15, 8:30 on September 22, and then at 7:30 for the remainder of the year. There was no show on December 8 (TWB was in New York and apologized the next week that he had forgotten to mail the script for someone else to read). On November 3, the Globe's "What's on the air?" column promoted the RNL and called it "a real force in the conservation of desirable wild life in America."

September to December 1926

By fall 1926, the Radio Nature League was firmly established as a cultural phenomenon (at least in the New England area). Now when Burgess would quote from a Boston Daily Globe story, for example, the Globe would report on the citation (as in an October 7 story, "Says skunk will exterminate the lawn-destroying white grubs; Thornton W. Burgess, Naturalist, praises misunderstood animal, in radio address from Springfield.") The Globe would also draw on Burgess for expert knowledge: a November 25 article on woodchucks and winter prophecies includes a long letter from TWB "deprecating" the notion.

Burgess announced a schedule of ten guest speakers for the upcoming winter. This would begin with:
  • December 15: James H. Emerton on spiders.
  • December 29: Harold L. Babcock on "Snakes and their attributes."
The Ruffed Grouse intestine campaign resumed (it was now a contest, with a copy of Forbush's Birds of Massachusetts going to the winner).

There were also two new concerns of note, which would both continue for the length of the RNL's run.

First, following Burgess's spring request that league members refrain from picking the trailing arbutus, Burgess announced the fall equivalent, asking members not to pick (or buy) fringed gentians, another threatened New England wildflower.

Second, Burgess told members to watch out for "foreigners" who were using net traps to catch protected song birds. He would later stake out a netting spot in Springfield and aid in the arrest of the perpetrators. These particular "foreigners" were apparently immigrants from southern Italy. Note: the demonization of Italians as song bird killers had been a standard part of the bird protection arsenal for at least twenty years before this (joining house cats, sharp-shinned hawks, and boys with guns as chief enemies of useful birds). While it is true that the capture and consumption of song birds as delicacies is a southern Italian cultural practice (this remains a notorious problem in Malta), the rhetoric against the practice would come perilously close to out-and-out xenophobia.

Finally, one of the most memorable episodes in the history of the Radio Nature League would happen during this period. "Houdini" the milk snake made his debut (he had been mailed to the Radio Nature League as a living specimen but managed to defeat every attempt to contain him). On December 1, Burgess would need to leave the microphone during a broadcast because no one else was able (or willing) to recapture him.

Next: Radio Nature League (1927 January to April)

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