Saturday, April 10, 2010

Radio Nature League (1929)

Note: On November 9, the program would move from its long-standing Wednesday evening slot to Saturday night, initially at 7:00, but then at 8:00 starting November 30. Several scripts in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center collection are missing pages (Jan 30, Feb 6). These were apparently sent to William Hornaday, in connection with his work promoting the Norbeck Refuge bill. There was no meeting on February 13. Mrs B guest hosted March 20. TWB took a 6 week vacation beginning June 5. Several meetings were held, with guest hosts: J.H. Taylor On June 5; Phillip Hansling Jr. on June 19 and July 10. The November 23 script is missing. The HGARC Collection also includes a special Arctic/Antarctic broadcast TWB did on Feb 16 for Commander Byrd and his "gallant associates" in the south, and others "representing civilization" in the far north.

January to December 1929

This would be the last full year of the Radio Nature League. WBZ was now an affiliate in the NBC Blue/WJZ network, a retransmitter of programming originating in New York. It was increasingly difficult to find a place on the air for a "sustaining" (i.e., non-sponsored) program, regardless of its popularity. Initially Saturday at 7:00 seemed like a safe haven but then along came "Amos and Andy"... Thornton Burgess would voice his doubts about the future of the program on the air (and would be met with a flurry of correspondence urging him on).

The speaker series was now greatly curtailed, featuring mostly Philip Hansling Jr and a new associate, J.H. Taylor, Highway Landscape Supervisor for the State of Massachusetts. Here are the dates and topics:
  • January 16: Philip Hansling Jr., on "A few of our historical and famous trees."
  • April 3: Philip Hansling Jr., "How to maintain trees in health and beauty."
  • April 10: Burgess read extended remarks on the passenger pigeon by Clarence Hawkes, "blind poet and naturalist from Hadley, MA." (Hawkes was a friend of the show).
  • June 5: J.H. Taylor on beautifying roadsides.
  • April 17: Burgess read "Waiting for the Chief Buzzard," a story in dialect by Uncle Dove Reynolds (as transcribed by Captain Inman F. Eldridge.)
  • July 10: Roger B. Friend, entomlogist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station.
  • August 14: J.H. Taylor
  • August 28: J.H. Taylor on "Use of highways and prevention of abuse of them"
  • September 18: Phil Hansling Jr. on "What we can do for trees."
The fourth and final annual caterpillar crusade was held in March, offering prizes from many different local organizations. (By this point some groups were complaining that they could no longer find enough tent caterpillar eggs.) The top school prize was $25, the top scout prize was $20, and the top individual prize was $10. There were separate prizes for the top collectors in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Several new themes emerged this year:
  • Burgess joined with William Hornaday to promote the "Norbeck game refuge bill" (The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929). There were appeals to listeners in January and February. Burgess announced its passage on February 20.
  • Maine had recently declared the black-capped chickadee to be the State Bird. Burgess asked his listeners to vote for official birds for other New England states. This topic continued for several months.
  • There was a new scientific request from Harold Babcock for the stomach contents of owls, particularly snakes.
In March, Burgess was the victim of a hoax. A correspondent had written reporting the birth of a white-tailed deer fawn in January. While Burgess was cautious in his response, he treated it as truthful, calling it the earliest record in Massachusetts. The following week, he led the program with an apology--he was "humiliated"--the correspondent had falsely used the identity of another correspondent. Burgess emphasized how much he relied on the "good will" of his correspondents.

Next: Radio Nature League (1930)

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