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KSD - The First Year

By William A. Kelsoe – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
When Mr. Joseph Pulitzer decided last March (1922) to install radio equipment in the building, it became necessary to temporarily use a third-floor room (No. 301B), occupied then by Cartoonist Donald R. Fitzpatrick and myself. Several days were required for preparing the room and installing the wireless apparatus. Finding the disturbance there not conclusive to clear thinking in his line of business, Mr. Fitzpatrick moved out, whereupon Miss [Mabel] Denison moved in. That is how the young lady , then starting her annual [Post-Dispatch] campaign for ice for the poor and milk for babies, came to assist H.S. Trask, KSD’s manager, in booking singers, readers, speakers, pianists, violinists, etc., for our radio concerts  and other entertainments until Miss Virginia A.L. Jones could take charge of the work three weeks later (April 11). KSD’s radio operators for the first two or three weeks, until relieved by W.B. Goodwin of Jefferson City, were Lester A. Benson and William E. Woods, of the Benwood Co., the gentlemen who built our first apparatus.
The first concert broadcast from Room 301-B was given the evening of Tuesday, March 21, 1922, by the St. Louis University Glee Club, and that room continued to be the home of Station KSD up to and including June 20. The next day, June 21, Station KSD had two homes – a suite of rooms on the second floor, front, for concerts and other public entertainments, as also for making public announcements and broadcasting news on special occasions, and a “radio house” on the roof of the building, where one of the most powerful broadcasting outfits in the entire country had been installed with Willis B. Corwin as operator, and which is used several times daily. One of Miss Jones’s assistants in Room 301-B was young Mr. Louis Lacks. The first entertainment under the new arrangement was given Monday evening, June 26, Miss Loretto McBride making her debut in public service with Miss Jones on that occasion.
Not having, like Cartoonist Fitzpatrick, a place to go, I stayed when he moved out, and in consequence I now have some very pleasant recollections of the service rendered in Room 301-B (third floor) by KSD when I was one of the self-appointed assistants of Miss Jones and Mr. Trask. It was here that I first met former Vice President Marshall, Labor Secretary Davis of President Harding’s cabinet, and other national celebrities. The only souvenir of my radio services saved from the waste basket is the original of KSD’s report of the Major League’s baseball games June 14, 1922, and believing it should be preserved as a part of the early history of our radio service, I give the report here in full:
Baseball – June 14.
American League
“The St. Louis Browns won today’s game at home from the Washingtons by 7 to 6. All but one of the St. Louis runs were made in the sixth inning. After a single by McManus, two St. Louis batters were walked and then McManus scored on an out at first. One of the walkers was forced home to score the second run. This left the bases full of walkers and all three scored ahead of Sisler when he hit it to the left field pavilion – six runs in one inning with only two hits and no fielding error. In the first inning Sisler scored on his own single and a double by McManus. For Washington, Rice hit to center for a home run after the first two batters had been fanned. The only error in the game was a wild throw, which let in two runs for Washington. St. Louis made only six hits, in all, and Washington, 8, each side using three pitchers. The Yankees were beaten at Detroit today 6 to 2, reducing their lead over the Browns to a game and a half. The Boston Reds were shut out at Cleveland , the Indians making three runs. The Athletics were defeated at Chicago 6 to 5 by the White Sox.
National League
“The St. Louis Cardinals were shut out again today, this time at Brooklyn, the Robins making 4 runs. Vance, the Brooklyn pitcher, held St. Louis to five hits and struck out six men. One of the four runs made resulted from a single and a triple, and the other two were scored on a wild throw from the outfield. Pittsburg was shut out at New York by the Giants, who made 13 runs. At Boston the Chicago Cubs made 15 runs to 2 for the Boston Braves. The Cincinnati-Philadelphia game was prevented by rain.”
The Cardinals got even with Vance, the strikeout king of the National League, when the Brooklyns came to St. Louis the next month, not only winning the game here July 7, but batting him for fourteen hits, including doubles by Frasier and Hornsby and home runs by Ainsmith and Hornsby. The Cardinals had beaten Brooklyn the day before by 14 to 2 runs, and their third victory July 8 came after Pitcher Vance had been sent in to save the Dodgers from another defeat. Two more games were played and won by St. Louis in that series, making five straight victories for the Cardinals over the club that had shut them out at Brooklyn on June 14.
A fire in KSD’s new quarters on the second floor early in July made a temporary change necessary, and so, for a few days, Room 301-B was again used for our radio service.
Many of the addresses broadcast from KSD during the three months of my connection with the station were extemporaneous. When manuscripts were used, they were, with few exceptions, retained by the speakers or sent to them later. One I kept, myself, and am able to reproduce it here. It was an address by Editor George S. Johns of the Post-Dispatch to the journalists and others present at the Radio banquet given by the School of Journalism at Columbia, Mo., on the evening of May 26, 1922. Mr. Johns spoke as follows:
Mr. Chairman and Fellow Journalists:
I use the customary form to begin an after-dinner talk because, while I am absent from your banquet in body, I am present in voice. That I, sitting here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch radio room can talk in my own voice to you gathered around the banquet table in Columbia is a marvel of modern science and invention. It marks the greatest advance of any invention in the shortest period of time recorded in history. It increases the terrors of the banquet table. Not only do the banqueters have to endure the speeches of those present, but speeches by those absent. They have to submit to absent oratorical treatment and have no recourse against the offender. The absent speaker is not checked by yawns or hisses, nor rebuked with glassware. He is beyond the reach of that poignant pain inflicted by the silent vanishing of his hearers. You will not offend me if this magnifier reaches through an empty room.
Naturally we ask what are the possibilities of radio? What will it mean to mankind and to civilization? In particular, what will it mean to those nations in the progress of which the means of rapid communication play so much a part? We may as well frankly admit that we do not know precisely what it will mean. As no one dreamed of the present development of radio before the pressure of the late war speeded up its development and use so no one would dare predict to what perfection it will be brought and to what use it will be put within five years. We do know that an agency of rapid, cheap, convenient inter-communication of indefinite possibilities has been discovered and put into the service of mankind. We know that through the intangible ether sound is conveyed accurately in its original tones and modulations, that the finest and most delicate tones and nuances of the speaking and singing voice and the musical instrument can be conveyed accurately to great distances. We know that messages can be sent and received with wonderful rapidity through telegraphic, phonographic and photographic radio methods. The recording speed of messages ranges from 100 to 500 words per minute. Five hundred words a minute have been recorded in dots and dashes on the photographic film by means of radio waves.
I do not believe for a moment that radio will take the place of the press, but I am sure it will become an invaluable agency of the press for the sending of news and the dissemination of information and as a means of bringing individuals and peoples into closer relationships and better knowledge of each other, a powerful agency for peace and progress. Let us not overemphasize the material inventions, devices and agencies of civilization. They may be used for or against higher civilization, that true culture which makes for justice and liberty and the happiness of all mankind. The development and application of radio to human uses was greatly accelerated by the necessity of finding new means of destruction and of defense against destruction in the war. Science and invention are the handmaids of war as well as of civilization and culture. The imponderables, the intangibles – the moral forces that make for just and amicable and profitable human relationships – far exceed in value material forces and devices.
The press wields the power of publicity, the greatest moral force in the world. The telegraph, the telephone, the radio equipment, the linotype, the perfected press and our other devices are merely agencies of publicity, the modes by which it works. If these agencies are not directed by mind and heart and soul, devoted to the public welfare, they are useless, they may be destructive. What shall it profit the press to gain a world of facilities and lose its soul? An able, honest and conscientious newspaper man working in a shack with a hand press is more useful to mankind than the best equipped newspaper plant in existence under the control of journalistic flip-flappers.
Newspaper men today are beset with temptations to debase and misuse the power of the press in the interest of wealth, power, privilege. They are assaulted by subtle and pervasive and deftly camouflaged propaganda. The freedom of the press is under constant attack by government and by special interests with spacious pleas of public welfare. Our rights have been invaded. It never had a greater task than that of guarding its own rights, the rights of the states, and the rights and liberties of citizens against governmental encroachments and bureaucratic tyranny. Never was there a greater opportunity for the press to promote peace and prosperity through good understanding and amicable cooperation among civilized nations. If we yield to temptation and fail in the tasks and opportunities before us, our wonderful equipment is futile and our work is in vain. Good night, I thank you.
A second address to the Columbia banqueters was delivered by Mr. Clark McAdams of the Post-Dispatch. He spoke without manuscript and I am able to give only KSD’s report of the speech as printed in the Post-Dispatch the next day: “McAdams, who followed Johns, addressed the journalists in Columbia in a more facetious vein, following out, in large measure, the trend of his writings in the ‘Just a Minute’ column. Discussing literature, Mr. McAdams declared that there was no literature today, but only writing. The writing of the present is to literature what jazz is to music, he asserted, and then defended the newspaper against the accusation that it is responsible for the failing of literature by showing that some of the best modern literature came from the newspaper office and was written in the midst of the noise of the presses.”
The only other speaker that evening was a former judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court, Thomas I. Anderson, chairman of the Anti-Centralization League of America. He spoke of the growing centralization of government.
Because of the unavoidable absence, one evening, of Miss Denison, our lady manager then, I experienced the delightful thrill of having a great and unexpected honor thrust upon me. It was the evening of April 6, 1922. For the first time in my life I had charge of KSD, even the office boy, kept away by another engagement, not being there to dispute my authority. Well do I remember how busy I was kept from first to last putting the finishing touches on the daily baseball report, bringing in extra chairs, answering telephone calls, receiving the guests, distributing our home-made programs cut from the day’s edition of the Post-Dispatch, bringing water for the singers and speakers, bossing the radio operator (can’t remember whether it was Mr. Benson or Mr. Woods), and, at the close, personally escorting some of the guests to the elevator. The speakers were Mr. Henry Hoeffer, an attorney, and Capt. Robert E. Lee, a newspaper man who was then the secretary and manager of the St. Louis Auto Dealers’ Association. The music broadcast from KSD that evening was by a glee club, a mandolin club, a lady pianist and a lady vocalist named on our program but not recalled now, and also a gentleman pianist, Mr. Rudolph Schmidt, whose name was not given on the program, the gentleman playing a medley of tunes by request. The only other opportunity given me to enjoy the high honor of managing a KSD entertainment was during the interregnum between the administrations of Miss Denison and Miss Jones, the evening of Monday, April 10, and I regret to have to report that my assistant, the office boy, was again absent, having another engagement elsewhere and one reported to be even more important than the one of April 6. KSD’s star attraction in broadcasting that evening was Mrs. Donald McDonald, the lady giving a recitation from Charles Haddon Chambers’ “The Passers By.” A piano and saxophone program of popular music followed under the management of Prof. Charles Hohengarten, with Prof. Charles Dienel at the piano.
Capt. Lee’s stunt at the first of these two entertainments, that of April 6, entitles him to the distinction of having been the first newspaper man to speak as a guest of the Post-Dispatch from KSD. He entertained the “listeners-in” with one of his serio-comic monologues reported by the paper the next day as conspicuous for “stories of the kind that made Lincoln famous.” Mr. Trask, at his home in the West End, was one of the “listeners-in”. He did not miss many of our “entertainments.”
A few evenings later, April 18, another newspaper man, Edw. J. Troy, who was then with the St. Louis Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, broadcast an address intended specially for an audience of business men, and I have not forgotten that he spoke in praise of me, when referring to our World’s Fair newspaper work together – the only time my name has even been used in a radio address. At other radio entertainments the “listeners-in” heard Humorist Lee as a speaker in a serious vein and Mr. Troy as a singer in Italian Opera. The credit of being the first newspaper man to sing as a guest of KSD was Mr. Troy’s. Miss Jones had personal charge of this and all the other many splendid entertainments broadcast after April 10 from Room 301-B.
Soon after the return to the permanent radio rooms on the second floor, KSD’s staff was enlarged, another operator being needed, another assistant for the program director and another for the general manager. The staff at this writing (November 1922) consists of H.A. Trask, editor and general manager; Miss V.A.L. Jones, program director, also in charge of KSD rooms on the second floor and the entertainments and all broadcasting there; The Misses Amy Creveling and Dorothy Dowell, and Jack Stewart with Miss Jones; Stuart C. Mahaney, assisting Mr. Trask; Willis P. Corwin and W.F. Ludgate, wireless experts and operators in the radio house, on the roof of the building, where the big broadcasting plant is installed and where all the regular broadcasting is done, except that of the evening entertainments on the second floor; and Louis Lacks, office boy and general assistance to all of his superiors, the “higher-ups.”
Many of the entertainments broadcast by KSD are heard by listening-in stations in every state of the Union, also in Canada, Mexico, Ventral America, and Alaska, several thousand stations, in all. The Post-Dispatch makes daily announcement of the program for the day.
Later, 1927: This report of KSD was written several years ago. Miss Jones in time became Mrs. Archibald T. Campbell and still later she gave up her radio service and W.H. James had charge of the paper’s radio station until his health gave way and Operators Corwin and Ludgate are still running things “on the second floor and roof” now, with James E. Spencer editing the Sunday edition’s radio pages with the aid of his assistant, R.H. Hall. Young Lacks was with the radio station two or three years and among his successors have been Jack Stewart, Dan Hanlon, Elmer Sievers and Bart McNealy. Miss Dowell was the longest in service, except Mrs. Campbell, and in the absence of Mr. Corwin and Mr. Ludgate, Miss Alice Vogel now has charge of the second floor rooms. In room 301-B, Prof. Edw. Belin’s telestereograph was first tested in this country by the professor himself and later by others, the last manager being Major Dinwiddie, now with the Manufacturers’ Railway Company. See Post-Dispatch November 16, 1920 for reproduction of the face of an Indian chief sent by wire to the New York World.
(Originally published in the St. Louis Reference Record, 1927)