Articles

RADIO’S FUNNIEST FLUBS

Boners are always lurking around radio stations waiting for someone to pull them. They don’t have to wait long, because every man at the mike is sure to slip sometime

MAX BRAITHWAITE April 15 1951
Articles

RADIO’S FUNNIEST FLUBS

Boners are always lurking around radio stations waiting for someone to pull them. They don’t have to wait long, because every man at the mike is sure to slip sometime

MAX BRAITHWAITE April 15 1951

RADIO’S FUNNIEST FLUBS

Boners are always lurking around radio stations waiting for someone to pull them. They don’t have to wait long, because every man at the mike is sure to slip sometime

MAX BRAITHWAITE

AT A critical stage in the railway strike last August the CBC Talks Department invited union leaders A. R. Mosher and Frank Hall to make a joint statement on the strike issues. The talk didn’t last the full time provided for it, so to fill in until the next program the studio presented an interlude of organ music. And who should be announced as the organist but Donald Gordon (not the CNR president but a musician of the same name) ! And what should he play for his first number but the “Gold and Silver Waltz”!

Outraged union officials accused the CBC of everything from bias to criminal neglect, but actually it was merely a king-size version of the common radio boner that turns announces’ hair grey and raises a steady crop of ulcers in the producing department. This particular flub was a combined effort by several CBC employees but equal classics sometimes can be handled nicely by one man.

Announcer Byng Whitteker once stepped to a Toronto microphone and

said: “ Good afternoon, Byng Whitteker; this is everybody.”

And there was the memorable autumn morning several years ago when an announcer named Bob Anderson was doubling as an operator at CKCK Regina. The station had joined a national network from 8 to 10 a.m. and Bob, with time on his hands, sat

down to read and dozed to sleep. He awoke suddenly, listened for radio sounds and heard nothing. He grabbed desperately for the nearest record, slapped it on the turntable and let it go. “Nice work!” he complimented himself. “Fast thinking!”

But the record happened to be noisy rowdy “Minnie the Moocher,” the day happened to be November 11 and the time (in Ottawa where the program originated) was 11 o’clock. Veterans’ units practically stormed the station for this desecration of Armistice Day silence.

Anderson would have given both tonsils on the spot to get that one hack but once a word or a note has gone through a transmitter it can’t be changed. Considering the thousands of words and assorted sounds that go through microphones every 24 hours, radio people often marvel that more bad ones don’t get loose.

Even the best announcers shudder at the mention of “spoonerisms” (named after the late Rev. William A. Spooner who had a delightful faculty for producing statements like “Mardon me padam, you are occupewing the wrong pie”). Earl Cameron not long ago announced a “four-day shoot of peasants on Phelee Island” and a sportscaster referred to a parade to Toronto Varsity Stadium as “a tremendical speeulous.” Reid Forsee will never forget the time he told listeners that stock market information he was reading came from “absolutely unreliable and biased” sources.

A Hamilton announcer shocked his listeners one morning by asking: “Does your husband wake up tired and lustless?” And a Toronto man, specifying the charms of a beauty contest winner,

spoiled it all by reporting that she would receive “a free curse at the Academy of Radio Arts.”

When you hear an announcer slow down to meet a tough phrase you know he’s getting ready to side-step a spoonerism, and that’s just the time he’s likely to produce a good one. Elwood Glover cites the time he was describing a drumhead service in Toronto and reported: “The rum droll will be the trignal for the soops to for stepford.”

Announcers agree the worst thing they can do after committing a spoonerism is to try it over again. Farm broadcaster Don Fairbairn started out a program by talking about “fate crattened chickens.” He paused, took another run at it and got “chate cratened fickens.” From there he went to “fate chattened crickens” and he kicked those crate fattened chickens around until the studio was full of feathers but he never did get it right. Spoonerisms are contagious too. Five announcers describing the Gold Cup boat race of 1938 from widely separated points on the course each referred to Count Tao Rossi’s speedboat Alagi as “Count Alagi’s Rossi” and each apologized for the mistake.

Radio listeners also can be as muddleheaded as the announcers sometimes sound. When the transmitting tower of CFRB Toronto blew down once in a high wind all programs were cut off and hundreds of listeners phoned the station to ask what had happened. After the situation was explained to one woman she complained angrily: “Weil, it’s a funny thing you wouldn’t broadcast the reason you’re not on the air.”

Puckish actors and announcers often add to the confusion and their associates’ discomfort with planned jokes of their own. Writer Jack Scott once inserted a food conservation note into a news bulletin Ron Alderson was reading over CKRC Winnipeg. Right smack in the middle of a report on the siege of Stalingrad Alderson boomed: “Don’t be an ostrich. Get your head out of the sand. Eat more fish.”

Listeners on at least two occasions have been surprised to learn over the air what announcers really think about their job. In Winnipeg a program signal contained the startling footnote: “This is Harry O’Donnell, another of

this station’s underpaid announcers.” His pay ended altogether after that. And there was the kids’ bedtime storyteller in Toronto who ended his program, leaned back in his chair and said into an open microphone which he thought was closed: “There—that

ought to hold the little stinkers for another day.” He didn’t bother coming back to find out.

Program directors always fear the worst from music recordings following news announcements. When Lome Greene announced the resignation of British Premier Neville Chambeilain over the CBC one station came in bluntly with “Happy Days Are Here Again.” And a news bulle! in in Winnipeg about the trial of a British Army sergeant-major was followed by George Formby singing “Put the Sergeant-Major in the Guardhouse.”

Sound effects men sometimes do their bit too by slamming a door when a gun should go off or breaking a pane of glass when galloping horses are ordered in the script. A classic of this kind was in the serial “Fighting Navy” where the ship in the story had been tracking down an enemy submarine through four weekly episodes. Finally the quarry was sighted, guns were aimed and the gunnery officer began to count off the seconds before the salvo . . . eight seconds . . . seven seconds (the suspense was killing) . . . one second. Dramatic pause. “Fire one!” The director threw the sound man the cue and out came the sound—a motor car starting up. ★