Also the (Pseudo) Professor
One of my favorite public service shows when I was in high school and college was Ask the Professor, which ran locally on KHJ (930 AM) and KRTH (101.1 FM) . The idea is simple: listeners send in questions to try to stump a panel of professors from the University of Detroit, Mercy; you win an Ask the Professor coffee mug if you manage to stump them.
Currently hosted by Matthew J. Mio, Ph.D, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, I was happy to find last year that it is still on the air — unfortunately on a limited number of stations. It is, however, the longest-running radio show in the United States, on the air since the 1950s. And while the small station list — WHO/Des Moines, IA, WTBR-FM/ Pittsfield, MA, and KLAV/Las Vegas, NV — is unfortunate, there is a good side: through the magic of the internet you can still hear it on your computer, smart phone or smart speaker.
The link for the show is at https://sites.udmercy.edu/atp/
And while I am pleased the show is still being produced, imagine my surprise when I got a call from Professor Mio to be a guest in the show! It took a while to set up, but we recorded the shows about two weeks ago. The first episode is already posted as I write this — number 2040; the second episode with me as a guest on the panel is number 2041 and should be posted this weekend.
Now keep in mind I am eminently unqualified to be on the panel. I am not a professor, though I do hold a PHD … a Pedro High diploma from San Pedro High, class of 1981. But the panel has to include the most down-to-earth people I have ever met — via a Zoom meeting, since the COVID-19 lockdown prevents the ability to meet in person. They made me feel comfortable right away, and acted like I actually knew something, giving me credit for being “close.”
We were not stumped, as the questions themselves were not horrendously hard. Many were basically multiple choice. But what I found interesting is that the panel most definitely does not receive the questions ahead of time, with the obvious exception of Professor Mio; he needs them to act as the program moderator. Overall, though the show is as I remember from years ago … informative and fun. Give it a listen!
I received so many stories form you regarding distance listening on the radio that I wanted to share a few more emails and letters.
“Just found you in the Daily News in the last few months and have enjoyed your ‘Radio’ column. Here is my story of hearing AM long distance.
“Graduated from high school in 1971 and took a month-long road trip in my 66 VW bug with a sleeping bag, Coleman stove and ice chest. In a campground in Colorado, I picked up KFI (640 AM) on my little car radio and heard Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett announcing the Dodger game. Never forgot that – I was home though very far away.” — Tom Lusby
“In the late 1950s, I was a teenager in a very small town (Riverton) in Wyoming. We did not have any local top 40 radio; in fact, we barely had radio at all. But when the sun went down, we could pick up top 40 powerhouse KOMA from Oklahoma City, OK. It came in very loud and clear all night long, until the sun came up the next morning … it sounded as though they were broadcasting right from our town. I couldn’t wait for sunset so I could hear my favorite music.” — Joseph Tripp
“I grew up in central Iowa in mid-fifties and my dad was a St. Louis Cardinal fan. At night we would listen to the Cardinal games on KMOX in St. Louis. Harry Carey was the announcer and on a home run call he would say “it looks like it might be, it could be, it is a home run”. We also listened to the Chicago Cub games in the daytime on WGN from Chicago. Their announcer was Bob Wilson and he always said “I don’t care who wins, as long as it is the Cubs”. A Des Moines radio station broadcast the “game of the day”. The announcer took the information off the ticker tape and made it sound like he was at the game. If something happened to the feed, there would be a lot of foul balls or there was a sudden rain delay.
“We could also pick up the Grand Ole Opry on WSN/Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday night, and a station from Del Rio, Texas at night. I believe their broadcast power was something like 250,000 watts and the US stations were limited to 50,000 watts. “ — Larry Harsha
David Schwartz, author of the Encyclopedia of Game Shows who I’ve known since his days at the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) and who now works at cable televisions Game Show Network, still has the radio bug in him. He sent along a link to a website that is dedicated to preserving periodicals that covered radio, and the list is extensive.
Radio Daily (1938- early 1960s); US Radio (1957-61); Radio and Records (1973 – 2009) and many more can be found at https://worldradiohistory.com.