I started working at Moody Broadcasting in 1977, just after graduating from Wheaton College. Ranger Bill and Sailor Sam were no longer in production, but we were still doing a number of children's radio dramas, including the Sugar Creek Gang, in which I played Big Jim for several years.
Miron Canaday, who played Ranger Bill and Stumpy, was still working there when I started. Walter Carlson, who is the narrator for the show, (and also plays the sheriff, I believe) was the head of the news department at the time. And Rex Brenner, who played dozens of villains and supporting roles, was still working as a freelancer,
producing the remaining radio dramas such as the Sugar Creek Gang and Stories of
Great Christians. I knew all the organists who used to work on Moody dramas: Gil Mead, Lucille Becker, Marybelle Beebe, and Ralph Colburn. “Sailor Sam” (Chuck Christensen) was the head of the broadcasting department in the undergrad school.
I remember finding a tape of the Ranger Bill show that had been recorded the weekend was born: April 1956. We were always trying to salvage the old tapes and make new masters, because the original tapes were in terrible shape. Some of the original programs had to be removed because of technical problems. However, I remember that other Ranger Bill programs were taken out of rotation because of their stereotypical depiction of Indians and Eskimos. I believe we may also have pulled some programs that depicted the use of guns, but I can't say that for sure.
All the old sound effect equipment was still there in the late 70s and still in use, including a contraption with three turntables on it, which could be used to “extend” the old 78 RPM background sound effects by using two tone arms on the same disc. The turntables had variable speeds, which was useful for automobile effects. We also
had a machine that could produce several different types of doorbells and buzzers, and large wooden trays filled with sand and gravel which the sound effects man could walk in. Other highlights were a large old cash register, a full size door, a little wooden contraption with a leather strap on it that could imitate a door squeaking, and a large metal bucket filled with pieces of glass that could be smashed when needed.
There were some blooper reels still in circulation that had outtakes from the shows, including Bill Pearce joking around and announcing…”Sailorrrrrr BILL!”
I've been sending links to your sites to various friends of our generation who knew Ranger Bill. Two of them were sons of WMBI organists, and the father of one, Leigh Robinson, is one of the engineers in the Group_5 picture. The bald guy in Group_3 (at the table) and also in Group_5 is Ken Alspaugh, an engineer who was still working at MBI when I started in 1977. In the engineer's group at the left is Carl Haflinger, who engineered our "Morning Clock" show on WMBI for years.
I also meant to tell you that I knew John McComb (not Combe, I’m pretty sure), who was the sound effects guy. Mike Kellogg at Moody tracked him down in the late 70s and brought him back to do SFX for us again. He was a real craftsman and had a passion for Bach’s church cantatas. (In fact, he persuaded Ruth Dinwiddie to help him produce a whole series about Bach’s cantatas that MBN ran briefly about 30 years ago.) But he was also kind of surly and would get into “snits” with Rex Brenner and our engineer at the time (usually Dennis McGrath, who I recently “friended” on Facebook after 30 years of not being in touch!).
I don’t know where they stored the REAL old scripts. A lot of the scripts from the late 1960s and 70s were bound in library bindings and used to be on a huge bookshelf in the editing room on the 10th floor of Crowell Hall. I would frequently take a look through the old Stories of G.C. scripts, or Fables of Faith, which I also got a kick out
of. (Les Lamborn, who played Bruce the Goose and Beauregard Bear, is also on Facebook, in case you’re a F of F fan.)
Sunday, November 8, 2009
RB Memories from a Moody Employee
The following are some comments from Larry who worked at Moody in Chicago. I want to thank Larry for taking the time to share his memories of the Ranger Bill cast and crew and for allowing me to post those memories here for you. I think you will really enjoy this: