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Saturday, May 29, 2004
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GK: Not many people know that Bob Edwards and I started out in radio together here in Washington. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his fireside chats, we were the Boy Scouts who built the fire.

TR (FDR, WITH RADIO STATIC): All we have to fear is fear itself.

GK: It was in Boy Scouts where we went into the communications field when we won our Merit Badge as telegraph operators. (MORSE CODE)

BE: We were masters of Morse Code and even today, sitting at lunch, we drum our fingers on the table and send messages------ (MORSE CODE, FINGERS TAPPING) why-------are-------these---------people--------so boring----------

GK: We spent World War II as aircraft spotters, perched in the Washington Monument, watching the horizon for Japanese warplanes, our fingers poised on the telegraph key.

BE: Someday those aircraft spotters will have their own monument on the Mall ---- I hope they don't wait until we're too old.

GK: Later we mastered the complicated semaphore code, using signal flags. (FLAGS SWISHING) Almost a lost art today, Bob.

BE: I once stood on a hilltop for ten hours and with only a pair of flags, I signaled to him a long chapter from James Joyce's "Ulysses"------

GK: Which was considered a dirty book back then and that got us thrown out of Boy Scouts.

BE: Our troupe marched in (MARCHING FEET) and we stood in front, heads bowed, and our Scoutmaster Einar Larson ripped the insignia off our shirts.

GK: Insignia that our moms had sewed on and sewed on really well. So it took him awhile. (TR DISGUST, RIPPING WITH DIFFICULTY)

BE: In contrition for what we had done, we joined a Trappist monastery in Iowa and took a vow of silence.

GK: We worked in the furniture shop (SAWING) making chairs and tables.

BE: We were happy. We felt spiritually fulfilled.

GK: We would have spent our lives there in God's service.

BE: We loved silence.

GK: But there was a pipe leak in the ceiling (DRIPS).

BE: We lay there in the dark and listened to it drip and the drips spelled out a story about naked women on horseback----

GK: It was a terrible distraction.

BE: We left the monastery.

GK: We caught a freight train from Iowa to the west coast. (WHISTLE)

BE: We hadn't spoken a word in five years.

GK: When we last heard ourselves speak, we had voices like this.

FN (THIN HIGH VOICE): My name is Bob Edwards and I am a member of Scout Troop 321 of Washington, D.C.

GK: We were on the freight train (WHISTLE, CLACKETY CLACK) in Montana when Bob looked at me and said-----

BE: I feel that something has changed. Is it me?

GK: His voice had changed. So had mine. Those five years of clean living, celibacy, poverty, dedication, had given us radio voices------

BE: So that's what we did.

GK: We were in radio back when an announcer had to do everything-----

BE: There was no specialization back then.

GK: You had to do everything.

BE: It wasn't like today when somebody spends three or four years doing one thing. We did everything back then.

GK: I just said that. We worked for a little radio station----

BE: You had to be a jack of all trades.

GK: Right.

BE: Nowadays people are looking for a niche. Back then there wasn't a niche. We were generalists. All of us.

GK: You want to tell the story or you want me to?

BE: Hey. Go ahead.

GK: We're two of the few announcers in public radio who ever did the morning livestock report------

(PIGS IN BACKGROUND)

BE: Bob Edwards here at the stockyards with the noontime markets ----- no. 2,3,4 canners and cutters 12.25-12.75. No. 1 and 2 350-275 pound barrows and gilts, 13.65-14.15. No. 1,2 and 3 450-575 pound boars 11.75-12.00.

GK: Not many people in public radio today ever did play-by-play. Bob and I used to work together in the Quad Cities, doing play-by-play for the Bettendorf Bees.

BE: The Bettendorf Bees were in the Iowa Valley League along with the Dubuque Dukes, the Moline Wolverines, the Rock Island Stoners, the Decorah Decorators, the Mason City Masons, and the Quincy Adams.

GK: You have a good memory. ----- We did the Bettendorf Bees games from a tiny press box which we hated because it smelled bad and because cruel children loved to come and bang on the roof during broadcasts----

BE: So we found that we could do a better job of play-by-play if we were in the studio, with our studio engineer doing sound effects, and just working from a box score.

GK: We invented the simulated play-by-play…….(CROWD AMBIENCE)

BE (SPORTSCASTER, ON AIR): And Dober is at the plate…..a count of three and two, two down here as the Bees try to come back from a three-run deficit ---- the bases loaded ---- Dober represents the winning run at the plate---- and now the Moline pitcher looks in for the sign, he goes into the stretch ----- he throws and (CRACK OF BAT, ROAR OF CROWD) it's another foul ball coming up high into the stands. (GLASS BREAKAGE) And it hits the thermos bottle of an elderly fan and he reaches under his seat and takes out a rocket and---- sets it off. (WHOOSH OF ROCKET)

GK: Not too often you see that.

BE: That's for sure. And now the Moline pitcher is ready ----- he goes into his stretch again and he throws and ----- (CRACK OF BAT, ROAR OF CROWD) he hits another high foul ball coming way back and (BWANGGGG) it hits the same fan on the head.

GK: Boy.

BE: What are the odds of that happening, I wonder.

GK: Same fan.

BE: And he's irate and he----- he's got a howitzer and he's firing ---- (HOWITZER) ---- he's lobbing shells into the outfield------- and here come the ushers now.

GK: I believe they're probably going to confiscate that howitzer.

BE: I think you're right.

GK: Was that a howitzer or was that a mortar?

BE: It was a howitzer.

GK: Okay.

BE: The Bettendorf Bees down by three runs, top of the ninth, Dober at the plate with a 3-2 count, and now the Moline pitcher is back on the mound. He looks in for the sign, he goes into the stretch------

GK: The Moline pitcher's name is Collins.

BE: Collins goes into the stretch.

GK: Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

BE: He's in the stretch. Checking the baserunners.

GK: I thought maybe you'd forgotten.

BE: Glancing toward second.

GK: Didn't mean to throw off your rhythm. Thought the fans might like to know.

BE: Still in his stretch, and now-----here's the pitch…..(CRACK OF BAT, CROWD ROAR) ----- and it's a high high pop-up directly over home plate ----- the catcher is calling for it----- the runners are coming around the bases ----- the catcher is screening his eyes with his glove ----- it's an enormous pop fly ----- you ever seen a pop fly this high, Garrison?

GK: No, Bob, I haven't. Not that I recall.

BE (SPORTSCASTER): This is a towering pop fly. I can't even see it-----

GK: I seem to recall Harry Kronick hitting a few high popups in his day----

BE: Who was he? (POP TOP BEER)

GK: Here. Have a beer.

BE: Who was Harry Kronick?

GK: He was with Decorah for awhile.

BE: Must've been before my time.

GK: I don't think so.

BE: I don't remember him.

GK: Tall, lanky ---- dark-haired ---- first baseman----

BE: That covers a lot of ground.

GK: You used to date his sister.

BE: The tall dark-haired girl with the-----

GK: Yeah. That's her.

BE: The one whose------

GK: Yeah. The night after the Des Moines game. When you and her went to the----- you know----

BE: You and she-------

GK: No, I never dated her. You dated her. Until all that business happened and then her brother came looking for you, back when he was with Decorah and he came over with the baseball bat and you were in the back of the trailer under the bed trying to hide her underwear----- we were living in the trailer park then ------

BE: So that was Harry Kronick------

GK: Right. The one who said he'd come and bust your kneecaps the next time anything like that happened.

BE: Wow. ----- Back to live action now, and the Moline pitcher is under that pop fly and he catches it (CROWD ROAR) and the game is over. Final score once again: 4-1. Moline over Bettendorf.

GK: Good game, Bob, and I guess the Bettendorf fans will just to have to wait until Friday night to see if their Bees can break this sixteen-game losing streak when they go up against the Decorah Decorators.

BE: Until then, this is Bob (Press Box) Edwards and my trusty sidekick, Garrison Keillor, returning you to the studios. (ORGAN)

GK: Where we were all along, of course. People enjoyed those games. And doing simulated play-by-play teaches you narrative skills that so many younger people in broadcasting never learn, Bob.

BE: So true.

GK: Bob then went on to star in a horror series called "The Voice In The Dark" -----

BE: Oh please.

GK: Let's play that old audio clip for the folks. (ORGAN, SOUR NOTES AS IT COMES UP TO SPEED)

BE (ON RADIO): It's midnight in Parker Corners. (OWL) The shops on Main Street are dark. The town is sleeping. Or are they? (DISTANT HOWL) Are people lying awake in their beds waiting for me-------THE VOICE IN THE DARK (PAUSE.....SCREAM OF HORROR).....brought to you by Happy Soybeans, America's favorite health food!.....(PIANO GIVES GK NOTE)

GK: Toasted soybeans are nutritious
Help you live the healthy way.
Take a tip from me, treat your family
To soybeans every day.

BE (ON RADIO): And now.....today's drama....THE VOICE IN THE DARK (PAUSE, SCREAM OF HORROR)....(MUSIC)

GK: Mostly Bob just breathed on that show. Breathed through his mouth. (BE BREATHING) It held a strange fascination for people.

BE: You know something? I never dated Harry Kronick's sister. You dated her?

GK: I did?

BE: Tall, dark-haired girl with the------

GK: You're right. I did.

BE: And that's why we had to leave Bettendorf.

GK: It's coming back to me now. I took her out on a beautiful summer night(CRICKETS) and she was so beautiful(SS: Hi)----- I had a convertible back then (CAR DOOR CLOSE. SS: The seats are so comfortable. CAR PULLS AWAY) and we headed for the drive-in movie ----- and then I thought, No, why spend all that money on a drive-in, we could just sit and listen to the radio -----Hey, what do you say we head down this dark road over here--- (SWERVE, TIRES SQUEAL) (SS: Where are we going?) ---- let's be alone up here under the trees and listen to the radio ----- (BRAKES, CAR STOPS. CRICKETS. OWL) There. Isn't that nice?

SS: It's so dark.

GK: You're not afraid of the dark, are you?

SS: I don't know.

GK: Don't be. You have me here.

(PAUSE)

SS: That's what I'm afraid of.

GK: I'm sorry. You want to listen to some music?

SS: Okay. (CLICK. SEXY SAXOPHONE) ------

(TURNING RADIO DIAL)

SS: Why did you change it?

GK: Just looking for something better----- (DIAL STOPS. ORGAN)

BE (ON RADIO, SLOWLY): So many people are afraid of darkness.

SS: What's this?

BE (ON RADIO, OMINOUSLY): And for good reason. When we're afraid of the dark, it usually means we're afraid of who we are and who we might be if we thought nobody was looking.

SS: This is weird. Turn it off.

GK: It's just somebody on the radio.

BE (ON RADIO): No, it's not.

SS: Let's get out of here.

GK: It's only a radio show.

BE (ON RADIO): Do you have a feeling that someone is breathing on the back of your neck? Do you? Or maybe it's a bug. A large bug with red eyes and yellowish wings. Looking for a place to lay its eggs. In your hair. And seventeen years from now, suddenly----- (CICADA MASS, SS SCREAM)

GK: And that was when you reached up from the backseat and grabbed her.

BE: I never thought she'd jump like that.

GK: She was pretty hysterical.

BE: She pretty much ruined her dress.


GK: I had no idea you were back there.

BE: Sorry.

GK: It was a cruel thing to do to a perfectly nice girl.

BE: I did it for you. I did it to save you from a life doing play-by-play in the Iowa Valley League.

GK: Well, we could stand here reminiscing all night about our early days in radio, but I think we ought to sing our old theme song:

BOTH:

Toasted soybeans are delicious
It's a meal that can't be beat.
Got lots of natural fiber
And they're lots of fun to eat.
A big dish is so nutritious
So remember when we say:
Take a tip from Bob and do the job
Have a bowl of beans today.


Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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