Monday, April 7, 2008

Comms 301 Oral History Interview

Communications 301 Oral History Project

Interview with Conley Thatcher

Date of Interview: April 3, 2008

*The interview was conducted by phone. The interviewer was in Provo, Utah and the interviewee was in Placentia, California.

Interviewer: Kaitlyn Thatcher

Transcriber: Kaitlyn Thatcher

Begin MP3 file titled Dad’s Interview Part One

*Transcribing ends on that file at 26:31

Kaitlyn: What is your earliest memory of using the mass media…like newspapers, radio, or television?

Conley: My earliest…mass media…newspapers and radio.

Kaitlyn: What do you remember about them?

Conley: We got the daily newspaper everyday and my parents read it and all the kids even before we learned how to read, we looked at what we called the funny papers, which was the comic strips in the newspaper.

Kaitlyn: What was your favorite comic?

Conley: Oh quite a few of them I guess…Orphan Annie and the Cat’s Pajama Kids then when WWII came on it was Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates.

Kaitlyn: What newspaper did your family subscribe to?

Conley: It was the Salt Lake Tribune…we had two of them…and the Deseret News.

Kaitlyn: Did your parents talk about things that were happening?

Conley: There was no television so at the dinner table the talk was about what was in the news…the headlines.

Kaitlyn: So do you think you were pretty aware of world events and national events?

Conley: Yep…yep. It was talked about all the time in my family. And we used to listen to the radio, they had news on the radio. I can’t remember how far back…Lowell Thomas was one of the newscasters we would listen to all the time.

Kaitlyn: Did you have any radio shows you would listen to besides the news?

Conley: Oh yeah after school all the kids shows…Captain Midnight and Tom Mix and Little Orphan Annie…that’s some that I remember.

Kaitlyn: Didn’t you tell me that you used to listen to opera on the radio?

Conley: When I was in high school I listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast every Saturday morning during the opera season…I was listening to the opera while I was doing chores.

Kaitlyn: What was your first memory of radio…do you remember when your family first got a radio?

Conley: Going way back I remember listening to President Roosevelt and his fireside chats.

Kaitlyn: What was that like…was it a really weird thing to hear the President on the radio?

Conley: Oh yeah…I mean it was something very special in those days even though we were not Democrats. And there were special radio programs that everybody listened to. I think on Monday night it was the Lux Radio Theater and um…I can’t remember there were some other special ones that families listened to. Oh um, Jack Bennie and Faber Magee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve, all these comedies. And there were some more…and I said we didn’t have television but everybody listened to the radio at night during the primetime hours.

Kaitlyn: Would the whole family get together and watch…like you and your sisters?

Conley: Yeah on Sunday night everybody would get together and listen to the Luxe Radio Theater…and what that was, they had radio broadcasts of the hit movies in the radio form.

Kaitlyn: Do you remember hearing War of the Worlds on the radio?

Conley: No I don’t but I remember the effect of it that it had…but I don’t remember us listening to it.

Kaitlyn: What kind of effect did it have?

Conley: Oh it was kind of a sensational thing that people actually for a long time thought that there was a real invasion until it finally got through that it was just a radio drama. That program was on…I think it was called the Mercury Theater and I don’t think we listened to that all the time. We didn’t have too many radio stations.

Kaitlyn: Was it just 3 or 4 radio stations?

Conley: In Sugar City and Rexburg there was only 2. There was KSL from Salt Lake and a local station in Rexburg I think.

Kaitlyn: And you said you got the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, was that when you were living in Idaho?

Conley: Yes. One of them was a morning paper and the other was the afternoon.

Kaitlyn: So they didn’t have any newspapers in Idaho?

Conley: There was an Idaho Falls paper but we didn’t take that till later. Anyway it was called the Post Register and we might have taken it but I don’t remember having much interest in it, it was the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.

Kaitlyn: Did they cover world events and national events?

Conley: Oh yeah absolutely during the depression and the war…World War II…news in there everyday.

Kaitlyn: Do you think they did a pretty good job of covering the depression?

Conley: I didn’t have anything to judge it by but people placed pretty much reliance on the newspapers in those days that you could pretty much believe what you read.

Kaitlyn: Do you remember hearing about Pearl Harbor?

Conley: Oh I mean I remember exactly where I was when it was announced on the radio.

Kaitlyn: Tell me about it.

Conley: Ok, we were over eating Sunday dinner at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, my Uncle Harris and Aunt Mable in Teton, Idaho, and it came over the radio and everybody was stunned.

Kaitlyn: What was the talk after you found out, like around the dinner table?

Conley: Oh well initially people were saying we’ll take care of them in a few weeks…they don’t know what they’re asking for. It didn’t dawn on people how serious Pearl Harbor was cuz when it just came over the radio we didn’t know that we had lost most of our Pacific fleet…and that kind of stuff. So initially everybody said oh it won’t last very long and then a few days later it all sunk it that it was going to be a long hard time and you know then of course all the kids my age…cuz I was twelve…we all wished we were old enough to go fight.

Kaitlyn: After it happened were ya’ll kind of glued to the radio trying to find out…

Conley: Oh yup, yup. Everybody was…I can still remember everybody sitting around listening to that and how shocked everybody was.

Kaitlyn: Did they keep updating as new information came in?

Conley: Oh from then on for the whole war the news of the war was the main item of interest in the papers and what was on the radio and then all the movies…I mean everybody would go to the movies on Friday night and they always had news reels and that’s where you got the actual video of the war news.

Kaitlyn: Lets go back a little bit to the depression…you said they covered the depression a lot in the newspapers…I remember you telling me a long time ago that the depression didn’t really hit Idaho as hard…like you guys didn’t get affected quite as much as some people…what was that like in the news coverage of the depression?

Conley: Well our family…our town was affected because there were people who were out of work but my dad…we had a farm and my dad was a school teacher so he had a job and um because we had a farm and a big yard we raised a lot of our own food. So it didn’t really affect that much, and in those days people didn’t have the standard of living we do today, so people never had a closet full of clothes and that kind of stuff, so if you had a pair of shoes and two pairs of pants and three shirts you had all you needed. So you know the main news was how the places were hit hard like back in the east and towns where people worked in factories…automobile factories and stuff like that. But there were some people in our town that were out of work. The government had the WPA,which is the Works Progress Administration…that was intended to give people jobs that didn’t have jobs so they hired people that were out of work and they put in a new water system in our town…the WPA…so they dug all the trenches in all the streets in town and put in the new water pipes…so that was the WPA project.

Kaitlyn: …do you remember that coverage of when Hitler was staring to get big?

Conley: Oh absolutely…the war in Europe…Hitler and the rise of the war in Europe was in the newspaper and on the radio everyday and my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles that was all they talked about. When you got together as a family there was no watching television, they would sit around and talk about politics and world events or major league baseball.

Kaitlyn: What teams were you talking about in Idaho?

Conley: In Sugar City most people were fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Kaitlyn: So it was pretty necessary then to keep up on the news or you wouldn’t really have anything to talk about?

Conley: Yup, yup. I think people were in general were a lot more aware of world and local events than they are today.

Kaitlyn: Do you think that’s kind of sad, seeing as we have a lot more access to news now?

Conley: Yup, yup it is.

Kaitlyn: Do you think that the state of the media has gone down a lot, like the quality and the trustworthiness I guess?

Conley: In my opinion it has in my adult life. The newspapers…uh…well…I think some stuff. World news and stuff like that I think the coverage has become more selective and biased. The quality of the papers in sports and entertainment and stuff like that, I think that is still good. But newspapers were always somewhat biased cuz up in Idaho and Utah the Salt Lake Tribune was sort of biased against the Mormons and the Deseret News of course was pro-Mormon.

Kaitlyn: Was it owned by the church back then?

Conley: Oh yeah the Deseret News has always been but the Salt Lake Tribune was not owned by Mormons. Going back in church history before my time it was anti-Mormon…solidly anti-Mormon, it was always fomenting anti-Mormon feelings.

Kaitlyn: Was it not like that anymore when you were older when your family was reading it?

Conley: Not as much but on any issues that somebody would take sides…they always took sides against the church.

Kaitlyn: I had one more question about radio for you…do you remember what kind of radio you had, like what it looked like?

Conley: Yeah most people had a big console radio in their living room…I think ours was a…oh I can’t remember for sure…it might have been a Filco or a Zeneth…it was a fancy cabinet with some fairly big speakers. And then when I was in high school I had a small shelf type radio in my room. When I was doing homework at night I used listen to this radio station, KNX, from Los Angeles.

Kaitlyn: You could get that in Idaho?

Conley: You could get KNX at night up in Idaho. It was a CBS station.

Kaitlyn: What year would that have been when you were in high school?

Conley: That was 1943 through 1947.

Kaitlyn: Was Edward Murrow on the radio then?

Conley: Oh yeah he was on the radio all during the war.

Kaitlyn: So do you remember listening to him?

Conley: Oh yeah he was very famous…Edward R. Murrow and Lowell Thomas and there was probably some others…Cameron Swayze.

Kaitlyn: Getting more into television…do you remember watching those really famous anchors?

Conley: Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley…yeah… I used to watch them and admire them and so on until I finally figured out how liberal they were. And Walter Cronkite was concentrated a lot on the early days of the Space Program so we watched him and he was very good at that but later on my opinion on him changed that he was mainly a talker and there wasn’t as much there as he tried to put on…and I quit listening to Chet Huntly and David Brinkley long before they went off the air cuz I figured they were just totally biased.

Kaitlyn: Do you remember when you first got a TV?

Conley: Well, um after the war I went to college for two years and then went on a mission and there was no TV in Canada then and TV was coming in so I never saw a television set until I got home from my mission in 1951. And then I went off to the Air Force for four years and people that I knew at church had TV’s and we had a television in our day room on the Air Force base but I didn’t like any of the programs. So I never seriously sat down to watch television until 1955 when I got out of the Air Force…and we bought a television set in our house that we rented for my roommates and I. So that’s when I first started watching. So a lot of the early TV programs that people from the early days of TV remember, like Sid Caesar and Ed Sullivan and the puppets, Fran and Ollie…I never saw any of those programs. So when I finally got a TV and was able to watch it all the time it was the Westerns and the Sunday night programs, What’s My Line and Wonderful World of Disney and then of course the news in those days everybody of course watched the major network news and Ed Sullivan and the variety program and what was the other guy…oh man I can’t remember…that had the variety program on in competition with Ed Sullivan…

Kaitlyn: American Bandstand?

Conley: No, I never watched American Bandstand.

Kaitlyn: You didn’t?! You don’t remember seeing the Beatles or was that Ed Sullivan?

Conley: That’s the 60’s…that’s when your older sisters and brother were growing up…yeah the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan all the time…I couldn’t stand the Beatles.

Kaitlyn: Do you remember when you guys had your TV in college, would you all gather around on Sunday nights?

Conley: Yeah we watched Gunsmoke, and Maverick, and Trackdown, and Wanted Dead or Alive…there was all kinds of westerns on. Just like the cop shows today they had all the westerns. And there were the situation comedies but I didn’t watch any of those so I can’t comment too much about that…I Love Lucy and the Honeymooners.

Kaitlyn: Did you watch I Love Lucy?

Conley: Oh a little bit…I didn’t like it much. But the comedy shows that were on in the early days…we liked Bob Hope and Jack Benny and Faber McGee and Molly were on. Let’s see what were some of the…Jackie Cooper had a sitcom on…and that’s the ones that stand out in my mind, I’m sure there were some others. Then in the 60’s the one that, the family one that everybody liked was Andy Griffith Show.

3 comments:

Rachel J.T.L. said...

Thanks so much for sharing this..

Kaitlyn Thatcher said...

Thanks Rach! That's not even the whole interview. I could probably sent it to you if you want to hear the recording of it.

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