by John A
``HELLO AMERICANS! THIS IS PAUL HARVEY! SSTTAANNDD BYYY FOR NEEEEEWS!!!!"
These are the words made famous by the great radio commentator, Paul Harvey, each Monday through Friday from his radio studio at WBBM in Chicago via an ABC News Feed. I was new to the radio business beginning in 1973 and never paid much attention to Harvey before then. It was when I sat down in the control and engineering rooms of KHEY radio in El Paso, TX where I began listening to a man who seemed to make a whole lot of sense to me. Paul Harvey had a wonderful radio voice that I can still hear today in my memories. His voice had a commanding presence that one naturally would listen too. His stories were pictures painted with words that only the mind can see. It was Paul Harvey’s story telling and other important people in my life that got me interested in radio and eventually ham radio; a hobby that has been a life saver in my retirement years.
I can still remember numerous conversations I had with my friend Charlie at the radio station discussing many of the things Paul Harvey mentioned on the radio. Those discussions caused me to think differently about the world and how fortunate I was to live in such a great nation that Harvey made better by pointing out the good things about American life; a notion I didn’t quite fully understand in my early and stupid 20’s when I thought along the same lines politically as a Millennial, Gen Y or Gen Z thinks today and being influenced by college professors. After all, listening and discussing things Harvey said on the radio caused me to remove my head from the rear orifice of my body and look at the world with a totally new perspective by seeing the light. Thank God for Harvey!!!
When he said, “This is Paul Harvey”, the tone and commanding presence of his voice seemed to carry us back to the days when radio was king. It was during a time when looks didn’t matter to people as they do today. It was his distinct radio persona that presented so much importance and credibility to the listener. Harvey was an old-fashion individual; both politically and socially. He told stories like our old grandpa use to tell us that made them so memorable; stories about “The Policeman”, “The Farmer”, “If I were the Devil”, “The Declaration of Independence”, ‘Our National Anthem” and many others. When Paul Harvey departed this world on February 28, 2009, he took the entire story of about radio’s history with him. There is no more of “The Rest of the Story”; it’s long gone. Now, we have a tremendous void in the world of radio and a sense of decency gone forever.
Paul Harvey was born before commercial radio stations went on the air. Yet he was able to develop a persona that spanned radio’s golden years, the post WW II rock and roll era all the way to the talk news that we hear today. He did this for nearly 75 years. And all during that time, his voice was so distinct, his diction precise and powerful. Yet he coined new words that became synonymous with his style; words like “Nee-ews” instead of “nooze” or “Reck-ord” for “reckerd”. And from time to time he would intentionally add an extra vowel to a word (i.e., “web-a-site”) to give him that extra flair and style to his presentation. It was something he could call his own that nearly 12 million weekly listeners would tune into via 1200 radio stations around the nation in addition to 400 Armed Forces Network affiliates. The big majority of listeners were of his generation, but there were some younger folks like me who tuned into this programs, as well. Once someone heard Harvey on the radio, there was almost a unanimous opinion we were listening to greatness.
Paul Harvey Aurandt was an Oklahoma boy born in 1918. His dad was shot and killed by robbers when Paul was only three years of age. As a young boy, he built himself a radio set to receive radio signals from near and afar. And while in high school, one of his teachers encouraged him to enter the radio booth at a local radio station KVOO. From there, he landed radio jobs in Salina, KS, Oklahoma City and Honolulu, HI prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He later landed a job in 1944 in the City of Chicago where his spent the rest of his career. It was there where he hosted a “Jobs for G.I. Joe” program on the radio and where he coined his signature phrase “the rest of the story” that he used until he passed away.
Whether any of us realize it or not, Paul Harvey was a heck of a good salesman and could peddle products for advertisers and gave them a tremendous sense of credibility. Many Americans felt if Paul Harvey endorsed the product, it was good enough for them. His hallmark trait was his ability to convey a truthful sales pitch. In fact NBC Saturday Night Live, when it was a fun show to watch, even had a skit about Paul Harvey pitching products in 1985. Even when he was made the brunt of joke on that program, Harvey was unapologetic about pitching products since he felt commercials at times were the best news of the day. He may have had a very good point there. After all, when he said you could keep your teeth for your entire life, you car battery kept its promise of delivering reliable service, a glove that didn’t wear our or a hand cream made your skin feel soft, that is definitely good news to the listener. And he would actually use those products in his own life. Paul Harvey walked the talk. He was a peddler extraordinaire.
It wasn’t until his last few years while on the air that we began to notice his distinctive voice begin to crack a little, yet it still had a rhythmic and whimsical tone to it. He never let the small change in his voice impact his profession. To the last day he was on the air, he always provided us a mix of different headlines where he railed from time to time about things that got under his skin and provided pleasant and lighter side anecdotes with tongue in cheek humor. And he often times mentioned couples who spent generations along the way of living forever together; a heart warming tribute to the institution of marriage between a man and woman.
Harvey caused several minor industries to develop around the nation because of his radio presence that exuded authority on various topics. His book “The Rest of the Story” had 18 printings in just four years. There are nearly 65,000 individual links on the Internet to the Paul Harvey Riddle: "What is greater than God, more evil than the devil? The poor have it, the rich don't need it. And if you eat it, you'll die."
Even though there isn’t any apparent evidence Harvey actually read the riddle on the air, it is still something that made millions of folks research it to find out the answer to the riddle is “nothing”.
Some people felt Harvey was a fretful conservative since he supported Joe McCarthy’s search for communists in the State Department; which I don’t think he was wrong in today’s world with the perception of our government. There were times he just got riled up and fed up on many issues of the day where he changed opinions on the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon. Then in 2005, he felt the U.S. should have turned Iraq and Afghanistan into glass table tops by using nuclear weapons to end the wars; yet he expressed betrayal of government policies he once supported by expressing impatience and frustration.
Harvey was also critical of Nancy Pelosi due to her rubber stamping the Obama stimulus package and expressed publicly that Congress should do its job and not “sit on the economic skillet and let the pork sizzle."
Other political pundits of the day felt it was probably time for Harvey to say his final “Good Day”. But, Harvey was not a quitter in any sense. However, towards the end of his career he reduced his workday to a few broadcasts a week. He didn’t believe in retirement because he felt it “is just practicing to be dead. That doesn’t take any practice”. He continued his show into his 90th year and was still doing his show the week he passed away.
So on the day of his passing, all the teletypes in newsrooms around the nation fell silent for a moment to honor a man who for nearly 75 years lead the parade of radio’s golden years. Now, the voices of mainstream radio no longer have the voices of reason, logic or willing to reverse themselves when they sense they are wrong. And sadly to say, there is no more “The Rest of the Story”.
Perhaps the above may be food for thought to some who might enjoy Ham Radio as a hobby. This hobby puts an individual in touch with people around the world, to have as an activity in the comfort or your home office and/or to socialize with people. We all need a purpose in life and share experiences with others. Ham Radio is just one of those vehicles to achieve this by looking into a meaningful activity and meeting new people.