Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: WRR

Getting Married on the Radio — 1922

radio-wedding_corbis_062922Inez & John, exchanging vows on Dallas radio, 1922 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

An early radio stunt happened in Dallas on the night of June 29, 1922 when a couple exchanged wedding vows over the air, with the bride, the groom, and the minister each broadcasting from the studios of different Dallas radio stations: WDAO, WRR, and WFAA. These were the very early days of radio, and when the wedding was broadcast, WDAO had been on the air for a little over a month, and WFAA for less than a week! (WRR, Dallas’ first radio station had been on the air for about a year, but most of that time it had been operating as a one-way radio dispatcher for the city’s fire and police departments). In June of 1922, these were the only three Dallas-based radio stations, and they all worked together in this “historic” broadcast. (This early media stunt was a full 47 years before Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki got hitched on the Tonight Show.)

DALLAS COUPLE TO WED BY RADIO THURSDAY NIGHT

DALLAS — The first wireless marriage ceremony ever performed in which neither the bride, the groom, nor the officiating minister will be at the same place is to be solemnized here Thursday night when Miss Inez Mabel Brady, Dallas society girl, becomes the bride of John H. Stone, operator at WRR, the municipal broadcasting station.

It is estimated that more than 25,000 radio fans will “witness” the tying of the radio nuptial knot.

Three Dallas broadcasting stations will be used in the ceremony. Rev. Thomas Harper, pastor of the Central Congregational Church, who has been asked to officiate, will repeat the marriage ritual into the transmitter of [WFAA,] the broadcasting station on the roof of [the Dallas Morning News] building. The bride and her attendants will be at the Automotive Electric Company’s radio station [WDAO, on South Ervay], while the groom will make his responses from WRR, the station of which he is in charge.

Operating staffs of the three stations are working out the details of the ceremony, which will include a broadcasted wedding march.

(– Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 28, 1922)

Obviously new to the hustle of radio promotion, The Dallas Morning News (owner of WFAA) mentioned the event only a couple of times — fleetingly. They did note that “This probably will be audible to one of the largest audiences ever ‘hearing’ a wedding ceremony” (DMN, June 28, 1922). It’s not known just how many people tuned in to listen to the ceremony (probably a considerable number), but the story made news around the country, as can be seen in this article from The Durham Morning Herald in Durham, North Carolina:

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radio-wedding_durham_071322-bDurham (NC) Morning Herald, July 13, 1922 (click for larger image)

The broadcast had only a tiny hiccup:

radio-wedding_winfield-daily-press_kansas_063022Winfield (Kansas) Daily Press, June 30, 1922

As successful as the radio wedding was, the marriage between Inez Brady and John H. Stone does not appear to have lasted very long. At the time of the wedding, Inez was just out of school and was only 16 or 17 years old (the descriptions of her as a “society girl” and “debutante” were, I think, a bit of an exaggeration). According to the news stories surrounding the wedding, she “fell in love” with Mr. Stone’s voice on the radio. None of that bodes well for a lasting marriage. The 1923 city directory had the newlyweds renting rooms on McMillan, off Lower Greenville, but the 1924 directory had John in Oak Cliff and Inez in Old East Dallas. She re-married in 1928 at the creaky old age of 22, and he seems to have left WRR to work in some capacity for RCA. The marriage might not have lasted, but they both had a “brush-with-celebrity” story to tell (and re-tell) for the rest of their lives.

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Top photo from CorbisImages, ©Bettmann/CORBIS.

I’m not sure which ended first — Mr. and Mrs. Stone’s wedded bliss or the radio station WDAO, which ceased operation sometime in 1923. A good look at the history of early local radio can be found at DFW Radio Archives, here. (WRR and WFAA continue to march forward, just a few years shy of their 100th anniversaries!)

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Early Dallas Radio & “Verified Reception Stamps”

ekko_wrr

by Paula Bosse

Chances are you’ve never heard of “Verified Reception Stamps” which were issued in the 1920s by a company in Chicago called EKKO. I certainly hadn’t. The stamps (referred to by collectors as “Cinderellas”) were enthusiastically and obsessively collected in the mid-’20s — people were really into it. Basically, it seems to have been a clever form of advertising which banked on both the public’s fascination with early radio and the then-very popular hobby of stamp collecting.

How did it work? Briefly (see below for links to much more involved articles about this), the EKKO company printed these stamps for subscriber radio stations around the country (and later for stations in Canada, Mexico, and Cuba). Once the radio stations received them, they issued them to listeners who wrote in to affirm that they had, in fact, picked up their station on the wireless. The listener had to prove it by stating the time he or she had tuned in and then give a short synopsis of the program they had heard. Oh, and they had to enclose a dime. (The dime was probably the most important part of this whole fad — at least for the broadcasters.) In return, the station would check their logs and “verify” that the dime-sender probably DID hear the station, and one of these little stamps would be sent out post haste. The EKKO company also conveniently printed up albums for collectors to paste the stamps into. I’m not sure how one was expected to fill up the book (with pages devoted to each state), since there’s no way you’d be able to pick up the signals of all those stations, but I guess that’s what gets collectors’ blood racing. It’s the thrill of the chase. The verified reception stamp-collecting fad died out as the Depression set in, and it became hard to justify spending one’s precious hard-earned dimes on a frivolous hobby.

Verified reception stamps were issued by the five main stations in the Dallas area in the 1920s. WRR, at the top, was the first radio station in Dallas and one of the earliest stations in the country. It began broadcasting as a sort of early police radio in 1920 and received its official broadcasting license in 1922. It remains an oddity in the radio world as it is a commercial radio station that is owned and operated by the City of Dallas.

ekko_wfaa

WFAA signed on in 1922 and was part of the nascent Dallas Morning News media empire.

ekko_wbap

WBAP, a Fort Worth station, also signed on in 1922. Someone thought it might be cute if “WBAP” stood for “We’ll Be At the Party.” More serious-minded station people went with “We Bring a Program” which, really, isn’t much better.

ekko-kfjz

KFJZ (another Fort Worth station) came along in 1923. Its founder sold the station five years later for a good chunk of change and then went to work for WBAP.

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KRLD began broadcasting in 1926 and was acquired by The Dallas Times Herald a year later.

ekko-texas-stations

A sample page the “Texas” portion of the official EKKO stamp album.

ekko_wrr-globe

The EKKO company had some competition in the PM Bryant Co. Bryant stamps required no “verification” — you just sent them your dime and got a stamp. Their stamps had no eagle, but they DID have transmitter towers and the essential lightning bolts.

And now you know!

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All of the above stamps come from a bewilderingly jam-packed page of thousands of these stamps. It’s pretty cool, but the page takes FOREVER to load. Find it here. (There is a page with with links only — no pictures. It loads a lot faster. Find it here.)

There are several articles about EKKO stamps out there — check out one here, and one here. One on Bryant stamps is here.

An incredibly comprehensive history of Dallas radio is the DFW Radio Archives site — its main page is here. The pages dealing with the stations broadcasting in DFW in the 1920s are here and here. I highly recommend reading the very interesting account about how WRR evolved from an experimental police communication transmission tool to a full-fledged entertainment station.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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