Uncle Scooter Reads the Funnies: 1940-41
by Paula Bosse
Several years ago, I was flipping through a promotional booklet for radio stations WFAA, WBAP, and KGKO, and I came across the photo above. I think about this photo a lot. It shows radio personality “Uncle Scooter” lying on the floor next to a KGKO microphone, reading the comics over the air to a vast audience of children and pointing out something pertinent to his trusty companion, a fox terrier named Little Man. I love this photograph. It makes me smile every time I see it. Wouldn’t it be great if this was how he actually conducted his broadcasts — on the floor with his doggie next to him? Here’s the caption:
Clarence E. Tonahill (1904-1954) — known to everyone as “Scooter” — appears to have begun his radio career in Waco at the appropriately named station WACO. He then worked at KGKB in Tyler, then returned for a few years to WACO, and then to KTSA in San Antonio. Like most people in broadcasting in those days, he did a little bit of everything: he was an announcer, a newsreader, a sportscaster, and an entertainer. One of his most popular shows was just him reading the Sunday comics over the air for children. Below, a WACO ad from 1937 showing Uncle Scooter, again, lying on the studio floor (no dog, though).
Waco Tribune-Herald, Jan. 3, 1937
Around September 1939, he moved to Fort Worth to begin a busy stint at KGKO, a DFW station co-owned by The Dallas Morning News and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (this was part of the very unusual WFAA-WBAP radio broadcasting partnership). He started as an “announcer” (which might well have included cleaning up the studio!), but he quickly graduated to doing a lot of sports-announcing and color commentary (football and boxing), man-on-the-street interviews, and personal appearances. He also hosted several shows, including a weekday morning show called “Sunrise Frolic.” But Sundays… Sunday mornings were set aside for his funnies-reading.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 1940
FWST, Sept. 1940
FWST, March 1941
The Sunday lineup on KGKO, before and after the funnies:
I see listings for the show in 1940 and 1941 — and then, briefly, in 1947. His obituary says that Tonahill retired from his career as a broadcasting personality in 1946 and opened his own business in Fort Worth, Scooter’s Radio Supply (a supplier of broadcasting equipment to stations around the country).
He must have been a bright, friendly voice on the radio. I’d love to know the role Little Man played (Little Man was Scooter’s real-life pet and was described in a magazine profile as Scooter’s “favorite hobby”). I have fond (if somewhat vague) memories from my childhood of Bill Kelley reading the comics on The Children’s Hour on Channel 5 — but I can say without hesitation that things on The Children’s Hour would have been a whole lot more interesting if he’d just had a cute little dog with him!
Sources & Notes
Top photo from “WFAA, WBAP, KGKO Combined Family Album” (Dallas-Fort Worth, 1941).
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