Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bob Emery, Pt. 5

Originally published in the February, 2009, Old Radio Times.(http://www.otrr.org/pg07_times.htm)

“Big Brother” Bob Emery ... a Legend in Children's Programming
Donna Halper

The Edison Big Brother Club, as it was called, often reached out to its young listeners Bob would have a "day" for a particular town, and elementary or junior high school club members from that town were invited to watch the show as part of the studio audience. And as he had done at WGI, Bob Emery became a roving ambassador for WEEI.

He made appearances at various schools and organizations that catered to young people, such as the Boy Scouts; he would sing and play his ukulele, and talk to the kids about up-coming events on his show, while encouraging them to get involved in charitable projects in their community. Edison, which was a very promotion minded company, helped him to start a club magazine for the members. The company also helped to arrange "Big Brother Day" at various locations.

The first of these events was in early July of 1925, an outing for club members at an amusement park in Newton known as Norumbega Park. It drew so many young people and their parents that the newspapers ended up treating it as a news story rather than relegating it to the radio page-- the crowd was estimated as the largest in the history of the park, and one of the biggest children's outings in greater Boston. Big Brother's drawing power and his popularity among kids continued to grow. His musical talent and his ability to entertain kids earned him the opportunity to be the headliner at a show at the B.F. Keith theatre in the summer of 1926; soon, he was doing the Big Brother club live at various locations.

- Donna Halper is a lecturer and broadcast consultant based in Quincy, MA. Her love of radio history is evident in the way she captures the essence of her subjects.


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