Some of the voices of 1940s Buffalo radio

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Clare Allen, WEBR

Clare Allen was WEBR’s jack-of-all trades through the 40s, 50s, and 60s—as a newsman, emcee, quizmaster, and on-air outdoorsman– but also chief announcer, program director and promotional director. During the 31 years that WEBR was owned by the Courier-Express, Allen also became a prolific writer for the newspaper, chronicling changing face of Buffalo through the 50s and 60s.

WEBR Chief Engineer Frank Ridgeway and Clare Allen load up the WEBR mobile van.
Colin Male, WEBR

Colin Male spent several years in the 1940s at WEBR before heading to Hollywood. He made a handful of television and film appearances as an actor, but the Bennett High grad is best remembered as the announcer who talks over the whistling on the opening credits of the Andy Griffith Show.

Gomer Lesch was WEBR’s “Doctor of Discography” and announcer on popular shows like “Queen City Cinderella,” hosted by Clare Allen and Billy Keaton.

Gomer Lesch, WEBR

Lesch was a Riverside High School grad who left WEBR to navigate B-29s in World War II. Until his death in 2019, he often put his media skills to work for the Baptist church.

Al Zink, WEBR

Through the 30s and 40s, Al Zink was one of Buffalo’s most beloved radio hosts as the emcee of “The Children’s Hour” on WEBR for more than 20 years. Many of those kids grew up to listen to him as the local host for NBC’s “Happy Birthday” program. Here, “Uncle Al” gives $40 checks to Mrs. Edith Reardon and Mrs. Marie Walczak at the WEBR studios on North Street.

Zink was part of the WEBR staff under three different owners—founder H.H. Howell, The Buffalo Evening News from 1936-42, and the Buffalo Courier-Express, which bought the station from The News when federal regulations changed– barring an entity from owning multiple stations in a market. The Courier-Express sold WEBR in 1972.

Ad from The Buffalo Evening News Almanac, 1941
The WBEN Players ham it up in studio for a 1942 performance.
WBEN’s new Grand Island transmitter, 1943.

Before coming to WBEN in 1936, Ed Reimers worked at WHO in Des Moines, where he often shared the same mic with sportscaster—and later President—Ronald Reagan.

WBEN staff announcer Ed Reimers

Reimers was WBEN’s top announcer before joining ABC’s announcing staff in 1948. Soon he was in Hollywood, working steadily in television’s infancy.

Reimers, holding the script, is joined by WBEN personalities Dr. Frederick Hodge (seated), Esther Huff (center), and George Torge & John Eisenberger (far right) at a broadcast from Kleinhans Music Hall.

He filled in as an announcer on NBC’s Tonight Show—a gig arraigned by fellow WBEN alum Jack Paar, and was the regular announcer on Westerns Cheyenne and Maverick. His best remembered TV acting gig was on the original Star Trek series, where he played Admiral Fitzpatrick in the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode.

But it was with hands cupped he entered American pop culture consciousness. Reimers was the television spokesman and steady voice who reminded viewers, “You’re in good hands with Allstate” from 1958-77.

Ed Reimers for All State
Announcer Aaron Levine was often heard on WGR and WKBW giving local station breaks during network programs and reading newscasts.
Ollie Carnegie and Ralph Hubbell

One of Buffalo’s all-time sports reporters chats with one of Buffalo’s all-time athletes. WGR’s Ralph Hubbell talks with Bisons slugger Ollie Carnegie. Carnegie still holds the record for most games as a Bison and his International League all-time homerun record stood for 69 years. Both men are in Buffalo’s Sports Hall of Fame.

While the show has been best remembered as introducing Helen Neville to Buffalo, Laura Rischman was the original hostess of WKBW’s “Modern Kitchen” show starting in 1938. Here, her smiling gaze is backed by the sour disposition of Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation’s Night Manager Malcolm Barney. The show offering “practical help with dollar and sense values in nutrition and home management” was taken over by Neville when she arrived on the Buffalo radio scene from WBTA, Batavia in 1943.
Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation Page Matt Harris gives a tour of the BBC studios, showing how an announcer turns his mic on and off.

Charlie Bailey was one of Buffalo’s leading sports journalists for 40 years.

Charley Bailey

A long-time Courier-Express sports columnist and WEBR personality after the paper bought the radio station, Charley Bailey’s early radio career at WGR-WKBW was a varied one.

He stepped into WGR as an assistant to Roger Baker in 1933, before joining the staff of the Courier-Express as a writer and columnist in 1942. He spent time behind the sports play-by-play microphone which would be his realm through the 1960s, but he also “donned a high hat and white tie for a survey of Buffalo’s night life on “Man About Town.”

Charley Bailey, man about town

Starting in 1946, Bailey was back on the airwaves at WEBR, and he would serve that station as sports reporter, play-by-play man, and Sports Director until the 1970s. An old school reporter, Bailey was tough but always smiling, and always seemed ready to turn the perfect phrase.

Bob Schmidt, later known as Buffalo Bob Smith

“Bob Schmidt, so versatile that it is difficult for us editors,” read the caption on this photo in a pre-war publication for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation.

“Smiling Bob Smith” was how Masten High School grad Robert Schmidt was known through most of his years on WGR from 1936-1944.

He also spent a couple of years at WBEN before moving onto New York City to host the morning radio show on WEAF (later WNBC), and become one of the great stars of the early days of television as Howdy Doody’s sidekick, “Buffalo Bob Smith.”


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.