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In the early years of their marriage, my grandparents, Bill and Alyne Freeman, lived with Alyne’s parents at 899 Faxon Avenue.

In early 1929, my grandmother was delighted to find out that she was expecting a baby. This baby would become my mother, Shirley. In her excitement, Alyne couldn’t wait to tell the good news to her best friend who lived across the street on Faxon. Her friend’s name was Frances Fox. Although Frances was still in her teens, she had already left a bad marriage and moved to Memphis to live with her mother, bringing her young son with her. Frances supported herself and her son by working as a secretary for Clarence Saunders’ company; and also by singing on WMC and WREC radio stations, and performing at various venues around town. She was extremely talented; and eventually, Frances left Memphis for Chicago, and ultimately went on to pursue a career in Hollywood. In Hollywood, she appeared in various films; married a cowboy singing star; had her own hit television show in the 1950'; and became better known as Dale Evans, or Mrs. Roy Rogers.

 

WPO's "invisible audience" has only to put on a head set and tune in to catch the radio program, but WPO's "visible audience" climbs a pole!

No greater compliment can WPO ever be paid than to have every night four boys climb a telephone pole outside the station, seat themselves in the manner shown in the picture on the roof outside the windows, and "listen in!"

Their receiving is never marred by "static," nor are their minds ever puzzled as to what the performer looks like, for, through the open windows, the "visible audience" sees and hears everything.

It hears the groans of the operator when the "set" acts as though it weren't going to function; it sees the announcer grow wild-eyed as time flits by and the artist who was scheduled to appear at 7:30 o'clock doesn't show up until 7:45; it hears the comments of the artists themselves who make the whole thing human by such remarks as "I'm so nervous!" "How close do I stand to the horn?" "For goodness' sake, where's my music?" "I just know I'll never be able to sing that next song!" "Can they hear what you say?" "I'd rather face an auditorium full of people than that horn;" it knows what is going on when the announcer says: "Stand by please;" but the "visible audience" has never been known to give WPO away.

The "visible audience" is well-behaved. It doesn't make any noise. Only once in a while, a few whispers grow too loud, and the announcer has to shake her head. After the program is over, it climbs down the pole again.

Every night, sometimes even when it rains, the "visible audience" sits outside the windows, silent in its praise, but complimentary in that silence.

Perhaps it doesn't realize that knowing that four pairs of expectant ears will be listening in outside the window, WPO goes more cheerfully about the task of broadcasting the program, but anyway that's the truth.

Here's to you, little "visible audience!"


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Tom Prestigiacomo on SUNNY 103 @prestotom