Nothing Up My Sleeve
One Last…. Good Day
I always wondered how old Paul Harvey was. Now that he’s passed away this past Saturday, we all found out. He was 90.
Paul Harvey’s been a staple of radio broadcasts longer than I’ve been alive. He began broadcasting nationally in 1951, so he already had six years of experience under his belt by the time I showed up on this planet. I was vaguely aware of him during the 1960s because he was on WLS, the station everybody listened to, but started listening regularly in about 1973, and not exactly by choice.
It was 1973 when I took behind the wheel driver’s ed. Our instructor played the radio while we drove (it probably helped take his mind off the near collisions and side trips down the sidewalks of town), and since I drove during the noon hour, Paul Harvey was what we listened to. Others in my driving group complained that we weren’t listening to music, and admittedly, I was probably among them. But our instructor was adamant about leaving the radio where it was so I at least came to appreciate and later enjoy Paul Harvey’s daily offerings.
Later in life, I’d always turn in to WAIK to listen to his noontime broadcasts. When I was travelling in Illinois as a salesman, I made sure my noon time schedule was cleared so I could hear his newscast. I’d often go home and tell my wife what I’d heard on Paul Harvey News.
I knew that his broadcasts were slanted toward the conservative. I have no doubt that that’s why I have some of the conservative thoughts that now bounce around inside my brain. There were times when I agreed with him and other times when I thought he would be better off soaking his head. One thing stood out however; he was always entertaining.
The fifteen minutes a day that I spent listening to Paul Harvey was all the radio news I really needed. When I began teaching, I discovered that he was also on the air at 7:30 AM and that I could tune him in on the way to teaching the little kiddies about dangling participles and such. I made sure that I had a radio in my room so I could tune into his noon broadcasts as well.
If I was outside the Galesburg area, I’d start surfing the AM dial prior to noon in search of what sounded like an ABC station. When WGN began carrying his broadcasts, it became a lot easier to make sure I’d be listening in.
Back in the late seventies, I contacted Paul Harvey regarding a story in Galesburg that I thought he’d find interesting. I was working at the Register Mail as a district circulation manager which meant I was responsible for hiring newspaper carriers in all the towns around Galesburg. We had a set of brothers in East Galesburg who had had routes for a long time and they finally gave notice that they’d be giving up their routes. Lester and Lawrence Shepherd were in their 70s when they gave up their routes and we figured out that they’d delivered some ridiculous amount of papers in their lives (it runs in my mind that they’d delivered a quarter of a million copies of the Register Mail over the years, but that might be high – after all this has been 30 years ago).
I contacted Paul Harvey with the story and by golly, he used it on the air. His researcher called me back to get all sorts of particulars, and although I was never mentioned on the air, I was told that any time I had an interesting story, be sure to call.
Over the years I did supply the broadcast with a few more stories. There was the time that authorities found the mummified remains of a rural Knox County man at home in his bed where he’d been for the past eight years. That one made the wire services, but Paul Harvey had it before they did.
I provided him with tidbits about Knoxville High School’s basketball program and once he used a story from the Journal Star about a running back on the football team who had lost his father in a farming accident during the summer, but carried his memory with him by writing the word “DAD” on his cleats.
His appeal, at least to me, was his down to earth style of reporting news. Listening to him was more like discussing the news and weird stories with a friend rather than listening to a news broadcast. His familiar voice lulled us into a state of trusting what he had to say.
My favorite part of his broadcast was probably his “For What it’s Worth” department which came at the end of his broadcasts and usually contained either a joke or a piece of news that would leave you smiling as he signed off for the day with his trademark, “Paul Harvey… Good Day!”
Over the last few years, I didn’t listen a whole lot. I never bothered to find the station that carried his broadcasts in Peoria, and I was usually busy during the noon hour anyway. Every once in a while I’d catch him, but it seemed more often than not, he’d have a substitute host (his son Paul Jr., Doug Limerick, or Gil Gross) doing the news. It just wasn’t the same.
Both Limerick and Gross did tributes with on-air obituaries (they’re available for listening at www.wgnradio.com).
As of this writing, there has been no word on what will be done to fill Paul Harvey’s airtime on the radio. Monday’s broadcast was a tribute to Paul. It’s clear that no one will ever take his place.