Thursday, February 20, 2014


            Arriving at the radio station a few minutes before air time last week, I was handed a scrap of note paper with a phone number scribbled on it along with the admonition to “call this person; he sounded as if it was real important”. The call went through an answering service, followed by a somewhat quavering man’s voice assuring me that I had indeed reached the right person. He went on to explain that he was blind and handicapped, and was also suffering from lupus. He told me that he lived in a small confined space and had very little contact with the outside world, and was interested in the kind of recorded college-level learning courses he had heard me describe in an earlier broadcast. Then he said something that really hit home: “I always listen to your program, and for one hour every Monday, you are my whole world!”
            After doing nearly twelve years of “PROVIDENT LIVING – HOME & COUNTRY” here in southern Utah, following five years of a previous iteration of a similar talk format in the Wasatch Front, I had been wondering if I was overstaying my welcome in a talk market where such programming is giving way (or really has long ago given way) to satellite-driven radio sourcing. “Home-grown” radio shows – once popular across rural and small-town America” – are unarguably a dying phenomenon; a fact of which I am acutely aware. Then too there is the challenge of constantly researching and developing material which is fresh, and new and timely for an audience which have their own set of expectations. In short, I “do” radio because I love the art form and enjoy the adventure of it; an adventure which for me at least, has never become old.
            There is an intimacy to radio which defies explanation. One sits in a small room with a control board, headphones, microphones and a clock on the wall and carries on a conversation with the voices of people who are invisible but real. For years I knew that no matter what, “Mary” would be listening, and would often call me in-studio, or on my cell on the way home, and write me letters and cards, and send me her own charming funny-book characters. And then there is Susan, and Evan, and Tom, and Mo and dozens of others whose voices I have known so well. Mary passed away last year just before her 90th birthday and I miss her. In a way, I often feel she is still listening.
             I sometimes talk to truck drivers on the Interstate, or folks who are just traveling through our region. I have received “surprise” mail from people in Ohio, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and a wonderful book from a lady in Alaska – all people who caught a word, a paragraph, or a short story while driving along in Utah, Nevada or Arizona during that magical hour. And all- too-often I am stopped in a local store by someone who recognizes my voice, and I find myself both embarrassed and a little bit proud to think I may be leaving a small “footprint” (or maybe a voiceprint) after all.
            When speaking of “radio”, the word magical automatically comes to mind. I was born into that end of the 20th century in which radio was “King”. It was where I actually heard the “Hindenburg” disaster take place, and the first bulletin of the Pearl Harbor attack hit the air waves, and the voice of Winston Churchill addressing Parliament, and “Babe” Ruth saying goodbye at Yankee Stadium. To this day there is a radio somewhere either in or adjacent to every room in our home – seven at last count.
            Each week I go on the air I can imagine I’m hearing the voice of a forgotten American named Frank Conrad who crouched over a home-made 100-watt “wireless” transmitter in his Pittsburgh garage in November, 1920 and spoke these words into a microphone: “This is KDKA, in Pittsburgh and these are the early election returns”, thereby ushering in the age of radio news broadcasting. Frank Conrad in fact introduced “talk radio” to a nation whose eager citizens would acquire 1.5 million radio sets by the next year. And from now on, I will also be hearing the words: “and each Monday, you are my world”.

                In a father-and-son “special edition” Chris Cooper joins Al in dealing with the subject of International Travel.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


            In the course of World War II, as service stars were hung  in the windows of many – no MOST – American homes, citizens were often reminded by public service announcements of the great truth that “they also serve who only wait”.  Whether it be for the over-due airmail envelope from overseas, or worse yet, the dreaded War Department telegram, the waiting game was a painful and ever-present part of war on the “home front”.
            For Mr. & Mrs. Joseph A. Anderson of Ogden, Utah, the long wait began with notification that the U.S. Navy PV-1 patrol bomber on which their son Joseph Hyalmar Anderson was a crew member was missing and presumed down on a flight from Naval Air Station Whidbey, Island, Washington State on December 26, 1943. Because of the flight’s mission to carry out anti-submarine patrols, it was assumed by the family that the twin-engine Lockheed Ventura, overrun by a violent storm had gone down at sea. It was not until June, 1944 that the Canadian Military discovered the actual crash site at the most remote tip of Vancouver Island in a locale known as Lawn Point. Still, details of the crash and its investigation remained cloaked in wartime mystery. The “final” word seemed to be the official letter from the Secretary of the Navy, confirming the presumed death of Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Joseph Hyalmar Anderson, dated more than a year later on January 15, 1945.
            But there was in fact much more to the story, details of which revealed themselves to Vancouver Island residents, and which were later the subject matter of one or two local journalists who had no idea how to communicate with any family members in the U.S.. And so the waiting went on for extended family members – cousins, nephews and a growing posterity who never stopped wondering. It is correctly said that for every battlefield casualty, there is a circle of at least one hundred people whose lives are touched and unsettled by the absence of that loved one from their midst.
            What Canadian investigators discovered on the ground was that the aircraft fuselage had survived the crash relatively intact and that one of the six crew members of Ventura # 28736 was sufficiently mobile to be able to first care for, and eventually bury – to the degree possible – his five deceased crew mates. With the benefit of Whidbey NAS records, it was determined that Hyalmar Anderson, the 19 year-old boy from Ogden who had been the tail gunner was the surviving crewman. There was evidence that he had made pathways to the rocky shoreline in an attempt to find food and water for the others before death from injuries claimed them, but all attempts to find what had happened to Anderson uncovered no answers to that final question. Members of Canadian and U.S. Forces blew up the aircraft and its bombs, ditched the still-secret Norden bombsight at sea and completed proper burial of the five American crewmen.
            Fifty-eight years would pass before a letter written by an interested citizen and amateur researcher from Port Hardy, BC would find its way into the hands of another Joseph Hyalmar Anderson – this one a nephew of the long-lost WWII airman.  At last the true story of the lost PV-1 and its crew would begin to unfold for family members who had never stopped wondering.
             Finally, 65 years after receipt of that unwelcome Christmas telegram, on Sept. 16th, 2006, fifteen members of Hyalmar,s extended family stood on the desolate grassy slope at the tip of Vancouver Island where the luckless WWII bomber had come to rest, and where thoughtful members of the Canadian VFW had erected a marker. With a piece of the lost warplane for a souvenir, and an honor guard provided by uniformed members of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, a quiet and reverent ceremony there on that distant promontory brought closure for a Utah family who bore witness to the truth that ”they also serve who only wait”; even after 65 years.

  Members of Joseph Hyalmar Anderson’s present-day extended family surround the memorial at Lawn Point, B.C. marking the crash site on Vancouver Island. Lloyd Kartchner of Cedar City Utah, a nephew – 3rd from right in rear row – is the source of information for Al Cooper’s article.

Uniformed officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police represented our northern neighbor and wartime ally in family commemorative services held in September, 2006.     

Photos Courtesy Lloyd Kartchner