Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Paul Harvey, Cenozoic Era-2009
Paul Harvey, the greatest radio broadcaster in the history of radio broadcasting, dead at the age of 90. "Paul Harvey News and Comment" has been heard on America's finer radio stations since 1951; "The Rest of the Story" debuted in 1976. His folksy delivery combined with his laconic writing made Harvey the most recognizable voice on the radio. Even during the long fallow period between the rise of FM and the hurricane of talk radio in the 1990s, Harvey made people switch over to the AM dial for perhaps the only time all day. Oddly enough, I don't think I ever listened to him on my Bose Acoustic Wave Machine.
I can still remember a Paul Harvey news or comment after a Supreme Court ruling striking down a ban on flag burning back in the late 1980s. Paul said the news would have made the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. . . (long pause) feel like they were stabbed in the back. How many other newscasters can make their pauses as memorable as what they have to say?
Page Two: Despite Harvey's fealty to the military, back during World War II, he was discharged from the army before ever seeing combat. He was wounded in the heel during training, and there were rumors the wound was self-inflicted. "I was thrown out of the army," Harvey said much later. "I don't recall seeing anyone I knew who was a psychiatrist."
I'm not old enough to know if Harvey's show was the final remnant of radio's glory days, or if he was always his own unique animal. And I don't care if half of the Rest of the Stories were made up. Without Paul Harvey, we would have been deprived of the following kind of story:
When a bird crashes through an airplane cockpit windshield it's a hazard to plane, to crew and to passengers. Our Federal Aviation Administration a while back experimented with several transparent windshields before discovering one which would bounce the bird off without cracking. A special gun developed at Texas A&M launched a dead chicken against the aircraft window until engineers could determine the precise angle of impact which would prevent the window from breaking.
Well, British engineers having a similar problem with the front windows of high-speed locomotives asked to borrow our chicken launcher and they loaded a chicken into their cannon and they fired against their locomotive window. Well, the ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, it went through the engineer's hair, it embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British, stunned, asked our FAA to review their test procedure to see what they did wrong.
The FAA did review it. And replied with a four-word recommendation. Quote, "Try a thawed chicken."
That aired May 5, 1997. Someone looked into it, and contacted Texas A&M. The reporter was told, "There's a great deal of advanced transportation research going on here, but none of it involves chickens." But I think you already knew the rest of the story.