#TriviaTuesday - What esteemed radio veteran, movie star, author and film producer “served as Voice of America’s first director just as World War II was entangling the Western World”?
Today’s trivia question refers to the local, historic communications powerhouse, the “Voice of America.”
With a proud history of serving “...eager ears starved for factual and fair reporting” since the early 1940s (1), the original Voice Of America broadcast building known as the “Bethany Relay Station” still stands proudly on its original site at Tylersville Road, West Chester (see above). According to MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives, “the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation of Cincinnati built the broadcasting operation.” Today the building houses the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting.
MidPointe Archives also point out that upon its opening in 1944 the Bethany Relay Station boasted twenty-four shortwave antennae and six 200,000-watt transmitters. Their powerful range reached western Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and South America. However, beginning in 1997 the antennae were torn down to make way for parks and commercial development.
Luckily for history, the Bethany Relay building remained, ultimately becoming a museum honoring VOA’s illustrious past.
In honor of VOA’s stellar history, we ask the following trivia question:
What esteemed radio veteran, movie star, author and film producer “served as Voice of America’s first director just as World War II was entangling the Western World”?
Answer: John Houseman served as the first VOA director from 1942-1943. (3)
“Houseman determined that VOA would tell listeners the truth, whether it was good for the U.S. or bad for the U.S...Houseman also introduced a style of radio reporting that employed multiple voices in individual broadcasts, a device he had learned through his theatrical background...” (3).
“Prior to Voice of America, Houseman gained national recognition through his role in the production the ‘The War of The Worlds’ radio broadcast in 1938 with Orson Welles. The story and sound effects were so realistic at the time that reportedly some listeners actually believed that an extraterrestrial attack was imminent.... (3)
“Houseman was also an accomplished actor, with his role as Professor Kingsfield in ‘The Paper Chase’ earning him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Houseman continued his involvement in acting and theater throughout the rest of his life.” (3)
The renowned actor died in 1988. (4)
Today the “Voice of America is the largest U.S. international broadcaster, providing news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 275 million people. VOA produces content for digital, television, and radio platforms. It is easily accessed via your mobile phone and on social media. It is also distributed by satellite, cable, FM and MW, and is carried on a network of approximately 2,200 affiliate stations.” (5) It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
“…VOA is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the government agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting. It is funded by the U.S. Congress.” (5)
This Saturday, September 21, the VOA will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a “Gala Celebration” at the museum on Tylersville Road.
For information about the Gala and the museum go to: http://www.voamuseum.org/events/
(1) From a brochure titled “VOA National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting – Tell the Truth and Let the World Decide.” Available in MidPointe Library’s Local History and Genealogy Gallery (Middletown location).
(2) From the “VOA - National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting” available at http://www.voamuseum.org/
(3) From “VOA Public Relations – Past VOA Directors – John Houseman (1942-1943)”: https://www.insidevoa.com/a/john-houseman-1942-1943/4485185.html
(4) From Wikipedia. “John Houseman”
(5) From “VOA Public Relations — Mission and Values” : https://www.insidevoa.com/p/5831.html
Photos of the current Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting and of John Houseman were found on Google Images.
The black-and-white photo of VOA antennae are from MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives : www.midpointelibrary.org > Digital Archives > Voice of America, c1980