20th Century, History, News, Television

Harry Reasoner Gets His Start in MN

Harry Reasoner-Army 1943-46-WW2-correspondent for Stars and Stripes military newspaper.https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/126593439500709413/

1954
Minnesota native Harry Reasoner reads the nightly news at KEYD in Minneapolis. Although Reasoner’s ratings don’t match those of the legendary Cedric Adams, he goes on to network fame as a host of 60 Minutes.*

An excellent source on Mr. Reasoner’s Minnesota years is written by author Douglass K. Daniel. Below is an informative condensation quoted from his book “Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News”. ** Enjoy, all you lover of vintage television and a golden era of news reporting!

“Harry spent many important years in Minneapolis. He moved there as a child from Iowa and graduated from West High School in 1940 (technically he was in the Class of 1939 but the principal punished him for a renegade school paper by putting off his graduation until January 1940).  After a year at Stanford, he attended the University of Minnesota until he flunked out and was drafted. After the war he worked for several years at the Times, then WCCO before moving to Manila, the Philippines, for a three-year posting with the U.S. Information Agency.
He apparently wasn’t employed when he first got to Minnesota, but he took his first TV news job here in Minneapolis in late 1954. He served as the first News Director at the new KEYD-TV, which was a member of the DuMont Television Network and precursor to KMSP-TV. His work at KEYD was his first in TV and set him on that path.
The Reasoners lived at 4085 Alabama Ave. in St. Louis Park from 1953 to 1956. He and his wife Kathleen Carroll “Kay” Reasoner (from Minneapolis) came with four of their eventual seven children.  During the family’s stay in St. Louis Park, former neighbor Betty Beach Barrus reports that the Reasoners were quite social, and kept some of their St. Louis Park friends for decades.
In 1956, the DuMont network shut down, KEYD was sold, and the news department was no more. That was the year Reasoner got the job at CBS in New York.”

At this point in the narrative, we pause for an acknowledgment of the Master. We thank You, El Deah, G-d of Knowledge who guides us into wisdom! We remember You, ho martys, ho pistos kai alēthinos; our “faithful and true witness”! How we love You Ruach Ha Emet; the Holy Spirit of Truth!

Before we remember this moment in the life of Minnesota and Harry Reasoner, we again pause to hear Your words on the concept of reporting.

“Go and report to John what you see and hear,” replied Jesus; Matthew 11:4
“Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area.” Luke 4:14
“Large numbers of people also came to Him. Their report was, “John did not work any miracle, but all that John said about this Teacher was true.”” John 10:41
“When they had arrived, and had gathered the assembly together, they reported all the things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith to the nations.” Acts 14:27
“But they didn’t all listen to the glad news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”” Romans 10:16

Though these are but five examples of reporting of the 127 occurrences in the Scriptures, there’s a lot to glean from them. Oblige me to elaborate?

Jesus believed in and commanded his disciples to report “what you see and hear”.
Real news travels far; with or without a reporter.
Honest reporting does not seek to titillate it’s listeners ears or egos; it tells the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Knowing first-hand news can make one a legal witness.
Even honest reporting may be rejected by its audience, and the gravity of good news not land on its hearers.
We need to let that simmer, Lord. Where will we go from here as we sit with You and observe the witness of Harry Reasoner in 1954?

At once, we see a man who strove valiantly and also failed. He had the temerity to start his own paper, but received punishment for his efforts. He went to incredible schools, but did not complete his studies. In the years before his first TV gig, he: went to war, returned from war, worked internationally, and in obscurity. Is this a key to his believability as a reporter, Lord; a heart with real life experiences?

It would be conjecture to suppose this, so we will commend to You what we know. Mr. Reasoner had a literally battle-hardened resolve, and we thank You for creating this in him. He spoke plainly, resolutely, and with an air of masculine authority. His demeanor conveyed a serious commitment to air the news without the tangle of emotional embellishments or verbiage. Perhaps all this preparation led to some of the most riveting breaking news coverage of the 20th century; the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963?

Lord, we thank You that our state could entrust its current events in this era to men like Reasoner! We thank You for the standards of journalistic integrity we enjoyed led by straight shooters like him. We thank You for a man who had both failed and succeeded. Who could convey the everyday and the tragic because he had lived both!

Will You bless his heritage of “give it to me straight” reporting? Will You provide us, in the present and the future, with: anchors, broadcasters, commentators, columnists, editors, correspondents, and reporters who align with Your standards of good news and reporting? Will You forgive us all our offenses when and where we have been false witnesses to the truth? Will You release us from the bitter roots of lies told, and truths rejected because “we can’t handle the truth”?

Make us a people in the L’etoile du Nord that loves honesty. Make us a people that have both a “yes” and a “no” in our vocabulary! Makes us a people that loves Your reality. Restore our broken faith with You, each other, and our media. Mr. Reasoner once said,

“We’re all controlled neurotics.”

Will You rewrite this legacy, and take our controlled or uncontrolled neuroticism up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Amen.

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20th Century, Americana, History, Uncategorized

Casey Jones on the Air

Roger Awsumb a.k.a. Casey Jones, lunchwithcasey.com

1954 to 1972

Lunch with Casey Jones (Roger Awsumb) becomes a noontime tradition for Twin Cities youngsters—and later for their children. 

Casey and his cast of regulars—including Joe the Cook, Roundhouse Rodney, Carmen the Nurse, and Clancy the Cop—will entertain kids with skits, songs, guests, and cartoons until 1972.” * 

Maybe the first thing you notice about Casey Jones is his big, resonant, but always friendly voice. Roger’s interests began with a love of radio. (Strike that, he was known to be an entertainer as a kid during the Depression making shows and programs with and for his neighborhood friends.) He began in “show business” as an announcer on WBOM at Macalester College of Saint Paul, Minnesota about 1948, and went on to become the station’s program director and manager. ** 

From there, he branched out into the exciting new world (then) of television: first at WCCO as a floor director, and then at WMIN in 1953 also as “floor man” and announcer. He got wind that the station was hunting for talent for kids programming. Hearkening back to childhood neighborhood shows, he pitched the idea for “Lunch with Casey”; inviting boys and girls to “join him for lunch, skits, songs and cartoons.” ***

Always one to include others, both on and off the air, some of Casey Jones TV friends were real life buddies of Awsumb’s. The first character of import to join the host, “Joe the Cook”, was played by Chris Wedes. Wedes also graduated from Macalester, and went on host his own shows: “Cartoon Carnival” and later J.P.Patches. This real life friendship and natural chemistry fueled the careers of both men. **** 

Similarly, the show would not be the same without the physical gags and antics of Lynn Dwyer a.k.a. “Roundhouse Rodney”. This manic and fun character, physically fit from years as a professional skater in the Ice Capades, often played the comic to Jones role as the “straight man”. Rodney would not back down from a challenge, and the breadth of his side character’s prooves it playing: Lippy Lois, Jimmy Durante, Grandma Lumpit, and comical spoofs of Superman and Tarzan. ***

To personalize the impact of “Lunch with Casey”, I rarely missed an opportunity to watch as a child. Sometimes, I would even be allowed to eat my lunch in front of the TV!? (in those days, this was a “privilege” and not a “right”.) I think I could feel the heart of Roger Awsumb to provide local Minnesota kids with an opportunity to learn something, laugh with someone, and sing-long with a kind grown-up who cared.

So, we turn to You, and remember the impact of this moment in Minnesota’s history. We start with acknowledging that You, first and foremost, model this heart of fathering and joy! You invite us each day into discovery and adventure, and look forward to meeting with us each day! You are a generous friend who gladly introduces us to others, and enlarges the circle of our relationships! Blessed are You, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe!

Roger Awsumb was a reflection of this aspect of Your heart. Through his life, You molded into him the desire to be a loyal friend, connect with others, and bring joy to the world. We commend these moments to You; both the advent of kids television, and “Lunch with Casey Jones”.

We thank You that people like him envisioned using the new medium for the benefit of our young. We thank You that he had already caught Your wisdom that an ordinary day in an ordinary job can be an adventure if one looks for it! We thank You that Roger modeled friendship, both on and off the screen, and his genuine enthusiasm for others was contagious. We thank You for the years he actually worked shoveling coal in a rail yard as a teen. *** Somehow, he learned that hard work can be a lot of fun! 

Will You honor the way this man, and the pioneers at WCIM, (now KARE 11) extended right relationship to kids through TV? Will You bless their portrayal of the importance of meeting with kids daily, and somehow making that sack lunch into a feast? We ask that You bless the future of Children’s programming in Minnesota. We ask that You perpetuate in our actors, directors, storytellers, TV  networks the soul-deep revelations of Casey Jones: our children know what we believe by our daily habits, by sharing our lunch with them, by singing and laughing with them, and by showing them what friendship looks like! 

“As oil and fragrances give joy to the heart, so is he that is sweet to his neighbor in the counsel of his soul.” Proverbs 27:9 Aramaic Bible *****

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm 

The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

** http://www.pavekmuseum.org/Awsumb.htm

*** http://lunchwithcasey.com/main/about-casey-jones/

**** https://jppatches.com

***** https://www.biblehub.com/proverbs/27-9.htm

****** Listen to one “I Love Onions”; one of the songs made famous through this show?

******* The “Happy Birthday Song” was a staple of this show. Listen and hear the fun! 

Roger Awsumb, lunchwithcasey.com
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