Washington Press Club Foundation
Fran Harris:
Interview #1 (pp. 1-37)
September 29, 1990 in Westland, Michigan
Anne Ritchie, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Ritchie: First I'd like to thank you for having me here and for your willingness to participate in this project.

Harris: It's a beautiful ego trip, you know that.

Ritchie: Yes, I know, but for you to give your time and your recollections and memories and contribute them to this project is very important. So why don't we start by your telling me a little bit about your family background. I know that you're a native of Detroit; you were born and grew up here and spent your life-long career here. Perhaps you could start by telling me a bit about your mother and father.

Harris: Well, now, let me think. My mother defied all the thinking of the time and actually went to college and was graduated from college.

Ritchie: What college?

Harris: It was Olivet in Michigan. It's a small college. And then she went on to teach. This occurred in Morris, Illinois, and Battle Creek, Michigan. My father was the son of the physician, the doctor who had fought in the Civil War so that I have a sword with buttons from his uniform and all that kind of thing here.

Ritchie: Was he in the Union army?

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, by all means yes, yes. As a matter of fact, he was halfway through medical school when the war occurred and they couldn't find, evidently—the people who were recruiting couldn't find anyone to handle the black troops, the Negro troops in Massachusetts. And my grandfather said, "Well, fine, I'll do that. Anything to get away from the med school at the moment." And so he went to Massachusetts and had his own black company. I can't tell you the name of it because nobody ever spoke about past things like that when I was a youngster and I was pretty young when he died, anyway. But my father had been expected to be a medical doctor. But he was an independent thinker. So was my mother. And he decided that if he had to be a doctor, he was going to be a dentist. He would not follow in his father's footsteps. So he became a dentist and was one of the early people working on orthodontia—that's rather interesting.

He was a gentle man and he had always wanted to be in the theater so he was a great man with, quote, "nonprofessional drama," and I grew up with his being in plays and all those interesting things. And then, of course, I got involved in plays, too. But it was a nicely knit family. My mother and father liked each other as well as loved each other, you know. They worked together and they respected each other. My mother was sufficiently independent so that in time she became the president of the Michigan Federation of Women's Clubs which was terribly, terribly interesting for all of our friends and I know my father got a little flak from some of the friends, "Why are you letting your wife do this?" you know.

Ritchie: Her involvement outside the home.

Harris: Outside the home.

Ritchie: Would this have been in the 1920s that she—

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Harris: Yes, yes, yes. And my grandmother, her mother, was deaf. She had been ill as a child and had, I think it was, scarlet fever and it left her deaf. But she learned to lip-read. But, anyway, she was not sufficient to be on her own and had to live with my mother and father. My father was an angel and he put up with it. But she was a good cook and that helped.

The whole family was knit together. It was particularly important for my grandmother to be with my mother and father because her husband, my grandfather, was a traveling salesman. He sold farm implements and his area was South America.

Ritchie: Oh, my goodness.

Harris: Yes. So that every once in a while every year for about six months out of the year he'd be down in South America. So grandma was with us and she was safe from that kind of thing. But we were all very, very close. I was the only child so I was spoiled rotten and it was just a delightful childhood. I don't remember any major skirmishes, you know.

Ritchie: Just before we started on tape, you said the fact that your grandmother was deaf and could lip-read made you speak very carefully and enunciate.

Harris: That's quite right. And it helped me in my profession. And my father also was very fussy about good speech and we didn't have any "dese, dem and dose" and we didn't have any "ain'ts."

Ritchie: That came from his drama training.

Harris: That's right, from his interests, yes. But it's interesting that both my mother and father were independent people—thinkers—and yet they coalesced, they worked together. It was delightful, as I look back.

Ritchie: So they moved to Detroit when they were first married.

Harris: Yes. And that was in—they were married in 1902, moved here in 1907, and that was when my father was going to set up and be a great dentist. Besides, he didn't want to stay in Battle Creek and be the son of. He wanted to be himself, you know.

Ritchie: He didn't want to be the son of the doctor.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: He wanted to be himself. [Tape interruption.]

Harris: You know she (Juanita Maxine Jackson) spoiled me rotten, so if she ever goes, I'm going to be in a bad way.

Ritchie: We were talking about your mother and father, and your mother's career in the community. Let's talk about that for a minute.

Harris: All right. She was—and my father backed her up, by the way, all the time. She was not only big in the women's clubs which were important in those days, but she became the first woman member of the school board in Highland Park where we lived, which is a suburb of Detroit, surrounded entirely by Detroit. And because she was on the school board and I had the same last name, so I got good marks.

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Ritchie: Do you think that had anything to do with it?

Harris: I'm sure it did. Because when I went away to college I discovered that I wasn't as bright as I thought I was.

Ritchie: A little favoritism there.

Harris: I think the teacher—well, she [my mother] had to sign all of their paychecks; they made her the treasurer. And in those days the checks would come to the house twice a month—oh, I know three or four hundred of them—and she had to sign them all personally.

Ritchie: Was this an elected position that she had or an appointed?

Harris: Yes, it was an elected position.

Ritchie: Elected.

Harris: And then she discovered—I don't know how—that the superintendent of schools was too fond of young ladies.

Ritchie: So your mother's work on the school board—do you remember her actual running and the election of the school board?

Harris: All I remember about that, is that at one time I had a bundle of papers that I had to distribute to the neighborhood. And I remember one or two people would ask me why I was doing that and I would say, "Well, she's my mother." And, "Oh, all right, we'll vote for her." But any other activity I really am not—I don't recall a thing about it.

Ritchie: So she was very interested in community events—school, school board, women's clubs activities—which led you to have an interest in community.

Harris: Well, it led me to the idea that it was perfectly all right and why not?

Ritchie: I forgot to ask when we started what your mother's name was and your father's?

Harris: Edith Vosburg Alvord. And the Vosburg was the Dutch, her parents. And Alvord was Dr. Alvord. In the late 1890's, my father's father went up to Lansing and helped write the state board medical exams for the people who even to these days still take the same exam to get their degree, to get their doctor's license.

Ritchie: And your father's first name was?

Harris: My father was William Roy but everybody called him Roy or Ryrie. He came of a family of seven of whom only three survived, in those years. And my grandfather's first wife was his mother. And she died rather early of what they now call appendicitis and he didn't know anything about it, how to handle it, you know. Later, he learned how to treat it, which must have devastated him. And then he married two other times and between the whole group, there were seven. And I had when I was a youngster two aunts and one uncle and that was it.

Ritchie: And your mother was an only child, I believe?

Harris: Yes, she was an only child.

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Ritchie: And you were an only child.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Did you ever wish you had brothers and sisters?

Harris: Oh, of course. Everybody else did, why couldn't I, you know. I assume I made life difficult for my mother once in a while on that score. But she countered at one time by telling me that I was not adopted. Somebody in the school—even though it's very nice for people to be adopted because that means that that child is picked personally and wanted very much. So I said, "Oh, you didn't want me, huh?"

Ritchie: Oh, well. That sounds like a typical young person—

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: —getting at their parents.

Harris: She had a very difficult labor and my father called his father and said, "You'd better come because she's having a terrible time." I guess I came out backward or something like that. And grandfather got on the train and came to Women's Hospital from Battle Creek and rescued the whole situation.

Ritchie: So your grandfather actually delivered you.

Harris: I gather he did. I was going to say I wasn't there at the time. At least I wasn't aware at the time.

Ritchie: And did you attend the public schools?

Harris: Oh, yes. And that was fun because in those days we didn't have the racial and severe crime problems, that we knew about, anyway. To the best of my knowledge, there was one criminal in the school. That was when my mother was on the school board and they had to decide whether or not to keep the young man in classes or to tell him he couldn't come there any more. There was just one case in all the high school years. So we had a very pleasant friendship with a lot of people.

Ritchie: Would the schools have been mixed with children from different communities or it was just the Highland Park—

Harris: Just Highland Park. That's right.

Ritchie: Would you say that that was an affluent suburb?

Harris: No. I think it was just middle. I remember there were three black people in the class and nobody thought much about them except to know that there were three of them. But they were included in everything, you know.

Ritchie: And would there have been other ethnic groups?

Harris: There must have been but nobody said anything about it.

Ritchie: You weren't aware of the word "ethnic," or—

Harris: No, there were no fences built. We were all kids and we were all the same ages and we'd get along.

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Ritchie: Was your father's office in Highland Park?

Harris: No. His office eventually was in downtown Detroit. Until I was four, we lived in Detroit and his office was nearby. One day I got a little ambitious and walked to his office, crossing streets and all those kind of things. I don't know where my mother was at the time. Anyway, I showed up at my father's office and he was in kind of a shock. He called her up to say I was safe. Then he walked me home. We were all supposed to go somewhere with some of my folks' friends.

Ritchie: So that evening you were supposed to go somewhere.

Harris: And my father announced that I had misbehaved and that upset the family very much and I knew that I was not supposed to cross streets alone and so he thought that I had better just stay home. There wasn't anybody to take care of me so they had to take me along. But I didn't think of that at the time. I thought my tears would soften his heart which apparently they did.

Ritchie: So you were reprimanded for your actions.

Harris: As you can see, I never forgot. Whenever I was punished, which was quite rarely, I just never forgot it.

Ritchie: Now, what did you talk about at home? Were politics discussed in your home?

Harris: I presume so.

Ritchie: And current events? Because your mother was very active in the community.

Harris: Yes. Yes. My father was very big as a Mason, thirty-second degree and all that. Something called the consistery where they had music and drama. [Tape interruption.]

Ritchie: [Tell me about] things that were discussed in your home.

Harris: The only thing that I never heard discussed very much was money. And I know that money was a problem but I only discovered that later. It was the news of the day and what we had been doing all day. My father didn't talk much about his individual patients. I suppose he felt that wouldn't be quite right. He was very congenial. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised how much I can remember.

Ritchie: What were some of the classes that you enjoyed in high school?

Harris: I enjoyed chemistry very much because I was the only girl in class. The chemistry teacher played tennis with my father. You can see that I had favoritism. Like English, there was a good English teacher who got across to me that it was important to read good books. Of course, my father and mother had already done that but she reinforced it. And I think that that was about it. I had no great devotion for any of them.

Ritchie: What about your extra-curricular activities?

Harris: In high school, the newspaper, the Spectator.

Ritchie: What did you do on that?

Harris: I was third page editor.

Ritchie: What does that mean, third page?

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Harris: Well, we had four pages. And each page had an editor. And I was the third page editor and rewrote quite a few of the articles that were submitted. Really, my favorite teacher was the journalism teacher who ran the school paper, Albertine Loomis. She eventually quit the school and evidently went to Hawaii because in the seventies somewhere—sixties maybe—I was over in Hawaii for the first time and I was giving a talk and there was my journalism teacher in the audience. It was so exciting!

Ritchie: Oh, what a surprise.

Harris: It was a delight, just absolute delight. She was a small, very blonde woman. But she said, "You must always know the who, what, why, when and where," and "Let us have a minimum of errata." So we were very careful about the way we worded things. Later it was difficult for me to adjust for a while to the new type of journalism where they don't start out in the first paragraph with all the basic information. You have to keep reading now. But it was excellent training—there were two years that I was on the Spectator.

So when I went to college I assumed that naturally they'd want somebody with my vast experience. But they didn't. They said that it might be a good idea—the people at Grinnell College, they had a Scarlet & Black newspaper. The person that I talked to on that staff said, "Well, no, we're all full, we don't need you, you're only a little freshman"—not a freshman, I was a sophomore. "And you might want to sell ads for the Malteaser, which was a comedy magazine that came out once a month—which meant that they'd go to Des Moines and try to chisel an ad from the various merchants in Des Moines as well as those from the Grinnell community. And they did all right. And I thought, well, it's a terrible comedown but maybe if I start selling ads, I can get something printed, eventually, and it did work out.

Ritchie: Going back to your high school newspaper for just a moment, did you help at all with the production or just the writing?

Harris: It was the writing and the layout. But that was it.

Ritchie: Did the third page cover specific topics or would you just get articles that were submitted? I mean like was one page devoted to sports, was one page devoted to extra-curricular activities?

Harris: I think mine was the extra-curricular. I know that we had one column called "The Chatterbox." I had a battle with a boy who sold ads for the paper because that was part of learning, too, you see. "I need this space." "Well, I sold that space." You know. So we weren't very friendly for a while.

Ritchie: You felt that he was taking away some of your writing space.

Harris: That's right. But I gather that was okay.

Ritchie: Ads support the newspaper, make money for it, make it profitable and make production possible.

Harris: That's true. That resentment, however, did not carry over into my broadcast years because in the news—well, I'm skipping.

Ritchie: That's all right.

Harris: All right. When I started doing news, no commercials were allowed within the newscast. It was thought they did not belong with news.

Ritchie: When you were in high school, did you have any idea of what you might do in your future?

Harris: I had no idea.

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Ritchie: You were interested in the chemistry course. Did you ever think of pursuing a medical or dental career?

Harris: No. No. Certainly not that. I really think I liked the chem course because I liked the guys and I liked the teacher.

Ritchie: That's a good way to learn, to have a good teacher.

Harris: And my desk partner turned out to be a very remarkable surgeon in Detroit.

Ritchie: You had a little help there, maybe.

Harris: He was the brightest one in class.

Ritchie: You were the smartest one, to link up with him.

Harris: Well, yes, but I wasn't bright. He helped me a lot. But I can still hear—when the guys would assemble in the chem lab, and then I'd come in, as I was just coming down the hall, I'd hear, "Hey, Alvord is coming, Alvord is coming." So then they were all quiet then when I came.

Ritchie: So you really didn't consider following your father's footsteps.

Harris: Not at all. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to follow my mother's footsteps because she worked so closely with various women's groups and some of them were not very enlightened. But that was in her era. I didn't think I wanted ever to be a club woman.

Ritchie: Did you consider in the back of your mind a career as such?

Harris: Not in those years, no.

Ritchie: So it was just you were eliminating certain things.

Harris: That's true. I knew that I would never want to be a teacher, a secretary or a nurse. Never! When I finally was graduated from Grinnell, I did get into the retail business and that was interesting. I turned out to be a secretary of sorts because I worked for the superintendent of a retail store and he wanted to write letters. So I had to take down—I devised my own shorthand. And finally I conned him into thinking that maybe he should just tell me what he wants to say and I'll put it in writing and he liked that.

And then there was the head of personnel who thought she had a live one with me and said, "Now, I want you to train the incoming sales people." So there I was, I was a secretary and I was a teacher.

Ritchie: Two of the things you had said you did not want to do.

Harris: Never.

Ritchie: You mentioned attending Grinnell College. Was it expected that you would go to college? Did your parents encourage?

Harris: My father's family were part of what they called the Iowa band in the mid 1800s. They got in the wagons and went west from Michigan. And I think they got tired of traveling so they stopped at a small town. There was a man named J. B. Grinnell in their group so they decided to name the town after him.

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And my father's uncle set up his lovely home there and by the time I got there—of course, it was expected that I would go there whether I really wanted to or not.

Ritchie: So you really didn't look at other colleges.

Harris: Well, I looked. I felt I ought to, you know. I knew I did not want to go to a girls' college and I looked at several of the other smaller co-ed schools like Oberlin and Albion and so forth. They are all a group and Grinnell is that kind of a liberal arts college.

Ritchie: Small, liberal arts and co-ed.

Harris: Yes. And besides that, my father's sister lived in Grinnell so that my mother and father knew that if I got into trouble, I'd always have a family there to take care of me. They always worried—

Ritchie: It's nice for parents to know.

Harris: It was better for them than it was for me. But it was very nice because we had—it was a Congregational college and we had, every day, ten minutes at chapel. So instead of going to chapel, I went over to my aunt's house and had sweet rolls. She knew it, that was all right. And some of my friends went there, too, you know. It worked out very nicely. And college was interesting but I was glad to be through with it.

Ritchie: What were some of your favorite courses?

Harris: I don't think I had any. Well, psychology, yes. I majored in English and I majored in psychology. And I learned a great deal in psychology. I think that helped me out. But most of the liberal arts courses were French, which I hated, and botany and things of that sort that just didn't appeal to me at all. However, I managed to get through. I was not a star student because my mother was not on the board of trustees. My uncle was in charge of all electric work in the whole town of Grinnell and that included the college but that didn't seem to help me a bit.

Ritchie: Not as it had in high school, with your mother on the school board, signing the checks every two weeks.

Harris: That's right. As a matter of fact, I remember walking across campus with the French teacher and I must have been polite because I said I enjoyed the French so much and he said—he was startled! He said, "Oh, I didn't know that you really got much out of the course." And so I assured him I did.

Ritchie: Would you come home at Christmas and during the summer?

Harris: Yes. And that was good. I wanted to come home at Thanksgiving, I wanted to come home at Easter. But my parents were very wise and they said, "You're there, that's where you belong, you stay there, and you come home for Christmas." And then I could come home at the end of the year, of course.

Ritchie: What did you do in the summers during your college years?

Harris: Well, I worked in the library at the Highland Park high school. Once again, my mother was on the school board. So I had a job. And that was interesting. I've always been passionate about books anyway, so that's what I did for a couple of years. We had a junior college in Highland Park so that when I was through with high school, I had just turned sixteen a month before, and my mother evidently felt that I was a little young to be away so far so I went to junior college for a year. And then went on to Grinnell as a sophomore.

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Ritchie: So you were at Grinnell for three years.

Harris: Three years.

Ritchie: You mentioned the student publication, the newspaper at Grinnell, and the first year you were there they didn't have a space for you.

Harris: They never did have a space for me.

Ritchie: So you never worked on it.

Harris: I was a sensation on the humor magazine, not on the school paper. I had been so thoroughly put down that I really decided that I didn't want any part of them.

Ritchie: So you put your efforts and energy into the comedy magazine at school.

Harris: That's right. And I eventually wrote quite a lot for that, as well as continuing to sell ads.

Ritchie: And you wrote original pieces?

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. At that time, and still, there is this organization called Theta Sigma Phi which is supposedly the journalism [honorary society] created in 1909 at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was terribly honorary and it had all of the semblance of a sorority and all with the initiation. Well, I wanted to belong to that so much, oh, my! At the end of my junior year, that's when they inducted the new members, and the day came when the bids had gone out and I didn't get one, and I was just crushed. So I was weeping my heart out. And I gather that some of the people, some of my friends on the same floor at the dorm decided that the time had come and so they knocked on the door and said, "Here's your bid, here's your bid, we were just kidding you. So get on your white dress and go on down and get initiated." Oh, dear.

Ritchie: So you became a member of the honorary journalism society.

Harris: That's right. That's right. And little did I know that I would end up as a national president of the organization with an entirely different name—

Ritchie: Right. Years later.

Harris: But I've always had a warm feeling toward that particular organization. Naturally. I was so thrilled when I finally got in. Also at Grinnell I taught fencing. My father was a great fencer. And he taught me some; we practiced in the basement at the house when I was growing up.

Ritchie: Now there's an extra-curricular activity you didn't mention.

Harris: I really haven't remembered it very well. But the last couple of years of my existence at Grinnell I did teach fencing and the idea was with your foil, if you were good enough, you could put the tip of your foil on the elevator button and push it in, if you were that accurate. And that's what all the people tried to do—and one I think made it. They didn't make it very often. But that was fun. I had my foils and they all brought their foils and we had our masks and all that kind of thing. And I was named to what they called an Honor G. But I never really treasured that as much as I treasured the Theta Sigma Phi award.

Ritchie: So you taught the fencing as an extra-curricular activity?

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Harris: Yes. Oh, yes. No pay for it, nothing like that. I think the woman who was head of the girls' gym was just glad to have somebody take a little bit off her shoulders, you know. I did. That worked.

But college didn't do all that for me. I had some very good friends and of course before we left, as we graduated, we swore we'd always keep in touch. For a good many years we did have a round-robin letter which was fun but even that is gone now. This too will pass.

Ritchie: But in some ways it prepared you for your future, didn't it?

Harris: Well, I suppose everything you do is a growth, prepares you in one way or another for it. Yes. Yes. Surely.

Ritchie: And working on the comedy magazine.

Harris: Well, that was fun.

Ritchie: And you mentioned that you did writing for that. Did you do any other things for that, such as—oh, you did sell the ads also.

Harris: Oh, yes, I sold the ads. But I'm not a good salesman, I don't enjoy that at all. I can talk somebody into something if I don't have to expect money back from their pockets. But I just—as a salesman, I'm no good.

Ritchie: When you have to do it for money.

Harris: No.

Ritchie: But if you're trying to sell an idea for a program, which you did in your later years, you were successful at that.

Harris: That was easy.

Ritchie: So you graduated from college in 1929.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And came back to Detroit. What did you have in mind that you might do then?

Harris: Well, I wasn't quite sure but my mother, in some of her civic activities—and I'm not sure which one—had become acquainted with the personnel director of women's specialty shops, called Himelhoch's which was a very elegant kind of a store. There were two elegant stores in downtown Detroit, Himelhoch's and B. Siegal & Co. And she talked to the personnel director and asked if she would just give me time for an interview but didn't pressure her to hire me or anything like that. But I was hired and I became a salesgirl. I learned more during the year that I was a salesgirl at Himelhoch's than I did all the time I was in college because I learned about people. And it was excellent experience.

Ritchie: So you were actually on the floor, waiting on people.

Harris: I waited—in hats. They put me in hats, in the millinery department. There was one star saleswoman there, Miss Meisner, who had all of the elite of Detroit come in to see her and she would "hat them." Well, she was gone one day and one of the banker's wives came in who was one of hers. And none of the other

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saleswomen would approach her because they knew she was Miss Meisner's customer. But I was stupid. I went up to her and sold her $150 worth of hats.

Ritchie: Oh, my goodness.

Harris: Which in those days is more than it is now.

Ritchie: Yes.

Harris: And that's the way she bought things. Well, Miss Meisner forgave me but I was transferred out of the hat department rather quickly, into jewelry, on the first floor. And there I had a customer who wanted to know how long a chain of a certain piece of jewelry would be. And I said, "Well, it just depends on how big your neck is." And I was transferred out of there immediately.

Ritchie: That wasn't a diplomatic answer, was it?

Harris: No, it was not. So [I was sent] up into the dress department where I hung up dresses forever—and I've forgotten what got me out of that. But I had always gone to Himelhoch's hoping I'd end up in the advertising department. And finally I did. This was a break. And there I could write—I thought I was God's gift once again. And discovered I didn't really know how to write ads. But I learned. And I began to be fairly good at it; they were printed the way I wrote them, which was helpful.

And then—I'm trying to remember what happened. Oh, Mr. [I.] Himelhoch did a very unusual thing. In those days, none of the stores downtown were using radio. None of them, it was just, it was all in the newspaper because you—

[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Ritchie: So you were in the advertising and Mr.—

Harris: Mr. Himelhoch came in and announced that he had bought five minutes of radio time three times a week for the Christmas season. It would run November and December.

Ritchie: And what year? This would have been 19—

Harris: This would have been 1930. Yes. Well, it was beneath the dignity of any of the women who were writing ads to do this. They didn't know the new medium. Radio was new, radio came to Detroit in 1920 and it was ten years old, eleven years old, but they were uneasy with it and they didn't understand that it was good advertising. They just weren't interested. And I was so young then, the young kid on the block, so "you do it." So I wrote the copy and did it. I gave the show three times a week through November and December. And it was a thrill, I enjoyed every second of it.

When that was through, I talked to the editor at the station, Ty Tyson, "Is there anything else that I can do, do you have any other clients that I can work for and so forth?" He said, "Well, there's a friend down in Chicago that is thinking about something unusual. They want to have a half an hour of household hints six days a week. No recipes." In fact, that was my—if they'd had recipes, I wouldn't have been interested. I just wasn't. "But they will have half an hour interspersed by music, there'll be two sections of organ music during the half hour and the rest of the time you will be talking about the merchandise in the stores." But they would give me the copy—they were a firm in Chicago, the manufacturer's sales agent for cosmetics. And so they had their scripts already. And Ty Tyson said, "You might be interested in that."

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So I went home and I told my mother and father about it. I was thrilled to death. My father said, "Now just a minute. We don't know much about this radio business. But go ahead." I was supposed to go to Chicago for an audition. "Go ahead. It won't hurt. The experience will do you good." I learned—but after I had the job—that he had gone to see Ty Tyson to ask him. And he said, "Now what kind of a business is this for a nice young woman?" Ty Tyson told me about that years later and I just nearly died of embarrassment.

Ritchie: Well, it's a good thing you didn't know.

Harris: Well, yes. But Ty promised that he would look after me and that the staff were professional, they were not gropers. And that he thought that it would be a very good thing for me to do. So my father, I gathered, swallowed and said all right. When I got to Chicago, the man who owned this magnificent agency was big and gross and fat and disappointed—because I was too young, I graduated fairly young. By that time, I think I was twenty-two.

Ritchie: Early twenties.

Harris: Yes. And he said, "You can't be in Household Hints." And I didn't want to tell him he was so right, but they brought me down there, they paid for me to get there, so the best they could do was to have an audition so I auditioned. And at the end of that he said, "Well, it's radio. Nobody will see you. So we'll write the scripts and you give them." "Yes, sir." And so for $150 a month, I think it was—yes, a month—I did their show, as Julia Hayes—the women who were on radio at that time never used their right names. I was Julia Hayes.

Ritchie: And they made up the name, you didn't get to pick it.

Harris: No, no, no. They made it up. And I did that for four years until the Depression ate into it. And the mail was horrendous. We gave away, for 10 cents, Pacquin's Hand Cream, a sample. So people could send in, their little dimes, and I would just pack them on to Chicago. I got thousands of letters every day so that I spent most of my time opening envelopes and collecting dimes. And my heart still goes out to the people at the bank for having to count all those dimes before they gave me a cashier's check to send to Chicago. That went on until 1933, when life was pretty grim.

Ritchie: Going back for a minute, just for a minute, to the department store, there you had the opportunity to write your own copy and read it on the—

Harris: Yes. They told me what pieces of merchandise to promote.

Ritchie: And were you promoting for Christmas sales? Gifts?

Harris: Yes. Those kinds of things. And that was fun, I enjoyed that.

Ritchie: Well, you got to combine your talents there, the radio, the speaking voice, and your writing—

Harris: See, I wasn't bright enough to know I had talent. I just knew that it was fun to do.

Ritchie: Did you have a radio in your home?

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: So you had been listening to radio.

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Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And you mentioned earlier that the Detroit station claims to be the first radio station.

Harris: First commercial station. We're always fighting with KDKA in Pittsburgh because they say they're the first but we were the first on commercial. So anyway. August 20, 1920, is when WWJ-Detroit went on the air officially.

Ritchie: So you had a radio at home and you were familiar with radio.

Harris: Oh, yes, yes.

Ritchie: But some of the older women that you worked with at the department store weren't too comfortable with the idea.

Harris: They had their own radios but not for writing for it, my goodness! That was beneath them. It was quite a contrast when I came to television but I'll tell you about that later.

Ritchie: We have here the photograph of you. You did fifteen minutes, three times a week for the department store. And the picture of the mike here isn't quite like the mike that you have clipped on there today, is it?

Harris: No. It was big and it was round and it was uni-directional, you had to speak right into it, on one side only. But it worked out well.

Ritchie: And Mr. Tyson was the manager of the station?

Harris: He had made his success by being a sportscaster. And the Tigers were a great baseball team that he covered and he was known, well-known all around the whole area as the sportsman. But they made him the manager of the station, the station was owned by the Detroit News. And when they started the station, it was to be an advertising adjunct. And the reason that they started it was because one of the men who owned the Detroit News, a Mr. Scripps, decided that—well, he liked things, he liked to monkey with things, and he thought radio was really something interesting. And the decision was made in cooperation with the News advertising department that the broadcast power would be limited to the News' circulation area. And to this day, it is still limited. So that WWJ cannot reach more than five thousand watts, and all of the rest of the competition was ten thousand, fifty thousand, and all that sort of thing. So it's all a rather select little group that can listen to WWJ. But of course, it was the pioneer and eventually the advertising people recognized that this was of value and maybe they'd sell a little time too, you know, so that worked out.

But it was an interesting era. And in those days—I always checked with my husband on these things—well, not then I didn't, but after we were married. I met him at the News and we were married in 1932. "Is it all right? Do you have any objection to my continuing with this job?" He said, "Why, heavens no, I think it's a great idea, you know." But he began to get a lot of flak from his friends: What are you letting your wife work for? Don't you earn enough money? And then he would put up this reason that I was impossible to live with and, you know, better to be busy and keep me off the street.

Ritchie: But in truth he supported what you were doing—

Harris: Very much so. Yes.

Ritchie: —and collaborated on decisions. Do you remember how much you made at the department store when you made your debut in radio?

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Harris: Fifteen dollars a week.

Ritchie: Fifteen dollars a week. In sales and then in advertising?

Harris: In sales you got a one percent commission once in a while. So once in a while it came up to sixteen or seventeen dollars. And that was exciting.

Ritchie: But after your experience in the millinery and the jewelry department, the dress department, you preferred writing and going—

Harris: Yes, in the advertising.

Ritchie: So it was that brief time of reading advertising on the radio that you decided this was the place where you would like to go.

Harris: That's right, absolutely.

Ritchie: Were there any other women working at the radio station?

Harris: No. Well, now, not on the staff. Owned by the Detroit News, they had a recipe program that the cooking editor of the News did. But that was it. And it was all recipes and it wasn't—the kind of program I had was new at the time because it covered different topics. I could put in some special events and things of that sort occasionally, even though they did write the script in Chicago.

Ritchie: So the Chicago company would send you the script and you would read it, how often?

Harris: Every day, six days a week, half an hour a day. That was it.

Ritchie: And this was a promotional window in a drugstore.

Harris: Yes, it was the big downtown drugstore, Kinsel's.

Ritchie: Kinsel's. And the poster says, "Get Chummy with Julia Hayes, WWJ, Household Expert." Although the people in Chicago didn't think you were old enough to be reading household hints. "Write her your household problems, WWJ daily feature, see newspaper." I guess see newspaper for the [broadcast] times. And then in fact here they have photographs of you, "Julia Hayes, household expert, Ty Tyson, assistant manager, WWJ, and Rex G. White, WWJ dramatist."

Harris: Rex White was fundamentally a newspaperman. He has been on the News but he wrote all of the off-beat stories and the salacious ones such as they had in those days. He saw the value of radio and he asked if he could get on and they put him on. I didn't know he was a drama major. That surprises me, I'd forgotten that.

Ritchie: Dramatist. Were the household hints that you gave connected with the cosmetics that the company had?

Harris: Yes, and it was how to keep your house clean and neat and remain elegant.

Ritchie: Do it all at once.

Harris: And my family nearly went into hysterics when they found out I was doing household hints because like any spoiled child, I never—I cleaned up my own room, that I did. And I don't think I even made my bed

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but I would keep things off the floor, that sort of thing. And with household hints, I just wasn't present. I've always been lazy about household hints. Anyway, it was fun.

Ritchie: And on here, they say, "Write your household problems." Did you in fact get letters from viewers—or from listeners, I should say?

Harris: Yes, I got quite a lot of letters and I had to send them to Chicago to be answered because they didn't trust me, you know.

Ritchie: To be giving out advice on your own.

Harris: But it was—to get a thousand letters a day for days and days and days and days, you know, it was impressive. It's impressive to me now. I'm surprised that it happened.

Ritchie: So you got feedback through the free offer or the dime offer. And then people writing in for you to solve their problems. And did people ever just write a letter and say how much they liked the program?

Harris: Yes. One time a woman came down to the station with a great big cake she had baked. And when she saw me, she was just broken-hearted because here I was, this kid. And she gave me the cake and I think I said the right things. Anyway, she wasn't as sad when she left as she was when she saw me the first time. It was all right.

Ritchie: And you said you got to interject a little about special events.

Harris: Occasionally, yes.

Ritchie: Community activities?

Harris: Not—there was no special spot for it. I would just integrate them. And not all the time. Just occasionally. It was fun.

Ritchie: So all of the people working in the studio were for the most part men.

Harris: Oh, yes, indeed, oh yes.

Ritchie: All of the engineers, the technicians?

Harris: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Ritchie: Was there a union at that time?

Harris: No. No, the union came quite a lot later. But the News was—and still is, as I gather—a good employer and the paychecks were pretty good. And I did get a raise—I remember asking—well, that came later. During the Julia Hayes years the Depression came and the show was canceled and I stayed home for five years, had one youngster at that point. So when I got through with Julia Hayes I went over to one of the department stores for a sales job.

And nobody had any money, you know. And I remember I got a pair of galoshes for Christmas that my husband had scrounged up enough money to buy. And when I was working at the department store, Kern's—which no longer exists—all of a sudden I discovered I was pregnant. So I had to quit that. So then I had to stay home. And I saw my future as nothing but staying home and it just drove me wild, absolutely mad.

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Ritchie: Actually, now, the economy had a lot to do with that.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: You couldn't have gotten a job.

Harris: No, no, no. I helped in my father's office for a while and that was helpful—to keep me off the streets. That's one of my son's favorite expressions—"Okay, that'll keep you off the streets!" But it was a very difficult time. I was married in '32.

Ritchie: How did you meet Mr. [Hugh] Harris?

Harris: Oh, he worked for the News.

Ritchie: Was he a reporter?

Harris: No, he was out of the publicity department. I honestly don't remember how I met him. But I do remember that I met him and he asked me if I could play tennis and I said yes. And three days after that we played tennis and three days after that we were engaged. So that worked out very nicely.

Ritchie: And this was in 1932?

Harris: This was in 1932. Then three months after that we were married. So you see, we didn't waste any time. And then the youngster didn't come along until 1936.

Ritchie: So when you first got married you continued to work as Julia Hayes.

Harris: Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: What was your wedding like?

Harris: What was it like? Well, it was at an Episcopal church, St. Joseph's, and they had very long aisles in Episcopal churches. And I didn't have the big fluffy dress and all those kinds of things. I had a dress that I'd be able to wear to a formal event.

Ritchie: Good for you.

Harris: There's a picture here. But it was a nice affair, it was a comfortable affair. One of my father's—my father sang, too, a great deal, and he and my mother sang at the Congregational church. And one of their friends came and sang at the wedding. And I had—I don't think I had any bridesmaids. Isn't that odd? I don't remember that. I must have been in such a daze, you know. I know I didn't have any bridesmaids. It was a very simple wedding. But it was legal!

My mother ordered two big cakes—the reception was at home. And one was a big fruitcake and one was a big regular wedding cake. And there's a firm still in existence in Detroit named Mrs. Maddox and she specializes in these cakes. And it must have been a costly thing for my family to come up with that in 1932 when the Depression was looming. But I had the proper cakes and the people came and we had—it was very nice. We didn't have any honeymoon at all. Couldn't afford it. On top of that, I got married on a Saturday afternoon and went to work on Monday morning—naturally, and so did my husband. So that was fun. But we had a nice little apartment that worked out very well.

Ritchie: In downtown Detroit?

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Harris: In Highland Park.

Ritchie: And at the time he was working at the News?

Harris: Yes. And then when the Depression really loomed, he lost his job. He lost his before I lost mine. We then moved in with my family which was the expedient thing to do. And they had room, fortunately. And my mother and father were very nice to him. I didn't worry about that at all but I just assumed that they would accept him, you know. But after all, I'd known him such a short time, I didn't know quite what to expect. As a matter of fact, he was—oh, I do wander, don't I? He was the oldest of four children and when he took me to meet his family I thought I'd never seen so many people in my life, you know. There were these three kids and mother and father.

Ritchie: It was a bit different than your family.

Harris: Very different. But it worked out all right.

Ritchie: And he was also a native of Detroit?

Harris: He was born in Gladstone, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula but his father came down—his father was another independent thinker. He came down to Detroit when Hugh was two years old and set up his customs brokerage, customs of international trade. And Hugh inherited that eventually and I inherited it eventually.

Ritchie: But at the time you met him, he wasn't working in the family business.

Harris: No. No, he was at the News. As a matter of fact, his family was very unhappy. His mother and father didn't get along and he left home at fourteen and lived at the YMCA near the high school where he went to school. And never went back to live with his family at all. But when we were married, of course, family were included and I got along with his father very well and that helped. But we really didn't pay too much attention. His mother was—I'm being unkind, I know, but she was a whiner. I cannot stand people who automatically whine. And she could not say, "Oh, that's lovely," she'd say, "Well, that's not too bad."

Ritchie: Instead of taking the positive approach, she would whine about it.

Harris: Oh, yes. I don't think she ever complimented anyone in a positive voice, in a positive speech.

Ritchie: So actually, given that background, it made sense that he wasn't involved with the family business in the early years. He wanted to be out on his own.

Harris: That's right. That's right. And he was. So that worked out.

Ritchie: So you had similar interests although he was at the newspaper and you were at the radio.

Harris: They were just across the street from each other, you see. Well, in the early days, really, the radio was on the fourth floor of the Detroit News building. And that had been the attic, I think. And then they built a new building when radio became important.

Ritchie: Were many of the early stations in radio owned by newspapers at first?

Harris: Oh, yes, indeed. The Kansas City Star, Chicago Trib—WGN, the Los Angeles papers, and I'm sure the New York papers.

Ritchie: So they saw that as another way of getting their information out.

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Harris: And then it was a problem that Congress suddenly decided—well, particularly in Kansas City, the Star owned both the evening and the morning paper and the station. And they said that's a monopoly of the news, we cannot have it. So they ordered, they made a law that newspapers could not own stations except in a multi-media area. But it meant divestiture, really, although the News kept WWJ because Detroit was a multi-media area, there were several stations here. And they didn't have the media control at all. The manager was the vice president of the News but that was in name. That was it.

Ritchie: So there wasn't the strict control that you might have had in some situations.

Harris: Not at all. Although I will say, when I was doing the news, during the night the night crew at the Detroit News would write their stories and then they'd send the flimsies from the stories over to us for the morning broadcast.

Ritchie: What do you mean by flimsies?

Harris: Oh, the carbons.

Ritchie: Oh, on that onion-skin paper that is very flimsy.

Harris: That's right, yes. So that's how we got it on the morning newscast, with the help of teletypes and so forth.

Ritchie: So you really had interaction with the newspaper. You depended on them for your—

Harris: But that was before the edict came down and after that came down, they didn't provide us with it. By that time, techniques in the news, radio news were such that the teletypes were working day and night.

Ritchie: Now I notice when we're looking at this picture, when you're a newscaster in 1943, the microphone has changed a bit. It's still large but it's not the round microphone that you had.

Harris: That's right. And it was still uni-directional. You still had to talk into one side of it. No, wait a minute, you could talk into two sides of it. You couldn't talk on four sides, that remains the same. That came during wartime, in 1943. And the newsmen all went away to war, that's how I got in the news department. And I remember going up—I don't want to repeat but I remember going up to the boss's office when I had a—let me go back a minute. After Julia Hayes and then after I'd stayed home for a while, I went again to WWJ as Nancy Dixon. It was another shopping show and I did that for four years.

Ritchie: Did you write the copy for that?

Harris: I did the whole thing on that. I had a little messenger boy who went around and picked up copy from the various stores who bought ads for it and [I] had their stuff. And then I went to the stores, of course.

Ritchie: So this actually was advertising for them.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: They would buy a certain amount of time.

Harris: They bought time. One specific was that the client who bought the time was Cluet Peabody which makes men's shirts. And the sanforized process had just come in and it wasn't very well accepted. It was all right for the men's shirts and you could buy them the size they were supposed to be and you could wash them and they wouldn't shrink. That was marvelous. And it worked for shorts as well. But in the women's field it just didn't go.

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Cluet Peabody thought, well, now, there are a lot of cotton dresses around so we better expand on this. And they hired the Young & Rubicam agency, ad agency, and they set up eight different cities with a Nancy Dixon who went around to the stores, got the information from the various buyers and the one proviso was that every single day you had to do a sanforized plug, whether it was for Hudson's or Kern's, Crowley Milner's, Siegal's or whatever, you had to promote sanforized on one item of merchandise. And that eventually worked out very well.

Ritchie: So you were working for the ad agency and you went to the individual department stores and got information on the product that they would pay to have advertised.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And then you would write the copy up.

Harris: Oh, yes, I wrote all the copy and I could put in all the little comments that I wanted to and that worked out very well. And that lasted for four years, which was good.

Ritchie: Do you remember what you were paid when you went back there?

Harris: Yes. Let me think. I think, yes, it was $60 a week, $60 a week.

Ritchie: So that would have been $200 a month which was a bit more than you were making when you left before the Depression.

Harris: When the Nancy Dixon show expired in December 1942, I managed to be assigned to the WWJ news staff. I remember going down to the business manager of the News and asking for a raise. And he said, "You're getting $50 a week already, anyhow, and that's too much for a woman newscaster in Michigan." So, I went to the boss, to the manager of the station, a man at that time named Harry Bannister. He was a Brooklyn man and he had "dese, dat, dem and dose" in his speech. And I remember going to him and saying, "Do you know that the sanforized people have canceled my show?" And this was at Christmastime of 1942. And he said, "Yeah." I said, "I think you're losing a lot of your men in the news department. I think you could use me." He said, "The hell I can. Women don't do news, they just don't. They don't have the authority in their voices. They're too shrill. They're just not acceptable to do the news." And I said, "Well, look, you may get desperate with the war, you know." But he said, "Don't think about it. Don't think about it again."

So I went down to my office—and this was the last week in December—and wrote my last copy and thought, "What in the sam hill are you gonna do now?" I did want to be in radio. I thought maybe I could be a producer, maybe I could be a director, maybe I could do something. The phone rang, it was the boss, he said, "Make an audition of news." So I did.

I remembered that in my earlier days the newscaster was a man named Curt Bradner. This was ten years back. And the way he did it, he had been a fine newsman at the News but he drank too much, so they demoted him to the radio station. And the way he did news, he clipped it out of the paper and then read the clips before he went on the air. He always had to go to the office of the manager and say "statistics." If he could say "statistics," he could go on the air. If he couldn't, then one of the radio engineers would read all the news clips.

Ritchie: And the public really wouldn't know the difference because they'd never seen the face.

Harris: That's right. But with the coming of World War II, news suddenly became important. And they didn't care whether it was a male or a female voice, eventually. But anyway, I got the job.

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Ritchie: Did you cut out some news items and read them?

Harris: That I did, for the audition.

Ritchie: And put them on a tape and then he'd listen to them?

Harris: No, there was no tape then, that was before tape. They had big 15-inch radio disks, like records, big round, fifteen inches across. That's what they used to duplicate programs. I got an announcer to go in with me on my trial run. And I asked if he could help me and he said, "Sure. What do you want?" "I want to interview you." "What about?" "I want you to tell me what war is doing to Christmas at your house." So that worked out that way. And then I re-capped it with the news again and that was that.

And my goodness, I think I did that, like maybe December 27th, 28th, something like that. After New Year's, the first working day was January 3rd. And I was an instant newscaster as of January 3rd.

Ritchie: 1943?

Harris: 1943. And the way the boss handled it was very smart on his part. In those days, the evening radio was the expensive radio and the morning radio was kind of throw-away. But they did have some newscasts. They were short, five minutes, and one of the big drugstores had sponsored them.

Ritchie: They didn't feel they had the audience in the morning.

Harris: No.

Ritchie: It was mainly women at home, probably.

Harris: During the day for the soap operas. Yes. But in the morning, from seven or eight o'clock, everybody was busy getting breakfast, getting up, getting where you're going, and in those years they didn't listen to radio very much then. So the audience was minute and it didn't cost much for that time. So I was put on at a quarter of seven in the morning.

Ritchie: Now that must have been something because at this point you had another child. So for you to get up and get out of the house—

Harris: Well, let me see. Yes, I did have another child, in 1941, born two days before Pearl Harbor. And I remember 1941 for my son rather than for Pearl Harbor. At that time, we were still living with my parents. My mother, fortunately, was a real hero and she helped me out a lot. My father did, too.

Ritchie: So your parents really encouraged your career, too.

Harris: Oh, yes. Without them, it would have been impossible. My mother had been—I digress. My mother had been the executive of the International Institute which in this town—well, it's a national organization but in this town, it was very important because we had such a multiplicity of people from other countries who had come for the automotive factory work. And they would get into trouble and not know what to do and not know how to handle anything. So they could go to the International Institute and get someone who could speak their language and then they got out of trouble that way.

Ritchie: They'd get assistance there.

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Harris: They'd get a lot of assistance. And my mother was head of that for quite a long time. But she had retired, had to retire at age sixty-five. So she was home and so she was taking care of the babies, which was a break for me, I'll tell you.

But I've kind of lost where I was before I diverted.

Ritchie: Oh, we were talking about the morning news and being there at quarter of seven.

Harris: Yes. That's right. In those days, we had one car in the family and so I took the bus downtown. And I'd get down there about—oh, about six o'clock, quarter after. Usually about six and then I'd get the news from the teletypes and the flimsies and go write up my five minutes.

Well, the first day, I got all organized and everything. I was to go on the air. It was not a quarter of seven, it was at 7:15 that I was on the air. And I dashed to the elevator and the elevators wouldn't work because they weren't turned on, they were economizing with the energy and they didn't turn them on until seven o'clock. So I ran up three flights of stairs and I got there just in time, you know, about a half a second before I was on the air. I remember gasping and panting and having a very hard time getting my breath. And I assume that nobody heard the whole show—because I was allowed to go on after that. But I have never forgotten that gasping and panting. And I was terrified, anyway, doing the job for the first day.

Ritchie: How long would the newscast have been then?

Harris: Well, that one was five minutes and then they continued to be fifteen minutes for quite a long time. And the noontime and the dinnertime and the eleven o'clock were fifteen minutes. And that came later.

Ritchie: So you would do it early in the morning—

Harris: And then I'd go back and I'd write up whatever I wanted to do and—

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Ritchie: Okay. So you would write your news.

Harris: And then I was given a fifteen-minute program at one o'clock in the afternoon where I would do news first and then interview whatever, whoever. And that went on for about twenty-one years. During the wartime, of course, there were a good many people working to recruit nurses, to recruit women WACs, all kind of interests. And then as the war began to calm down, the Hollywood stars began coming around. That was real fun. All through the fifties I had a ball, practically everybody in Hollywood, when they came to Detroit they came to me.

Ritchie: How nice.

Harris: If I wanted them.

Ritchie: You mentioned with the men going off to war, it gave you the opportunity to read the news. Were there other women in the news in Detroit that you knew about?

Harris: No. No. And that didn't happen until—oh, I think four or five years later, because the other stations were leery, they weren't sure they could get a woman who would know what she was doing. Women were really very good at cooking shows and let's keep them there because that's a good money-maker and so forth. But I had a very—I was fortunate the boss was a far-seeing man and he really gave me the breaks.

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Ritchie: So he really encouraged you and kept you on and offered opportunities that other women didn't have.

Harris: That's right. And when the war was over—this is World War II we're talking about—when the war was over, he said, "All right, you don't have to do the early morning news any more. But concentrate on your one o'clock show and let's make that a whale of a good show." So I did. And that went on and on and on.

Ritchie: And during the war years, when you actually wrote the news or you—

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes.

Ritchie: So you would have an opportunity to put your views in?

Harris: No, not in the news. News is news and is not opinion. And that is one of the things—one of the problems which is raging right now. There are too many newscasters who have opinions. It's not—if you're going to give news, give news, not your reaction to it.

Ritchie: Not a commentary.

Harris: No, no commentary.

Ritchie: So you would report the facts as they were reported to you.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: As they were available to you.

Harris: I'd get them through the teletype and from the flimsies and so forth. And just do the straight news and that was it. Of course, you can deliver a good deal of opinion by your tone of voice. But you're supposed not to do that.

Ritchie: But I guess if you felt strongly about something, it would be inevitable that it might creep out.

Harris: Yes, like V-J Day or something. Like victory and all those kind of things.

Ritchie: And of course, at that time people couldn't see the smile on your face—

Harris: No, that's right.

Ritchie: —so your voice was very important.

Harris: But when you smile, your voice smiles. So I was grinning all over the place.

Ritchie: And did you feel you had support from the radio staff, the engineers, the technicians?

Harris: They put up with me very nicely, they really did. I had very few overtures from the guys. They knew I was married and they knew I had children. I kept reporting to them how wonderful the kids were and it didn't occur to me that I was a "sex object" and so they didn't think of me that way, which was fortunate. I liked the work because it was professional.

Ritchie: And you did your work and did it well.

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Harris: And kept out their hair when I wasn't doing my broadcast. So I had a very nice office in another part of the building and I kept out of their way. The whole situation never arose.

Ritchie: You were fortunate.

Harris: I guess so. Maybe they were shy, I don't know.

Ritchie: Were you aware of other women in journalism around the country?

Harris: There was Pauline Frederick in New York and Dorothy Fuldheim in Cleveland. I had heard her. And a woman in Seattle, Betty, from King station, and I heard about her. But they were all—when the war was over, they no longer did news. Well, Dorothy Fuldheim did, but very few of them. Most of them went off to go to other kinds of programs. And in fact, I did, too. I did the interviews, really.

Ritchie: During the war, did your salary stay the same?

Harris: Oh, I managed to get up a little bit. And I've forgotten quite when the union came in but when it did, that helped us out only some. At one time, the union was still negotiating and the guys were all talking together and they forgot me. I worked out of the newsroom but they didn't—they just forgot to tell me about it, you know? So they all got raises and I didn't because they didn't list me in their list.

Ritchie: Was that corrected?

Harris: Yes. Not with the union boys. I made a fuss, obviously, and the general manager said, "Okay, we'll do it."

Ritchie: Would the union have been at the newspaper, also?

Harris: No. Well, of course, the typographers and the mechanical people were all unionized but not the reporters, that came quite a little bit later. And the News was devastated when the union took over the Detroit News because they had been so noble for so long, you know.

Ritchie: Did you become a member of the union at the radio station?

Harris: No choice. Yes. And for five years, until I got promoted to the upper echelon.

Ritchie: So that was a bit later in your career.

Harris: Quite a lot later. And I didn't mind. And after all, I get a pension from the union, even for those five years. So that's not bad.

Ritchie: That's right. So during the war, were you active in war efforts here in the community, in addition to your work at the radio station?

Harris: Yes. I think so. I don't remember too much what I did.

Ritchie: But would the radio station have been involved with community activities?

Harris: Yes, the radio station was. And I would go out and give talks and that kind of thing. But that wasn't as important as my family. And I think many of the talks were at luncheon club meetings and those things. And the newsmen liked to feel that that's where they were important. So it didn't matter to me.

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Ritchie: So they would go and give the talks.

Harris: Yes. There was a newsman assigned to the Adcraft Club of Detroit. Every Friday he would give a news brief before their luncheon. And then another [was assigned] to the Optimist Club and another to the Rotary and all that kind of thing.

Ritchie: Of course, these were mainly men's clubs.

Harris: Of course they were, yes. Yes. And then women just didn't figure.

Ritchie: So you did not feel any jealousy that they were getting to do this and you weren't.

Harris: I think I was pretty naive, anyway. I was aware but it didn't bother me. I was having a ball just doing what I was doing.

Ritchie: And busy, too, taking care of your family.

Harris: Yes. And my husband and he was busy.

Ritchie: At this point was he in the family business?

Harris: Well, he had been but he broke off and established his own advertising agency.

Ritchie: Oh, he did?

Harris: Yes. And he did pretty well with that.

Ritchie: Did he buy radio time?

Harris: No. One of his main clients was the Detroit Police Officers Association. And he ran their newspaper and things like that for them. And then he had other clients. We never talked business like that, particularly. I would be told when there was a new client coming in or when one was lost but it wasn't life and death conversation. It was interesting.

Ritchie: And then following the war years, right after you had your third child—

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: —your second little boy—

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: So your house was even busier.

Harris: Yes. The second little boy was an absolute doll, still is, they all are. They've all turned out very well. And my father is responsible for a lot of that because he related immediately to the little boys. Of course he enjoyed my daughter, too. He would play with them and he would play Chinese checkers all day with my daughter on a Saturday. Mother and father just loved the youngsters which was very nice.

Ritchie: And they were right there with them.

Harris: They were right there with them.

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Ritchie: So that was fortunate.

Harris: Oh, yes. If they hadn't been, we would have had to hire help and then I would worry and all that. So I was singularly blessed.

Ritchie: Now, you mentioned Saturdays. Did you work on weekends also?

Harris: Yes, on some programs. After the war, I created a garden show when we went around to people's gardens. And that was when television came in. It was after 1946. And I showed how to plant things and so forth. And I also had another show, too; It took me to the Detroit city offices to show what each one did—and why. But those were weekly programs that were over and above the general run of the mill, the ordinary radio, the interviews, and then I would pop off with all these different little television shows.

Ritchie: So would your day be more or less set from, say, seven to four in the afternoon?

Harris: Well, yes. And sometimes on Sundays and sometimes not, it depended on who would be doing specials, news specials, I'd be doing that. And when there was an auto show or a boat show or a flower show, then they always set up the radio bit and I had to go to the darn show and do my programs from there.

Ritchie: Was it unusual when your children were young and going to school for them to have a mother that was working?

Harris: Yes. It was. It was. And it became less and less unusual, of course. After World War II a lot of women continued to work which was fine. As a matter of fact, the factories which had converted to wartime materials hired a great many women and many of them came in from the Southern states and the factory management figured, well, now when the war was over, the women would go back home. Well, they didn't. Many of them didn't. And they just stayed right in the factories and it worked very well. And women were very good with their hands so they were excellent at bench type of manipulations. They were very good at small manufacturing pieces. War time was when management discovered that. But I remember one of the heads of one of the major factories here, said, "I'll be glad when those blankety-blank women get out of there," because they had special needs and you have to be polite to them occasionally.

But of course, during the war I did shows from the factories. I went to all the different war plants. And before the United States got into the war—well, we were in the war but it wasn't—it didn't click yet. And I remember that the engineer and I would appear. One woman was in a factory where she was working a punch press which is a very noisy thing. And I went in to interview her—Betty Fink at the plant made the selection of whom I would interview.

Ritchie: The factory made the selection.

Harris: The factory did. But it was impossible with all that noise so we had to go into a room over at the corner of the same floor. You could hear the noise even through the door. I remember asking her why she was there and I expected the patriotic answer and the money answer—because her husband was away and she had to have money. But none of that came. She said, "Well, I came to work because I have thirteen children and they're all home and I needed a rest."

Ritchie: That was her motivation.

Harris: That was her motivation. And I've often wondered how many others had the same.

Then there was a woman—I could talk about these forever. There was a Polish woman in one of the factories whom they wanted me to interview. And she would only be known as Madame X.

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And so of course, I asked, "Why, you're in this country now? Why not use your name?" And she said, "My family is still in Poland. The Nazis will connect it." Evidently she'd been active in the underground or something like that. She said, "I do not care to have them abused. "You know, the Nazis put people in ovens when they don't like them." I didn't believe her. I said, "Ovens! What are you talking about?" She said, "They put people in ovens and burn them up." And I just never believed her until it became apparent that that's what happened. But this Madame X remained Madame X. I have no idea what her name was, but she was working there on the line in one of the factories, bless her heart.

Ritchie: So you would go out on location to do interviews for somewhat of a feature news item.

Harris: Well, yes, in my regular one o'clock show.

Ritchie: And you took a sound engineer with you.

Harris: Well, I had no choice. In those days the equipment was not self-contained and you always had to have an audio engineer along with you so he would set up. There were several engineers and they all liked to go with me because they could get out of the building, you know.

And there was another show I did that I called "Highway Patrol." This was before the network "Highway Patrol" where Broderick Crawford was the star.

Ritchie: Oh, yes.

Harris: I remember interviewing Broderick Crawford earlier. He said he was never, never going to go into radio. Never, never into television. And so there he was—money is encouraging.

Ritchie: So this was before his "Highway Patrol" days.

Harris: Yes, before his "Highway Patrol." It was my "Highway Patrol." It was the Memorial Day when I think thirteen people had been killed on the highways that I thought up the show. And of course, having kids, my husband and I were always traffic-conscious. The slaughter bothered me. Thirteen people just killed on the highway, on a Memorial Day. So I asked the boss and we got the lieutenant-governor of the State of Michigan and the head of Detroit's traffic committee, Don Shutz, and we decided that it would be all right for me to work with the state police.

And so every Friday, I think it was, an engineer and I went out to the local state police headquarters, picked up two of the guys—one of them to drive and one of them to talk—and put the equipment in the back seat of the car and then we roamed the highways. And we'd pick up a speedster, motion him over, and then the highway patrol man would come—I think he probably said, "I won't give you a ticket if you'll do this." I'm sure that's what he said. He never told me but the speedsters were always willing to cooperate. Then I'd ask the driver what his hurry was and so forth. And one man said he was hurrying to get out of south Michigan because he had asthma and had to get north. The only time we were refused was when a man and woman came out of the race track, one of the race tracks here, and he said, "No. I just can't do it." And it turned out the woman was not his wife. So we forgave him for that and didn't use him. We went on all the major highways and when the family went north for vacation up near Grand Rapids—up a little further than that but on Lake Otsego. I would drive down about halfway between there and Detroit and meet the "Highway Patrol" boys and we'd do our regular stuff, you know.

Ritchie: Oh, so you continued to work, even on vacation.

Harris: Oh, yes, yes. I didn't know any better. So then I'd go back to the vacation and they'd go down and go back to work again.

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Ritchie: So your idea was to get across to the public—this was a public awareness program—the dangers of speeding or of being involved in a car accident or something like that.

Harris: That's right. That's right. And it worked. That went on for a little over a year until my husband wanted to get some more insurance. And they wouldn't give it to him because I was doing this crazy program—because we would chase some people at close to a hundred miles an hour.

Ritchie: So you were a high risk.

Harris: I was a very high risk. So I thought, well, I've been doing this for a year and a half, I'll quit. And I did. So we got our insurance.

Ritchie: So the station was receptive to ideas that you had for programs.

Harris: I had very good rapport with the general manager. After all, he'd put me in there in the first place.

Ritchie: Was it still the Brooklyn fellow?

Harris: Yes. And he was there for a very long time. He was there when television came in. When I'd come up with a new idea, I'd check with him and say "What do you think?" and he'd say, "Well, figure it out and go and do it," which I did. And it was fun.

One time in radio Jack Webb was very big, and Dragnet.

Ritchie: Oh, yes.

Harris: And there had been several psychological kinds of accidents. So it occurred to me that I might get some of the bigshots, the head of the psychology group with the police, the chief of police, some of the—oh, I've forgotten who they all were. But we got all together on a roundtable to talk about the problems of traffic.

Then sex offenders were becoming important in the city and we talked about that. And because we talked about that and the boss knew that's what was going to come, they put me on at 11:15 at night after the news, so that the children wouldn't hear. And I learned just a few months ago that my daughter had stayed awake and heard all of those—

Ritchie: Heard the program?

Harris: Yes. That's why she's a social worker, that's what she says. Anyway, that worked out very well. And it became a regular program at night for another year or two.

Ritchie: So your programs were really geared to community education?

Harris: It didn't occur to me that it was that impressive a title but that was just what was going on.

Ritchie: And you were interested in it?

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: And because you had children—

Harris: That's right.

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Ritchie: And knew what was affecting them, whether it was the traffic in the streets or the crime in the area—

Harris: That's right. That's right. So if I could do something, I did it. Why not?

Ritchie: It's been said that in the beginning of radio that women's voices weren't suited for the radio. Did anyone ever tell you that or give you advice on your voice?

Harris: No. They were very kind. I think everybody was so surprised to hear it. I did not do the six o'clock news—nor the eleven o'clock—that was strictly the male contingent. But in the daytime it was acceptable. But it was a long time before the women ever really made the important programs. When I left the station and retired, in 1974, I was getting the enormous sum of $15,000 a year. And that was a lot for a woman. And now, you know, I know they get a hundred thousand and it just churns me up. I think why, why was I so early?

Ritchie: Well, you made way for them, really.

Harris: I know that, yes.

Ritchie: But no one ever coached you on your voice. So no one ever gave you advice on your voice?

Harris: No. And the boss was smart enough to leave me alone.

Ritchie: He knew that you were capable.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: He had faith in you.

Harris: I must have sold him a good bill of goods. Anyway, it worked out—no, nobody had ever—and my voice was more clear than it is now. It's devastated by a degree of age, a lot of age, and illness and all that. So I'm real husky.

Ritchie: Did you ever have a desire to do the six o'clock or the eleven o'clock news?

Harris: Yes. I was allowed to do the six o'clock news for two or three times when they were short of men because of war. And I realized that for fifteen straight minutes of hard news I wasn't good at it. I knew I wasn't good at it. So I left it at that.

Ritchie: So you preferred to do the morning and then have your—

Harris: Interviews.

Ritchie: —interview program.

Harris: That was fun. Those were fun.

Ritchie: Let's look at some more of these pictures because I think we've caught up here with the pictures. We have some here from 1943 which was when you began—

Harris: That's when I began as a newscaster.

Ritchie: As a newscaster.

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Harris: And they had two women announcers which was unusual then.

Ritchie: Ann Collins and Gwen Collins. Were they sisters?

Harris: No, they weren't sisters. They just happened to be there.

Ritchie: Same last name. And of course this is during the war when most of the men were gone.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: What would they announce?

Harris: Well, "This is WWJ, the Detroit News," in between program. And if there were commercials in between programs, they'd do that.

Ritchie: They would do the reading of the commercials.

Harris: Yes. They didn't have programs.

Ritchie: And then here you have a personal appearance.

Harris: Oh, yes. Was that at Sears?

Ritchie: Yes, at Sears. That's Sears, the department store?

Harris: Sears asked me to—they were having trouble with one of their stores because people were not coming and they asked me to go through the store and find out what the problem was. Good heavens, I didn't know. But anyway, I noted that when I first went in the store it didn't smell good. So I told them. So they cleaned it up and that happened to be it. It was a combination of popcorn and I don't know what else it was, but it just didn't smell right.

Ritchie: It wasn't inviting.

Harris: Not at all.

Ritchie: And you could get that right away when you walked in with the idea in mind that you were to solve the problem.

Harris: That's right. That's right. Actually, I thought that was kind of an easy way out but it turned out to be the right answer.

Then there were a lot of wartime people.

Ritchie: Here you are with a customer and buyer at Sears, Radio Third-Class Emmy Lou Jackson.

Harris: All right. Well, she must have been in—

Ritchie: In the Navy?

Harris: Yes. And Sylvia Sidney. A lot of the Hollywood people got into the act of supporting the different—

Ritchie: War activities?

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Harris: War activities.

Ritchie: So they would travel around and when they came to Detroit, it was your show that they came to.

Harris: That's right. That's right. That's all the same rationale.

Ritchie: Here's another film star, Elisa Landi, with a WAVE. So the WAVEs and the—

Harris: Those are WAVEs, too.

Ritchie: —were talking about their experiences, probably.

Harris: Then I don't know why—he came to town, I think, to be in a show.

Ritchie: William Bendix?

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And this is 1944.

Harris: Yes. Don't ask me.

Ritchie: Elton Hayes. But you don't know who he is, either.

Harris: No. Must have been somebody who was for the war effort.

Ritchie: Would the radio use these photographs for promotion?

Harris: No. No, no. They were taken for the benefit of the people who were being interviewed and then I got a copy.

Ritchie: And here you are with Marguerite Meathe, from the Office of Emergency Communications in Detroit, chief of ordinance office in Detroit, another wartime interview.

Harris: That's right. That looks like the Monroe Equipment.

Ritchie: Auto equipment, right.

Harris: Down in Monroe.

Ritchie: So you were doing an interview—

Harris: I went down there to talk to the women—

Ritchie: Away from the station.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Oh, that's a wonderful photograph. They're assembling shock absorbers for army tanks and it actually shows the woman working with the parts, whatever is specifically there.

Harris: That's right.

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Ritchie: And here you're with a disabled vet who's getting recognition for his services.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: So you really kept up on war efforts.

Harris: Well, people did.

Ritchie: Oh, here's a copy of an ad that might have been in the newspaper, it says "Listen in. Fran Harris reports from Sears, every day Monday through Friday at one o'clock."

Harris: It wasn't from Sears, it was just—

Ritchie: Oh, for Sears. I see. You were reporting for Sears. Excuse me. "Get the latest news interpreted for women. Interesting, educational, timely. Tune in tomorrow." So the radio station was not only supporting you in your efforts at programming but also advertising them.

Harris: Well, the salesman needed it.

Ritchie: Here you are with—now this is after the war, in 1946, with Benny Goodman. So this is when you would have started to do the celebrities.

Harris: Um-hmm. Oh, yes, we had a safety show that we went out to schools for. Paul Williams and I went around to the different schools and they would tape the show. By that time they had tape. The tape came in with the war, World War II.

Ritchie: So you didn't have the sound engineer any more?

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: He still went.

Harris: He rode the tape machine. And we would give a bicycle to a youngster for some reason or another, I've forgotten quite what it was. They would win it. And then Paul would give some sports information and I always had—at that time the police department had a youth bureau and the policemen who were from the youth bureau would tell the kids to be careful about crossing the streets. It was interesting when they began those shows that children were afraid of the police—very, very much afraid. So it was also an effort to make the police seem like human beings.

Ritchie: Like their friends, someone they could go to.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Did you ever go to your children's schools?

Harris: No. No way. I wouldn't single them out like that.

Ritchie: And here you are again with a safety show giving Detroit fire department medals.

Harris: Oh, yes. The police got in it first and then the fire department wanted in. It worked out all right.

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Ritchie: And in 1946, your safety show got an award from the American Automobile Association for your efforts in educating children in the community in terms of safety.

Harris: Now, that's the first day of television.

Ritchie: In Michigan.

Harris: In Michigan.

Ritchie: October 1946. This is the first TV show in Michigan. "Fran Harris, with a young French woman who is the friend of the general manager, is live from—"

Harris: From the Penobscot Building.

Ritchie: The forty-seventh floor. And you have a note here, "blue makeup." What does that mean?

Harris: The early cameras would not pick up the color red at all. So when you had red lips, you didn't have any lips, they just blanked out. So you had to use blue. And we had blue eyebrows, blue lips, blue cheeks—[we were a] terrible looking group. But that way it worked out all right. But if you had a red dress on, it wouldn't come through.

Ritchie: So you had to have some color on you, so they put blue on you.

Harris: Yes. And blue they picked up, not as a color but in gray.

Ritchie: This TV station was owned by—

Harris: Yes. By the News, WWJ-TV. And that particular show was on the forty-seventh floor of the Penobscot Building. The elevator stopped at the forty-fifth floor so we trudged up the rest of the way in blue makeup and all that. It was interesting, it was an interesting show.

Ritchie: Did you see TV as a new area that you would become interested in?

Harris: Oh, sure, it was something new. Yes, of course.

Ritchie: Did you know much about television before that?

Harris: Not too much. Well, no, I know I didn't because—you'll come to it, the children's show that I had, Junior Jamboree, that was started in 1947. It was begun because, in 1946, the sales of TV sets were very few. The sets were so costly and people didn't understand television. And RCA and Philco and General Electric got together and said, "We have to do something about this." And they decided they would create some children's shows.

They tried it out first in Chicago with Kukla, Fran and Ollie. That worked for RCA so a couple of months after Kukla, Fran and Ollie were on, they came to our station. The boss called me up to his office and the RCA man said, "We want a children's show that's as good as Kukla, Fran and Ollie." And I said, "What's that?" He told me it was puppets. "Oh. You want a kid's show and you want some puppets on it." "Yeah, and anything else you think might fit." So I went home to talk with my children about it. I think Pat was ten, maybe, and Billy was five and Bobby was kind of one-ish. We did have the magazine called Children's Activities which is now the Highlights.

Ritchie: Oh, yes, Highlights, yes.

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Harris: And so I sat them down and I said, "What do you like about the magazine? What's in it that you like especially?" Well, Pat liked the pages where you draw from one number to another.

Ritchie: Dot to dot.

Harris: And she also liked the pictures where you could find another little picture in them.

Ritchie: Oh, the hidden pictures.

Harris: Yes. And my five-year-old came up with a startling suggestion. He said, "You're not going to get the kids interested unless you have some sports in this. You ought to talk to people like Ted Lindsay." Well, Ted Lindsay was a very great hockey player and he lived rather near us. So that's why Billy knew about him. He said, "You've got to have a sports person on every day." And then he said, "I like the magic, too. You ought to have some magic." So I took all their suggestions and we got a professional magician and I had a different sports figure. This was half an hour, five days a week. Every day we'd have the same magician but a different sports figure every day. And then we had an artist. And because those cameras would not pick up red, he would draw what he was going to do in red and he'd trace it over in black at show time and everybody thought he was marvelous, you know.

Ritchie: He was a little ahead of the game.

Harris: That he was, indeed. And we did that. The first television studio was in the Detroit News building and it was over the printing plant so that when any of the paper came in, the rumbling of the paper rolling into the building was heard and we talked over the rumble, which was fine. Well, the only guests we had for quite a long time were the sports figures so I got acquainted with quite a few events and that was fun. Then occasionally people would begin to see these shows. The rationale of having a children's show was that the television sets should be put in the windows of the first floor of the buildings of a retail outlet so that the kids would be able to see them. And it came on after school. The kids would just cluster around the stores and watch whatever one we had on. And within a year, they didn't need children's shows any more—

Ritchie: Because the children went home and begged for the television—

Harris: Begged for the television sets and they got them and the prices went down and the whole, big, mad world began.

Ritchie: Now, were you still doing radio at this time?

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, sure.

Ritchie: So you were working in both—

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Radio and television.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And it was just a logical move for you? You just felt that—

Harris: It was there. So it was just another assignment. So that was fine.

Ritchie: So you were doing your morning newscast, your interview show, and then other programs?

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Harris: The morning newscast vanished after a while, as radio shows do. And the children's show was at five o'clock so you see, there was no problem.

Ritchie: Let me see if there is something. Oh, my goodness, look at this film star, Betty Hutton.

Harris: Yes. Remember her?

Ritchie: In 1946.

Harris: That's from "Highway Patrol."

Ritchie: Oh, yes. Look at this. It's called what, "Wagon on the Way."

Harris: Oh, is that "Wagon on the Way"? That's different.

Ritchie: You're standing behind a WWJ radio field wagon. And there are four men standing with you. What were you—

Harris: He was the announcer and—that kid wasn't in "Wagon on the Way." That had to be "Highway Patrol." One man would be the engineer, the announcer, and then the two guys who were in the car.

Ritchie: So they're talking about something and you're interviewing there.

Harris: Oh, yes. And then I had a series of those things, specials. I did a lot of specials.

Ritchie: "Panel show from the auditorium about city problems." So you would gather together community leaders and they would discuss issues of interest to the community. Do you remember what any of them were?

Harris: Well, Blanche Wise was on the council, she was one of the first women on the council.

Ritchie: On the Detroit city council.

Harris: Yes, on the city council. And there was a range all the way from the Department of Recreation to the Department of Highway. They had street cars going then and buses and what to do with them. All of the various departments of the city [participated], including the fiscal, all of them.

[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]

Ritchie: So you would pose questions to the panel—

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: —and moderate discussion—

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: —and ask for their viewpoints on particular community topics.

Harris: That's right. And it was in the auditorium, the station had a rather pleasant auditorium, might have seated three or four hundred people, that kind of thing. And that was always full. Of course, they enjoyed being on.

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Ritchie: And this was being broadcast live on the radio?

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: So would this be a bit longer program than your usual interview?

Harris: Half an hour.

Ritchie: Half an hour.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And here's someone from Parks and Recreation and the head of the Health Department. And this was a different day because you had a different dress on.

Harris: There are several different days.

Ritchie: And here's another show, it says "Highlights Beauty." Maybe you were talking about community—this was a five-day series.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: So you ran a special series that particular week.

Oh, here's something you talked about earlier, 1947-48, the "Red Feather Show."

Harris: That pre-dated the Torch Drive—what we called the Torch Drive is now the United Way. And at that time, I've forgotten how many, seventy-five or eighty agencies got their money from the Red Feather campaign. And so I went to each one of them and asked, "What have you got? What are you doing?"

Ritchie: So you would report to the community what these various groups were doing.

Harris: I had "Red Feather Show" and that was once a week. It was very interesting, I enjoyed it.

Ritchie: And you said that a man that worked with you here on that went on to form the national United Way.

Harris: Yes. Walter Laidlaw was head of what was then called the Community Chest. Then it was United Community Services and then the United Foundation, when it became national. Only we called it the Foundation and everybody else in the country called it the United Way.

Ritchie: Did you ever do any political reporting—

Harris: No.

Ritchie: —following political campaigns?

Harris: No way. That was verboten. That was—the politics, the political reporting was only straight news. And if it happened to be a straight news item which was not a point of view—where somebody broke his leg or something like that—then you could report but on straight news you did not report politics. That's changed.

Ritchie: Would you ever have had debates between candidates for anything?

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Harris: Yes, but not on the air. I belonged to a women's advertising club at the time and we had an annual big, hoop-dee-doo affair. And we had two opposing candidates and I think they were for the United States Senate and they debated. But that was as close as we ever came and that wasn't on the air.

Ritchie: So you were involved in many community events and activities but you steered clear of the political campaigns.

Harris: When the Kennedys were running, I—when Jack Kennedy was running, you know, he had the whole family working. I couldn't interview any of his sisters or any of the family. I could interview Jack, because he was at that time a figure that was easy to catch, but none of the family.

Ritchie: If the newspaper endorsed a political candidate, that didn't mean that they would have priority on a program on the radio.

Harris: Not at all.

Ritchie: So you didn't get into an ethical bind there at all.

Harris: Not at all. Lucky.

Ritchie: Yes. Because that wouldn't always be the case, would it?

Harris: It should be the case now, I'm sure. But the News knew that radio and television had become an entity of its own. And ultimate ownership—as a matter of fact, during some of the slow years for print, the broadcast money helped support the newspaper. And then it dawned on them that this was a sufficient entity so let them run it their own way, as long as they were decent.

Ritchie: Oh, here you are in 1947, looking at another photograph, with a Dr. Hartman Litward of Woman's Hospital with a cancer plea.

Harris: Yes. Well, that's all right.

Ritchie: So that would have been very early attention being given to cancer.

Harris: '47, yes. The man who came up with strep—streptococcus—was a Detroit man. How do you cure that? He discovered how to do that.

Ritchie: So you covered health issues for the community awareness.

Harris: Yes. Sure. That was another—that was the opening night for the Torch Drive, as I recall.

Ritchie: It says "Waiting at the set on Washington Boulevard to open the Red Feather campaign." How many radio stations were there in Detroit at this point? This is in the late forties.

Harris: Five or six. And they were major radio stations.

Ritchie: So you had competition.

Harris: Oh, excellent, excellent competition. In both radio and television.

Ritchie: This is another Red Feather agency activity.

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Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: And here we have a man who is president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews whom you seem to be interviewing there.

Harris: I don't know what we talked about. So be it.

Ritchie: How did you prepare for your interviews?

Harris: I didn't do too much research. I knew who they were and why they were there. And then I'd say—as a matter of fact, I got it down to about ten little steps in an interview. Tell me about yourself was the first one. And they'd go on and on. And then, "Oh, a-ah, no-o." That's all you have to say, just let them run. And then I would sum it up at the end and it was—I developed that over a period of time. I have a passionate feeling that interviewers talk too much.

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