Washington Press Club Foundation
Fran Harris:
Interview #2 (pp. 37-77)
September 29, 1990 in Westland, Michigan
Anne Ritchie, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 3, Side A]

Ritchie: Well, we're back to talk a little more about your career and we had moved into your early years in television. And you told me that this was a very natural transition and you continued to do the radio—

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: —while developing television programs. Did you get more feedback from your viewers when you were on television?

Harris: Oh, yes, a great deal. Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. The first show—did I mention this before—was the children's program?

Ritchie: That your children helped give you ideas for.

Harris: Yes. That was a great success.

Ritchie: I wanted to look at the pictures again because I saw a mention of your children's participation—here it is. I'll just read this little statement here. "When commercial television first came to Detroit the summer of 1947, it was decided that aside from live sports and a live cooking show with Jean McBride, something was needed to increase the sales of TV sets. RCA, Philco and General Electric all made sets and they sought to try a children's show for family appeal. At WWJ-TV, an hour and a half of after-school time was created. Philco sponsored a storybook lady at 4:30 who read fairy tales and adventure stories. At 5:00 RCA sponsored a collection of all kinds of live amusement." That's probably where the magic man came in. "And GE sponsored a 5:30 show of educational movies. Cartoons had not yet appeared on TV. It was my good luck to be scheduled to create the five o'clock program which we called 'Junior Jamboree.'"

And then there's a little note here from you. "I am eternally grateful to my three inventive children who at the time were ages eleven, six and one. I also read Children's Activities magazine from cover to cover and copied from it shamelessly."

So that was the beginning of your developing programs for the television station.

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Harris: True. True. Yes. Yes. And it was a delight. It lasted for about a year and a half. And we later included the Humane Society and every Friday gave away a little puppy dog.

Ritchie: Some parents may not be too pleased about that.

Harris: I always checked with them first.

Ritchie: Oh, good.

Harris: That was important. And then we also had Santa Claus at Christmastime. And the children's letters to Santa poured in. And the ones that I picked that might be useful, I called up the parents and said, "Is it all right on our program if Santa promises Johnny a sled?" "Yes, it's all right. He's going to get a sled." Or "If Jenny wants a doll, is it all right for Santa to promise it?" And one woman said, "It's all right for Johnny to have a sled but tell him to stop pushing his sister." So Santa Claus did it. The result I'm not sure but at least the word came from Santa.

Ritchie: It came from a good authority in the child's eyes.

Harris: That's right. "Don't push your sister."

Ritchie: So you were not only developing programs but developing with the involvement of the parent or the community in one way or another.

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes, yes. The viewers, after all, without the viewers where are you?

Ritchie: How were the ratings at the station?

Harris: In radio they were very high. In television we were the only television in town at that time, in the early years. So it increased so that in about a year after the Junior Jamboree and the children's appeal programs were set, television sales were tremendous and it was possible then to go on to other kinds of things. And when it said sports, the only sports that were allowed were wrestling and fencing. This was ridiculous. At that time the thinking on football and baseball assumed that if those shows were on the air, in television, there wouldn't be anybody watching from the grandstand. And so—little did they know—so they would not cooperate at all in early television. They were sure it would just take their money away. But it didn't. Eventually it got through to them that if you televised baseball, people could watch it but they would also come to see what they were watching.

Ritchie: Did other people at the station work on both radio and television? Was this common?

Harris: Yes. At that point. In the early days it was true. And it wasn't long before it was separated but I always worked on both of them.

Ritchie: Did you have the same office for both?

Harris: Yes. Television was kind of a fun extra, in those early years. And it was fun. It was great.

Ritchie: So you were, for example, for the children's show you would write the script and then others would work with you in presenting it?

Harris: Yes. Well, actually, there was no written script. I just had a few little notes that so-and-so will spend so much time with our magician, will spend so much time with the artist and will spend so much time with whomever I interviewed from the sports area. And I just kept my watch so that I could see the time.

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And the producer, who worked with me of course—very casual, everybody was very casual about everything. And we did things in the early days whether we knew it was possible to do them or not. Nobody had done them and so we just tried. And it was great fun.

Ritchie: Did being in front of a camera ever intimidate you?

Harris: No, not really. The lights were very heavy, very heavy. I remember there was one particular light that would—for a while they tried it, it was put right in front of me and beamed right into my eyes and into my face. And I think that's why I got glasses so early.

Ritchie: To protect your eyes.

Harris: Yes. But that didn't last too long. They saw that that wasn't necessary. And all the equipment in television changed remarkably. The initial cameras were huge, they were bulky, they were unwieldy. But in a couple of years they came down to a reasonable size. And the lights that used to be so necessary, they got another kind of a bulb and they became much more useful. And pretty soon, as I think I mentioned, the children's program was in the area over in the Detroit News building, over the print shop, the print place where the paper for the newspaper would be rolling in and we would have to compete with that.

Very soon a new building appeared across the street from the Detroit News which was the—to be then the WWJ station. And it had all of the latest equipment. The lights were right and they were high. And there was a turntable so that—because we're an automotive city we could drive a car onto the turntable and then turn it around, you could see all the parts of the car and everything, you know. It was terribly modern at the moment. It didn't last but it was terribly modern.

Ritchie: The state of the art at the time.

Harris: It was indeed state of art at the time. And it was a pleasure. In the early days, over in the News building the lights were so hot that the norm in the studio would be anywhere from a hundred to 135 degrees. And I can still see one of the pitchers from the Tigers' rostrum who was showing the kids how to handle a ball to pitch a certain way and his whole hand was just perspiring terribly, you know. And you really couldn't stay under them very long. But with the new lights, that disappeared.

Ritchie: As the technology advanced, it made it easier.

Harris: Oh, yes. And it advanced quickly, very rapidly. There was a large battle between RCA and Columbia as to which technique would be the better one. And I've forgotten the details but I know RCA won out so that the cameras that they devised were more effective than the ones that Columbia—the CBS people had devised.

Ritchie: Now, so far we've been talking about local shows. What national programs would have been some of the early ones that would have come in on your station? Do you remember any of those?

Harris: Not too much. In the very early days, we had no national whatever.

Ritchie: No connection, it was all local?

Harris: That's right. But as the networks extended and the technique provided, then we began to get the programs. I think primarily the news programs—this was after World War II, so news was important. And the sports, news and sports, primarily. And now, of course, the great diversion of entertainment and those kinds of programs—and the soaps. Soaps transferred from radio to television very easily.

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Ritchie: Were you ever involved with the soaps at the radio?

Harris: No way. I looked down my haughty nose at them.

Ritchie: But they had a large following, didn't they?

Harris: Very large following. And in radio in particular, the experts came to the conclusion that it was not what the soaps were saying on radio, it was the voice in the house that made a person feel less alone. That made sense and the same thing works with television.

Ritchie: So the voice is on in another room or nearby.

Harris: You're just not that terribly alone.

Ritchie: I know people who leave radios on for dogs.

Harris: I believe it and I understand this. And we were dogs, too, at the right time. As a matter of fact, my husband never agreed that television was going to last. So I had been on TV for three years before we ever bought a set.

Ritchie: So he wasn't one of those that fell for the children's program to—

Harris: Well, no, he wouldn't do that, anyway. Never would see it. And the nighttime television wasn't all that great for a while. Who wants to watch wrestling all the time?

Ritchie: So it was in the early fifties that you got your first home set.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And that would have been a black-and-white set.

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes. And when color came, that was just splendid. I've even forgotten the specific dates of when color arrived but it must have been in the mid-fifties somewhere.

Ritchie: Tell me a little bit about the changes you've seen in Detroit as a city over the years, as someone who's been interested in community events and activities.

Harris: It used to be a very warm and loving kind of a town. But then it grew and it grew and the metropolitan area was said to have some four million people, that included all the outlying suburbs and all. Then it became less personal. And I noticed early on that there became a division of interest—there was this group over here, according to income, and this group over there, according to income. The people with the high incomes were very interested in proceeding with the development of the city but there were a great many more people who had low incomes, very many more people who had low incomes. And then that's when the drugs and the crime accelerated.

There was one time when I was doing some programs with the schools. Detroit had a women's division in the police department. The woman who was the first head was Eleanor Hutzell. And so I wanted to show how kids could get dope. So I went over to her and said, "Now, please, tell me how and what's right to do." And she said, "Don't you dare put that on the air. We're not going to teach them how to get dope." So I didn't put it on the air.

Ritchie: But you wanted to show what was happening.

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Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And how kids were getting it.

Harris: But nevertheless they managed to use it. But her point was well taken.

Ritchie: She didn't want to be educating them on how to do it.

Harris: That's right. That's right. And I always admired her for it. She was quite a figure in this city and there is now a Hutzell Hospital and it used to be Women's Hospital. I was born there, for heaven's sakes. And then there was a change when she died, it was changed to Hutzell Hospital. She was a very important woman in this community because she was head of the police department's women's division, there was a women's division. And the women's division really operated well.

Ritchie: We were talking earlier about Detroit and the automotive industry. And that, of course, was—

Harris: Part of it. Our gorgeous Renaissance Center was created because Henry Ford II decided that something had to be done to upgrade Detroit. So he got the people from Chrysler and General Motors and the other major manufacturing people and they all put in money and created the buildings which now are on the riverfront of the Renaissance Center which is really a beautiful arrangement. And the automotive people put money—the families of the automotive industry put money back into Detroit.

The Fords particularly felt they owed a great deal to it. I knew Eleanor Ford, she was Edsel Ford's wife and Henry Ford II's mother. I knew her fairly well from some of the community activities. She was an absolute doll and she was so community-minded and she instilled this in her children.

I remember one meeting we were having about the United—the Red Feathers, we called it then—it was the United Community Services, the United Fund kind of money-raising thing. It was a luncheon meeting because many of the busy women had to buzz around—they didn't have careers but they were career volunteers. So we would all meet for lunch and it was a dollar and a half a person. And for heaven's sakes, when it came to pay up, Mrs. Ford didn't have any money. And she was terribly embarrassed but she said, "You'll just have to go down, Thomas is waiting in the car down below and you'll have to ask him for it." And Thomas was her butler/chauffeur and so forth. Thomas evidently came up with the money.

Ritchie: The dollar fifty for lunch.

Harris: But she just didn't even carry money with her, which was amusing, I thought. To have so much of it.

Ritchie: What other companies had automotive plants here? Ford?

Harris: Ford Lincoln Mercury and General Motors [GM], of course. That would mean Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac. There was Chrysler and Dodge and Plymouth. Those were different companies. They were all within the area. Not in the city, necessarily, but all within the area. The Cadillac plant was in the city. The UAW [United Auto Workers] had tremendous power. Walter Reuther was a very important man at the time. He didn't mind the rough and tumble and he appealed to the people. So many of the people working in the automotive industry were immigrants. It was interesting to note that at one time a great many—during past-the-war period and during the war period, the highly educated European people would come over here, the doctors and the attorneys and so forth. But they couldn't speak our language and they couldn't pass the Michigan state regulations for their doctoring and their attorney work.

Ritchie: For their particular profession.

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Harris: So they worked in the factories because the money was so very good. I remember one Belgian journalist was over here and he came in to see if I could help him find a job somewhere, because we had a great many nationality papers, too. Belgian paper, Polish paper, German paper, Hungarian papers, they were all—a great many Arabic papers and so on.

Ritchie: Published within their communities.

Harris: Within their own communities. Yes. And this chap came in and he said, "You know, the thing I find interesting about America?" "No, what?" "I find that when you walk down the street, you don't know from looking at a person how—what he does, who he is, if he is important. You can't tell from his clothing or his bearing whether he's the president of a company or just somebody who cleans up the floors, the janitor. That's remarkable." He said, "In our country, we always had to look behind to be sure there wasn't someone following us. And we never held our heads high." But he said, "In the United States, you hold your heads high." I liked that. He got a job eventually with the Belgian paper.

Ritchie: Located here in Detroit.

Harris: Oh, yes. So that worked out.

Ritchie: So the people in the various ethnic groups may not have read the main paper—the Detroit News.

Harris: Not very much. Not in the early years. But I will say Detroit, unlike Chicago, mingled its peoples. There was not this area which was strictly Hungarian, this area strictly Ukrainian and so forth. They were all kind of blended together, which was interesting. And the second-generation youngsters all moved out of the city of Detroit into the suburbs.

Ritchie: So they're somewhat scattered.

Harris: They're all scattered. And in the times of the riots, in Los Angeles it was Watts and it was a certain geographical place. In our town, we had one riot during the war in 1943 and another riot afterward in '67. You could sit up in a tall building and look out the window and you could see there would be fires all around. There was no one central place where there was disaster; it was all scattered all over the place.

Ritchie: Did you cover any of these riots?

Harris: The first riot was during the war and I was doing news. But unfortunately, the theory was that a woman should never cover murder, arson or sex crimes. Whatever violence there might be.

Ritchie: Police activity.

Harris: Yes. You just didn't do that. If you worked with the police, it was for nice, safe things, like traffic.

Ritchie: Like your Highway Patrol.

Harris: That's right. So I never was allowed to go out where the excitement was, which burned me up, I tell you, and I'm delighted to know now that the women do go out on these difficult jobs. But in the early days, no, I didn't do anything about the riots, I just was glad I survived. And that was a black and white thing because so many blacks had come up during—this was in '43, '44—so many of the blacks had come up from the South to work in the plants. And the white people who were already there resented it. The "hillbillies," quote, also came up, and there was an automatic clash. Yet when they worked in the factories side by side, they got along together. But when they lived close to each other, they didn't. It was interesting.

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Ritchie: It was outside the work place that tension took place.

Harris: It was outside the work place. In the work place they worked together beautifully. I saw that in our own business, in our own building. We had black janitors and the white men would take them home, to be sure they got home all right. They were people, they were not black or white, which was important.

Well, in '67, it was a mad, mad riot. It started in what we call Twelfth Street. It was a black and white affair once again. And that I could have covered but I was no longer on the air myself. But I remember that the riot began on a Sunday and my husband and I were out on our boat with some guests. And when we came in to dock the boat at the boat club on Belle Isle, we heard that there was a riot, we didn't really know too much about it. But everybody on the dock was saying, "Well, you can't get off the island, you know, you can't go back into town because there's this riot." So I called up the station, WWJ, and I said, "What about it, how do I get home?" And they said, "That's all right, just take the expressways, you're okay, but don't take the side streets." So I spread the word to all the people and we all got home all right.

The next morning, Monday morning, my husband and I decided, "Well, we've got to go to work," you know, one does. So we started off. And part way downtown—we lived about, I'd say twelve, thirteen miles out from downtown—we came in one of the main drags, one of the main thoroughfares, and all of a sudden we were told to please go—don't go down this street any more. The police were there and they were directing traffic to the expressways, which were quite a way away, rather than going down the main thoroughfare.

We finally got downtown all right and hardly anyone was working. My husband had an office up on the thirty-fourth floor of one of the buildings downtown and we looked out the windows and we could see these fires all over the town. And people came up, the few that were in the building came up to see, too, and everybody had to take a look.

Well, I didn't know that at the time but I went down right to work and instead of going to my office, I went straight to the newsroom and said, "What can I do?" And the news director said, "Answer the phone." Well, we had nine phones connected in those days. I guess they have more now but in those days we had nine. I answered the phone from Monday morning to Thursday night and it was pretty exciting. I was the only woman around but it never occurred to me until afterward to realize that I was the only woman around.

And the people came in from NBC. At that time Herb Kaplow had a group and he came in. And the Huntley-Brinkley people came in. We had to be polite to the networks but it was very difficult to be polite. Our own people were out in the streets and I wanted to go out, too, you know. They wouldn't let me. "No, you answer the phone, that's more important right now."

Ritchie: So you were giving—people were calling for information.

Harris: Calling for information and for help. Some of the information [asked for] was: Are the buses running? Is Wayne University open? The first one that really hit me—"Will you please tell me what we can do? I can't get any milk for my child and the grocery store has just been burned down." And what can you do, you know? There were quantities of calls like that. So all I did was write them down and put them on the air and we took off all the regular scheduling programs. One announcer after another would just give all these notes that came in and all these questions and queries and keep people advised. This was all radio.

Then the television crews came in later but that [film] took longer to develop so that you didn't see the television until the night and so forth. But the immediacy of radio was fantastic. In the newsroom we were tied in with the police department and the fire department and all the tie-ins were always busy.

Ritchie: So you would know what they were doing, where the police were going—

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Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Where the fire trucks were going?

Harris: That's right. That's right. And by Wednesday—it was the third and a half day we'd had it—all of a sudden there weren't very many fire department calls any more. So one of the guys looked out and he said, "Hey, there aren't very many fires any more. Isn't that great!" One of the women who called in said, "I don't want you to think that all of the black people are thoughtless." She said, "I want you to know that when our street began to burn, the young black children came to help—they came to help the fire department, to show them where to go, to help them with the hoses and so forth." She said, "I want you to know that all the blacks are not bad." It just got you, it just got you.

Funny to think of that now and still weep about it. But it was important.

Ritchie: So the radio and the television really responded to the community and the community's needs for—

Harris: Yes. People didn't know where else to call. And the radio was in their home and the TV. Then after we had six days of it—that was in July—they finally called in the National Guard and we really expected to have them come right away and clean everything up but President Johnson didn't want to do that too soon. He wanted to be sure that it was a valid call. So he sent Cyrus Vance [Deputy Secretary of Defense] into the city to check up on the situation and say, "Do they really need the National Guard?" Well, twenty-four hours after the National Guard appeared, he allowed as how they were necessary and then the things were cleaned up, which was kind of exciting, too. But it was a traumatic era.

Well, at the end of the six days I got hold of all of the television that our own people had given—all the television tapes. And I put them together and we had a documentary called "Six Days in July" and it won an Emmy. How about that! That was wonderful. Everybody immediately converged to say, "What can I do to help?" It was great. That came out of it.

Ritchie: That was probably a low point in Detroit's recent history.

Harris: Yes, and then it became a high point because once again the people, the big shots and the people who owned the businesses—the retailing businesses and the manufacturing businesses, they all got together and they created an organization called New Detroit, which still exists, and was to help smooth out the problems.

Ritchie: So they would work on problems such as school integration.

Harris: Integration, yes.

Ritchie: And economic basis of the community.

Harris: Particularly. The churches also combined, the Episcopal church brought together the Catholic and the Jewish communities, the rabbis and the archdiocese, and they still operate together as a unit. Nowadays, of course, they pick on all of the broadcast stations because the stations aren't doing enough to cope with this problem or cope with that problem. But nevertheless, everyone got together. There was a permanent feeling of helping to bring the city back. And they did it, they did it.

My husband was injured in the first riot in 1943. He was working in one of the war plants. Having children, they were still not taking the men who had children, in the army, so he worked in one of the war plants, in the chemical war plant. He and one of the lieutenants from the army were taking some material from one plant to another. And in town at that time, there was a street—there still is a street called Hastings Street which was the center, the heart of the black community at that time. They were driving down Hastings Street.

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And all of a sudden I got a call from my husband, "Come pick me up. I'm at the hospital, I'm at Receiving Hospital." "What, what, what?" It seemed that they stopped for a stoplight and a mob converged, this was an army car that they had and [they were] two white men. So the angry blacks converged. My husband said he and the lieutenant got out of the car—which was stupid—and when he woke up, he was on the pavement and looked up and there were nothing but black faces around looking at him. And he'd been hit in the head pretty badly.

So, anyway, I picked him up from the hospital and then we went—the point was that at Receiving Hospital there were so many people coming in with injuries that they looked at my husband's head and they said, "Well, you're all right. If you can go to your family doctor, do that," you know. So that's what we did.

Ritchie: So the first riots during the war, you said 1943, were [related to] the racial situation.

Harris: Specifically racial, yes. And then '67 was racial also, which was too bad. But a lot of the people came up from the Deep South. A lot of the black people simply did not have the education and they did not have the knowledge of how to live in a city. They'd been living, I gather, in little clusters around the cities. And they didn't know how to handle the weather here.

Ritchie: Right. Detroit would be a big change from the Southern states.

Harris: A very large change. So there were multitudes of reasons why they were unhappy, which I understand.

Ritchie: Well, as we mentioned last night, having read Harriette Arnow's The Dollmaker, you get a very good sense of the difficulties that someone from the Kentucky mountains had in adjusting to the different cultural habits of the Detroit area. And the weather, they were not prepared for the cold winter and they were not used to living in a city, in a small apartment. They were used to a farm in the mountains, which was very different.

Harris: That's right. It's interesting to know that this one country has such a variety of living arrangements. And it's still going on.

Ritchie: Did you happen to see the TV movie that was made of The Dollmaker several years ago?

Harris: I may have, I don't—

Ritchie: I'd be interested—I mean, they showed scenes of Detroit. It followed the book fairly closely except the ending was different, for TV they made it a happy ending.

Harris: Oh, well, of course, of course. That's basic.

Ritchie: So the racial situation in Detroit was one that you witnessed during the years.

Harris: Oh, yes, yes. Very definitely. It was appalling and amazing and exciting all at once. But I'm glad we lived through it.

Ritchie: It was certainly one that was interesting to report on.

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. A lot of the time after some of the phone calls, I would buzz down to the studio and give some information to the announcer which he would immediately broadcast, you know, so that it was instantaneous.

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And that was good. I know that my mother and father were having a fit because my husband and I were driving back and forth to work. However, one does that.

Ritchie: In what year did your parents die? Or what years?

Harris: Let's see, my father died in '57 and my mother died in '62.

Ritchie: Within a few years of each other. And so they lived with you all those years.

Harris: That's right. That's right. Because by the time we were able to be on our own, my husband and I, we had the children. As I look back, it was pretty selfish of me but they were built-in babysitters and it worked out very well.

Ritchie: And it was nice for them to have the young children around.

Harris: That's what they told me.

Ritchie: Well, earlier we were talking about some of these photographs and I thought we might go back to that for a few minutes to see some of the people that you interviewed and take a look at some of the on-the-set programs that you were working with.

Harris: That was the television Junior Jamboree and we were trying to teach the children about why they should not cross the street on the way to school without the okay of the crossing guard. That worked out that way.

And the little clown there is What Now.

Ritchie: Oh, are you operating the clown?

Harris: No, no. Jo Alexander is the woman who is operating the marionette. She'd always wanted a marionette and she worked in the Detroit library so she simply went down and found a book or two about how to make a marionette and she came up with What Now. And he was just adorable.

Ritchie: How many cameras—you only have one camera on you at that time?

Harris: There would be three.

Ritchie: Three.

Harris: But one followed us more carefully.

Ritchie: For the closeup shots. So you had the three cameramen and the cameras were on wheels and they would move around.

Harris: That's right. That's right. But they were still pretty bulky.

And I've forgotten what that one was about.

Ritchie: It's Quiz Kid prizes. It looks like a teen competition, something for teenagers. "Junior Jamboree."

Harris: I'm sure we did.

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Ritchie: You know what your clown reminds me of is Howdy Doody.

Harris: Yes, that's true. That's true.

Ritchie: Clara Bell, the clown. Oh, I see, the artist here with his easel.

Harris: An easel where he would do it initially in red and then mark over it.

Ritchie: Now here you are in 1948 with a garden show. With Phil Barry, who's the plant breeder, at Ferry Morse Research Station.

Harris: Ferry Morse had a very big operation out of Detroit, very big. They worked with the city's Parks and Recreation people and the Parks and Recreation [Department] was lodged over on Belle Isle which is in the middle of the Detroit River, between Detroit and Canada. We did a good many shots with the garden show and helping—this was to get people off the memory of the war and to help reorganize themselves into home-keeping individuals.

Ritchie: To plant gardens, to give them ideas.

Now, here we have a photograph and then you say, "Still doing radio. Russell Krause in Life with Father."

Harris: Oh, yes. He was a good interview. So I was doing radio ad infinitum.

Ritchie: Were you assigned a certain percentage of time in radio and a certain percentage of—

Harris: I had a certain time, yes. No, a certain air time and the rest of it was my problem.

Ritchie: You just had to get ready to be on the air.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Here we have "WWJ women." So these were other women that you worked with?

Harris: They were the clericals.

Ritchie: And this is 1948 and you were still the only woman's voice on the radio.

Harris: In the newsroom.

Ritchie: In the newsroom. Others did the cooking shows—

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: —and the—well, the soaps would have been women.

Harris: Well, the soaps were network.

Ritchie: Network.

Harris: Yes.

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Ritchie: So [there were] no local soaps?

Harris: No.

Ritchie: And then you would have had some announcers, too.

Harris: No, we didn't. When the war was over, the women announcers disappeared. How I managed to stay on, I'll never know. It just was luck.

Ritchie: Now, here's a photograph of you with the Highway Patrol program that you did, that we mentioned earlier.

Harris: Oh, that's Bennett Cerf. He was a doll.

Ritchie: And this would have been a radio interview.

Harris: That was a radio interview, yes. Most of the pictures would be radio. We discovered that he had a nine-year-old and I had a nine-year-old and he had put out—just beginning to put out the series of books for young teenagers.

Ritchie: So you had something in common to talk about.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Here's a March of Dimes campaign.

Harris: Yes, that was a separate one.

That was the panel which was on sex discrimination and so forth which was placed very late in the evening so that youngsters weren't able to hear it.

Ritchie: "Protect Your Child."

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And you had a police officer. Oh, that was the Eleanor Hutzell you spoke of.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And a judge and a psychiatrist.

Harris: The psychiatrist is the man at the far right there.

Ritchie: You mentioned to me last evening that you had interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt on several occasions.

[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]

Ritchie: That's true, you said.

Harris: Yes, that's true. The first time was when she was on the way home from visiting the American troops in the Pacific area, Guadalcanal and so forth. And I remember the conversation, Eleanor Roosevelt was not well esteemed among the elite in our town. She was doing unladylike things. A woman did not go to the front lines.

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The women who were in the hospital were supposed to be nurses. And the fewer nurses the better. If they were the men, it would be better—nurses. So they condemned her for going to the war zones. She went anyway, of course, because she wanted to report back to the men's families that all was well and how they were doing and that the hospitals were taking care of the wounded and so on, in Guadalcanal particularly.

She had some relatives here in Birmingham, G. Hall Roosevelt and his wife Dorothy. One day my boss called me down to the office and he said, "I want you to go out and interview Eleanor Roosevelt." And I said, "Ha, ha, ha, me?" This was before my interview shows. He said, "What you do is you write out the questions you want to ask her, I'll go over them to be sure that it's all right, and go out there with your engineer and go to Mrs. Roosevelt's house, to Dorothy Roosevelt's."

And when we went out, Dorothy Roosevelt had arranged to have her sun room, which was on the first floor, made into a studio for us. There was a table with a microphone and chairs and all, and the windows all around the sun room. And it was obviously—as we sat down at first to go over the questions, Mrs. Roosevelt's back was to the window. But we heard this scratching odd noise and we looked up and she turned around and there were all these little faces, all the neighborhood children were there and they wanted to see the First Lady. So she thought that maybe we should change chairs, which we did.

And so all the time I was asking her what I thought were profound questions, she answered them in an elegant way but she smiled and nodded to the children as though she were talking to them, which was a delightful way to be. She was very, very special. So after that time when any of my mother's friends and my father's friends would denigrate Mrs. Roosevelt, I'd speak up. I'd say, "Now, wait a minute! She's a lady, she's a real woman, she's great."

Ritchie: So she was telling you during that interview what she had found with the troops.

Harris: That's true. All this serious stuff, but she was smiling and nodding to the youngsters. And that took quite a bit to do.

Ritchie: Now, you mentioned that your boss wanted to review the questions that you were going to ask. Did he usually do that, on a normal interview?

Harris: No. No. He just wanted to be sure that all was perfect. I never would have had the nerve to ask for an interview with her. I was still a little bit scared in those years. That was in the wartime and I was a really fresh newscaster, an instant newscaster. So I think he felt that he ought to be sure that I was on the right track. That was all right. I didn't mind. It was all right. So I asked all the proper questions. It worked out nicely.

Ritchie: And when did you see her again?

Harris: After the president died and she was head of one of the United Nations councils—came to Detroit for some reason and was at the downtown Book-Cadillac Hotel in one of the big suites. And when we went into the suite, we noticed that there was an awful lot of people there. She had known we were coming, however. The large suites in the hotel had a small barroom attached so we went into the barroom and the engineer set up his equipment. I sat on a barstool and we waited for the lady. And she did come in. She's very good about that kind of thing.

And when she sat on the barstool, my impudent engineer went around back of the bar and said, "Okay, what will it be, lady?" you know. She loved it. But then on the barstool there we were talking about the beginnings of the United Nations and would it work and would it not work and so forth. It was very interesting.

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And then another time she was here, she was in the down-river area from Detroit. And there was a congregation which was mixed, there were black and white people. There was one particular Sunday school class—or a group of youngsters from the Sunday school classes—who were allowed to see Mrs. Roosevelt and to ask her questions, which she loved. She loved it when the youngsters would ask questions. They had a black minister. I went in and we set up our equipment and listened with awe while she answered very patiently everything from, you know, "Is America a good country?" to "Where did you get your pretty coat?" The great variety. And when it was all through, we did a very nice interview. She was a people person, she related well to people and I think that was important.

Ritchie: Was she the only First Lady you ever interviewed?

Harris: The only First Lady I interviewed, but I knew Pat Nixon. We had a little problem with Pat Nixon. This was in 1960 when Nixon was running against Kennedy. And the Nixons came to town and Mrs. Nixon invited the ladies of the press for a breakfast. That meant that there would be one woman from the Detroit News, one person—woman—from the Free Press, and one woman from the then Detroit Times and me. And I represented the women in radio because all the other radio programs were cookery shows and so forth, I was the only one doing news. And the four of us were there—of course, my engineer was with me.

Ritchie: You got along well with your engineers, didn't you?

Harris: Oh, yes. Well, they got a kick out of it. You know, they liked to get out of the studio and it was fun. But the three women from the newspapers went in and I started to follow with my engineer. Herb Klein was then in charge, the publicity man for Mr. Nixon. He said, "Hey, you can't go in there. That's just for women." And I started to argue. He said, "I'm sorry. No men in that outfit." So I had to send my engineer back. And I sat through the interview with Pat Nixon, very interesting woman, I thought, kind of. Then finally I could hold it back no longer and I said, "Why wouldn't you let me have my engineer in here so we could make a tape? I wanted to use you on the air and let people know what you think." And she said, "I never do interviews on the air and Richard speaks for both of us." I thought, "Oh, my God." So that was that.

And then a few years later, I had occasion to be at one of the "dos" at the White House in the afternoon and she was the president's lady at the time and had a lovely four o'clock arrangement prepared, lovely food and all that kind of thing. I don't think she recognized me at the time. But she was very gracious and very lovely and one of the nice things that they had was a buffet. Helen Thomas was there, she was assigned to the White House at that time and Fay Wells was representing [Storer Broadcasting] at the White House. And one of the lovely things on the buffet table was some little tarts, tiny tarts, that were filled with a bit of custard and then a big strawberry on top and on top of that some elegant whipped cream. And if you had a big enough mouth you could eat it one jolt—

Ritchie: One pop?

Harris: One pop. Well, I had my lovely strawberry tart and I saw Helen Thomas and we'd known each other and so we got off in the corner and started to talk about how was Detroit, because she came from there, you know.

Ritchie: Oh, is that how you knew Helen Thomas?

Harris: Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: But she was never involved in radio or TV, was she?

Harris: Not here, no. Anyway, I said, "Well, have you had the tarts?" And she said, "Oh, yes, I had one." And I said, "Well, let's go get some more." And she said, "Oh, no, the press is not allowed to have more than one."

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So the obvious thing to do, I went over and I picked up as many tarts as I could handle to bring them over to her. And I looked at Mrs. Nixon and she winked at me. And so from then on I liked her. But I never did interview her per se.

Ritchie: And when she would have been here in '60 during the campaign, that would have been more or less a political interview, although not directly with the candidate.

Harris: That's right. That's right. And it was blessed by heaven and so forth. That was how I happened to be involved in that one, because I was told to go. I was not going to argue.

Ritchie: Even though at times, you usually didn't cover or do political things.

Harris: No, because the Kennedys came en masse and they wanted me to interview some of the Kennedy brood—not Jack Kennedy but the rest of them. I turned them down because that was political, strictly political, and I felt very brave about doing that, too, especially since I voted for him.

Ritchie: About turning him down.

Harris: I didn't turn him down, I turned his mother and sisters.

Ritchie: And family members down.

Harris: And family members down.

Ritchie: But the Nixon one you were asked or told to go to by the station.

Harris: Yes. It makes a difference as to who says what.

Ritchie: Did they often give you assignments? I mean, very often you seem to be allowed to develop your own programs and do interviews.

Harris: Basically, I did. The only times when I did things I didn't really particularly want to do in the interview area was when the sales department would have a crucial sale they were just trying to make and if they could only get the boss on the air—well, then I would take him and I'd do an interview with him and build his ego. And that worked out nicely but that wasn't too often.

Ritchie: So that would be—you would be in a position then to coax the people.

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Did you ever feel that was unethical? Or that you were giving them more coverage because of the possibility of them being sponsors?

Harris: I just realized, I knew that it was realistic. After all, the station had to make money and if they didn't make money, I didn't get paid. So there you are. And it wasn't political, it was commercial. And the station is commercial, so there you are. And it didn't happen too often so that was all right.

Ritchie: So on occasion you would help the sales department out.

Harris: If they were very polite and asked me.

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Ritchie: You mentioned Helen Thomas and her being from this area, Detroit. And you've undoubtedly kept up with her career through the years.

Harris: I've been very much interested about her.

Ritchie: And how about—can you think of other women journalists that you've kept up with or known about that would be from your era?

Harris: Well, there was Pauline Frederick. I had met her two or three times, and she was always very pleasant. She was a year before me in doing news but she was on another level and at the United Nations so that I was the first one in Michigan to do it. I always have to bring in that "in Michigan" bit, you know, just to be sure. But otherwise, there just weren't that many. There just weren't.

Ritchie: And of course, you were very busy doing your work, you hardly had the time at that point to be keeping up with everybody.

Harris: Yes. But I could make my own time pretty well, as long as I was there to do the broadcasts. I really had an unusual opportunity there.

Ritchie: Did the management of the station stay very much the same? When the television came in, how did the management work?

Harris: Well, the general manager was still general manager, with AM-FM and TV.

Ritchie: So he became general manager of everything.

Harris: Including television, yes. For a long time, the newsroom was the same for both radio and television. And we didn't do much original programming. We did some but not much. The program director for radio was also program director for television but that lasted only a couple of years. It got pretty complicated.

Ritchie: When you talk about the newsroom—and you mentioned earlier your office, was your office actually an individual office or would it have been a desk in a room with others?

Harris: Oh, when I was first doing news, I had a desk in the newsroom and that was for quite a long time. And then when I stopped—not doing the early morning news and I was concentrating more on the interviews—oh, it must have been in the early fifties somewhere—they said, "Well, maybe you could have a desk or office all by yourself," because it would help me to have the people come in and I could visit with them before we went on the air. Then I had an office of my own for a long time. So that was the way that worked.

Ritchie: When you talk about the radio newsroom, did it look like we might picture a newspaper newsroom?

Harris: Yes. Very much. Not as large but we had—I don't know, about forty men.

Ritchie: And you were the only woman. Well, the only woman newscaster.

Harris: Yes. Yes. We all worked together pretty well. They kidded me a lot but that was all right, I didn't mind. When I was appointed to the first State Status of Women Commission— Kennedy had created the Status of Women Commission nationally and Mrs. Roosevelt was the head of it. And our governor at that time thought, "Hey, that would be a good idea. We should have one in the state."

Ritchie: Who was the governor at that time?

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Harris: [John] Swainson. So I found myself appointed to that and I had to go to meetings every month. So one day I remember I got up and I said, "Goodbye, guys, I've got to go to a Status of Women Commission meeting." And somebody said, "Well, why don't they have a Status of Men Commission?" You know, the obvious stuff. Every time I had to go to a meeting, they'd kid me about it but that was all right. My goodness, if you can't kid—or can't take kidding, you're not one of the group.

Ritchie: Right. So you were well accepted by them.

Harris: Evidently, yes. At least they put up with me.

Ritchie: Did you feel that your salary was equal to theirs?

Harris: No, I knew it wasn't. Never was. But I was having such a good time, I didn't pursue it, which was probably kind of dumb. But my top salary, even when I was promoted to the management level, was $15,000 a year. I know that was just about half of what the rest of the people were getting. But I didn't care. My husband was working. I was having a ball. I probably should have been more circumspect about that but I wasn't.

Ritchie: When did another woman arrive on a professional level in the TV or radio, do you remember?

Harris: Yes, that was in the late fifties at our station. But she didn't do news, she did kind of off-beat interviews—and it was a late afternoon thing, I think she had five minutes, ten minutes, something like that. She didn't last very long.

Ritchie: When you say off-beat, you mean she didn't interview celebrities or well-known people.

Harris: No. No. It was other kinds of comments and what's going on around town sort of thing.

Ritchie: Was it something like the man-on-the-street type interview that—

Harris: She didn't do a man-on-the-street but she did the events and so forth. But I think the feeling was—I resented it a little bit when she came in but the feeling was, I believe, that the boss knew that I was going to be promoted up and not be on the air any more and they wanted somebody to take over. Well, she didn't work out, that's all. So they never did get anybody.

Ritchie: And of course this would have been—you weren't being promoted because you were too old for the job.

Harris: No, age didn't [matter], no.

Ritchie: No, age wasn't a factor then.

Harris: It was female. Oh, I've been kicked out of some of the best places. I remember that there was a press conference that Mr. Kresge—the Kresges were very big in our city, too—the five and ten cent store Kresges. Stan Kresge, the son of the founder—my mother and father knew the Kresges pretty well and I'd met with Stan before. He introduced a new president for Albion College. The Kresges were very fond of the small town of Albion and had donated some buildings and they had a hand in selecting the new president. So he wanted to introduce him to the Detroit press and his idea was to have a breakfast at 9:30 at the Detroit Club.

The Detroit Club then was closed to women except during mealtime—lunchtime and dinner—and they had to go in a separate door. When I went there, the separate door was not open so of course I went in the front door, naturally. You had to go up a flight of stairs before you got into the front door and one of the

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janitors was sweeping down the steps and when he saw me, he paled. He really did. He said, "Bub-ba-bub-ba," and I kept going. Then a little man in the lobby, "What are you doing here?" And I told him that I was Mr. Kresge's guest. "Oh. Well, he's upstairs. You can't go upstairs. You shouldn't even be here." I said, "I don't think Mr. Kresge would like that very well because he invited me."

So the little man took me down the stairs out the front door and went around and unlocked the women's entrance door, unlocked the women's entrance elevator, and up we went. He kept his eye on me, took me to the actual room where Kresge was holding his little soiree. He was stunned because when Stan Kresge saw me, he said, "Fran, hello! I'm so glad you're here." And the little man just diminished.

Ritchie: Got littler and littler.

Harris: That was typical of the era. We also have the Detroit Athletic Club, the DAC, which was also closed to women except at mealtimes. I happened to be one of the early women on the Metropolitan YMCA board and the gentlemen on the board had an unhappy habit in their committee meetings—and I've forgotten what committee it was but I was on one of them. They would hold their committee meetings for breakfast at 7:30 at the DAC. Well, how was I going to get into the DAC? The side door, of course, was locked. The vice president of the YMCA, which was holding the committee meeting, and the board president—both of them, one on one side and one on the other—we went right through the front door, right past the men in the lounge. One man looked up and dropped his newspaper, that was about the only effect that it had. The walls did not tremble and we went up to the meeting.

I could have gotten irritated about things like that. But I thought to myself, "What's the point? They're going to have to come around sooner or later." And to pass it off, you know. I wasn't about to fight a one-woman war at that time. I had youngsters to bring up, I had a husband to keep happy, I was too busy with other things.

Ritchie: Busy with your life and career.

Harris: And I didn't know it was a career, incidentally. I just thought it was a good job.

Ritchie: Did many of your friends work?

Harris: They became working people later on in the sixties and seventies. But we had—my husband and I belonged to a bridge club and it met at each other's homes. There were just four couples. We met at this one particular home one evening. And I knew I was going to be late because I was interviewing Alben Barkley who was vice president of the United States at that time and I couldn't talk to him until five o'clock or thereafter. Our bridge club was a dinner arrangement and then we played bridge. I did my interview with the man and my husband picked me up and we went to our bridge club party. When I came in the door, I apologized for being late and the host was a rather pompous man and he said, "And what did you do at your little office today?" I was about to tell him when my husband spoke up and he said, "She just finished interviewing the vice president of the United States, that's why we're late." "O-o-oh." I got a kick out of that.

Ritchie: That kept him quiet.

Harris: That kept him very quiet, all evening.

Ritchie: You should have tried that more often, right?

Harris: Indeed.

Ritchie: Now, when you did the interviews, they were one-on-one.

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Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: When people like Barkley would come to town or other prominent figures, would they have press conferences and you would go to those?

Harris: If invited. But this one in particular was—since I had a one-on-one interview, I didn't have to go to the press conference.

Ritchie: Right.

Harris: I've forgotten what we talked about, that had nothing to do with it but it was very nice. The lawyers' association was having a convention or something like that, so it was in one of the hotels. It worked out very nicely, it was a good interview.

Ritchie: If you did go to a press conference, you would have probably been outnumbered by the print journalists.

Harris: That's right. We have a Detroit Press Club and many of the conferences came to be held there. But the men in print were always in the front row and us broadcasters were in the back.

Ritchie: The men and the women. And you.

Harris: Yes, the men and then me. And when the television came, we were further back because they made so much noise, you know. Not that they spoke but the equipment made noise. So it was a provoking arrangement and didn't work out very well and eventually we began having separate conferences for the print people and then for the broadcast people. Then ultimately the TV people would get there early and get all of the noisy equipment set up and everything and be there and then we'd have the conference.

Ritchie: Well, I was going to say, it would seem that even the radio people would need to set up equipment if they were going to record.

Harris: Yes, but that's not so noisy.

Ritchie: Not as cumbersome and—

Harris: That's right. And eventually they became self-contained so that you didn't have to have an engineer along with you. So that worked out.

The press conferences were interesting. I remember one with General Marshall—George Marshall—after the war and he had become head of the American Red Cross, I think. And we were out at Dearborn Inn, at the Ford Greenfield Village area. I think there was another woman there so it must have been in the late fifties somewhere. I don't even remember who she was but I just remember seeing another female around.

But early on, some of the press conferences, when I'd ask a question they'd ignore it. Then one of the guys would pick up the same question and they'd answer it.

Ritchie: Because you were a woman—

Harris: I assume so.

Ritchie: —or because you were radio? A woman?

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Harris: No. Because a woman.

Ritchie: The person holding the conference wouldn't necessarily know that you were radio, would they?

Harris: Not necessarily, no. I will say for the print industry, for the newspaper industry, they accepted women much quicker than the broadcast industry did, because the Detroit News and the Free Press now have at least fifty-fifty and I think the Free Press has something like sixty-forty, women to men, in their newsrooms.

Ritchie: Now, today in 1990.

Harris: Now. Now. Today. Yes. They saw the light quite early. But the broadcasters said, "Oh, those women's shrill voices, that won't do," you know. So there you go.

Ritchie: Did you ever have thoughts of moving on to another career or another place? I know you had a family here and were well-grounded in the Detroit area. Did you ever think of pursuing broadcasting in a—

Harris: At network level? I was approached but I didn't even tell my husband about it because I thought about it quite seriously and then I thought, "Now, what's that going to mean? The kids will have to be out of school, I'll have to change their whole rationale, their whole way of life. What's more important?" And I decided that it was more important to bring the children up where they would be safe and secure than it was for me to get a little extra glory. It didn't mean that much so I turned it down.

A lot of times the network would ask for tapes of my shows and I know those were broadcast sometimes. And I never got any money for that, either.

Ritchie: Now you would.

Harris: Now I think I would, yes, that's right. But it really wasn't serious. Now, when my mother, as I mentioned before, traveled up and down the state of Michigan—and I think it was in 1918, along in there somewhere—they wanted her to run for Congress. There was a big splash about how wonderful it would be if she would.

Ritchie: And the women could vote for her, right?

Harris: Well, they would be able to, eventually, yes. My mother turned that down because she felt at that time—and I probably imitated her feeling—that it would uproot too much, my father's practice, it wasn't worth it. So she denied, she said, "No, I won't run for Congress, I'm sorry." I still have the pictures of her, the newspaper pictures, somewhere.

Ritchie: Oh, you'll have to find them and show them to me.

Harris: Oh, come now, they're buried deep!

Ritchie: Not today but some other time you can find them.

Harris: But I remember that she talked about it at the dinner table and I remember keeping very quiet, hoping to heaven that it would work out. It did.

Ritchie: Did you ever have an interest in running for political office?

Harris: No, never. Never. I would do anything rather than that. It simply doesn't appeal at all. There's too much— promises you can't keep—I just didn't like it, didn't want it.

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Ritchie: And you certainly saw the politics, a close view of it.

Harris: When I saw the results, that was—I didn't like it.

Ritchie: I see here in this photograph, you're interviewing Gloria Swanson?

Harris: I was brought up quite carefully. When I was a youngster, I'd go to the Saturday afternoon movies, all the children did. My mother would never let me go to see a Gloria Swanson picture because she thought it was not very good for my young mind. So when I came in to see Miss Swanson, I said, "I'm so glad to really see you because my mother never let me see you as a child—see your pictures when I was a child." She looked quite stonily for just a moment but I was media and she had to be polite. So we carried on—I apologized and she carried on another conversation about how she was getting $18,000 a week and she wasn't able to spend all of it every week and it bothered her.

Ritchie: Oh, my goodness.

Harris: She said, "You can only spend so much on clothes." And she had a size four shoe that she was proud of showing me.

Ritchie: This is a Gertrude Hart Day, the National Conference of Christians and Jews?

Harris: I don't remember a thing about it.

Ritchie: This is a photograph that says, "Gas Company Judges."

Harris: Oh, that was another thing. We were called on to judge for all kinds of competitions and I've forgotten what the occasion was.

Ritchie: So that was another community type of activity that you took part in.

Harris: That was my favorite announcer, Dave Zimmerman. He was injured badly in the war but he came back and he died quite early.

Ritchie: So he would announce the upcoming programs. In fact, he took the place of one of those women, probably, that was announcing during the war.

Harris: That's right. That's right. He would say, "Now, this is the Fran Harris Reports," and so forth, and then we'd talk back and forth.

Ritchie: Here's a photograph of Judge John Watts—and maybe you can tell me a little bit about this program, which is another one that you developed and set a model for other programs.

Harris: That's right. It was the first court show in the nation. My husband had always been devoted to the police. He loved going riding with them. I worked a lot with them, you know, to promote safety in the schools and so forth. It occurred to me one day that it might be a good idea if we had a simulated traffic court program and we would have the real judge, the real witnesses, the real officers who did the arresting, but we would not have the real defendant because there's no point in crucifying a guy. So we just had somebody—one of the cops would play that part. That seemed like a good idea.

There were two traffic court judges at the time, George Murphy and John Watts. Murphy bowed out, I think he was a little scared of it. But Watts was a real extrovert and we started with our Traffic Court Show which immediately upset the Detroit attorneys because after all courts were their purview.

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Ritchie: And they wanted to keep it that way.

Harris: They wanted to keep it that way. They thought it was a terrible thing to have a presiding judge actually on television and pretending to hold court—they thought it was dreadful and they protested loud and long. But Watts persisted, he said, "It's all right. There's nothing illegal about it. We're using only cases which have been closed so they're open to public record and this is public record." There was no argument.

Well, that didn't stop the Detroit attorneys, they went to the Michigan supreme court. Fortunately—and as I say, I've had a lucky life, one of the supreme court justices was a good friend of the family. But two of them came down, the friend of the family with another, to see this terrible program that was going on.

Ritchie: And this was a half-hour program?

Harris: Half-hour Traffic Court Show. We had two or three defendants, as I remember—two or three cases on each program. They were legitimate cases that had been heard. It really turned out to be very, very popular. It lasted about ten years. But it was the first one and the supreme court justices saw this and they said, "Well, I don't see anything wrong with that. This is fine, go ahead."

Well, then the Detroit attorneys appealed to the American Bar Association. So the good judge was called on the carpet of the American Bar. He told them that after all, these cases were matters of public record, the whole thing. He said that really, "the traffic incidents have decreased since this show has been on the air, particularly in Oakland County which is one of our speeding places and we think that it is doing a good public service." He was a great salesman. So they okayed it and the Detroit bar was furious.

So my good boss, Harry Bannister, got some of the members of the Detroit bar together and said, "Now, we'd like to put on another court show and have some of your favorite cases that have been done." Well, that lasted for about four weeks. None of them really—they all wanted to be on television but they didn't want to work for it. But that was a way that he pacified the bar.

Ritchie: He appeased the opposition.

Harris: The Traffic Court Show went on and on. And I'm, to this day—curious when I see Judge Wapner, you know he has cases which are current and he makes the decision right then and there. Well, now, in my day that would have been unheard of. But I think it's great, I think it's wonderful.

We had a great time and that lasted for—as I say, with the judge, for about ten years. Then it seemed like a good idea—he got a little tired of it so we substituted—there were separate judges for juvenile court—and we used a juvenile court judge with juvenile cases. That lasted for another six or seven years. But by that time every station was having—all the cities were having a court show.

Ritchie: What role did you play in this?

Harris: I was the producer.

Ritchie: You produced it?

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: So what would a producer do?

Harris: Well, actually, I assigned a lot of jobs to a lot of other people.

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Ritchie: Good for you.

Harris: Well, the police department came up with the personnel, both the witnesses and the police officers. They all got $15 a night for being on that show, I'll tell you, they were excited about that. We had no commercials—we had commercials before and aft and they raised the prices for those commercials, which was fine.

Ritchie: To help pay for the people to be on it?

Harris: Well, no, it was just a general principle it was a popular show so you raise the prices.

Ritchie: Because they got more viewers.

Harris: More audience, yes. Then of course I'd greet everybody and tell them what to do when they got there. And they all knew the judge.

Ritchie: Now in the early days of TV, when you did this, it would be shown live.

Harris: Yes, very live.

Ritchie: Well, now everything's taped. And sometimes you see them say "taped before a live audience."

Harris: Well, that's all right.

Ritchie: But this was actually live—broadcast live.

Harris: Out of our studio. Out of one of the studios. Oh, Judge Watts loved it, he just enjoyed every minute of it.

Ritchie: That's nice that you had such good cooperation from a member who would withstand the criticism that he got from the local bar association.

Harris: Well, he was the feisty type.

Mary Morgan, on the right side [of the photograph] was with the Canadian station, CKLW, which we considered in our block of interests. When we were asked, "How many stations do you have?" we always counted in the Canadian station. She did fashions, which was nice. But I didn't do fashions.

Ritchie: So she was a broadcaster who would comment on fashion or have a show on fashion.

Harris: But it was out of Canada.

Ritchie: Did your station have someone who did fashions?

Harris: Eventually the girl who came in to do the current events did some fashion but it didn't work out very well.

Ritchie: Did you do much coverage of Canadian news, given Detroit's location?

Harris: When it affected Detroit, yes. We have a bridge and we have a tunnel and whenever there was a disaster at either side of the bridge, we'd report that, or in the tunnel. When the Queen—when Elizabeth and Philip came to town, came to Windsor which is the Canadian city across the river from Detroit,

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I was there with my dear Dave Zimmerman and our engineer, radio engineer. That was in 1951, I think it was, I'm sure it was. She was still a princess and Philip was a duke. The purpose of her visit was to see the unfortified boundary between these two great nations,—the United States and Canada—because it was close enough after the war that people still were leery about unfortified borders.

The two of them came—they were visiting the colonies, anyway, so they did come to Windsor. And there were huge mobs, absolutely huge. The whole affair was held on the deck of one of the huge freighters. We have a lot of freighters in the Detroit River. This was a Canadian freighter and I've forgotten which company owned it but it was brand new and it was very big and all that. And the access was up the gangplank and on the ship close to the gangplank was a little nook where the princess and the duke could rest for a minute before coming on stage—on deck to see the unfortified boundaries. And there were about twelve people who were to be introduced to her—Governor G. Mennan "Soapy" Williams was there and his wife and the mayor of Detroit and the mayor of Windsor and so forth.

Ritchie: The local dignitaries. The state dignitaries.

Harris: That's right.

[End Tape 3, Side B; Begin Tape 4, Side A]

Harris: Well, in preparation for going over to Windsor to report the event, my announcer and the engineer and I got in a company car. The bridge is half in Canada and half in the United States and there are flags there to indicate. But on this occasion, there was a whole group of Michigan state police to be sure that no rapscallions got across to Canada at the time. So we showed all our credentials, mine came from Ottawa—in French, by the way—and we were allowed to cross and we got down to the bottom of the bridge on the Canadian side and there were the Canadian police. So we showed them our credentials and then we got over to the middle of Windsor, at the foot of Windsor, where this great freighter was parked—you don't park a freighter, but anyway, that's where it was.

Ritchie: [You] dock it.

Harris: Dock it. And we showed them again. When we got on board, I felt we were elite for a day, you know that kind of thing, and going past I saw Soapy and said hello and hello to the Detroit mayor. We were allowed—told in words of one syllable that we could go no closer to the princess and the duke than twelve feet. We must not. They didn't want anybody holding a mike under their noses and that sort of thing.

Ritchie: So you were a good distance away.

Harris: We were twelve feet away. That was about it. So we chattered on and told all about what she had on and how she looked. Her complexion was beautiful, just out of this world, and her clothing was of the worst color. It was a dreadful, drab, mustard suit that she had on and it was not—the lines were not sharp. But the duke was very sharp, I'll tell you that, he really was, and I saw him giving the eye to the wife of the mayor of Windsor, who was a very pretty woman. One of the photographers—there was a bank of us there—one of the photographers took a picture of it. It was the man from the Times and the woman from the Times later told me that the picture was so good they didn't dare run it, for international amity.

Then my daughter wanted the autograph—I had interviewed Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhardt of Holland when they came over to get money after the war to help restore their cities. When I got back from that press conference, my daughter Pat said, "Well, where's her autograph?" Well, I didn't get it. I forgot about it. So she made it a point, "Now when you see Elizabeth, you get her autograph." There was not a chance in the world that I was going to do that and she was disgusted with me for the whole evening afterwards. But that was all right, it didn't matter. It was very interesting. Royalty turn out to be just people, you know.

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Ritchie: So what they were holding was somewhat of a press conference of sorts.

Harris: Not really.

Ritchie: They didn't answer questions or anything.

Harris: No. And it was just a bank of reporters from many newspapers and their photographers. In '51, the television was not capable at that time of being transported so we had the radio—me and Dave Zimmerman—and I think one of the other stations was there, too, but I'm not quite sure. But Dave and I—my announcer and I kept up a kind of a conversation in reporting what was going on.

But the interesting thing was, when the royal couple arriving in a car got close to where they were to get out and walk a short distance to the ship, one of the crewmen on board had been checking around to be sure that all the potted plants were in place on deck and that everything was clean and beautiful and everything was perfect. And lo and behold, as the princess stepped on board the ship, fortunately she went into the little room to rest for a few minutes, one of the crewmen tipped over one of those potted palms and there was dirt all over the place, right where she was going to step. And the consternation—at that time we were placed back where we couldn't get at things, so I heard—there was the representative from Ottawa saying, "Well, it's not our problem, it's not our problem." And the representative from Windsor said, "Well, we can't do anything about it, we don't bring brooms on occasions like that." The poor commander of the ship was just devastated.

But eventually one of the crewmen came up with a big broom and started to whisk the dirt away. One of the guests—and I've forgotten which one it was—who was to be introduced to the princess, got up and helped with a handkerchief to get the whole thing away, just as the lady stepped into our view. And it was a very close touch and I've often wondered what the commander of the ship said to that crewman later. It was terrible but it was funny. The applause when she came into sight and everything was clean was more for the sailor who had cleaned it up than it was for her. It was just cute.

Ritchie: Would you have taken a photographer with you?

Harris: It wouldn't have helped, not for radio. Television yet was not settled enough to handle this sort of thing.

Ritchie: So most of these photographs that you had were taken in the studio.

Harris: That's right. Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Unless like the "Highway Patrol" one but that was more of a posed shot.

Harris: The cameraman came along. Yes, I had to do a bit of appearing at a fashion thing now and then.

Ritchie: Now, with a fashion promotion, what would you do for that, describe clothing?

Harris: I didn't do anything, really, but they invited me to see all these gorgeous things so I just let them invite me.

Ritchie: Oh, I see, to have the radio celebrity there. But you did not have to do a program on it.

Harris: No. That was beneath my level of interviewing people.

Ritchie: And here's a "Father Knows Best" promotion for safety, with the traffic judge John Watts and football coach.

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Harris: Oh, yes, and one of the football players.

Ritchie: Players. So the children would like that, wouldn't they?

Harris: That's right. Those were some Theta Sigma Phi people that we were working with, I think.

Ritchie: Yes. It says, "Planning the 1951 national conference."

Harris: That woman on the far right, Peg Winthrop, was the first woman to have a technical advertising agency. She called it Techagency. It was not for retailing, it was for the technical side of anybody's business. She made a great success of it.

Ritchie: So she must have had a background in the sciences.

Harris: I think so. She was a good friend, she was nice. I liked her.

Ritchie: So you were on a committee that planned the 1951 national conference.

Harris: Yes, yes. But that was all right.

Ritchie: And did you attend the national conferences each year?

Harris: Some years I did and some years I didn't. It just depended. When I was president, of course, I did more. But by that time I wasn't on the air so it was easier to get [away].

Ritchie: Now here's someone that many people would recognize, Bob Hope.

Harris: Yes. Yes. Nice guy, really very nice guy. Interviewed him three or four times and the second or third time, I've forgotten which it was, when he saw me he said, "Hello, Fran!" Well, now, I know he couldn't have remembered that so I'm sure he had a good agent with him, you know. But he acted as though he remembered me from way back.

Ritchie: And I notice here that you say, "At the fairgrounds." What is that?

Harris: Michigan boasts the oldest fairgrounds in the country, it's about 110, 111 years old. And they've had fairs there every year. They not only have the regular fair but they have entertainment, major entertainment. He was one of the major entertainers, two or three times. Eddie Fisher was there one time, Louis Armstrong another time, and so on.

Ritchie: So that would have been a regular event that you would have covered each year, to be sure to get the celebrities who were visiting for that.

Harris: That's right. That's right. Well, the agents would always call me up and say, so-and-so's going to be here, when will it be convenient? And it was easier for me to go out than to have them transported around.

Ritchie: And in 1951 you interviewed Robert Young, who upset Hollywood because he insisted on flying his own plane for public appearances.

Harris: Yes. They thought he was going to crash any minute. His agents were just frantic but he didn't.

Ritchie: Here you are with a Wilbur Wright High School principal.

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Harris: Wilbur Wright High School was a trade school. It seemed reasonable to do a tape with him.

Ritchie: Oh, here you are in a publicity photograph with black gloves on.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Very stylish.

Harris: A copy of that got to my husband's office—I gave him a copy. He had it on his desk and when he came home the night that he first had it on his desk, he said one of the girls was whispering to another one, "The boss has got a new woman."

Ritchie: [She] didn't recognize you.

Harris: No. That was a little glamorous for the way I was.

Ritchie: That's a lovely jacket with it. It looks like a suede collar on it.

Harris: It could have been. I've forgotten.

Ritchie: Here you are in 1951 giving a pitch for wounded veterans, another community activity.

Harris: That must have been Theta Sigma Phi again.

Ritchie: Right. The Detroit chapter.

Harris: And that woman was a city councilman.

Ritchie: That is some hat and some earrings she has on there.

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. I don't remember the occasion. Oh, we had the national Theta Sig conference.

Ritchie: Oh, I see.

Harris: And there was Glenn Ford, he was there.

Ritchie: That's right.

Harris: And that's me holding forth.

Ritchie: So you were the—

Harris: I was chairman of it.

Ritchie: So these were women in all aspects of journalism. Most of them at this time—

Harris: All over the country.

Ritchie: —would have been print.

Harris: Yes, yes, that's right.

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Ritchie: Joan Crawford.

Harris: I'll tell you about—she is, or was, a witch. On that occasion, the women, the fashion people from the News—and the Times and the Free Press—arrived and they wanted her to change gowns for different pictures and so forth. She did so for the News, she did so for the Free Press, and then when it came time for her to do it for the Times, she said, "I won't do it. I've done it too much. If you didn't take the pictures back then, I'm not going to do it again." The woman from the Times, Philomine Esak, was a very forthright individual and she started to argue vehemently. That woman [Joan Crawford] got down on the floor on her hands and knees and said, "I won't, I won't, I won't." I was shocked. I mean really, come on.

Ritchie: Like a child's temper tantrum.

Harris: Absolutely temper tantrum. So of course the Times woman went away. While the other two papers had these elegant pictures of different gowns, Philomine's report was that Joan Crawford was in town and it was noted that her dressing table was covered with cosmetics. Period.

Ritchie: That's all she could report.

Harris: That's all.

Ritchie: But you did a radio interview with her.

Harris: Yes. I did a radio interview with her. She told me how wonderful she was. That was a yellow dress and she had on the biggest topaz ring I've ever seen but I don't think you can see it there.

Ritchie: No.

Harris: No. It was on her left hand, as I remember.

Ritchie: So you witnessed her temper tantrum and then did the interview.

Harris: Yes. Because afterwards, as you can see, she was very composed. She was just putting on an act.

Ritchie: She got her way, right?

Harris: Yes, she did.

Ritchie: This looks like a spaghetti dinner.

Harris: Probably was.

Ritchie: Pete De Rose.

Oh, this is good. This shows some of the equipment that you would have—that your sound engineer would have taken along—

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: This is a reel-to-reel recorder.

Harris: Right.

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Ritchie: And another unit on top of it with the control. And it was a free-standing mike at this point, wasn't it? I mean, you could—

Harris: Carry it around.

Ritchie: Yes. And that's Dinah Shore.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And George Montgomery.

Harris: Um-hmm. I liked her, she was nice.

Ritchie: Oh, Alfred Hitchcock.

Harris: I enjoyed him thoroughly.

Ritchie: I know I can say this about every single one but doesn't he look young?

Harris: Um-hmm.

Ritchie: And he doesn't look quite as paunchy as he does in later years.

Harris: Well, he wasn't standing up, either.

Ritchie: Well, that's true. He's sitting down there but I do notice his coat isn't buttoned.

Now, what would he have been here for?

Harris: Oh, he was promoting one of his films. I don't remember which one.

Carmen Miranda.

Ritchie: Oh, yes. What does she have, a scarf on her head there?

Harris: Or were they bangs? I don't know.

Ritchie: See that?

Harris: Yes, I think it was a scarf. But that was a long time ago, my God.

Ritchie: The early fifties. I would say you had quite a cast of characters that came through Detroit.

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. There's another promo picture.

Ritchie: This one has a microphone in it.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: The other one didn't.

Oh, Ogden Nash.

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Harris: Oh, is that Ogden Nash?

Ritchie: Yes.

Harris: I liked him.

Ritchie: So you would do not only Hollywood stars but then literary figures, too, who were promoting their own books.

Now, here we have a United Artist representative and a Pan American PR [Public Relations] man.

Harris: I have no idea who he was.

Ritchie: Metropolitan Opera.

Harris: Um-hmm.

Ritchie: Marguerite—

Harris: Piazza. This was one of the local judges, and I had them both on, one after the other. And he was so thrilled to meet her that he could hardly stand it.

Ritchie: Oh, so they weren't being interviewed together. They were separate.

Harris: No. Separate.

Ritchie: She has a beautiful smile.

Harris: Doesn't she, though.

I don't know who that was.

Ritchie: Oh, it says, "Bird's Eye, Ann Ryan. Introduces frozen chicken pie." So she was probably in town promoting the product.

Harris: Yes. The gas company was very big on the promotion of new kinds of food preparation. This was one of the first frozen foods. As I recall, that was over at the gas company's offices.

Ritchie: Here's the Salvation Army Christmas drive.

Harris: Oh, dear, yes.

Ritchie: In 1952. And you were really out on the street there, weren't you?

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Holding your mike, which was—I can see the wire going back to the machine that was probably back there.

Harris: Oh, I liked Thelma Ritter so much.

Ritchie: I don't think stars travel like this any more, do they?

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Harris: Not too much. They don't have to.

Ritchie: No. No.

Harris: But it was still after the war and they were still trying to build up glamour again. She had the most distinctive and gracious walk I've ever seen a woman produce, she walked with gallantry. I liked her very much. She was a real honey.

Ritchie: And then here's a Catholic priest who's asking for contributions, food for India.

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes.

Ritchie: So you would have been involved in that type of activity, also.

Harris: Um-hmm.

Ritchie: This is a Christmas effort, Toys for Tots.

Film star Van Heflin.

Harris: Oh, yes. I remember that was an early Charlton Heston and they weren't sure whether he was going to make it or not.

Ritchie: But you still did the interview.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Here you are having lunch with a group of people and you have a note, "They could buy us with lunch?" with a question mark.

Harris: Yes. I'm trying to remember what the occasion was but somebody had a lunch at one of the foreign restaurants—Greek restaurant, I think it was. Yes, because Al Wiescott who sat next to me was the movie theater critic for the News, he did their promotions and so forth. He kept calling it, "This is good Pyrrhian pop," I remember that. Funny what you remember.

Ritchie: Yes. Yes. Here's a promotion for Jungle Pictures.

Harris: All right, already.

Ritchie: Oh, Rock Hudson.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Lee J. Cobb.

Harris: It startled me, too, when I first saw him without his rug.

Ritchie: On his head, yes.

Celeste Holm.

Harris: I liked her.

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Ritchie: And this person you couldn't recall who it was.

Harris: That's right. 1954.

He was an absolute doll, absolute doll.

Ritchie: James Cagney?

Harris: Yes. After the interview—he came over to the station for the interview—which some of them would not do but he came over. Then I had occasion to go to the Book Cadillac Hotel for some lunch or other. I was going in the door and he was coming out and he said, "Well, Fran, hello again"—you know, it was just as though—I know it had only been about an hour since we'd seen each other but even so, he was so cordial. A really good guy.

Ritchie: And were all of these interviews taped?

Harris: No. They were live.

Ritchie: Live.

Harris: Um-hmm. Unless I went to the hotel.

Ritchie: And then you would tape them and come back and play it the next day or that day.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Depending on the schedule.

There's a civic leader. And some more Theta Sigma Phi.

Harris: The man is S. L. A. Marshall. He was in World War I and a World War II—I don't think he was a general but he was pretty high up there. He worked for the News and he had a column and everybody called him Slam, obvious.

Ritchie: His initials were S, period, L, period, A, period, and then the Marshall.

Another unknown. Did you identify these all at one time?

Harris: I got them all together after I retired. I couldn't remember some of them.

Ritchie: Here's Bob Hope again, in 1954. He was probably a popular person.

Harris: Oh, very.

Ritchie: Here's a First Ladies of the Press lunch at Greenfield Village.

Harris: Oh, dear, yes. They do that now every year and it's so big, about three hundred people from around Upper Michigan and Ohio and so forth. They all come. But this was the first one.

Ritchie: So was this a local group of women that got together and had lunch together? So it wasn't Theta Sigma Phi.

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Harris: It was strictly Ford's Christmas lunch for the ladies. And they called them all ladies. And I guess we were. But there would be the cooking editors and fashion editors and with the three papers, that would be six right there, you know.

Ritchie: So Ford Motor Company actually invited you there.

Harris: Yes. They did it for years and years and years.

That's the woman they were trying to train to take my place when I got promoted.

Ritchie: Oh, I see. Fay Elizabeth [Smith]. WWJ's Fay Elizabeth. Here she is in 1955.

And here you are interviewing someone—or with someone, I should say, at Fisher Theater.

Harris: Yes, I did. That was Constance Bennett and she had a dog with her. There was a lecture series called "Town Hall" and she spoke. They had a nice luncheon for the speaker and so forth and me. When they put the plate down in front of her, there was some meat on it and she let the dog eat the meat right off the plate and I thought, "My God, what kind of"—

Ritchie: She could get away with it, too, because of who she was.

Harris: Yes. Yes.

Errol Garner, musician.

Ritchie: Yes, this is the first black person that I've seen.

Harris: The very first black person—what was his name? Canada Lee. He was appearing in one of the Shakespearean plays—"Othello," obviously. But I wanted to interview him and he came to the station and he said, "Are you sure that you want to interview me?" And I said, "Why, of course. You're doing a big job, you're Othello and all that." And he said, "Would you mind if you would go to see your boss and see if it's all right?" I think he found out that I could make my own decisions on whom to interview. But he said, "Would you please go to your boss and check with him to be sure it's all right?"

So I left him in the studio and went down to see Harry Bannister and I said, "Canada Lee is out in the studio and he is worried about a white person interviewing him over a white-owned station." But Bannister said, "Do you want him?" I said, "Sure." He said, "Go to it." You know, what difference does it make what color he is? None whatever. The man just couldn't believe that a white person would interview him in a white city. He just couldn't believe it. I had a little trouble putting him at ease but he finally eased up.

But that was not this man. This was another one.

Ritchie: This is Errol Garner.

Harris: Yes. He was good.

Ritchie: Was there a black newspaper in Detroit at that time?

Harris: Yes. There still is. Very big. Michigan Chronicle. Very big. Well, Detroit now is about seventy percent black, anyway.

Ritchie: But there was a black paper at the time.

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Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Ritchie: And black radio later?

Harris: Yes. Yes. Still black radio and black television. The interesting thing is the black television doesn't show just black things. They just show regular programs.

Ritchie: Here you have a decorator from the paint company doing a promotional thing.

Harris: That would be one of the salesmen's requests.

Ritchie: So here you are with two unknowns. And here you are with a Miss America.

Harris: Oh, yes. Every Miss America, every year.

Ritchie: And here you're watching a fashion show.

Harris: You can see Zimmerman is enjoying it.

Ritchie: Dave Zimmerman.

Harris: Jack Webb.

Ritchie: Jack Webb from "Dragnet." That was a popular radio program.

Harris: Oh, tremendously so, yes.

Ritchie: So that would have been good for the station, of course, to have an interview with him when they had his programs.

Harris: That's right. But that was radio and the program was television but that was all right.

Ritchie: Wasn't it a radio program first? No?

Harris: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: Oh, but this was for television. No, this was for radio also.

Oh, that's beautiful.

Harris: I love the hat and gloves. How about that?

Ritchie: Hat and nylon gloves, were they? They look like?

Harris: Must have been, yes.

Ritchie: Cary Grant.

Harris: Yes. Hypochondriac.

Ritchie: Now, would these photos have appeared in the newspaper?

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Harris: Probably some of them but most of them were taken for—

Ritchie: For Cary Grant and—

Harris: Cary Grant.

Ritchie: —and those people.

Harris: That's our thirty-fifth anniversary of the station.

Ritchie: And this is Hershel Hart.

Harris: Hershel Hart was the entertainment editor—

Ritchie: At the News.

Harris: No. Yes. In the News and in the station, both.

And that was Stan Swayles, isn't it?

Ritchie: Yes. That's right.

Harris: And that chap went on to bigger and better things in Hollywood. He was a producer.

Ritchie: Ernie Ricca.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And there you are.

Harris: The other one is the chief engineer, radio engineer, Eddie. They're all dead, except me.

Ritchie: My goodness.

Harris: Isn't that awful?

Ritchie: Oh, here you are again for the gas company, introducing a new gas stove.

Harris: Yes. And the lady with the hat is Jean McBride who did the cooking show. She was just great. She was the one who was so scared of television that every time before she did her cooking show, she'd up her cookies and then stagger onto the set. And the boys evidently didn't notice that she was pale and all that and she'd go right on—[she was a] real pro, she did a beautiful job. Every time she cooked something, of course, it was there, and so the fellows all ate it up. It was a great success until the day she tried spinach ice cream.

Ritchie: Oh, dear.

Harris: And nobody would touch it.

Ritchie: It sounds a bit exotic.

Harris: Oh, it was dreadful.

Ritchie: And here you are in a Salvation Army outfit, getting ready for Christmas.

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Harris: Yes. Don't they have the—

Ritchie: That's right. The bell-ringers.

Harris: The bell-ringers. Yes.

Ritchie: At Christmastime.

Harris: I don't know who that is.

Ritchie: That's another product promotion for anti-freeze.

Oh, here you are with instant coffee.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: And so that would have been a new product that possibly had advertising with the station.

Harris: Very possibly.

Ritchie: Very definitely, in 1956.

Harris: Interesting to know that that's when it showed up, in 1956, instant coffee.

Ritchie: Here you are again, as a promotion. Oh, and here's a good one of you at your desk.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Piled high with all sorts of books and papers.

Harris: Oh, dear, yes.

Ritchie: The glass windows, as you imagine a newsroom to have, that you can look in and out. That's very nice, with the microphone.

Harris: Oh, yes, the mayor gave me something. I've forgotten what it was.

Ritchie: It's the Women's Advertising Club civic award.

Harris: Oh, right, yes.

Ritchie: For your involvement—it's a testimonial resolution, I believe, it's in [the den] on the wall.

Harris: Probably.

Ritchie: I think this may be one that I read—

Harris: Maybe.

Ritchie: —for your work with the various programs contributing to the community.

And here, in 1958, you're receiving a mental health award.

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Harris: Oh, yes. Following the war, while my husband wasn't in the army, he was with a war plant, he had a tremendous collapse and he had a really bad couple of years. He was in deep, deep, deep depression and so forth. So I got interested in mental health, you know. And then there was a mental health organization and they asked me if I'd be interested in joining them, so I was. And I did quite a few programs on mental health.

Ritchie: And that was the time when not too much was known publicly—

Harris: Yes. You were either crazy—

Ritchie: Or a disgrace.

Harris: Yes. That's right.

Ritchie: So you made an effort to learn and to help others learn.

Oh, this is interesting because this relates to some of Detroit's history. Ford brought an interior designer, Dorothy Draper, to upgrade car interiors. So what they wanted to do was sell the cars.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: And here you are in 1958 with Troy Donahue. He looks like he just came off a Florida beach with that tan.

Harris: Yes. And by that time, I had been working with the schools and the school newspapers so his press conference was made up of school newspaper kids.

Ritchie: How wonderful! So you set that up and arranged it.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And they've all got their pens and pencils and you're the one with the microphone and the long cord.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: What a nice opportunity for them.

Harris: Well, it seemed so obvious, such a proper thing to do, you know?

Ritchie: And I see your note here that says, which is undoubtedly true, "They"—meaning the high school students—"were more excited than I was." What did you do with the journalism classes?

Harris: I didn't do anything directly with them but I got in touch—the school system was set up so that there was one woman who handled all the journalism newspapers—all the high school papers. And I've forgotten how many there were. And I talked to her and I said, "Would it be possible for a representative of each paper to come on down and see Troy Donahue and ask him questions?" So she set it up and down they came.

Ritchie: That's wonderful!

Harris: Now, that wasn't a very good picture. Nat King Cole.

Ritchie: Nat King Cole.

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Harris: Sad man at that time. I don't know why he was sad but maybe he was just bored, I'm not sure.

Ritchie: And here you are with another commercial pitch, the label reads, "But I can't quite tell what the product is."

Harris: That's not unusual.

Ritchie: Here you are with—it says "Engineer Harry Lewis"—

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: —"and I figure out where to broadcast work on new Detroit Bank and Trust Building." Oh, so this is your station engineer.

Harris: Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: I see he has the headphones on. And you have a car—or a station wagon—

Harris: Yes. That's behind us, that's right.

Ritchie: WWJ. So you're working with him to determine where you might do an interview.

Harris: The Detroit Bank and Trust—it's one of the big ones downtown.

Oh, yes. Poor Anne.

Ritchie: Anne Ford?

Harris: Yes. They were finally divorced. But young Henry, Henry II, turned Catholic in order to marry her and she was miserable here.

Ritchie: Where had she come from?

Harris: I would say down East somewhere, I'm not quite sure. It was a very elite group and we didn't have the proper—we didn't have elite enough people. Automotive people were nouveau riche.

Ritchie: And here she was making a pitch for the Metropolitan Opera which was coming to town.

Harris: Yes. Yes. We had an International Freedom Festival every year, with Detroit and Windsor, with interlocking programming. I don't know whether they still have a women's group or not, but at that time I was chairman of it, whatever it was, and we had a women's luncheon over in Windsor. Whenever there was a luncheon over in Windsor, they always brought out the bagpipes. It was such fun, you know, to see them marching around and they'd escort the people to the speaker's table. [It was] fun. Windsor does things quite differently than we do.

Ritchie: But that was nice to see how they did it, to have the joint conference or festival.

Harris: Yes. It happens the Canadian Independence Day is July 1st and ours is the 4th, so it's a few days before the 1st and a few days after the 4th, that week, that brings them both together.

Ritchie: Here are more from the festival.

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Harris: No, that's the—

Ritchie: International Freedom Festival.

Harris: Oh, is it? All right.

Ritchie: 1959? Well, this is Lee Remick.

Harris: Yes. And the man is Judge Volker who wrote—what's the name of this?

Ritchie: Oh, Anatomy of a Murder.

Harris: Anatomy of a Murder.

Ritchie: And this is George C. Scott.

Harris: It sure is. He's a Detroiter. And that's the mayor's wife, Mrs. Miriani. His father owned a firm that made milk bottles—not the glass bottles but the plastic containers.

Ritchie: Containers.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: His father owned it?

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: Here you are with the Boy Scout founder.

Harris: Yep. Why not? Having suffered through with two boys.

Ritchie: You were well-acquainted with the activities of the scouts, I'm sure.

Harris: Yes. When our first son was active in scouts was when my husband was so terribly ill. And when he got where he could navigate and talk to people well, we had the scouts over at our house, of course, because he was a den mother at that time and I represented him on the local scout board. And lo and behold, when it came charter renewal time, I was told that I couldn't be there any more because they didn't allow women in their scout hierarchy. So, the heck with them!

Ritchie: Even though you were trying to help out and—

Harris: Yes. Isn't that something?

Ritchie: —continue, they wouldn't have you because you were a woman.

Harris: No. And they met at our church and the whole thing. And I thought well, that's kind of ridiculous, but if that's the way they want it, that's the way they want it. But I couldn't sign any of the official documents.

Ritchie: Singer Frances Langford.

Harris: Frances Langford, yes.

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Ritchie: "Tune in to NBC-TV channel." She was, I guess, giving a program.

Harris: I gather.

Ritchie: Here we have some—oh, humorous art. A sketch of you.

Harris: Oh, that was when I got my—

Ritchie: Distinguished alumnae award [from Grinnell College], that's nice. In 1959.

Harris: What on earth is that?

Ritchie: This is you and the awardees from other and older classes, you note here.

Harris: Yes, of course.

Ritchie: And here you're being, in 1959—you were busy in these years—being installed as the president of the Women's Advertising Club of Detroit.

Harris: Those were my good friends.

Ritchie: Advertising Club board.

Harris: The lovely lady on the end on the right is Mae Derdarian. We're still very close.

Ritchie: So these women would have been in the business in one aspect or another.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Here you are at an Advertising Federation of America convention in Minneapolis.

Harris: Aren't you glad you're through with that?

Ritchie: And here you are at an Advertising Club banquet, "Women Who Work."

Harris: Oh, it wasn't Advertising Club, it was the table. They had—

Ritchie: Your table was the Advertising Club.

Harris: Yes. When was that, in early '60 or late—

Ritchie: 1959.

Harris: '59. It dawned on them, evidently, that a lot of women were working. So they had—there was a woman who was head of the civic development for Detroit and she thought, "Well, we ought to recognize them." So every year for several years they'd pick out the ten best women who work and give them a little prize or something like that.

Ritchie: This looks like quite a luncheon.

Harris: Yes, it was quite a deal. But that's what that was. And then, interestingly enough, the women who never did work and did a magnificent job in volunteering—

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Ritchie: Oh, yes.

Harris: —were all upset because they weren't getting any recognition. And they came to the Ad Club where I was reigning supreme. So we had—what did we call it? Women Who Care, it was especially for the volunteers, for the women. Then that was such a success that the United Fund wanted to take that over and it got to be unwieldy for just a club like ours to handle. So the United Foundation took that over and the women who work vanished and the other one survived—

Ritchie: Prospered.

Harris: —to this day.

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