Washington Press Club Foundation
Fran Harris:
Interview #4 (pp. 115-136)
February 2, 1991 in Westland, Michigan
Anne Ritchie, Interviewer

Because this session was videotaped,
material from other sessions may be repeated here.

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Ritchie: Once again I'd like to thank you, Fran, for participating in the Washington Press Club oral history project. Today we're in the studio of Westland Cable Television and I'm delighted to be here with you again.

Harris: Good. Well, it's a nice ego trip. I think I've mentioned that before.

Ritchie: Can you tell me about your first experience in front of television cameras?

Harris: In front of television? Yes. Television raised its ugly head in Detroit in 1946, in October. I was working at that time for WWJ which was owned by the Detroit News. The owner, Mr. Scripps—Papa Scripps we called him—thought that this television might be kind of fun so he brought television in. And the very, very first day we were up on the forty-seventh floor of the Penobscot Building because, as I was told at that time, the television waves are short waves as opposed to radio waves which are long waves which follow the contour of the ground. So it had to be from a very high spot where we did the broadcast.

Well, the Penobscot Building has forty-five very nice floors of offices with elevators. But if you get to the forty-seventh which is actually the attic, you have to climb. So we climbed up. In those days we were told that the cameras did not pick up the color red at all. In fact, with this dress it wouldn't even function. So we had to wear blue makeup. We had blue lipstick and blue cheeks and blue eyebrows and blue eyelashes. We were dreadful, a dreadful looking gaggle of geese. We stood up in front of a sheet that was just pinned up on the wall and this enormous television camera which was very difficult for them to move around was in front of us. And the television operator, the cameraman, was kind of scared and shaking and all.

What we tried to do as far as programming was concerned was to translate radio to television—which doesn't do very well. It's all right with the news man. He sat and read his news, only people could see that he was reading, which wasn't quite right. And then it was my turn and since I did interviews for a great many years, I was interviewing a charming young French woman. I didn't pick her, she was picked for me. I've forgotten what we said or anything about it but we both stood up in front of this sheet with this big, huge, black monster on the other side. And I've forgotten how long it was, about three or four minutes, but that was it. So ever after, I've been able to say I was the first woman on television in Michigan.

Ritchie: So the setting was a bit different than it is today.

Harris: Oh, it was not even a setting. It was just a make-do, a make-shift.

We did get through using the blue makeup pretty soon and it came down to all brown because brown was more compatible. And brown rouge is not very becoming, you know, and brown lipstick doesn't really work. But then eventually we graduated from that to normal colors.

Ritchie: Do you recall if you were nervous that day?

Harris: I don't think so.

Ritchie: Your radio had prepared you for the transition?

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Harris: Well, it was just something new and kind of interesting. I think none of us had any idea that television would develop as it has done. We were afraid at that particular day that the television might not extend as far as Bloomfield Hills suburb where the owner of the Detroit News lived. And if it didn't do that, why, we were in trouble. Evidently it did make the trip.

Ritchie: I'd like to talk a little about your early years. I know that your mother and father were important influences in your life and very supportive of your career. Can you tell me a little bit about them and your early years?

Harris: We were a very closely knit family. I was an only child—spoiled, obviously. And my mother's mother, Grandma, lived with us because as a child she had had scarlet fever and that left her deaf. Her husband, Grandpa, was a traveling salesman but he traveled in South America so that he was gone six months of the year and it was just practical to have the family all in one big house. So I grew up with a total of four adults. I never had any of the baby-talk or anything of that—that I remember, anyway. It was a very interesting, bland kind of childhood, nothing catastrophic and nothing interesting at all. I just grew up.

Ritchie: But was your mother a traditional mother for the time?

Harris: Not really, no. Well, I will say I came from a family of independent thinkers. My father was an independent thinker. His father had been the doctor in Battle Creek, Michigan, and so Dad moved to Detroit so he wouldn't be the "doctor's son." He became a dentist because he thought that that was a good compromise. He had always been on his own and he dearly loved to be in amateur theater and so forth, nonprofessional theater.

My mother was quite unusual because she went to college. Now this was back in the eighteen hundreds when girls really didn't go to college very much. But she went to Olivet which is a small college still in Michigan and learned how to become a teacher, then went to Morris, Illinois, to teach. Then along in 1902 my father decided that there was time for him to marry her, or her to marry him, and so forth, so they got married and lived in Battle Creek for a little while. But then my father wanted to go back to Detroit to stay and be independent. Since my mother had been very active in the community, always, traveling all over the state for various noble causes.

Ritchie: I believe this morning I saw a picture of you getting ready to march for suffrage.

Harris: Oh, isn't that dreadful? That was so long ago. I keep forgetting how old I am. This must have been 1918, 1919, along in there somewhere. I know that Mother was very strong in that group. They had a flag and I think I had to carry the flag, and I marched down Woodward Avenue carrying the flag. I think I must have been maybe eight or nine years old, ten maybe.

Ritchie: So your mother set a good example for you in terms of her involvement in the community.

Harris: In that I never had to worry whether or not I would have their support in whatever I wanted to do. Anything that seemed kind of crazy at the time, I'd check in and say, "What do you think?" And my father would say, "Try it!" So I did.

Ritchie: What other activities would have influenced you in terms of your later career? School—did you have any teachers that were important to you?

Harris: My mother was on the school board which at that time was unusual for a woman to be on the school board. But she was there by a proper election and so forth. So having a same last name as a member of the school board, I automatically got good marks. You understand that; the teachers knew that well.

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I think the one woman who really influenced me the most was a little blonde woman, Albertine Loomis, who was taking care of the high school newspaper. She was the one who brought all the youngsters in and saw that they did their assignments right. She made me third-page editor of the four-page Spectator. The Spectator's still in existence, by the way; it has survived. She was the one who taught me the who, what, why, where and when. "And a minimum of errata, please." So she taught me the discipline of writing for news. And because of her I think I always was fascinated with news. So that's how I got into trouble that way.

Ritchie: When you graduated from high school, was it naturally expected that you would go on to college?

Harris: In my family, yes. But most of the girls didn't. The boys would, of course. But I went to college—once again, the good Lord's been with me all the way. I went to a college, Grinnell, in Iowa. Grinnell is a lovely, small college, and part of my father's background. I think it was his uncle, great-uncle, who had helped found the college and was one of the major professors there. My father's sister lived in the town of Grinnell and her husband was head of the electricity—it couldn't have been Edison, but it was the electrical company which provided power for the college.

So I had everything going for me. My family didn't worry about sending me so far away from home—because Iowa was a long way from Michigan. My goodness, a whole day and a night on a train. It worked out very nicely and I had the protection of the electricity and I had the protection of my aunt.

It was a Congregational school and every day there was a ten-minute chapel—twenty-minute chapel, I believe it was. I'd gather my friends together and we'd go over to my aunt's house and have sweet rolls and chocolate and then get back, all during the time we should have been in chapel. So that was a nice plus, too, you see.

Ritchie: Would it have been difficult for your family to afford this financially?

Harris: I have no idea because my family never talked money. Never! Looking back, I'm quite sure they had their ups and downs, very large ones. But I remember my mother being so triumphant when she was elected to the school board because it meant she would get $300 a month and that was big money. My father, being a dentist, it came and went. The income was not always steady. I never was made to feel the need.

Ritchie: Would they have talked about politics?

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Sure. Talked politics. Talked all kinds of things, everything, but not very much about money.

Ritchie: It was during your time at Grinnell that you became a member of Theta Sigma Phi?

Harris: Yes. I must explain that Theta Sigma Phi is, or was, an honorary journalism professional sorority—fraternity they called it at that date. It was set up in 1909 in the University of Washington by seven young women who thought that it was too bad to have the men have all the professional fraternities while the women didn't have any. They thought that journalism would be a nice fraternity to have so they established Theta Sigma Phi. As the students became members and as it grew and the people who were members came out throughout the whole country, Theta Sigma Phi spread in the colleges and in the cities. It was a very warm and wonderful thing.

I had always wanted to belong, obviously. In fact, when I went to Grinnell, I knew I was God's gift to their newspaper but they told me I wasn't. They told me I could sell ads for the comedy magazine if I wanted to, which was the Malteaser. I didn't really want to because I'm not a very good salesman but I thought, well, if I get on the staff that way maybe they'll accept some of the things I write even in the comic magazine. And that worked out, too. It was very interesting.

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Ritchie: So you were accepted on the comedy magazine but not on the regular student newspaper.

Harris: That's right. The bids for Theta Sigma Phi went out at the end of the junior year and I didn't get mine the day I thought I would. And I cried all day, I remember that. At the end of the day, my friends on the same floor of the dorm where we were all living came in to see me and they said, "Oh, did we miss giving you your bid? And so you have about three minutes to dress up in your white dress and go down and get initiated."

Ritchie: Now, this was an organization that you remained active in for all of your professional life.

Harris: I've enjoyed it, yes, not because it's honorary but because it was professional. By the time I came along as a grownup, in time we managed to change the name to Women in Communications, Inc. The way you could belong, you had to do a good professional job, whether it was writing or broadcasting or public relations or any of the communicating arts.

Ritchie: And the change came about in 1970 when you were president?

Harris: I was president in '71, I was vice president in '70. This was of the national group. The reason I got really hot about changing the name, I also happened to belong to the American Women in Radio and Television and the American Advertising Federation, both of them. And when I'd go to those meetings, my WWJ boss would pick up the tab and I wouldn't have to worry about money. But they would never pick it up for Theta Sigma Phi because that, he said, was a sorority and a sorority was automatically social and the station was not about to give money for a social trip. So I said, "I'm going to change the name," and we did, to Women in Communications, Inc.

Ritchie: What do you think membership in this organization meant to women through the years?

Harris: I think it meant a great deal. We had some very illustrious people. Eleanor Roosevelt was a member, Lady Bird Johnson was a member, legitimate members, not honorary. Many of the people now, Helen Thomas in Washington, whom you see on the TV press shows, and Sarah McClendon and Dorothy Jurney who used to be a woman's editor at the Free Press who is now—I've forgotten what she's doing now but she's a rather big shot. Charlotte Montgomery, the writer. They've all had that kind of a background.

Ritchie: Were there minority women admitted to this organization?

Harris: Yes. Yes. As a matter of fact, that's another thing I did. Before my presidency—I was the president from '71 to '73—and we had one black woman who was from, I think, Ohio—I'm not quite sure. It occurred to me because living in Detroit, I wasn't blind and I thought, well, we'd better do something about minorities. Also, on the West Coast there were the minorities with the Mexicans and the Hispanics. So I set up a little committee and made a definite search for the Hispanics who were in the business and for the black women who were in the business and invited them to belong. It worked out very nicely.

Ritchie: So you were instrumental in changing the makeup of the membership.

Harris: It seemed the important thing to do. The world is changing. You just can't sit still.

Ritchie: Back to college just for a moment. What was your major in college?

Harris: I had two, English and psychology.

Ritchie: And how did your majors prove to benefit you through the years, as opposed to, say, having a background in journalism, as many young people do today coming out of college?

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Harris: Well, I think it just taught me to use the English language properly, for one thing.

Ritchie: English and psychology.

Harris: Yes. And psychology really helped because I could see it work. After I was graduated I went to work and I could see the usefulness of the psychology. So I used it.

Ritchie: When you graduated in 1929, you returned to Detroit.

Harris: Yes. Oh, yes.

Ritchie: And began your career at work. Did you ever consider moving anywhere else at that time? It was natural for you to come back?

Harris: Yes, it was natural. After all, I have come from a very small family and there were only five of us actually on the scene—grandmother, grandfather, mother, father and me. I had a cousin in Florida and a cousin in Iowa and I think a cousin in New Orleans. And that was it. So I wasn't about to break away from that. Besides, I was too spoiled. You know, they spoiled me.

Ritchie: So you came home.

Harris: I knew I wanted to work and I knew what I never wanted to be. I never wanted to be a teacher, I never wanted to be a secretary, and I would certainly never want to be a nurse. So I wasn't. And the only thing left at that time was retailing. And once again I had luck. My mother happened to know the personnel director of one of the women's specialty shops in town, no longer there. It was Himelhoch's at the time. And she asked if the lady would be willing to interview me. So I went down to see her. She made me a salesgirl instantly, which was fun. I learned more that one year out of college being a salesgirl in the department store than I had learned all the four years I was in college, I'll tell you that. That's where the psychology came in well.

Then when I was at Himelhoch's, I had decided that I was going to be in the advertising department and I was told, "Oh, no. You don't start there. You start selling so that you know what the merchandise is going to be, what you'll write about." I finally made it to the advertising department. It was along in early November, I think—or early October—Mr. Himelhoch came up to the advertising department and he said, "I have done something that none of the other retailers in Detroit have done. I've bought some radio time, three times a week, and I want it especially for the Christmas trade." He said, "It will be a five-minute program in the morning. Which one of you people want to do it?"

Well, it was beneath the dignity of the real copywriters to do that. I mean, really, radio at that time was maybe ten years old and some people had radios but it wasn't as pervasive as it is today. You know, I was the only one left and so I got the job. And that's how I got into this mad and wonderful business.

Ritchie: Did you actually write the script that you were going to read?

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. I was told what merchandise to promote. I wrote the script and went trotting over to the Detroit News. At that time the radio station was on the fourth floor of the Detroit News. And later on, when television came, the early television station was in the attic once again, over the floor where the presses would come in. When the presses were rolling and the paper would rumble in, you could hear it coming up from the floor. But eventually they built their own building so that was all right.

Ritchie: And you enjoyed your first experience in radio?

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Harris: Oh, I loved it, of course. As a matter of fact, when Christmas was over and I realized that I wasn't going to be doing this any more, I went to the manager who at that time was a man named Ty Tyson. Tyson had been very famous in the Detroit area during the early, early radio days as a sportscaster. He brought the Tigers to life right into your own living room, you know, that kind of thing. I asked Ty if there was anything in radio for me. And he, just by luck, had had a request from a Chicago firm which wanted to have a half an hour show, six days a week, if you will—half an hour every day promoting cosmetics—drug store ideas. Would I care to try out for it? Well, I would have to go to Chicago.

I went home. I was excited. I thought this was wonderful. "I want to go to Chicago. They're going to pay my way I'll go." And my father said, "Now, wait a minute. Are you sure you want to be in radio?" And I said, "Yeah. Yeah. I certainly do."

Ritchie: Your family had a radio? You were familiar with this?

Harris: Oh, yes, yes.

Ritchie: Can you remember if you had heard other women on the radio?

Harris: Only the women with the recipes. And I had always resolved I'd never do recipes. You know, some people don't do windows; I didn't do recipes. I said to my father that I thought this was a wonderful thing. And then I discovered after I got the job—I went down to Chicago and did an audition—when I got back I found that my father had gone to see Ty Tyson to see if this was a respectable business to be in. Tyson evidently assured him that not only was it respectable, it was intended to be professional, and that he would look out for me. I think I was all of age twenty-two, maybe.

Ritchie: So when you went to Chicago for the audition, you had to read a script the company had prepared.

Harris: That's right. And the ridiculous part of it all was that the whole half hour was devoted—well, it was split, by two piano interludes. But the talk part of it was all either the commercial for the various cosmetics, Pacquin's hand cream and so on, or household hints. Now, I had been brought up very carefully avoiding all household work in my life. The man who was the head of the agency which interviewed me for the position was very discouraged. He said, "You're too young. It'll never do. But you're here, so do an audition." So I did an audition and then he said, "Well, at least they'll never see you and we'll write the script." So they wrote all the scripts for all the household hints, which was fine.

Ritchie: And they would mail them to Detroit where you would read them.

Harris: They mailed them to me to do. So that's how I managed to do that half an hour, every day, six times a week.

Ritchie: Do you remember what you were paid for that?

Harris: I think I got $150 a month. I thought it was pretty good, you know. When I went into later programs, I think they began at $20 a week and went up to $150 a month, but I remember that $20 a week was pretty important for a while.

Ritchie: Now, at this time, you didn't use your own name, did you? The company assigned—

Harris: Women didn't, no, no. It wasn't nice. So I was Julia Hayes. In those days, radio was sufficiently new so that fan mail was kind of important. I'd get over a thousand letters a day, day after day after day, all with little dimes in them asking for a sample of hand cream. So most of my job beside reading the script was to go back to the office, to the manager's office, and open up all the envelopes, collect all the dimes, take them

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over to the bank, get a cashier's check, and forward it to Chicago. That was about it. But it was an experience.

Ritchie: This was the beginning of a very long and successful career in broadcast journalism. Did you ever think of it as a career?

Harris: Never in my life. It was a job. And that's nice. Good job. And of course, Julia Hayes expired during the Depression.

Ritchie: Were other people at the radio let off at this time also?

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Many of the sponsored shows were dropped, so that it was a bleak and dismal time. I was home for a while and then I had a chance to try out for another program. Yes, Young & Rubicam which is an advertising agency in New York represented Cluett Peabody which made men's shirts and shorts. Cluett Peabody had either bought or created or found sanforizing—a sanforized product—so that anything that was sanforized would not shrink. Well, before sanforized showed up, whenever a man bought a shirt, he'd have to buy a size too large so that after it was washed it would shrink down to his size. We didn't have to do that any more. And it was very successful with men's wear but with women's wear, women just did not take to sanforized clothing, to the cotton dresses.

That was why Young & Rubicam decided that it would be a good idea to have a program in eight different cities promoting sanforized shrunk. And the way they did it—how I got it, I'm not quite sure but I got it. The trick was to go to the big department stores—Hudson's, Kern's, Crowley's, Himelhoch's, Siegel's and so forth—and talk to them and find out what merchandise they wanted to promote and we'd promote it for free. But every day there had to be one sanforized item so I could make the pitch. Well, that worked for four years, too.

Ritchie: Did you write the scripts for these?

Harris: Oh, yes. By that time, I wrote my own scripts. Oh, in the meantime, I had my daughter, too, in 1936. That was when I was staying home and getting frantic. My husband, as a matter of fact—I'd been home for maybe a couple of years and he said, "You're getting to be impossible. Will you please go find a job?" I did.

Ritchie: So when this one came along, it was a good time in your life to go back to work.

Harris: It was great. Wonderful. It was perfect.

Ritchie: And your parents were important at this time, too, because they were helping with the child care.

Harris: They were helping with my daughter, and they were helping with me, too. But one thing I learned from my parents, I absorbed it somehow and later on my husband and I practiced it with our three kids at dinner. We always had dinner, every night we had the whole family at dinner. And we never talked business at dinner. We asked the kids what they had done, how they were doing at school, and some of the funny things that might have happened today, you know. But we never talked business—I don't know whether it made a difference with them or not.

Ritchie: So you left your work at the location and you came home to take care of the family.

Harris: And so did my husband.

Ritchie: How did you move into news broadcasting?

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Harris: There was a war going on. And this lovely—Nancy Dickson was the name of the Young & Rubicam program which promoted the sanforized shrunk things. And at the end of 1942, we'd been in war one year but nobody was buying clothing. All the available clothing was work clothing and so forth. And so they dropped it. They said, "We're sorry that we're going to have to cease being a sponsor but we'll pick it up after the war."

I got the wire from Young & Rubicam, I think the day after Christmas I was back at the station. And I thought, "Oh, my God, I'm out of a job. This is terrible. And what if my husband has to go to war and I've got Pat, my daughter, to take care of. So what am I going to do?" So I said, "Now, wait a minute. Talk to yourself, Franny." I knew I wanted to stay in radio.

So I went upstairs to the manager at WWJ, Harry Bannister, a great, big, burly man. He was a World War I veteran and his speech was Brooklynese—dese, dat, dem and dose. But he was a very canny man. I told him that he needed me. And he said, "The hell I do." I said, "You need me in the news room. The guys are all being drafted." He said, "I really don't think so. Women have never done news and I don't think they're going to do it and it wouldn't work right. Women's voices are not right for news." So I went sadly back to my office. In an hour he called me up and said, "Do an audition."

When I had begun radio way back in nineteen—whenever, thirty something—there had been a man at WWJ who did the news, Kurt Bradner. Now, hardly anybody around here is old enough to remember this but it's kind of a cute story. He had been a very fine reporter for the Detroit News but he loved his bottle. And so there got to be a point where they couldn't trust him any more and they demoted him to the radio station.

Ritchie: From the newspaper.

Harris: From the newspaper. And he could do the news but there was one proviso. He would clip the stories out of the paper, he wouldn't write them, he would clip them out of the current paper, the Free Press and the News, the Times. And then he'd have to go to Ty Tyson's office, to the manager's office, and say the word "statistics." If he could say "statistics," he could do the newscast. If he couldn't, then the clippings went to one of the radio engineers and they did it.

Ritchie: They would announce the news.

Harris: It was quite an informal and lovely era.

Ritchie: So when you did your audition, did you say the word "statistics"?

Harris: No! I clipped items out of the paper, I wrote some transitions and I conned one of the announcers into letting me interview him, "And what does this war do to you at Christmas?" or something like that. And it worked. That was the very end of December of '42 and I thought I probably wouldn't be back the next year. But the last working day of 1942, the boss said, "Well, we think you can do the news, so you'll have the 6:45 a.m. fifteen minutes." So that started on the first working day after New Year's.

My office had been downstairs in the building and I had seen the fellows get the newsprint from the teletype machines. So I went boldly up and I picked the items all up, and I put them together and I wrote my little ol' transitions and did my news. And it worked, thanks to my high school newspaper chores.

Ritchie: So you were responsible for selecting what you read on the air.

Harris: Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Would you have had a different slant, do you think, than a man would have?

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Harris: I doubt it. It was primarily war news. Local crime had become less important as news. But there was mostly war news and most of my work was from the teletype although the Detroit News writers did send the carbon copies of their stories over to our side of the street. And if we wanted to use them as news pieces, we could do that.

Ritchie: So that would be how you would cover local news.

Harris: From the Detroit News carbons. Local news, yes. So that's the way it worked.

Ritchie: Did radio people ever go out on site and cover local news?

Harris: Oh, the men did. And I wanted to. But I was told, "You are not to go out to cover rape, arson or"—what else? Arson, rape—and one other—murder. "You are not to go to the scene—it's no place for a lady." So I never was able to go out and cover the exciting stories, so to speak.

Ritchie: Did this change through the years or was that something that the station held to?

Harris: No. After I was kicked upstairs into management and all that and the war was over and even the Korean War was over, it became noticeable that women might be able to do news so many of them did. Yes, they can do it now, and I envy them.

Ritchie: You mentioned your voice not being appropriate for radio announcing of the news. When did this change?

Harris: Well, I guess they were stuck with it during the war and they got used to it.

Ritchie: Were there other women employed at the station during the war?

Harris: There were two announcers because the announcers also went off to war, and they did the regular commercials that announcers do these days or they would introduce a program, that sort of thing. But as soon as the war was over, they disappeared. And I just happened to hang in there.

Ritchie: How did that happen?

Harris: I have no idea except that I guess they were used to me.

Ritchie: And at that time, you retained the news program and your interview show?

Harris: Yes. It became news and interviews after that time and I preceded J. P. McCarthy in this area and I remember hearing that WJR where J. P. works had called up my boss and said, "How do you get somebody to do interviews? How do you get somebody? We've got to compete with you, you know." So they picked up J. P. And he competed very well.

Ritchie: Do you remember covering any events such VE or VJ Day?

Harris: Yes. Yes. That time I was allowed out on the street, the engineer and I. In those days, the equipment was not self-contained, as it is now, so you always had to have an engineer come along. The engineer, after World War II, would have tape. Before World War II, they had to carry fifteen-inch records with them, blank records. But there was a cute little engineer, Davy Stewart. He was a lush, too, but that was all right. And we were quite a pair.

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At the time of the first of Germany's surrender, we went out. We have a great many ethnic neighborhoods in Detroit and we covered them all to see what their reactions would be. We were in a great, big station wagon and Davy would take his equipment out with a great, big long cord and we'd always park in front of a movie or a store of some kind so he could plug in and get the power. Then I would go out on the street and do the interviews. That was fine until at the end of our ethnic travels, we ended up in Hamtramck which is largely Polish—very largely.

Davy was out making an effort to hook in power. There were terrible crowds in the street. Everyone was so hilarious because the war was over. Davy was plowing his way through, trying to hook in his equipment. Some soldiers came who were higher than kites—they were terribly drunk—and they saw this wagon and they thought, "This is wonderful." So they started to rock it and rock it, and they were making it and trying to get in. I thought to myself, my Lord, I'm scared to death. What am I going to do? I had my mike and I thought, if any one of them pops a head in there, I'm going to hit them on the head. Davy did make it back to the wagon. Fortunately—I was never so glad to see law and order in my life. The police finally showed up and we got away. We didn't ever get any interviews out of Hamtramck.

Ritchie: So there was local celebration and you went out to record it.

Harris: Wild, yes. And after the Japanese surrendered, it was similar. It was exciting. It was fun. Those things I could do. But murder, rape and arson, no. Isn't that ridiculous?

Ritchie: You could not cover it directly but you could have read it from a news script.

Harris: If it had been on the teletype, yes, and preferably from some other town.

Ritchie: Not a local incident.

It was right after the war that you made the transition to television, when television was introduced.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And that came naturally to you. Did many women move into television?

Harris: To do commercials. Commercials and weather. Women were doing weather. That was thought to be about their speed—about as far as their brightness would go, you know. They weren't terribly smart but they were always beautiful. They had the weather and they had a wand and a map. And that was fine. Then they could do some of the commercials that were not pre-recorded.

Ritchie: The household-related commercials?

Harris: Largely, yes.

Ritchie: What were some of the early programs that you developed for television?

Harris: Well, in the very early days of television, the sets were terribly expensive, terribly expensive, so very few people could afford them. The television makers—there was RCA and General Electric and Philco at that time—they got together and they decided, "We've got to do something to get the market." One of them thought up the idea that there had to be some children's shows. The children would then automatically insist that their families buy the sets—which they did.

They started in Chicago with "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" and that worked out very well. I don't know whether anybody in this generation even remembers Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Fran was Fran Allison and she

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talked with two little puppets. Ollie was a dragon and Kukla was a little clown. The RCA man came over to see my boss, Mr. Bannister, and he called me up and he said, "We're going to do something in a children's program and we want it like Kukla, Fran and Ollie." And I said, "What's that?" because I had never seen it, you see.

So they explained. And I said, "Oh, you want puppets." "Yes, and anything else you can think of for children. And it will be half an hour every day and we'll put it on after school hours. You'll be on from five to five-thirty for RCA." Also there was to be a story lady program on from four to four-thirty who told beautiful stories for Philco. Next came nature films from General Electric, then RCA and me. Not very imaginative.

Anyway, I thought, "My goodness, what am I going to do?" So fortunately, at that time my daughter was ten, one son was five and one son was about one and a half. We were taking the magazine at that time called Children's Activities, now it's Highlights for Children. So I had a consultation with my family. I said, "All right, Pat. All right, Billy. What do you want, if you had to see a show?" And we went through the magazine, "What do you like best in the magazine?" They liked the ones where you draw from this number to that number and make a picture. Or they liked the pictures where you find hidden things in them.

And then my five-year-old—where he got the wisdom, I'll never know—he said, "You know, you're never going to get a really good audience if you don't have some sports." Well, he happened to know Ted Lindsay of hockey fame—he lived rather near us. And so I thought, "Well, why not? We'll have a sports figure every day, too, what the heck." And Pat said, "And I think we ought to have a magician because they're fun."

So we rounded up a magician—and it was fun to sit behind him and watch his tricks, too. We rounded up a magician and the sports director of the station rounded up the different sports men—I think it was Dizzy Trout who showed them how to handle a baseball to pitch a certain way. And of course, Ted Lindsay was in hockey and how to handle your skates and be careful now. We had a different one every single day.

Along with the puppet—at first we didn't find any people who would do very well with puppets but there was a woman in the Detroit library, who was a clerical there, who had always wanted a marionette. You know, that's the one that's pulled by strings. And so she thought, "If I can't find one and I can't afford to buy one, I'm going to see if they have any books about them."

So she found a couple of books on how to make a marionette and she made the cutest little clown that ever happened and his name was What-Now. What-Now became the star of our show. She would stand up on a chair and be out of sight, naturally, and operate the strings. What-Now would play the piano but before he sat down at the toy piano, we would have a conversation. "Now, What-Now, what are you going to play today? Is it going to be Farmer in the Dell?" No. Or he'd quirk his head.

Ritchie: So you were the person talking to the puppet.

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes.

Ritchie: You were actually on the stage.

Harris: Yes. We were just two people on the stage, you see. What-Now was about so high, I don't know, several inches? Yes. A very bewitching little thing. And finally he would sit down and he actually played. The girl who worked his strings really knew how to do it.

And eventually we worked with the humane society and every Friday gave away a puppy or a kitten or something. In a case like that, I don't know whether it was my daughter or my father or someone in the family said,

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"You just don't foist a pet on a family. You gotta find out if they want it." So we'd find out first. I worked with the schools, too, a lot and we had children on the program a lot. I would work with them and I would say, "Do you know of any youngster who wants a puppy or whose family says it's all right?" And then I'd call up the family and say, "Is it all right if so-and-so's given a puppy?" "Yes." So once a week we gave away a puppy or a kitten. One woman at one time said her son wanted a snake. And I thought, "No. No way. We're not going to do that.

Ritchie: During this time were you still active in radio?

Harris: Yes. I was in radio all the time but by that time I didn't have to write anything. I just wrote to put on the interviews.

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

Harris: After the war, World War II—Hollywood had taken quite a beating, obviously. While there were a great many magnificent musical programs and so on during the Depression, during the war, Hollywood was hard up. They had to get their stars back in stardom so they put them on the road. Joan Crawford came on the road. I don't think I'd better tell you about her. They all came on the road and they all ended up in my bailiwick, which was nice at the time.

Ritchie: This would have been before the time of a TV talk show, wouldn't it?

Harris: Oh, yes, yes. Yes. But this was in the fifties. TV talk shows really didn't materialize very well until a little later.

Ritchie: So it was natural for them to come to the radio and have an interview to do a promotion.

Harris: Their agents were aware and so that's why they came. I booked them up two or three weeks in advance, you know. It was really a heyday as far as radio was concerned at that time, in the fifties.

Ritchie: And you also would have had local people who were interested in promoting something?

Harris: Yes. Noble causes always exist and local people always exist to promote them. You have to do that. You live in the community, you have to be a part of it. Then also I noticed that the salesmen occasionally would ask if I would interview the president of one of the companies of somebody they were trying to pitch for sales. So, yes, I would interview the president of the company, of such and such company, and lo and behold, pretty soon the salesman would have his account.

Ritchie: Did this ever put you in an ethical dilemma?

Harris: Ethical, no.

Ritchie: In terms of giving more to one company or something?

Harris: No, I only did it as they asked me to. I didn't make the choices myself. And this went through the chain of command so those were the only people I interviewed whom I never picked by myself.

Ritchie: When you were mentioning the television program, I wondered if you had a budget for that.

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Harris: I wasn't allowed a budget. Are you kidding? Women weren't supposed to know how to handle budgets.

Ritchie: So you never would have been given a budget to do a program and had to stay within it.

Harris: No. I just did the program and if they liked it, they kept it. And if they didn't like it, they didn't keep it. It was a very loosely knit arrangement.

Ritchie: What were some of the other programs that you developed for television?

Harris: Goodness, that was a far piece back. Now let me see. You know, I'm a complete blank on that. Mostly, I did a lot of interviewing on television. We had a panel, a man—a writer from the Detroit News and the farm editor, if you will, for the radio station and I had two or three years of interviewing current events type people.

Ritchie: The three of you would do it together, interview a person?

Harris: Yes. I would always have to ask the woman's question. You know how that goes.

Ritchie: Would most of the interviewees have been men or women?

Harris: It varied depending on what the cause was, what the reason was. And we kept up on current affairs—it was sort of an off-beat news program.

Ritchie: Did you ever want to do news broadcasting on television?

Harris: Not really, because by the time that came along, I was so interested in other things. I was interested in, of course, the children's show that I had done, and I was interested in quite a lot of outside activities, and I just—it never occurred to me.

Ritchie: And were you still doing the news on the radio, the early morning?

Harris: Yes, all the time. Well, not in the early morning. I finally got rid of that. So I was on at one o'clock in the afternoon. And yes, that reminds me that toward the end of my regime—my broadcasting on the air career ended in '64. But the last couple of years before that, they inserted music in my program so I did news and music. All right, that was fine. But we did it out at Northland.

Ritchie: The local shopping mall?

Harris: Yes. If you will, it was the first shopping mall in the United States! They always had done broadcasting from there. So I went out there every day and did my news and music. In the middle of one of the musical tunes, the light flashed which meant the phone was on and they said, "President Kennedy has been hurt and please announce it." So I broke off and announced that President Kennedy was in Dallas and he had been hurt, he had been shot at, I knew that much. But I said, out of my great wisdom, that it probably wasn't anything very serious.

So about twenty minutes later, they told me to say President Kennedy is dead, which I did. That was toward the end of my show. I really am kind of in a daze about that because I don't recall how it all ended. But when the program was over and we were going back to WWJ, the engineer and I were going back to the station, we were kind of stunned, you know. And from then on, I think I didn't do anything else at the station on that, at all. Most of that came through, at that time, NBC.

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Ritchie: Now, back to radio for a moment. I know you developed programs for school children in terms of safety and for the community in terms of the highway patrol program. Can you tell me a little bit about these?

Harris: Well, the one for highway patrol was fun. Initially, in early television, Broderick Crawford did a TV, the "Highway Patrol." But let me tell you, I got there first. As a matter of fact, NBC asked for some of my scripts for my "Highway Patrol." The way it happened—when you have kids you worry about traffic, you know, you just can't help it. So it occurred to me that it might be a good idea if we rode with the state police. I worked with the local police a good deal in safety shows and so forth. So I felt, "Well, let's get the state police."

There was a Memorial Day when there were thirteen people killed in traffic accidents. And I went up to my dear boss, Harry Bannister, and I said, "This is terrible. We've got to do something about it. Can't we have a show?" And so between us, he said, "Well, we'll get the lieutenant governor of Michigan and we'll get the man who is the head of the traffic safety commission and let's talk about it." So we all talked about it and we developed this particular program which let me ride out every week—once again it was on a Friday, Friday afternoon, with the engineer and me in the back seat and two gorgeous state policeman in the front seat. They were beautiful men, out of the Seventh—they were from Seven Mile Road precinct.

We would trace the traffic. We would go through, out into the suburbs and follow the traffic and when there'd be an offender, why, we'd hurry up and haul them over. Then one of the state policemen would say, "Now, do you mind, we will forget—you won't have to have a ticket for this if you will be on this program." So then I would interview them and "Why were you going so fast?" etc., etc., etc. Then the state policemen would scold him on the air. And we did three or four of those a day on a Friday afternoon. And that went on for almost a year and a half and it really did make a difference in the traffic.

My husband wanted to get some more insurance. We were getting to the point where we thought it would be wise. And he couldn't do it because I was in a high-risk job. So I said, "The heck with the highway patrol, you know. You get the insurance."

Ritchie: So you abandoned that program.

Harris: Yes. After a year and a half, they'd about had it, anyway. You can tell. With the school children, having children in school, it was natural. And our Detroit schools at that time had a very active—well, they still are—they had their own radio station and it's very important. There was a woman named Kay Lardy who was head of it and with her and through her suggestions, I went to all the various schools. The man who did sports, Paul Williams, went with me and he talked sports.

And we'd have a policeman from what was then the youth bureau who would tell the kids how to be careful about crossing streets. Because, you see, after World War II the children had learned that somebody in uniform might not always be a friend. And the police had a real big problem with making friends with kids. So we used that program for that purpose. And that was interesting. We went around to schools. It rained every single day we went out to a school but that was all right.

Ritchie: You were fortunate to have someone who supported you with these different ideas. Harry Bannister was a good person to work with?

Harris: Oh, he was great. He never said don't use too much money or anything like that. And I didn't have any worry about the money, anyway. I never thought about it. I outlined what I wanted to do and I did it.

The first award that we got—we got an Alfred Sloan award for the highway traffic show that I did, the "Highway Patrol" and for the safety show for the children. Then we got a Peabody award for a sex crime show. I tell you, I was into things. At the time, after World War II, a great many people, including my husband,

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had kind of a mental illness that came from a result of the pressures of the war. So I was very high on interviewing people who knew about mental illnesses. And out of that came the fact that there were a great many sex crimes being given.

So we had set up a panel. It was after the eleven o'clock news, so it would have been 11:15, almost 11:30 at night, when nobody was supposed to be listening, you know, at least no children. And we would talk about sex crimes and what to do and how to report and what to do about it. I found out, maybe a year or two ago, that my daughter had stayed up and listened to all of those things while I was doing them. I really was shocked. I thought they were all safely sound asleep in bed but they weren't.

Ritchie: But this was another aspect of your involvement with the community and your concern for community issues.

Harris: That's right. Yes. When your family is involved, you get concerned, automatically, don't you?

Ritchie: Did the management at the station change much through the years? You've mentioned two managers that you worked with.

Harris: Eventually, I think it was just before I was kicked upstairs, Harry Bannister was given an opportunity to go to NBC in one of their major positions. And he took it. He should have. He was from Brooklyn in the first place and it was like going home and all that. Missed him terribly. The man who came after him came during the early television days and that's when we had quite an interesting time. He was very supportive and all. And then following him was another man who had been a program manager, Don DeGroot, who became manager of the station. At that time, you worked with the manager of AM-FM and TV, the whole bit.

Ritchie: So they were all together.

Harris: They were all together.

Ritchie: Fran, in talking about the various managers that you worked with, did you ever encounter difficulties with any of them in terms of what you wanted to do and what they had in mind for you?

Harris: I think not with Bannister, early on. And by that time, he was in office long enough so that everybody kind of got used to my being an independent person. One of the managers who followed him—Bannister went on to NBC, as I mentioned—and the next manager was highly program-oriented and that was fun because then we'd dream up program ideas. And the man following him was more of the accountant type and he was apt to say, "No, I don't think so," so I never asked. I just went on my merry way. But by the time the accountant was the manager, I was no longer on the air and so all I had to worry about was getting travel money to go here, there and everywhere.

Ritchie: So during your years of developing programs, you were fortunate to work with managers who supported your ideas. Do you recall any ideas that you had that were turned down?

Harris: I recall one or two programs that I started which ran for two or three times, two or three weeks, and I knew they weren't very good. So I asked to have them off.

Ritchie: So it was your judgment that put a stop to them.

Harris: Yes. Because I would rather quit than be fired, you know.

Ritchie: In mentioning your programs, talk a little bit about "Traffic Court."

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Harris: Oh, yes. Michigan had the very first court program in the whole country and it was interesting. Once again, it was because I was worried about my children and traffic. I knew that in the safety program we had mentioned in the schools, we had the policemen talking about children being careful, and I thought, "Well, maybe this will translate to adults." So I went over to see—in Detroit we have separate judges for traffic, so I went to see Judge Watts who at that time was the Judge Watts and Judge Murphy. I went to see Watts and said I thought it would real fine if we could just put our cameras in his court and just take pictures.

And he allowed as how that wouldn't be a very good idea because the cameras at that time were quite noisy and television was still a novelty—this was in the late forties, 1949, I think. Television was still unique and he thought it might interfere with his path of progress. But he said, "What you should do is to take cases which have been completed, that makes them a matter of public record, and then we can bring back the real witnesses and real officers." And then I said, "Well, I think we'd better not have the real defendant because he'd be embarrassed." We paid somebody $15 a show to be the defendant. And I tell you, the policemen lined up in a row to be the defendant. It was great.

But we did move the whole thing—I wanted it in his courtroom but we moved the whole thing over to the studios at WWJ and we had our first program, at which time the Detroit Bar Association people rose up in horror. Terrible! A real judge, in a real program, in something like television?! It was dreadful! Well, Watts fortunately was quite an outgoing person and things didn't bother him too much. After all, he was a judge. And these other fellows were just attorneys, you know. He kept saying, "No, it's all right. It's a matter of public record." Well, they were very unhappy about it. They wanted to stop the whole thing. They went to the head of the Detroit News, they pulled all their strings, but really there was no reason why we shouldn't have the show on a legal point of view.

So then they went up to the Supreme Court in Michigan to have some of the judges come down to see this awful thing that was going on. Luck again. One of the judges on the Supreme Court who came down was a friend of my family. I greeted him with open arms and I told him that it was a matter of explaining what went on in court and what kinds of things you were held responsible for so that you would stay out of court, etc., etc., etc. Well, the two judges loved it and they said it was fine, go ahead, do it, that's fine.

So then the Bar Association, the local people, appealed to the American Bar [Association]. They drew Judge Watts to their attention and at their next annual meeting, he was reprimanded, presumably. But he said, "Now, look"—and he reported this to me, he said, "Look, this is all a matter of public record. Who is to tell? And we don't use the real defendant but we do use the real witnesses, we do use the real officers in the case. And besides that, traffic deaths and traffic accidents are going down in our area." So the American Bar Association said, "That's a good idea." So away we went.

And after about ten years, we got tired of traffic and then Johnny Watts wanted to do something different. And we had a juvenile judge. So for six years we had juvenile cases, same premise. By that time, court shows were popping up all over the country. And to this day, I don't see how Judge Wapner, bless his soul, can finish a case and announce it, take an open case and close it, on the air. But he does. In my time, we couldn't have done that.

Ritchie: What was your role in this?

Harris: The producer. I got it all together.

Ritchie: And what would you have done as producer?

Harris: Tell everybody else what to do. I was there and I'd greet the people and I'd explain what was going on and then introduce them to Judge Watts. The officers all knew Watts, anyway. And by the time we'd been

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doing this very long, the line of police officers who wanted to be on the show was pretty long. But we spread it out as well as we could.

Ritchie: And at the same time you were maintaining your programs on the radio.

Harris: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Ritchie: Back and forth with both.

Harris: And television.

Ritchie: The companies were all together as one, as you said.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Radio, AM and FM, and the television.

Harris: Yes. But I sort of feel like the great-grandmother of all the court shows.

Ritchie: Because they originated right here and you were instrumental in developing them.

Harris: If Judge Watts had not been such an extrovert and a public relations-minded man, it might never have worked. But it was a fortunate person who was there, too, you know. So that was good.

Ritchie: After years of doing programming and appearing on the air and having your voice heard by many people, you moved into management in the 1960s.

Harris: In 1964, there was a Civil Rights Act of 1964 which insisted that women and minorities be in more obvious positions of strength in business. So it was obvious, they put me upstairs so I'd be obvious. I became an instant token. I didn't realize I was a token for a while. But I realized—they gave me a terrible name, special features coordinator or something like that, and I worked with programming, promotion, publicity—the whole thing, public affairs. But I was just doing the same thing I was always doing except that I wasn't on the air. But I was not allowed in the Monday morning judicial meetings where the department managers were running down what they did right the week before and so forth or what they were planning for the following week. None of the planning meetings was I allowed in. "You wouldn't be interested in that. You don't need that. It's a bore. You don't want to go to those."

Ritchie: So the position was a natural extension of what you had been doing.

Harris: Been doing anyway.

Ritchie: And you were given a title.

Harris: And the car. I had the company car. Now that was class! But that was about all the class there was to it.

Ritchie: But you really didn't play a role in management decisions at the station.

Harris: No, no. Not in the ultimate management. No. Well, I was a woman, you know. You're not supposed to know management. My value to them was every three years when we had to have license renewal. And at that time, the FCC—Federal Communications Commission—would appeal to the communities, is your broadcasting station serving you well? If not, why not? Please tell them at this point. So every three years

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there would be a group from NOW—I was in on the beginning of NOW, too, but that's different—but the NOW women would come in and they'd say, "You don't have enough women in management," and so forth. But I'd be sitting there. And I remember the boss would point at me and say, "What do you think she is?" You know, just crude like that. But it took a little crudeness sometimes.

Ritchie: In this position, did you ever facilitate other women's work? Were there other women at the station at this point?

Harris: Oh, yes. Yes. Not obviously. But if you want to go somewhere, you kind of go around it like this. Women do that, you know. They're much better at that than men are. Make the man think it's his idea. Well, I got to be pretty good at that.

Ritchie: So you were instrumental in having women's programs or programming for women.

Harris: Oh yes, we did help. Well, having women on staff, more than just clericals.

Ritchie: Now, had they moved into some of the technical areas at this point?

Harris: Yes. But I was gone by that time. I think they probably couldn't stand having a woman engineer and a woman like me at the same time. The poor boys had to take it bit by bit.

Ritchie: Well, given your long career, the changes that you've seen over the years, were they natural to you?

Harris: I think if I'd been continuing in business, yes, yes. A little slow, perhaps, for women to be recognized. I remember one time when I was head of Women in Communications, I had to go down to Rochester, New York, the Gannett people down there hosted the local Women in Communications group and I was to talk. And Al Neuharth was there from Gannett. I remember after the thing was over, I went to him and exploded to him. By the way, when we changed the name to Women in Communications, we also voted to admit men—only men who would do a good job for women and he was one of the men. So I went down to tell him I was glad he was a member of Women in Communications. And then I just told him I was so tired of being a token, you know, just tired of it. And he said, "Just wait a minute. Don't think of yourself as a token. Think of yourself as a pioneer." And that just turned my whole world right side up again. I've always been grateful to him for that. He knows it.

Ritchie: In addition to your work in radio and television, you were involved, as you've mentioned, in professional organizations, both Theta Sigma Phi—which became Women in Communications—and American Women in Radio and Television.

Harris: Yes.

Ritchie: And were there others that you were involved with?

Harris: Well, there was the Advertising Federation. At that time, there was the Advertising Federation of America which was east of the Mississippi and the Advertising Federation of the West which was west of the Mississippi. And I had been president of the Women's Ad Club—Advertising Club here, which was quite a big one, because the men didn't want women in their club, in their advertising club, and I understand that. And advertising women didn't really—well, some of the women wanted to be members but I didn't. But then for some reason, they had regions within the Advertising Federation and I turned out to be the lieutenant governor of one region, which was Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, and later governor.

When I was governor, that put me on the big national board. At that time there were fourteen, fifteen women's ad clubs around the country. And we all got together and they said, "We know that at the board of the Advertising Federation they have their governors' group, which I could have belonged to, and they have

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another group for this and that and the other thing, but they don't have any vice president for women." So they asked me if I'd make a pitch and so could we have vice president for women and so I did and I was. I got myself into trouble a lot of times that way, by just popping off.

But I remember that we had a very nice annual meeting in Miami. I'd just been over in Hawaii to do a job and I came back immediately to Miami. As the new vice president for women, I was chairing the opening meeting, the opening session, which they allowed the women could have. And I had to introduce the speakers' table. The president at that time of the Advertising Federation was not really in favor of women in advertising. They were all right to buy the things and they could write some of the ads but not really in real advertising. But his wife was quite a good woman.

Well, anyway, in introducing him, I couldn't help myself, I just had to do it, I said, "Behind every successful man is an amazed woman." He nearly died. Everybody erupted, you know, it was fun. But I got back at him, you know. I was proud of myself for that little piece.

Ritchie: I'm sure that other women looked to you as an example of someone who had had a successful career. When you were starting out, there was really no one for you to look up to in that role.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: Was there anyone who might have served as a mentor to you?

Harris: Well, Bannister, the boss. And later, Al Neuharth, with his comments. And then Young & Rubicam had one of their representatives when I was doing their programming who had come to town to be sure that everything was all right. That was in the Julia Hayes—no, Nancy Dickson era. Nat Doorly was a doll. I was fussing to him, even in those early years, that it was kind of bad that there weren't enough women around. And it was difficult to get something done.

So he said, "Did I ever tell you about the traveling man in Europe?" And I said, "No." He said, "Well, he had his great case full of a great many things and at each border in Europe, in the countries, he would have to unload and show everything, pack it back up again, cross the short border and do the same thing all over again. And he did that until he was tired to death. He finally came to a very small principality—it must have been Luxembourg, something like that—and he said to himself, 'I won't do it, I'm not going to do that, I'll drive around the damn principality.'" And he said, "You've got to remember to drive around the principalities." So, I've kind of hung onto that one, too.

Ritchie: And I'm sure you've set examples for young women that were following you.

Harris: Well, if I did, I didn't know it. The rationale was not there in that time. The whole point now is for women to help women, etc., etc., etc. I did it just because I thought it was the right thing to do, not because it was the "in" thing to do. And it wasn't the "in" thing to do, I gather. But I didn't really think of it as a cause or anything like that. I think I was too far ahead of my time.

Ritchie: You certainly were, in terms of your work outside the home.

Harris: Well, yes. I remember that when I went back to work after the Depression I asked my husband if he thought it would be all right because—I said, "Your friends are going to kid you. They'll say you don't make enough money to support me." He said, "I don't care. You go on. You're impossible sitting around the house. Go to work."

Ritchie: Were most of your friends working at the time?

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Harris: No.

Ritchie: Did you feel pressure to return to home?

Harris: No. No. Because, once again, Grandma was there to take care of the youngsters and one, two, three, they all came—my mother and father, my father had retired, and my mother was still buzzing about. But my father brought up the boys, really, he did. But as I say, we always were together—not at breakfast because some of them had to go to school very early and our hours were different. But at night for dinner, we were always together at dinner. We were always together on the weekend. And that was just the way it was, everybody knew that.

Ritchie: Today in the broadcast profession, people would move from town to town to take new positions. Did you ever consider leaving Detroit and going to another town?

Harris: I had a chance to go to NBC but I got to thinking about it. Now, if I do that, then what's going to happen to the kids and what's going to happen to my husband with his business. And I thought, it isn't worth it, forget it. I'm happy where I am. I'll let somebody else do it. So at least I had the offer, which was pleasant. I don't know what it would have been but I did have a nibble from NBC.

Ritchie: So unlike many people who would take another position to advance themselves, you were fortunate to be able to advance yourself in one place through the years.

Harris: I must be peculiar because I never thought of advancing myself. It was just doing something different.

Ritchie: And something that you enjoyed?

Harris: Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: So looking over your years, do you remember any disappointments?

Harris: Well, let me see. Not really. Not in my professional career, no. My husband's health was a difficulty but that was nobody's problem but ours.

Ritchie: This was something that you all dealt with.

Harris: That's right. He bore up very well. I had super support from him and from my mother and father. I was talking to my daughter Pat about this not too long ago and asked her what she remembered about growing up. Did the fact that I was a "celebrity" interfere with her school? And she said, "No, not until you got that Junior Jamboree thing. And then," she said, "I was very important." Pat was very important in school because then the kids wanted to come down and see it and they thought they could do it through her.

Ritchie: They thought if they had the connection to get to the station themselves.

Harris: And the two boys just ignored it completely. To the best of my knowledge, it never bothered them.

Ritchie: So your being a local celebrity did not have any effect on the home life.

Harris: No. Once in a while I'd have to go out—later on as they grew older, I went out for dinner when I'd have to give a talk here and there but that was just part of my job, you know.

Ritchie: As was interviewing the celebrities.

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Harris: Yes. Yes.

Ritchie: Ranging from Bob Hope to—

Harris: Well, to Cary Grant, Charlton Heston—they put Charlton Heston on because they weren't quite sure in those days whether he'd be a success in films—Burt Lancaster. Most of the traveling celebrities were men. I don't know why. I do, too. Because when I won the Peabody award on just one particular sex crime program, the boss's son went down to pick up the Peabody award. I wasn't allowed to go. And I was really furious until it occurred to me, "Now everybody will think we're off on having an affair." So that's why I didn't go.

Ritchie: So you did not go.

Harris: No.

Ritchie: Would you have covered other crimes relating to sex or other issues relating to sex, say as use of the pill became more prominent?

Harris: That, my dear, was after I was out. That was after I was off the air. So I didn't work with that at all.

Ritchie: When you mentioned interviewing celebrities, did you interview any political people as they would have campaigned?

Harris: No, when John Kennedy was running, he sent his family out all over the place, you know. And they all wanted on, all the sisters and the cousins and the aunts wanted to be on the show. But I turned them all down. I said, "If Kennedy would come on and then I will also have Nixon at a different time to equal it up, that will be all right. But otherwise no." So I didn't do much political.

Ritchie: So political interviewing was not something that you took on.

Harris: That was the purview of the newsroom editor. If he wanted to send his reporters out on a political story, that was different. But not to interview them, not for me.

Ritchie: Looking back over your career, would you consider the interviews that you did to be the high point?

Harris: They were fun but I think I enjoyed it more when I was off the air, when I was traveling all over the country. My husband would tell me that he was at the airport with a flag to flag me down, occasionally. Because I went to Israel—what was it, the Third World Conference of Women Journalists and Authors was in Israel at the time and I had a good many organizational trips. They were fun. I enjoyed them.

Ritchie: And gave you the opportunity to meet with other women in a similar profession.

Harris: And the children were grown by that time, so I didn't have to fuss about their psyches.

Ritchie: And how they would feel about the fact that you weren't there.

Harris: That's right.

Ritchie: So really, your traveling and your involvement in the national organizations came a bit later.

Harris: Oh, yes. That came ten years—'64 to '74, when I was off the air and the kids were up and out.

Ritchie: And even though you retired, you've remained in touch with journalism.

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Harris: You can't help it. I mean, if it's your life, there you are.

Ritchie: Well, I think you've had a wonderful full life, both personal and professional, and I very much appreciate your sharing it with us and I know that the readers of these transcripts and the people who see the videotape will enjoy it as much as I have.

Harris: Oh, that's very kind of you. As I said before at the beginning, it's a very nice ego trip. And everyone needs an ego trip now and then. So thank you for this one.

Ritchie: Well, you deserve one.

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