Washington Press Club Foundation
Ruth Ashton Taylor:
Interview #2 (pp. 39-63)
September 11, 1991 in Lincoln, California
Shirley Biagi, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Biagi: Last time we were talking, we ended up in about 1948 or '49. We were with Ed Murrow and we were in New York. So that's, believe it or not, where we were. So I'd like to start there and talk about your experience there, what it was like working with him.

Taylor: The way I got involved with Murrow, did I talk about the show I was doing called "Feature Story?"

Biagi: I think we had you working in radio.

Taylor: I was hired out of Columbia in April of '44 and I started working for Bob Trout, writing for Bob Trout, who had a daily program. Then I went to the conventions and that was a big experience. Then the year afterwards, in '45, Bob was assigned to do a program called "Feature Story," which involved all the other correspondents inasmuch as the correspondents had a lot of stories that they didn't have time to tell and they were only doing the top of news. So they would come forth at times and they couldn't get a story on the air that they thought was worthy. So there was so much of this material and we had a lot of these wonderful correspondents overseas, so it was decided that they would take the ideas from the correspondents, try to match up the ideas, or, say one correspondent had an idea about something political or even something of lifestyle, whatever, where he was, we'd try to then assign another correspondent or two to do something that would be a joint kind of thing so they would all have the same angle on a story. We would hop around to the different locations. It would be coordinated out of New York and whoever read it in New York, who was going to be Bob Trout, would do companion pieces as well, from New York, and narrate it as well.

So Bob started doing that and I helped him. I wrote and reported and so on. But he hated it. He didn't want to do it. This was not what he was about, for one thing. He just introduced those correspondents on his program, but it was kind of like he was on their program. That's not what he said and that's not the way anybody concluded it, but only now am I thinking that is the way it really was. [Laughter.] Whatever occurred, Bob decided he didn't want to do that program.

So we all still thought it was a great program, a great idea, so they said, "Okay, Ruth, you're producing the program. You just go ahead and you write the stories and you do the reporting and you do all the stuff, except, of course, we can't use your voice because you're a woman with a squeaky voice." Any woman had a squeaky voice, and I'm sure mine was worse.

Anyway, they assigned an announcer who had a very good voice and who read the news on some of the news programs.

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Biagi: Do you remember his name?

Taylor: Harry Marble. Harry Marble was a former actor, excellent person to read your copy because he could make it sound good when it was lousy, you know, and I always appreciated that. He did give me a little bit of counsel that I've often thought about, because he had been an actor and things would often go bad for all of us or we were nervous, you know, and all the rest of it. He said, "I always comforted myself when I was acting by saying, 'Eleven o'clock always comes.'" To me, I've thought of that a million times. Eleven o'clock always comes. I'm in the middle of something I can't stand it, I don't want to do it, but it's going to be over. Eleven o'clock will always come. So I remember that about Harry.

Biagi: How long was the program? Was it an hour?

Taylor: Oh, no. It was only fifteen minutes. As a matter of fact, it was on every day, fifteen minutes.

Biagi: Five days a week?

Taylor: Five days a week. It went to a hundred-and-some stations and it was the kind of thing that was really unheard of these days. There are some books that mention it. But in those days, there was very little of just inviting somebody on for an ad lib kind of conversation. Of course, at a convention or something like that, a special event, that would happen. But when we had them in the studio, everything seemed to have to be so programmed, at least the way we did it, so whenever I would have somebody that had to be interviewed or we wanted to have a whole interview program, I'd go out and interview them first, then write a script so that they read the script with all the answers—which was interesting because they could either throw it in your face or not. You represented what they said fairly and the way it was or you didn't. I did that. We had military people and correspondents, all kinds of people, and it was real interesting. I'd go out and maybe interview them for an hour and then come back and write Harry's questions and their answers. It worked out well.

Biagi: So he was really a sit-in for you, essentially.

Taylor: He was basically the voice. It was ridiculous at times because we would go on special events. We were on Eisenhower Day, for instance, and I'm with him as he talks about it. "Oh, the parade is coming this way and you can see the general standing up and waving," but I was writing on a typewriter and handing him papers. As a matter of fact, [Dwight D.] Eisenhower went out to Yankee Stadium to see a baseball game and the rain poured down, and out there, I remember I was happily wearing a seersucker suit because it was going to look like seersucker, anyway. But sitting there in the rain and I'm typing this whole thing about what kind of reaction there is of the general to all the plays. Of course, he was under some sort of canopy. It eventually was rained out. Eventually they stopped the game. But they didn't stop it before we were totally soaked.

I had written these things and I came back and handed them to somebody. "Here's the script," and it was just a bunch of soggy pages, you know, but Harry read the whole ad lib thing.

Biagi: You were writing behind him, essentially, and then he would get the script and read it.

Taylor: So there was a little time lapse between what happened and what he said, before he said it, but nobody saw it. There weren't any pictures. When it reached its ultimate, total ridiculous types of operation, was when we had Armed Forces Day and we were up on top of a building on a ledge,

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reporting about the air force going over and the navy coming down the Hudson and all this stuff, you know. I'm typing away and he's standing on the ledge reading this stuff, and it was pretty weird. I mean, really weird.

Biagi: You had to be the eyes, too, while you're typing.

Taylor: I was the reporter and the writer and the producer, and he was the mouth! [Laughter.]

Biagi: So you had the typewriter in front of you as you're watching what's going on.

Taylor: Right. I am typing. As though I were saying it, I am typing it. I'm typing it because he's going to have to say it.

Biagi: But the tank may have already gone by by the time he says it's going by. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Because it was radio. I always say that finally they got to the point where they thought they could make a shortcut between the word and the mouth, the event and the mouth, by auditioning some women. They did, and I told you the story about the flat beer.

Biagi: No, I don't know the flat beer story yet.

Taylor: Well, it was discovered by careful after-hours research that if I drank beer, the more I drank, the lower my voice got. So when we were going to audition, my boss, Paul White, took me downstairs. He knew this because he was a great beer drinker and he had a lot of parties at his house. Well, you didn't have parties; you just hung out with each other after hours. Anyway, he took me down to Colby's, which was the restaurant downstairs, and he said I should have a beer before I did the audition so my voice would be lower. Well, the beer was flat. It really literally was flat. It's a ridiculous story. It wouldn't have made any difference anyway. Nobody won the audition. They didn't want a woman on the air.

The reason I'm telling all this is because about this time, "Feature Story" was very important on one very important day that was hard to understand at the beginning. There was a flash that came in. You had the flashes and the bulletins, and flashes a lot during the war. You'd have these really major things happening. The flash was—maybe it wasn't a flash. It probably was a bulletin, because not even people who were writing it from the wire services understood the importance of it, saying, "A B-29 has dropped an atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, on Hiroshima, Japan." That was what it said. That was how long it was.

That's really interesting, but it took like hours, a couple of hours, for this to start to snowball in the minds of people, what this is. It wasn't just that your mind began to grasp it. The wires then began to play the story of the Alamogordo [New Mexico] test on July sixteenth and what had happened at that test with a blind person hundreds of miles away. All of a sudden he had seen a bright flash. There were all of the eye-witness accounts of what it had been like to see an atomic bomb go off. Then you began to see.

My boss came to me and said, "I don't know what you've got on 'Feature Story' today, but whatever it is, you'd better throw it out." [Laughter.] So I did, and took the stories that were coming over and did a whole big story, totally written then, on the atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima. I concluded, "As we read the stories that are coming in, we can thank god that the secrets of the atomic bomb came to us before they were in the hands of Adolf Hitler." That actually was what had been the secret race, of course. That was a very big day. Somebody used

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that script in a book that I've tried to find again. It was From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo, a little paperback book, where they used that script. Anyway, that was part of what "Feature Story" did.

Biagi: So you're just the writer.

Taylor: I was the writer and reporter and producer, but I wasn't the voice. But Murrow still hadn't come back. Well, when he came back, I was doing "Feature Story." He knew me because I was working with all the correspondents, and he came back as vice president of news and public affairs, so now he's on the eighteenth floor. He wasn't on the twenty-first; he was on the eighteenth. We were on the seventeenth floor.

Biagi: Is that a hierarchy that was in place?

Taylor: That's the way it was in terms of all the books there are about CBS, and the twentieth floor was always where Bill Paley was and all of those big guys. Then the eighteenth floor was where your program department was and other executives, but they're a couple of layers down. The seventeenth floor was a busy, busy place, but controlled the entire network in those days. There was a lever in the newsroom. You could push that lever and take everything off the air and take it onto the newsroom. Some of these people who are legendary with CBS, whose names I'm not thinking of right now, gave that power, actually, to Paul White because it was such an important time, and it was.

At any rate, when Murrow came back, I was doing "Feature Story," so he dealt with me quite a lot, because I was dealing with all the corespondents, he was dealing with all the correspondents. I remember one of the lessons that he taught me firmly. When I had a show all set and it was going to be a good show—I can't remember, but people like Howard K. Smith and [Charles] Collingwood and [Winston] Burdett and all those folks would be on it, but Bill Downs came in to talk to me and said, "Ruth, I've got this story. I just came back from Chicago." It was, I think, some kind of a veterans hospital or some kind of a story he ran into that was a real moving story. He said, "I want to put it on today."

I said, "Bill, I can't do it. I've got the whole thing set and all these folks, and they're all set." They didn't have a time element, but it was a set show. In those days, setting up some of these things was a little bit harder than it is now. You were having to sign up transmission times and all kinds of stuff.

Anyway, Bill was upset. He's a very volatile-type guy, splendid reporter. In fact, I think it was White who said, "If you wanted a situation covered right now, a catastrophe or something, you send Bill Downs to it because you'd have it right now. He'd see it, he'd report it, he'd give you the story right now." If you wanted to find out what that story meant, you'd send Howard K. Smith, and twenty-four hours later you'd have a retrospective. But it's a different type of mind.

But anyway, Bill was volatile and good. Excellent writer, dramatic reporter, very dramatic. He was underestimated, never given enough credit, I think, in a lot of the books that have been written. But at any rate, pretty soon [after] having told him, "I can't do it," I get a phone call from Murrow. "Ruth, I've been talking to Bill." He never was harsh. He was always very friendly and very nice.

Biagi: This is Murrow?

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Taylor: Ed Murrow. He'd call and say, "I've been talking to Bill. Sounds like he's got a really good story and he really cares about it." These are not his exact words, but it's like he would say.

I said, "Yeah, but the show is really full." These were the people we had—Collingwood and Smith and all those guys. They were set. "Can't Bill hold?" or something like that?

Murrow said, "He feels it has to go now. It's got a time element to it. There's one thing. I know you've got the shows that are set and this wouldn't be true of everybody, but just remember this, when Bill Downs feels deeply about something, you'd better put it on. It's got to be good." And I thought that about other people. If they feel deeply about it and you trust those particular people, then trust them, because it will be worth it. So when Murrow tells me to do it, I do it. "So off you go, guys. You're not on today." And Bill's story went on. As I recall, it was a splendid story, as you would expect. Anyway, that was the kind of dealing I had with Murrow.

I had dealings with Murrow in that I would be the only woman sometimes in some of the meetings on different news things, so that I saw Murrow in this meeting mode.

Biagi: You told me that there was another woman in the newsroom. Was there?

Taylor: There were women. There were two girls who were writers in the newsroom. I think I mentioned to you there was one girl whose family was quite influential.

Biagi: What was her name?

Taylor: Alice Weel. She eventually married Homer Bigart of the New York Times. He was extremely well thought of and a splendid reporter. He died recently, within the past year.

Biagi: Then there were two other news writers?

Taylor: Yes. For a while we had a gal who was Peg White, Paul White's wife, and she had been a producer of a weekly program. I forget what we called that. Something like "Face the Nation." Some of these titles have been brought up again. It may even have been that. But it was a once-a-week sort of dramatization of the news that she produced and wrote. She was a splendid writer. She'd gone to Columbia, too. She was hired out of school by Paul White and then he married her.

With Alice, she had been hired by White to go on overnight, and that's where her family always had influence and always had a lot of parties for everybody, tried to use their influence to get my job with Trout for Alice and put me on the overnight. That would have worked with a news hierarchy, but it wouldn't work with Trout. So that didn't happen. That never happened.

Biagi: So she eventually left, did she?

Taylor: Alice was there until, I guess, the day she died.

Biagi: How long?

Taylor: Many years. She went to television eventually as a writer. She stayed on with CBS, but she was a writer. She was always behind the scenes. She never was up front, but she was very good, very highly regarded and respected, and stayed on as a writer. In fact, when she was married,

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Murrow was at her wedding, I know. She was married sort of late in life. She never did have any children.

Biagi: So there would have been about four or five women in the newsroom. And maybe how many people are we talking about working in there?

Taylor: You had shifts, twenty-four hours a day. So you'd have three different shifts and you'd probably have four or five in your newsroom crowd. You always had an editor. Your editors were very important and your editors were very good in our shop. And you wrote well or you sure as heck heard about it. You didn't make errors in fact or in grammar; it was a tight rein. They didn't try to influence your style, which is happening these days. Now they don't know the facts, but they try to do your style over, you know, these people who are called editors. So there would be four or five on each shift, I would suppose.

Then around the periphery you had your analysts, you had Bill Shirer, you had Quincy Howe, you had some producers of different kinds of news-type programs. I remember people who would be the anchors and reporters of the different shows, like I remember Ned Kilmer being there, who did the seven o'clock at night or morning or sometime.

So there were people strewn around in little cubicles. I had a little glass cubicle. I was not in the newsroom. At first I was in the office with Trout, who would put the phone under the desk. Then when I did "Feature Story," I was in a little glass cubicle down the hall from the newsroom. Then there was Paul White's office with all of the transmission consoles, so you could call in your correspondents and set them up and everything. A studio across from his office. Then a lot of little glass cubicles. Not a lot; four or five.

Quincy Howe was next to me, a wonderful New England analyst, reporter, writer, scholar, and Quincy used to do imitations of Jimmy Durante, which were so out of character because he looked like a Harvard professor and sort of acted like a Harvard professor. In fact, he may have been a Harvard professor. He was very well connected in publishing and business and all and had written some books. This was my shortcut. If I was in a real hurry and I needed something for background on world history or current history or anything, I'd ask Quincy. I didn't have to look it up; Quincy was right next door.

Biagi: Marvelous!

Taylor: And whatever he said was right. You knew that. But those were the people. So it was a pretty full crowd, during the war, particularly, and after. You kept a full schedule of news and news-type programs on.

Biagi: When did your actual responsibility of going out and getting the stories and then bringing them back begin?

Taylor: I did some of that.

Biagi: Did that end at any one point or were you ever just in-house and did things on the phone?

Taylor: Basically when I was writing for Trout, I was in-house because I was writing off wire copy most of the time. But if something happened of a dramatic sort or somebody died, I had a hat I kept on the radiator, and I'd skip over to St. Pat's and talk about what the reaction was in the cathedral and around in the street and so forth.

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Biagi: You were plenty close. You were right there.

Taylor: Right there across the street. St. Pat's was kind of my beat and I'd be on the phone. But I got out. I didn't do a lot of leg work in the field when I was doing my reporting for "Feature Story" because I had so much other work to do. You have an awful lot of coordination to do when you're trying to bring in a bunch of people on a program, particularly in those days, because you're talking—they're coming up. They're coming up or they're not coming up. If the signal doesn't work, you've got backup scripts and you're going to read the backup script in its stead. Harry Marble was going to read the backup script, but I got it for him. [Laughter.] I didn't write that one, but I got it for him.

Then the thing that happened, these were days, too, when I started to know Murrow better and talk to him. He was always very accessible. He had the aura and personality of a star, super star, sort of. You could be sort of in awe of him, except he did such real things. [Laughter.] He went out and drank beer with us and things like that.

Biagi: Was he physically on the eighteenth floor or did he spend a lot of time with you folks?

Taylor: He spent a lot of time with us, but he physically had to deal with the hierarchy to a large extent, with what was going to happen post-war to the whole news operation. At one point they decided that "Feature Story" was going to go off, but at that particular point, as well, Murrow called me up and said that they were going to start this documentary unit. He had four people that he wanted to assign to do this documentary, be in this unit, the first time they would have major documentaries on major subjects, and he asked me if I would be in the documentary unit. I was the only woman there was.

Biagi: Radio documentary?

Taylor: Radio.

Biagi: We're in the era of television documentaries.

Taylor: Yes, I know, but not much.

Biagi: Documentary on radio is so unusual and it's a wonderful idea.

Taylor: Well, you listen to even those old dramas that we hear replayed, the theater of the mind, you know. You really get a mental picture that may be far superior to what you're going to see in a crummy television show.

But the documentary thing, he told the four of us, two people who were producers and directors at CBS at the time, who had done some documentary work, and then this young writer named Lane Blackwell and me, and he said, "I want you all to choose the subject closest to your heart, take as much time as you need to report and write and get it ready for the air. And when you have it ready, we will preempt the best program on the air for it." He took all these principles that are so important, which is that you care about what you're doing, that you have enough time to do it right, and that when you get it right, it's on where somebody's going to see it. He put it all together that way, and that was the CBS documentary unit.

That was when I had been very impressed (and really it was a whole awakening to me) with the whole atomic age, and I had always been interested in science and I'd majored in that in

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high school and had been following scientific news. I wanted to do something on atomic energy or science of some kind, and I couldn't narrow it down for my documentary, my first documentary. Murrow had a good friend, David Lillienthal, who was head of the Atomic Energy Commission, which had just been formed.

Biagi: I remember us talking about you going out and starting to do that and getting so involved in the issue.

Taylor: That was because of the fact that Murrow said the people in government and the scientists, as well, who were involved in the whole atomic program, were so concerned that the public, when they hear "atomic energy" or "atomic science" or "atomic," get only an impression of a terrible explosion and the end of mankind and they were traumatized by the very thought and they didn't want to hear anything more, but there was so much more that they needed to know about atomic science. Murrow was impressed by that fact, so he said, "Okay, you want to do science? How about this as an idea, to be able to help people so they can unfreeze their minds by giving them information that atomic science is not all atomic bombs?"

This was very interesting to me to look at what the study of the atom and the atomic age actually could mean for the future. At that point they were foreseeing that it could bring power to all of the dark areas of the world. Of course, then the infinite potential of radioactive isotopes, which has certainly been part of the change of the whole scientific world, which ultimately then changes your practical world. This all was ahead of us, this magic change that was going to occur. I know a friend of mine, it wasn't my observation to start with, it was Chet Huntley's observation to start with, that whereas we had only been able to look at matter from the outside with a microscope, now we could look at matter from the inside with radioactive isotopes. This was what then was going to be part of my pursuit, and I liked that.

I had a lot of fun talking to General [Leslie Richard] Groves, and I was told that I would be invited and welcomed at Oak Ridge [Tennessee]. They hadn't had reporters down at Oak Ridge, which was where the original pile was from which the atomic bombs were built. It also was where they had a central clearinghouse or library, for wherever there was an atomic pile or cyclotron, you would have the production of radioactive isotopes, the unstable atoms that would then have radiation associated with them that they could use. Whereas, say, you had radioactive sodium, you could use it where sodium in the bloodstream might ordinarily be, it would take up with the bloodstream, but be traceable. There would be a list of how much production of these radioactive isotopes we had in this country, plus people's requests or need for those isotopes for research or therapy. A good deal of therapy was beginning to be used, where they would be able to radiate certain bad parts of a person's body or check if your circulation went clear through rather than if it got clogged in your toes or something.

At any rate, these were things I was going to have access to. I tell the story so often, I keep thinking I probably have told it to everybody who's ever known me, but I haven't told this to that thing [referring to the microphone]. I told it to you about Dr. Einstein, where in thinking of how to do this, a hook, thinking always of hooks and themes, and thinking, "If I could only wind this show around the person who knows the most about atomic science," who was Albert Einstein. So that became my preoccupation and my drive in life, to get Dr. Einstein to collaborate and work with me, and what I wanted him to say to me was, "No, atomic science is not just the atomic bomb. It is not that frightening. Let me tell you. I can send you to this place and this place and this place and this place, and you can see the potential for the future." I wanted him to do that. He didn't want to do that.

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Biagi: How does one go about getting Dr. Einstein to do anything?

Taylor: Well, I don't know if anyone ever did. All I know is the only thing I could do—and, of course, I had some pretty strong people in terms of the clout of Murrow and the people of the Atomic Energy Commission, who wanted me to do this and were supporting me, which means nothing to somebody like a Dr. Einstein, but what I could do and what I did was write and outline to him what I had in mind and what I had been told that I was going to do, and hope that he would care that it would be something that was valuable. Therefore, he would lend himself to helping me. So I wrote to him and I never heard anything.

Biagi: Where was he?

Taylor: In Princeton. He was at the Advanced Institute outside of Princeton, the big think tank for scientists in Princeton. I didn't hear anything from him, and I tried calling his office and I didn't get anywhere. I could talk to the nice lady there, but I never did talk to Dr. Einstein. I was just driven by this. This is one of those things. I was kind of known as a driven person, which is kind of surprising, but it was true. White always put this on me, too. I can't remember what the occasions were that I got stamped this way, or what I did, but he always figured I'd go in the windows or I'd do whatever I had to do to get what I intended to get. I can't remember doing all those terrible things, but that was the way I was stamped. "Ruth won't take no for an answer." So once you get stamped that way and people say, "Ruth won't take no for an answer," then I can't take no for an answer. [Laughter.] I didn't get "no" from Dr. Einstein; I didn't get anything.

Biagi: You got the secretary. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Right. I got the secretary. But anyway, my final thing was that I would write him a special delivery letter and I'd take it down. I recently received from somebody one of the articles about that. It's upstairs someplace. It's in some kind of a file. There was an article done about that in Newsweek when I finally saw Dr. Einstein, but subsequently it was also talked about in a review of the program that I eventually did, the fact that I had talked to Dr. Einstein, but he hadn't really done what I wanted.

Biagi: So you took the special delivery letter?

Taylor: I took the special delivery letter.

Biagi: Did you make an appointment or anything?

Taylor: No.

Biagi: You just arrived.

Taylor: I was just going. So I went down there and I just went to his office, and the lady was very nice, but Dr. Einstein wasn't in. I didn't get any satisfaction that if I waited around I was going to have any better luck. So I went outside, and the cab driver—because these were little Princeton cab drivers, they knew everybody in town—I told him what I was doing on the trip from the train. I'd gone on the train. Then when I got back, I said, "He's not there and I don't know what I'm going to do."

He said, "How would you like me to take you by his house?"

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I said, "That's a good idea. Let's do that."

So I hop into the car and we start out, and we get just a little ways and the cab driver says, "Why, there's the old man now." Walking down a hill. I just always remember the picture, because he had a black great coat on, big fur coat, and his white hair was flowing. So the cab driver let me out of the cab and I started walking up toward him on the opposite side of the road. When I got just across from him, I said, "Good morning, Dr. Einstein."

"Good morning." He was very pleasant.

Then I crossed over and said, "I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Ruth Ashton."

He said, "Ah! The broadcasting lady." [Laughter.]

Biagi: He knew?

Taylor: I hadn't told you that?

Biagi: No.

Taylor: He read the letters, apparently, but he didn't want any part of it. He was very gracious, though. He wasn't going to kick me down the hill or tell me to go where I came from. He was just very gracious. We walked along, and I just told him that the reason I had been interested was because I felt so deeply about it and felt that he would lend something that was important for people to care about, and this was something that was important for the world to know more about this subject. Didn't he think so, too? He did think so and we knew he thought so. He was writing and talking and telling all about it.

But he didn't feel that a radio program could have any effect. He didn't feel you could really tell the story you needed to tell about the importance of the atomic age unless, as he said, you told it from the street corners, you got down and talked to the people to tell them from the street corners. And he said, "And not just the street corners of this country, but the street corners of Russia." He saw the Soviet Union as a whole big adversary out there.

Of course, this was a period of time, 1947, when we weren't in yet any kind of strong adversarial relationship. Obviously we had two violently opposed ideologies going to run the countries, ours and theirs, and the new character [Joseph] Stalin, but a lot of people knew the character of communism and that it was a big bad one. But we hadn't come to where he foresaw we were going to come, and he felt that you had to do this street corner lecturing.

Biagi: Did he have an accent?

Taylor: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. But he was very deeply concerned and he felt the world was going like Don Quixote's windmill. [Laughter.] I remember that so clearly, where he said there were some people on the radio that you would care about, that you would listen to, who might have an impact. I think it was Raymond Graham Swing. Somebody he cared about, that he thought could have an impact. I don't know. Maybe he later came to care about Murrow. I don't know. At that point he knew Murrow mainly as a person who delivered very dramatic stories from a war zone, but he hadn't heard him do the things he did do, "Hear It Now," and all of the CBS reports and things. So he didn't have much faith in anything he had heard through radio at that time,

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being able to deliver the lesson. But he was perfectly pleased, almost, to talk about it, and once we talked, it was fine. He just wasn't going to lend himself to a project.

Biagi: So you walked down the hill together?

Taylor: Yes, to the Institute, and stood outside. I remember because he flicked a little ladybug or something off of my coat, and I was always so pleased he touched my coat. I mean, I was starstruck by this person, and he was a lovely person.

Biagi: About that time, how old would you say he was?

Taylor: Gee, I don't know when he was born. [1879-1955] This was '47. It seems to me that every time I've ever seen a picture of Dr. Einstein, he always looked the same, so I think he was born looking like that. I don't know how old he was, because I don't know his date. I think he probably was around fifty, I imagine. He came over in the late twenties or early thirties from Europe, from Germany. I know he was just very, very impressive and much bigger than I thought. He was bigger than I am.

Biagi: You're not all that big. [Laughter.]

Taylor: I mean, I thought he might be a little person. Of course, he was in a big black coat, too, so he looked big and he was impressive.

Biagi: By big, you mean six feet?

Taylor: No, I mean like—he wasn't a towering figure, but he was a strong figure.

Biagi: So it was his presence more than anything else?

Taylor: Yes. He also stood straight and he was just very captivating in his way of speaking. Of course, he was talking about things that meant so much to me, which is the future of the world or not. To be able to talk to him about that was fantastic. So in terms of just a conversation, but I did use some of the things that he told me, used in the quotes he told me, but I didn't have anything like a tape recorder that you go around with now in the way of baggage. I had a notebook, and a lot of the times when I would talk to people, I would just talk to them and then I would quickly put things down afterwards. I didn't often take notes at the time, because somebody had told me about that. Sometimes when you've got to really glom on in your mind what you want to put down, then it's not a good system. I wouldn't recommend anybody to follow it. It worked sometimes, though, in being able to get into depth in a conversation rather than put it down and look up and make them feel you're being distracted and you're not paying attention.

Biagi: So after producing that documentary?

Taylor: I traveled around. I talked to [J. Robert] Oppenheimer. I was most impressed with Oppenheimer. Basically I fell in love with Oppenheimer. He was a poetic figure. I talked to him in his office at Cal. I visited Argonne Laboratories in Chicago. I was at Berkeley. What was the name of the professor I liked so much at Berkeley, who was trying to unravel the secrets of photosynthesis, using radioactive isotopes? I went to Oak Ridge, and that was a very impressive time.

Biagi: It sounds like it took quite a bit of time.

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Taylor: A lot of time.

Biagi: It took an extraordinary amount of time, given what we know about radio today.

Taylor: It took a lot of time. The things it took time on was in learning about atomic science. This was not something that we were all well aware of.

Biagi: You almost had to become an atomic scientist.

Taylor: The books were just being written, you know, and you were learning from the people who were telling you what they were going to write in the books, really. I read everything I could. William Laurence, who had witnessed the test at Alamogordo, wrote a very strong book about it.

Biagi: Were there Scientific Journal articles and things like that that you had to read?

Taylor: Not so much. I read some of those, yes. I read everything I could read.

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

Taylor: When I returned from traveling to different research centers, I reported to unit producers about horizons without radioactive* isotopes. All these things that were so magic. Anyway, I was telling them about this and they felt that I had secrets of the world in my head, particularly this one particular producer for our unit. He didn't want me to talk to anybody about anything I knew, because I knew all these secrets and nobody else was supposed to know because then NBC would do something. We didn't have an ABC to worry about. Or somebody would do something before we did. So I was supposed to get to work and never talk to anybody.

The problem was, I got sick about that time. I began to get allergies, and I really had worked pretty hard and I was feeling really bad. The producer said, "Well, you can't go home because you've got to work, and this is terribly important. You know these things and we've got to get it out of you, all of this on paper and figure out how we're going to do this."

I got so sick, and then I went to somebody who gave me some sulfa tablets or something that was much too strong for me. After I took the medicine, then he said, "Yeah, go home." [Laughter.] I remember that because they had me practically locked up in a room. Then another person and I together wrote the story.

The trouble was how to tell a story that is—you can tell where you are, you can tell about the places you saw and about the things you saw, but then you've got to project it on to what it's going to mean to mankind. So one of the thoughts they had was to do it in a kind of cartoon fashion. I said, "Oh, you can't do that." I don't remember how you do that on radio, but this was one of their ideas. "Yes, that's a way you can do it and you can make a big fun things out of it."

* Taylor was not sure about this word. [Ed.]

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I was just incensed that this was just a terrible violation of everybody's—it was practically irreligious. Murrow agreed. He said, "You can't do this."

Biagi: Therefore verifying what Einstein had said, that radio wasn't a serious medium.

Taylor: Right. Trivialize the whole thing. So we got rid of that. So what we decided was we would do episodes of me going to these different places and seeing what I saw and then it would be projected basically in narrative, but through a dramatization of me going to these different places. In fact, for the therapy, there were instances at that time where people were being helped by radioactive isotopes, and there had to be real races, too, because the half-life of some of the most effective radioactive isotopes might be a matter of hours, so you'd have to get them fast from the origin to the place where they were needed.

So, anyway, this finally was decided to be done in episodes of that sort with Ruth being the main character, and we did that, and another person and I wrote it, the dramatization.

Biagi: It was pretty unusual.

Taylor: We preempted the "Lux Radio Theater," which was the most listened-to program we had. For an hour. It was an hour all the time.

Biagi: What date?

Taylor: It was in '47. I don't remember when it was exactly. I know it was ultimately put into an anthology of the best one-act plays in 1947.

Biagi: Did you see yourself as a play, though? It sounds like it wasn't really a play.

Taylor: It was dramatized and it was on in an hour, so there were no intermissions. "Lux Radio Theater," I don't know how they did that. Agnes Moorehead played me, and it was felt by some that the worst mistake she made was to talk to me.

Biagi: Why?

Taylor: Well, because I wasn't very old, and I was pretty excited about all this. Her biggest mistake was to talk to me because I was pretty awestruck and I was pretty excited by it, and she took that on as a sort of character of an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing that I know Chet Huntley, who was a really good friend of mine most of the time, thought it did trivialize it the way she played the part. She made it sound less serious and significant than it was, but it got mixed reviews. It got rave reviews and it got some saying that it wasn't strong enough or whatever. It did well. Ironically, these heavy-duty correspondents, specifically Charles Collingwood, came up with the title for it. Talk about trivializing, it was called "The Sunny Side of the Atom." [Laughter.] In fact, as a result of that, there was a guy I used to go with back at CBS who always called me Sunny.

Anyway, that was that story. It was the best documentary I did because the first ones we all four did were taken extremely seriously, and we were given the mandate and we did what we were told to do. After that, it became more of an institutional kind of thing, too much interference. The producer, whose name I don't even repeat because I got to not like him (I chose my words), had an ideological bias and he tried very hard to inflict it on us, literally inflict it on us.

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I rebelled and, in fact, did go to television. Doug Edwards had moved on to television. He was a good friend. I decided to move on to television, as well.

Biagi: Did the documentary unit have a title or was it just called the documentary unit?

Taylor: It was the CBS documentary unit and we were spoiled folks. We were hated, literally, by some of the writers because we were given the best assignments and the best times and the best treatment and maybe the best money. I don't know. So that we were not favored by most of the people around there who thought that they should be doing something like that.

Biagi: When you talk about salary, what was your salary?

Taylor: I do not remember. I can't remember. I can't even begin to remember.

Biagi: In talking with some of the other women who were working during those years, it was small.

Taylor: It wasn't much. I think I started at something like $35 a week when I started writing. It was like that. Then you work up to a big salary of $60 or $70, maybe, a week, $75. I don't remember.

Biagi: In relative terms, it was getting you a comfortable lifestyle?

Taylor: I never did have really extra money. I didn't worry. I had enough to pay my bills and I like to dress well. I didn't save much money.

Biagi: Well, you were in New York City. [Laughter.]

Taylor: I liked to dress well. I can remember in those days, too, we could go to Chambord, which was a lovely French restaurant, and have a great dinner for $3. I mean, that was a lot of money. You could go have a good dinner for $1.50. I mean, we're not talking about money being the same sort of stuff it is now. So I think it might have been $60, $75, $100. I don't know. It wasn't $100, because $100 a week was considered big money. I didn't make that much.

Biagi: So what attracted you to television at that point? Doug Edwards?

Taylor: And I think getting out of radio. Most often I'm attracted to some other place by wanting to get out of what I'm in. It's true. But also it was starting, and Doug went over. Doug was one of the centers of our social life. Social life, as I say, for New York and for broadcasting in those days, you lived and worked with the same people all the time. I don't see how any of these people who were married remained married. Not that you were having any wild times with people; you just never showed up at home. You were enjoying your work, you were liking your work, you'd all go out for a drink afterwards. You'd go to somebody's house after you'd had the drink at the bar and find something to eat, and you'd get home and listen to the late news or something, and eventually go to bed and get up whenever you did. But you always were excited about your work and you were loving your work and spending a lot of time. I guess that's why maybe there weren't more women. There would have been a lot more divorces if the guys were socializing that much with a lot of women.

But it was a wonderful time, a great time to be in New York. I liked it. I couldn't imagine being there and having the responsibilities of a family, for instance. Couldn't imagine it.

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Couldn't do what you did. We'd usually be in the bar someplace during '44, '45, '46, when some of these major, major, major events were happening, and you'd hear the rumor of V-E Day, for instance, and it would happen, and you'd be back, say, at six o'clock now, 6:30, and you're back in the station, which is just upstairs, because the bar is real close. [Laughter.] But you were always together, so you had a full crew, no matter what time of day it was. And that's the way we worked and lived and, in some cases, loved.

Biagi: When you decided to move to television, describe the atmosphere at CBS when television was on the horizon.

Taylor: Television was just a little glimmer. It was a little box with a two-inch screen, basically, and there were very few television sets around. Very few. And I'm talking about New York, where there were even more than there were anyplace else. I don't know about when Doug first went over there. There are some books about that. But when I first went over to television, there was a news film organization called Telenews or something like that. They did like newsreel footage and then they'd sell it to the station and you'd choose some of the stories they had. I don't have a good, strong memory of how that worked, how much the face of Doug was on and how much the pictures were on.

I know when I went over, my job became, to a large extent, getting—I would do some writing, but I hated writing for television because you had to write the way the pictures were put together, and they were put together funny. They weren't put together the way you'd tell a story, the way you ever were taught journalism. They were put together the way some guy who shot them put them together.

When I was settled down, finally, in what there was for me to do, they called me director of talks for the Doug Edwards program. There had been a director of talks who had quite a lot of stature for CBS Radio, Helen Sioussat, who did line up a lot of politicians, and her job was always to be the gracious hostess, make all these guys feel good. Basically that's what she was. She was a gracious hostess and she'd take care of all these folks. But my job was a little more nuts and bolts, because you didn't have time for that. Whoever worked at television might as well have the broom in one hand because you're going to do it all.

I would line people up and then I'd go do what I had done, which is talk to them and get their story. Then I would write an outline for Doug, for his interview. He would have the questions and know the answers. I didn't put the answers in the mouths of these people, but he'd pretty well know what they were going to answer to whatever the questions were. I did that in advance. We had great people like Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt. I met her many times subsequently, but that's the first time I met her and the first time I also knew that she couldn't hear out of one ear, so you had to always sit on the right side and you had to get used to these little things. Then with Eisenhower, Eisenhower was president of Columbia [University] at that time, and we wanted Eisenhower on the program. We never got him on the program, but I did spend a lot of time at Columbia, trying to convince him. [Laughter.] He never did. I had some nice letters from him. I don't know where those letters are. But we never got Eisenhower on.

Biagi: You were doing producer work.

Taylor: Oh, yes. Along the way, I went over there in about '48, because then we went to the conventions. There's a lot written about that, the television folks. We were the nothings. We sat in a hot little booth in the corner of the bleachers and there were big fancy studios and booths for the radio folks. The political conventions in '48 were in Philadelphia. We had big platforms

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around for our television cameramen. I'm smiling because this story was told by my friend Zan Thompson, who is a columnist down south. It was just used and reprinted again in the Scripps Bulletin, when I was Scripps Alumna of the Year. She told about this story because here are all these guys, and it's really hot in Philadelphia. The air conditioning, I don't even think there was any. We had this hot little booth where Doug and I worked. There were also blue laws in Philadelphia, which meant they couldn't serve anything on the weekends, but Philadelphia was kind of dull the rest of the week, too.

I had a knitting bag. I can't remember who gave it to me or where I got it or how this idea came about, but I carried my knitting bag all the time, in which was—

Biagi: You were a knitter? You did knit?

Taylor: Yes. Scotch was in there, is what was in there.

Biagi: Scotch? You weren't knitting at all! [Laughter.]

Taylor: But Zan says wherever I went, I was welcome with my knitting bag. [Laughter.]

Biagi: It doesn't fit your image, Ruth.

Taylor: No. I wouldn't know what to do with a knitting bag if it didn't have Scotch in it, I'll tell you. I kept that knitting bag for many years. Never had a spool of yarn in it. A lot of Scotch. But in those days, too, the conventions now are sort of programmed and even though they're dull and long now, they were really dull and long in those days. Nobody was really catering that much to the media.

Biagi: Not television, certainly.

Taylor: Certainly not television. There was hardly television. In fact, at the conventions the network was hooked up to get Philadelphia in there. Philadelphia and New York and Washington and maybe Boston, I guess, but they certainly didn't come out here [California] at all.

Biagi: No.

Taylor: In fact, it first came out here in '52, because by that time I was doing television and I was doing things and explaining how the microwaves worked and all this stuff, which I didn't understand.

Biagi: So it is East Coast television that you're doing.

Taylor: I'm doing East Coast television at that particular point. That was a lot of fun. We did a lot of weird things. But those were our first days in television, and some of the people who were on the podium would try to cater to television, like—what was her name? A lady Democrat. Dixie comes to my mind, but I can't remember. She came out here and later lived out here. She was very energetic and a strong personality, and she used a big hunk of meat which she flailed around in the air, talking about inflation and the price of meat going up. I know Murrow got hold of that hunk of meat and had it back in the studios back of the podium.

They did some analysis shows for television in the back room. That's also where I got called in to do more of my mathematics. They had some people with fancy equipment back there

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trying to do the math, the same old simple math you do at the conventions. They were all getting loused up and they weren't doing it, and I remember Murrow saying, "Ruth, come in here!" So you did everything.

Those were the days when the crews—you weren't 5,000 people. You were a bunch of people who all worked hard and knew what you were doing and worked together. Now the layers are so deep that the person who's doing some of the things I described would never be talking to the folks who were saying it. But they were all the same people in those days. Of course, there were only two of us really doing television. I wasn't on, except people saw me because I was sitting there. It's like election night of 1948. I've even got a clip there of when they did a big story for Doug Edwards when he left CBS. They had a retrospective of his career and they had this one shot from a still photo of Doug and me up here in the corner of the big radio studio doing our television thing, and it's just the two of us. But I was on all night on election night because they just weren't able to get me out of the picture. I never said a word to them. I talked to Doug.

Biagi: Did they ever explain who you were?

Taylor: No, no. But I remember that this one engineer said, "Little flower, you looked lovely at six o'clock, but by midnight you looked so awful, I had to turn off my set." [Laughter.] I always remembered that.

Biagi: You faded. [Laughter.]

Taylor: I faded. I worked! I was working. Anyway, that was my debut.

Biagi: Your responsibilities were to do what?

Taylor: To get all the information to Doug so he could say it and be in front of the camera, and get the figures and get the whole story to him. He just sat there in one place and I did the running around like a little whirling dervish. No wonder by midnight I looked so awful. [Tape interruption.]

Biagi: We've got you in 1948 and you're at the convention doing everything.

Taylor: Doing everything. And nobody cared, because nobody watched. [Laughter.] But anyway, that was a big experience and it was sort of a launching pad for television as a national medium. But I had a misfortune, again doing everything, so the news director of television at that time, a guy named Bob Bendick—he should go down in history for this—he wanted me to come along. They had to have a religious program because at that point the FCC [Federal Communication Commission] wanted everybody to do their bit on all kinds of fronts, and religion was one of them. We had religious programs on radio. So we needed to start one on the CBS TV network, which we hadn't much of. But he just said he wanted me to come along. He was going around meeting and conferring with two different Protestant groups with the Union Theological Seminary. The rabbinical seminary there, what was that called? Anyway, the rabbis at whatever you call it where they train the rabbis, and the Catholic archdiocese, I went around with these different groups with Bendick and with a gentleman called director of education, a lovely guy named Bob Hudson, who was with radio. The hierarchy, the structure of the company, really, still was basic radio. But Bob Hudson went with us.

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Then after I had gone around with Bob and whoever else was there, Bob said, "And now, Ruth, we'd like to have you develop a religious show out of this, working with these groups, to be put on every Sunday." Well, that's swell. I'm a newsperson, you know. Okay, you do everything in this business. So I'm going to do it and then I'm going to get out of it, right? Well, I got together and we figured out how we were going to do it. We were going to do it through kids and how kids learn religion and so forth. Anyway, I forget all of the things we figured out. With the Jewish groups we were going to emphasize their holidays and how they celebrated their holidays and what they meant.

Biagi: Did you give it a name?

Taylor: Yes, I gave it a name. I gave it a name and called it. I gave it this name. Nobody remembered that I ever gave it this name—"Lamp Unto My Feet." "Lamp Unto My Feet" was on for the next—well, it went off within the past five, ten years, but it was on all the rest of the time. It was very well known in the country. It was called "Lamp Unto My Feet." I went down to the local gallery and bought a pretty sort of painting, scenic sunset or something of that sort, a real serene landscape type that I used as our signature thing, over which went "Lamp Unto My Feet." "Thy word shall be a light unto my life and a lamp unto my feet," whatever the saying.

Anyway, everybody agreed that was fine, and I got my little picture and we put the show on the air—and I'm stuck with it! I'm doing the show every week and it became the first show to go on to the network as a regular show. The network started to be formed in the east. We still didn't have many microwaves across country. You could order up cable. By '52 you could order up cable to go coast to coast. Anyway, we put our regular network together in the east, and "Lamp Unto My Feet" made all of these big historic moments, but everybody knew I hated doing it. I worked with great directors and we did a good show. It was a very good show.

Biagi: Half an hour?

Taylor: Half an hour every Sunday. Ruined my life. "I'm a journalist. I'm a reporter. I'm supposed to do those things." So I finally left New York. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Was this '49 or '50 that this went on?

Taylor: This was in '48, too. I started in '48, because I left town in '49. I think it was the last part of '48. Yes, it was the last part of '48 that we started it, and it didn't take me long before I left town in '49.

Biagi: How did you find your new digs in L.A?

Taylor: They made a place for me at KNX.

Biagi: Did you let them know you were looking? Is that what you did?

Taylor: Yes. Basically I had been originally hired for KNX in 1944, but I just never made it out. So when I wanted to come out, there was no problem. They just made a job for me. I was called the assistant director of public affairs, and I don't remember all the things I did, but it was fine. I had a job. I didn't much care for that either, so I got married. [Laughter.]

Biagi: [Laughter.] Another exit. Who did you marry at this point?

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Taylor: I married Ed Conklin. Ed Conklin was day news editor for KNX News, KNX radio news. Very, very strong journalist. He'd worked for United Press. He'd been in the Buenos Aires bureau and then he'd quit to go into the war.

Biagi: This is 1950 you got married?

Taylor: 1949.

Biagi: You worked fast. [Laughter.]

Taylor: That whole turnover was real fast. I figured, what the heck? Might as well. He worked pretty fast! [Laughter.] So that's what happened.

After I got married, I worked for a while. Then before Laurie was born, I quit working in 1950 and didn't go back till I went back on the air in '51, a long time.

Biagi: So you were off for a year with Laurie.

Taylor: Yes.

Biagi: Was the agreement, when you left, that you would come back?

Taylor: No. They didn't have agreements like they have now, and there was no maternity leave. In fact, I asked, "Would you please fire me? I need the money!" And they wouldn't fire me. So I just had to quit and have a baby, you know. You quit and had a baby and that's the only way you could do it. They weren't going to let you stay there while you had the baby and they weren't going to let you go on leave. It wasn't done. It was not even considered. It was a complete break at that particular point, although in records they don't break me that completely, which is happy.

When I went back in 1951 on television, it was because they decided they wanted a woman on television and they were forming the first big nightly news program there in Los Angeles. In fact, it was the biggest. [Tape interruption.]

Biagi: We left you with Ed and Laurie had just been born in 1951, and you were talking about going back to work. Did you just call them up?

Taylor: No, no. They called me. That was the interesting thing. I got a call one evening from Jack Beck, who was the head of KNX News, and he was, for a while, pinch-hitting, running the KNXT News, which wasn't called that then, it was KTSL, I think, or something like that.

Biagi: Radio?

Taylor: It was television.

Biagi: KTSL was also television? I don't recognize that.

Taylor: The call letters were changed shortly after we started our news program to KNXT. But I was asked to come on and do the woman's angle of a half-hour program, and the half-hour program would include one news guy doing hard news and then we would have sports new and local news and a woman's angle on the news. So that's what I did. Then we would have an analysis of the news. We had the analysis of the news for a period of time, and the analysis guy went,

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and we had a weatherman. I was thinking the other day, we did everything. We didn't have any visuals. Any visuals you had were in the studio. I think I told you before when I did the woman's angle, that, to me, meant anything I wanted to do because I was a woman, so it was a woman's angle. [Laughter.] I had been a journalist and I wasn't given to fashion and recipes, and nobody expected me to.

Biagi: And you didn't know knitting.

Taylor: I didn't know how to knit, no. [Laughter.] But I was remembering that I had done the story—somebody had this picture they wanted me to use. The Carnation Company had just sold a bull for—it couldn't have been $30,000. Maybe $3,000. I don't know how bulls go. But it was a heavy-duty price. Let's say $30,000. $3,000, it may have been. But they wanted me to use this.

Biagi: A bull?

Taylor: A picture of the bull. So I said, "Well, I don't really take this very seriously, but okay." So I held it up and I said, "Some of our editors think you might like to know what $3,000 worth of bull looks like." And then I said, "Now here's Bill Kenneally with an analysis of the news." And it just broke up everybody. [Laughter.] I said, "And now here's Bill Kenneally with the news analysis," after I'd said, "$3000 worth of bull."

Biagi: Let's go back to "Lamp Unto My Feet" for a minute. Were you on the air?

Taylor: No, no. I produced it and wrote it and created it in its original form.

Biagi: So the first time you were on the air, really, was in '51 when you went back to do this as a woman's angle.

Taylor: The woman's angle. On the ten o'clock news.

Biagi: Ten p.m.

Taylor: Ten p.m. Six days a week.

Biagi: Was it a half-an-hour program?

Taylor: Half-hour program, six days a week, and it was the major news program in Los Angeles.

Biagi: The big news.

Taylor: Well, it was the big news. It was a precursor of the big news. I stayed on that program—well, shortly after I started, sort of ironically, it was quite well received and KNX folks' hierarchy were saying, "Hey, Ruth's doing pretty well over there. Maybe we should get a woman on KNX to do news."

Biagi: KNX radio.

Taylor: KNX radio. And here I'm doing this thing every night on television. They said, "Let's hold some auditions." So they held auditions. I don't remember how many people auditioned, but I auditioned for the radio news thing, too. I was getting greedy at that point. I hadn't had any work for a year. Anyway, I auditioned for the radio news and I won that audition.

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So now they decide to start this women's radio news program and there were two women's news things going on in town, and I was doing both of them, so I was really busy and none of the other women were very busy.

Biagi: On the radio, what time was that?

Taylor: In the afternoon. So I could do it all. But I also was raising a little kid at the time, and it was real hard work because I did all my own work. I did all my own stories, figuring out what I was going to do, producing.

Biagi: The radio show was how long?

Taylor: Fifteen minutes.

Biagi: Did you do the whole thing?

Taylor: Whole thing.

Biagi: Whereas the evenings, you were just a part of it.

Taylor: I did about five minutes of the evening show. But again, you had to plan what you were going to do and, of course, you plan how you're going to get your hair in shape and all those things, because this became a major thing. My hair was always up. The minute I got home, between shows, it went up.

Biagi: Describe to me a typical day down there when you were on that schedule. What would you do? What time did you get up?

Taylor: I'd be up real early because I'd always get Laurie going, and then I'd have somebody come into my house, a babysitter. Of course, we're going back a long ways there, you realize. Whatever time I'd get out of there, which would be around nine, I suppose, go down to radio and put that show together and put it on and then do a certain amount of work to get it prepared for the next day. You see some stories coming up.

Biagi: Were you doing interviews? What were you doing?

Taylor: I did interviews. I did stories that I—I just don't remember all the things I put into that radio show. I did a lot of taping eventually, but I don't remember whether I was doing a lot of it then. I guess I was. From the very beginning I'd go out and do taping of stories.

Biagi: Reel to reel? That's big equipment?

Taylor: It was a regular tape recorder, not acetate. In the old days I pioneered some of the acetate stuff when I'd go out to see radar hit the moon in '46. A lot of these things, you were taking great big acetate recordings, you know. We had these quite large tape machines.

Biagi: Two foot wide, maybe, would you say?

Taylor: Yes. I just don't remember what we started with. In my mind I can see these little suitcases, but we had some big suitcases for a while. I just don't remember. We did go with

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an engineer for a long time. In fact, engineers were among my best friends for a long time because I needed those guys to help me get my stuff together.

Biagi: So you'd go out or people would come into the studio?

Taylor: Yes. Mostly I'd go out. I covered fires. I'm thinking of the whole span of what my radio shows were. I was covering all kinds of news. I can't remember how much I did starting. I remember covering the Rams, and I don't remember why. I guess because my husband liked the Rams. I don't remember all the stories, but I remember it got to be too much to do both of those shows.

Biagi: You produced the radio show in the middle of the day. What did you do after that? Take me through the whole day.

Taylor: I had to figure out what I was going to do for the television show, get people on the air, and sometimes I'd bring people in, sometimes I'd bring visuals in.

Biagi: You were responsible for it.

Taylor: I was responsible for it, totally responsible, to get it, get the stuff, and get it on the air. That was a lot of work. Then I'd go pick up Laurie and go do whatever I needed to do in order to see that we had dinner at home. I didn't have anybody living in. I had to get dinner.

Biagi: Did your husband help out at all?

Taylor: Some, but not a lot.

Biagi: You felt that was your responsibility?

Taylor: No. He did. Because he was no big cook. My present husband is a good cook. Maybe out of necessity. But my other one wasn't. Good salads. There was the whole thing to do. It was a lot.

Biagi: And you had to be back at the studio.

Taylor: I had to be back at the studio. I'd put Laurie to bed and sing her a song or read her a story or something, and she'd be in bed. I'd leave the house at 8:30. I can't remember all the details, but I had the show for the evening pretty well understood in my head or wherever I had to have it. Because I didn't leave most times till I got her to bed. I'd be back in the station before nine and on the air at ten.

Biagi: Did you live real close by?

Taylor: No. I lived in Panorama City, which would be a half hour. It was hard. It was very hard. Very hard.

Biagi: Then what time would you get done?

Taylor: I'd be through at 10:30 then.

Biagi: Would you actually leave right when you were done?

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Taylor: Oh, yes. Once in a while I'd go for a drink with the guys, but not often, because that was too much of a schedule. You couldn't do it. Maybe on a Friday or something. You couldn't handle it. I had too many responsibilities, too much to do.

Biagi: It was six days a week.

Taylor: It was six days a week, and then I cut out the Sunday show. It was Sunday through Friday. I cut out the Sunday show and had somebody else do the Sunday night television show. It was just too much.

Then I decided I was going to do only one, because it just was too hard on Laurie and my family and me, too. I decided that I would stick with radio because it was daytime. It so happened, though, that the television show was going great. My part got sold to Maxwell House coffee, and it was a very big coup. National sponsor. They had fixed up with the advertising agency and everything the little ways that Ruth was actually going to do these commercials, and they had simulated how Ruth would do these commercials, and they were going to have a big display and demonstration of all this with the CBS salespeople and the agency and Maxwell, and I was taken over to the Brown Derby to meet everybody.

Biagi: Did they tell you about this ahead of time?

Taylor: I knew about this ahead of time, you see. But I had decided I was going to quit television. I was very naive. I didn't realize that in those days having a big national sponsor coming in on this little ten o'clock news show was big stuff, and I was it. But on the way over, I broke the news to the account executive who was handling the Maxwell account that I had decided I was going to quit television. So all the stuff we were about to see had no meaning at all because I wasn't going to be there.

Biagi: You were going to quit television for what reason?

Taylor: Because I was working too hard. I was going to stay with radio because I couldn't handle it. I could handle it, but I was neglecting too much. I was neglecting my family. So I had decided to quit television, because I had just plain decided not to work at night. I was not considering what is the best thing to do because of career or money or anything, because under those guidelines, I would have quit radio and stayed with television. I was quitting television because it was at nighttime and I wanted to only work days. That's the way it was. As I say, here was this great big sale and it meant a lot to CBS. They had me sold on television, but I wasn't going to show up on television to ever do that commercial.

On the way over, I told the account executive, and the account executive was Jim Aubrey, who later became rather well known. Surprisingly, he never held it against me. I said, "Jim, I've got to tell you something I just can't work anymore on television at night. I've got to concentrate on radio in the daytime."

He said, "Ruth, don't say a word. Let me tell them." [Laughter.] It was a big blow.

Biagi: So you did actually quit?

Taylor: I quit. I quit. I went back to do special events. I went back to do all of the coverage we did from Los Angeles of the conventions because there was so little they could get on cable out of Chicago. That was '52. So I did that and I did radio.

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Another irony, though, was the radio account executives decided that they would try to sell me on radio, and they presented my show on radio to another coffee company, Hills Brothers Coffee Company, who had never sponsored. Hills Brothers would never sponsor on radio. They didn't feel radio was worth a damn and they always did their advertising in magazines and newspapers. So they let them hear a show of mine and they thought this was kind of different, kind of new. "By golly, maybe that's what we'll do." But they wanted me on the network. We had a network out of Los Angeles. So Hills Brothers Coffee—here I had conked out on Maxwell, ruined the day for all these account executives.

Biagi: Jim Aubrey.

Taylor: Jim Aubrey. But it came about and the guys called me and said, "Guess what, Ruth? Hills Brothers Coffee wants to be your sponsor on radio." And on forty-seven stations. It was a five-minute program. I did a five-minute program, but to get it to all those stations, I did it three times in the course of a day, which was okay. I took piano lessons in between.

Biagi: [Laughter.] You've got to explain that one. You've got to explain doing your program three times, because people wouldn't understand that, I don't think. And the piano lessons in between.

Taylor: They had it on at the same time in different parts of the country, like the Middle West. It had to go at different times in order for all of the stations they wanted to pick it up, and I'd do mainly what it was for the first show, but I had to stick around for another couple of hours to redo the first show live.

Biagi: Every hour, then.

Taylor: Yes. For two more times or one more time. Different time zones. So in between, what are you going to do? I didn't need to work on the show that much most of the time. It was a five-minute show and I didn't need to use all that time to work on a new show most of the time. So there was a piano upstairs in one of the rooms, so I had a piano teacher who would come and teach me piano and I could go practice, too. So I started my piano lessons. It didn't work out very well. [Laughter.] I didn't concentrate, but I did try it for a while.

Biagi: So you stick with radio now. How long?

Taylor: I stuck with radio practically forever. I stayed with radio. Actually, I took a hiatus. The show went off the air. It changed a couple of times and I ended up with Folger's sponsoring me later in the fifties, and then it got so that the network was hard to hold together out of Los Angeles. All the local stations wanted their own programming. There were people who wanted to sponsor me and have programs in Denver, in San Diego, in Honolulu, in particular places, and the stations wouldn't clear the time.

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

Taylor: During the radio days, I did take time to have my second child, my daughter Susan. I was able to do my commercials while I was home so I continued to get paid a fair amount, though they still didn't have any leave.

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Biagi: So you quit again?

Taylor: I didn't quit. Basically, they kept my show going with a man substituting for me, but my commercials came in with my voice all the time. In fact, he called me up the morning after she was born and did an interview with me about her, and a lady in the state of Washington sent a big long horoscope about how Susan was "an old soul." Very often we've said, "Yes, she's an old soul." But then the network fell apart. I was told about that, and said I could continue doing the local show, but I had to do a half hour. So for several years I did a half-hour show. That was hard, filling in a half hour by myself all alone, with original stuff, not just what you read off the wire. It wasn't bringing any other reporter in; I had to do the whole thing every day. It was hard. Five days a week. I did some interviews and things, but I actually went out and got stories of all kinds.

Biagi: What time was that show on?

Taylor: It was on mid-afternoons.

I'd like to continue this, but I'm getting very stale at this point.

Biagi: Okay. We'll stop right now.

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