First Impressions
A Remember WENN story
by Linda M. Young


                                                                                    Sandusky Street YMCA
                                                                                    Room 11
                                                                                    Pittsburgh, Penna.
                                                                                    October 1, 1939


Mr. David Roberts
The Elkhart Bugle
4831 N. Main Street
Elkhart, Ind.

Dear Dad,
      I hope my telegram saying I had arrived safely has reached you.
       At last!—some breathing room! This is the first chance I've had to sit down to write you—needless to say it's been a busy three days.
       I'm sending this to your office because I'm not certain what Mother would think if she heard about what actually happened on my first day here. She would urge me to come straight home, and that I do not intend to do! So please keep this under your hat for me, just this once? I promise you I'm in no trouble.
       Although at the moment I'm living at the YWCA, I have my name on the waiting list for a very nice yet inexpensive women's hotel, the Barbican. I'm not certain how long it will take to get a room there. The "diggings" here are not much, but at least it's clean. Of course, there is my "next door neighbor," who seems quite fond of Bing Crosby and Jessica Dragonette, even in the wee hours of the morning.
       Despite that, it seems terribly quiet here; I miss the sounds of the trains in the distance, Mr. Hall's loud rooster, and all the clanging of pans and other noises Mother makes when she wants everyone to get up in the morning but doesn't want to resort to shouting.
       As for what happened at WENN, I don't mind telling you that for a moment I thought I might have to come home. I started at a disadvantage: I was trying to be frugal with my money and would not buy any more food than the sandwiches Mother had packed for me, but the train was late, owing to some misplaced freight in Ohio. So by the time I'd arrived I was starving; I swear I could have eaten the pattern off a dish when I walked through the door.
       I guess I was too optimistic; Mr. Comstock, who is the station manager, didn't seem very happy to see me, in fact, to be honest, he was downright rude. I got the impression that the writing contest had not been his idea and he really didn't want to cope with anyone—let alone someone my age, and perhaps sex—coming into his territory (I understand he's also a writer).
       So imagine how I felt when he told me that the intern position was nonpaying! I had my heart in my throat imagining myself on the street—but I wasn't about to turn tail and run. I thought perhaps I could work nights and weekends waiting tables like I did in college...and right then was when I could hear Mother objecting.
       I lucked out, Dad. Turns out their writer was- Well, what Uncle George might term "dipsomaniac." He passed out from drink right into his typewriter and we ended up having to call an ambulance. But he hadn't finished writing the script for the program that was already on the air—a daytime serial called Valiant Journey—and Mr. Comstock asked me to do something. At wit's end, I used the romantic climax in my contest script to "do something"— anything!—to finish up that story!
       To my relief, Mr. Comstock liked it! In fact he was impressed—and he was sufficiently happy with me to offer me a job, a real job and not an internship. And at $30 a week! I feel like I am rich! You and Mother will not have to worry about my starving or being out in the cold; even with higher Pittsburgh prices it leaves me very comfortable.
       Oh, I must tell you!- Guess who also works here: Hilary Booth! Yes, Hilary Booth the Broadway actress! Do you remember when we went to see her in New York in The Rivals? She is just as glamourous now as she was back then. I was so thrilled to meet her, even if we did have a misunderstanding and she thought I was flirting with her husband. (It's a long story; suffice it to say it has been cleared up. I suppose I can't blame her for being jealous, as Mr. Singer is tremendously handsome.)
       My first friend here is one of the other actors; he's a sweet, dear man about your age, and his name is Mackie Bloom. He has toured in vaudeville in an act called "The Michigan Mummers and Minstrels"; perhaps you saw him sometime?
       I have spent the weekend settling into the Y and then applying for the room at the Barbican—I was questioned for an entire hour about my upbringing and my morals before they would even allow me to fill out an application!—so I will close for now to some rest before my first real day at work tomorrow. Of course I'm very excited and hardly know how I will get to sleep tonight...

* * * * *

636 First Street
Pittsburgh, Penn.
September 30, 1939


Mrs. Elvia Bloom
183 Waters Street
Canton, Ohio

Dear Mother,

I hope this letter finds you feeling better. Please call Dr. Baxter if you are still not feeling well and do not worry about the money—I will send it to you if things are getting a little tight. I know Pop's pension doesn't always arrive on time.

Tell Mrs. Grant I said hello. I'm sorry to hear about Paulie. I didn't realize his lungs had gotten so bad. Can she afford to send him to a sanatorium? I hear there are places in Arizona that can do wonders.

We have had some excitement at the station since last week's letter. Remember the writing contest I mentioned a few months back, the one our management office was sponsoring? Well, the winner turned up today—not another old hack like our present or rather now ex—head writer, but a pretty young country thing (from Iowa I think she said) named Betty Roberts. She caught everyone flat-footed, I can tell you! She wasn't there an hour before she got into hot water with Hilary Booth—although that's not hard to manage as persnickety as that woman is! Of course Victor Comstock challenged her on the spot, and I thought the poor child would cut and run.

To her credit, she stayed, and even helped us out of a spot when that darned fool Gianetti passed out at his desk. The man's a drunken bum. They carted him off somewhere to dry out, to everyone's relief, and the next thing we knew Mr. Comstock had offered Miss Roberts his job.

She doesn't look a bit experienced, and I can't imagine how she will manage with Her Highness and Mr. Wandering Hands. (Ha-ha after all my letters I guess you will know who I am talking about.) Tomorrow will be the real test; I'm anticipating a lot of ad-libbing. But I'm impressed at the way she stood up to Mr. Comstock and the wrath of Hilary Booth, so maybe it won't be so bad after all...

* * * * *

Miss Eugenia Bremer, Pianist

Mrs. Porter's Boarding House
831 S. Hyde Street
Pittsburgh, Penn.
October 1, 1939


Mrs. Harvey Mulholland
1420 Higbee Street
Altoona, Penn.

Dearest Vel,

...and if you or Harvey will meet me at the depot I will take the cars to see you next Sunday to visit with my sweet darling...please tell him Aunty Eugenia will come tell him stories and sing him to sleep so those nasty measles will stop bothering him.
             We had so much excitement in the station last week that I scarcely know if I can write it all down...well, really, it was just on Friday, but it did make the whole week exciting. You do remember I told you that the company that owns WENN was sponsoring a writing contest, don't you? Well, the contest winner showed up on Friday. Velma, she is just a girl...can't be more than twenty-three! She's very pretty and of course #### ###### tried...I'm sorry, Sis, I have been trying to do better about not gossiping so much, so forgive the blot, but Miss Roberts—that is her name, Miss Betty Roberts—is very pretty.
             She is also very talented. Our writer—you know Mr. Gianetti who I have told you...well, tipples just a little bit...well, I guess more than a little bit...more like a lot...anyway, he passed out right in the middle of his desk on Friday and Miss Roberts just stepped in and saved the show. It was Valiant Journey, you know, our very highest-rated serial, and Daphne and Phillip were alone in the mountains...oh, what she did was very romantic...but...dare I say "daring"? I'm sure Reverend Armstrong would not have approved of their tryst!
             Things were so muddled afterwards that I never had a chance to speak to Miss Roberts at all, but I plan to introduce myself tomorrow morning. I certainly hope she'll be someone I can talk to, as I always feel that I'm bothering Hilary Booth when I speak to her. Now I hear you saying, Eugenia, that is just you being self- conscious, but really how could anyone not be self- conscious in the presence of someone like Miss Booth, her being such a great actress. Although I do feel awfully bad for her when I see her ####### ########...

* * * * *

Wednesday, September 27, 1939
Weather: Rain
Temperature: 58 degrees

Friction excessive between Singers again. Does not seem to be jeopardizing ratings for Bedside Manor; apparently some listeners are enjoying it. Note: Possible amendment to format?

Memorandum: Eldridge complaining about Gianetti again.

Thursday, September 28, 1939
Weather: Cloudy
Temperature: 59 degrees

Troubling rumor of station up for sale by Group R Broadcasting. Must phone Stephens about it.

Technical malfunction during The Hands of Time this morning. Note to ask McHugh if problem was at transmitter or in our equipment.

Memorandum: Contest winner arriving tomorrow. Judging from Miss Roberts' script, she knows nothing about radio. Need to be blunt about her chances here. With possible purchase by new owner, cannot afford to take on half-trained writer, despite some writing skills.

Friday, September 29, 1939
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 65 degrees

Extraordinary day.

Had completely forgotten the anticipated arrival of our contest winner. Of course she arrived just as I was busy directing our afternoon serials. At first it was worse than I had feared. Miss Roberts sounded inexperienced enough in her writing, although her effort appeared quite literate and was technically correct, but when she appeared I understood why: she appears barely out of high school. I was also correct in surmising that she knew nothing about radio production.

I was indeed blunt with her. She seemed nonplussed when I told her that the writer's position was simply an internship, but to my surprise she agreed to remain at WENN in a nonpaying position.

Unfortunately, it appeared that Eldridge's complaint about Gianetti's worsening alcoholism was correct. While still working on today's episode of Valiant Journey, he collapsed, inebriated, into his typewriter and was returned to consciousness only with great effort from myself and later trained medical personnel. He was later removed from the premises by ambulance.

Miss Roberts, showing great initiative, stepped in and saved the last few minutes of the serial, by, of all things, adapting the very passage of her script that I had criticized earlier. By a judicious choice of sound effects, she turned the flat scene into a rather torrid romantic cliffhanger.

Needless to say I am now intrigued. There is certainly more to this young woman than meets the eye; therefore I offered her the writing position at what I hoped was an adequate salary for her means. She seemed quite pleased.

I have no illusions that she will not need further training in the particular expertise that one must have to write a successful radio series, but I anticipate no problems...


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