Thingish Things

Good News!

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - May• 12•11

Jack O'Reilly circa 1936

An old friend emailed today to tell me I’ve been bumming her out with my recent posts. She asked that I end the week on a positive note.

Her note reminded me of my late uncle Jack, who for years was a radio personality on WOR Radio in New York, and then on stations in Philadelphia and Arizona (he was also a long-time NCAA track and field announcer.)

Well, one day in the late 1940’s, Jack O’Reilly got to thinking very much like my emailing friend, and convinced his station manager to invest in a new and sunny radio program called “Good News Only.” It would feature only stories that would cheer the spirits of listeners beaten down by a drumbeat of bad news.

The trouble, of course, was where does one gather these happy tales?  The AP, UPI, and Reuters wires were carrying news of Soviet expansion and mafia hits. Where was the wire for the upbeat stuff?

When Ronald Reagan was a young in-studio baseball announcer — one pretending  to be at the ballpark — he once encountered a similar conundrum.  His play-by-play tickertape suddenly stopped in his hand. That telegraph tape was the lifeline to what was actually happening on the field. It told Reagan of the balls, strikes, and hits occurring on baseball diamonds hundreds of miles away. It was Reagan’s job to bring that information to life, for the imagination of his radio audience, using whatever audio devices he had at his disposal.

So when that ticker tape stopped, Reagan had to think of something to do until it began flowing again. The next batter was a guy named Augie Galan.  Reagan, who could’t tinker with history by having Galan do anything of consequence, did the only think he could think of:  He had Galan foul off every pitch, replete with bat on ball sounds and the groans of an audience — for six minutes and 45 seconds. Thankfully, the telegraph began working again, and Galan popped out.

“Good News Only” must have taken a page from Reagan.  Or maybe my Uncle Jack and Reagan both inherited an extra dose of Irish Blarney.  Because Jack O’Reilly did for his show what Reagan did for his.  But with more embellishment.

In short, my Uncle Jack made his stories up. All of them.  On “Good News Only”, kittens were rescued from burning trees.  Children found Revolutionary War  muskets laying in the woods. An asthmatic won a contest by holding his breath for three and a half minutes. And dogs would walk across America to reunite with their owners. Such were the miracles on my uncle Jack’s show every Tuesday at 8:00, or whenever it aired.

“Good News Only” didn’t last long.  But it sure must have been nice to listen to, and even nicer to produce.

How’s that, Deb?



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  1. Me says:

    The question is: Can we believe *this* good news story?

  2. Deb says:

    Thanks Bill! I feel warm and fuzzy all over 🙂
    Happy Friday! xo

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