An Old-Time Radio Collector’s Search for Their “Holy Grail”

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An Old-Time Radio Collector’s Search for Their “Holy Grail” Empty An Old-Time Radio Collector’s Search for Their “Holy Grail”

Post by otrwashh on 6/26/2019, 7:49 am

INTRODUCTION:
Probably every OTR collector has their “Holy Grail”:  
the missing shows for a specific series
THEY REALLY WANT TO FIND!!!!

The quest for me started over 40 years ago; I wanted to collect a complete set of the series Gunsmoke.

ARCHIVAL RESEARCH BACKGROUND:
I have been conducting work- and/ or hobby-related research for over 50 years.

First, as a student working on earning a degree in Geography and professionally for over 35 years as a Cartographer and a Geographer. And, on the side, doing hobby-related research.

My work often involved doing detailed research to obtain the most accurate information possible. To obtain this information, I had to access and/or acquire a wide-range of historical and contemporary sources. In some cases, I had to travel to archives around the country. I was also required to provide detailed documentation on the sources of information.

I became recognized in my field as a highly reliable researcher who could find and integrate information that many others couldn't.

These skills were applied to my OTR quest.


THE EARLY DAYS
A lot less information was readily available on Old-Time Radio back in the late 1970’s.
Collecting was slower paced, tape was the medium used by collectors.  My OTR  collection grew slowly in the 1970’s and 80’s.
I didn’t even know how many Gunsmoke episodes were broadcast nor the titles of the episodes.


MODEST PROGRESS AND QUESTIONS
In the late 1980’s I got the addresses for some Old-Time Radio clubs.  They had tape libraries that allowed members to borrow shows and then make copies for their own collections. Their catalogs listed varying numbers of Gunsmoke episodes available.  As I added tapes to my collection from the club libraries I noticed that there were Gunsmoke episodes that had the same titles, but had different supporting actors in them, dialog changes, and sometimes different broadcast dates.  (I also noticed this phenomenon for other series in my collection.)

I purchased my first personal computer in 1988 and while it was mainly used for work-related activities, I entered information on my OTR collection into a database program called PC File. I included information on series name, episode broadcast date, titles, plot line summaries, cast and crew information. I also entered personal observations.

A MAJOR FIND
In the early 1990’s I made a major break through in my quest; I found a book in my local library on  Gunsmoke in the Reference section of my local library:
GUNSMOKE
A Complete History and Analysis of the Legendary Broadcast Series with a Comprehensive Episode-by-Episode Guide to Both the Radio and Television Programs

By SuzAnne Barabas and Gabor Barabas.

While the focus of the book was definitely on the television series, it contained a massive amount of information on the radio version of the series. It had episode broadcast dates, titles, plot summaries, and writer and cast information.

As the Barabas book was considered a reference book by the library, it didn’t circulate.  So I decided to purchase a copy through a local bookstore. It took less than a week until I received a call from the store that my order had come in. I picked up the book that day after work.  

For more than a month I read and re-read all the information  on the radio version of the series. But the book listed some episodes in my collection as reruns, but with different guest cast members.
The information went into my OTR computer database.  I now had a good idea on the number of radio episodes for  Gunsmoke. I also knew that 6 episodes were not in circulation:  5 from 1952 and one from1960.  They were:
05/03/1952 ─ Ben Thompson
05/17/1952 ─ Dodge City Killer
06/14/1952 ─ Jailbait Janet
06/21/1952 ─ Heat Spell
06/28/1952 ─ The Ride Back
06/19/1960 ─ Homely Girl

I began to form a theory that Gunsmoke episodes listed in the Barabas book as “reruns” were actually NEW PRODUCTIONS of Previously Used scripts.  To prove this theory, I needed to find other Primary Sources such as Scripts and other CBS documentation.

THE INTERNET ERA
In the mid-1990’s my workplace replaced many dedicated computer workstations with networked personal computers.  With these PC’s came email and Internet access.  We could use the Internet for some personal activities during non-work hours. A year later, I obtained Internet service at home.  It was dial-up and slow, but it was a way to access the information highway from home.  

In July, 2000 I started moderating a  Gunsmoke forum on Charlie Summers Nostalgia Pages website.

I found that a large collection of Gunsmoke scripts existed in a private archive in California and that smaller collections of scripts existed in public archives in Kansas and California.

Only the Kansas archive allowed photocopying of scripts.  I contacted the Kansas archive and made arrangements for the visit. When I got there I found that the Gunsmoke radio scripts there were Draft scripts with no broadcast, cast, or crew information.

The next research trip was to the California archives.  The private archive had research credential requirements that took a couple of month to complete.  I purchased a used laptop prior to visiting and loaded my OTR and Gunsmoke information on to it.

This two week research trip provided the extensive Primary Source information I was looking for on over 300 episodes.  (Also I found 3 scripts that were purchase by CBS, but were never produced.)  I found a script for the missing 1960 broadcast and wrote a plot summary for it. These scripts proved my theory that there were many NEW PRODUCTIONS of Previously Used scripts. (Starting in late 2004,I would publish my findings in the Gunsmoke forum on the Nostalgia Pages website.)
However there were two years for which virtually no scripts existed: 1952 (for which 5 broadcasts were not in circulation) and 1957.  Also, for 1953, there were 15 scripts that had not been found.


A CATALOGING ERROR HIDES A MOTHER LODE
While conducting an Internet search in  mid-March, 2007, I found a mention of Gunsmoke scripts in the Frank and Anne Hummert Collection at a public archive that I had visited several times on other OTR research projects.  I knew that the Hummerts never had any connection to Gunsmoke, so I sent my contact at the archive an email listing the Box and Folder information for the  Gunsmoke scripts and asked if there was an inventory available for them.  

Her initial email mentioned that these scripts had been donated by CBS in the mid-1980’s and somehow had been incorrectly listed as part of the Hummert Collection.  The scripts in question had been inventoried, but the inventory had been lost.  Since my query was about a relatively small number of scripts, she would inventory them and provide me the broadcast dates and titles.

A few days later, I received the inventory via email.  
It listed 34 of the 36 scripts for the 1952 Gunsmoke episodes, including those for the five 1952 episodes for which broadcasts were not in circulation!!!!

I put in for vacation from work and scheduled a two day research trip to view the scripts on the next Friday and Saturday.  When I arrived at the archive the materials were ready for my viewing.  I had decided to read each of the scripts for the five missing episodes, write detailed plot lines for each and then do my normal data entry/verification for all 34 scripts.

As I started reading the first script, “Ben Thompson,” something strange happened.  In my mind’s EAR, I HEARD the script being performed!  I heard the actors doing their lines, the sound patterns, the music and the announcer.  This phenomenon also occurred for the other four scripts.  The cast and crew of these five episodes had returned to perform their magic just for me.

I posted my plot summaries for the 5 episodes on the Internet Old-Time Radio Digest and my Gunsmoke forum.

My quest for my “Holy Grail” was completed .


POSTSCRIPTS
Even though, I had completed my quest, I have continued to research and write about various Gunsmoke topics.

The late Russ Hudson read my Internet Old-Time Radio Digest posts and contacted me and mentioned he had a 1952 CBS promotional album that included the first act of “Ben Thompson.” Russ sent a digital copy of the album. The Gunsmoke file is now in circulation.

I have found more scripts in the Printed Materials collection of some Old-Time Radio Clubs, a now closed private archive, and on the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library Website.  A total of 401 of 483 Gunsmoke scripts (400 broadcast and 1 audition) are known to exist.

In 2009 I confirmed that the Library of Congress has transcription discs of the following Gunsmoke episodes
06/14/1952 "Jailbait Janet "
and
06/21/1952 "Heat Spell"  {A partial copy; the first 8 minutes were unrecoverable.)

A copy of the 06/19/1960 broadcast for “Homely Girl” was made available to the OTR community in 2016 by Dr. Joe Webb.
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Post by pnussbaum on 6/26/2019, 1:04 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. I have to feeling there are at least a few others in the Club that share the feeling of obsession leading to a lifelong quest by way of dreaming while reading the Mar-Bren catalog and those of other vendors from the old days.
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Post by Space Cadet on 6/26/2019, 5:14 pm

What you've described here is an amazin' journey. And a testament to the power of dedication. Well done sir, very well done.
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Post by toebig on 7/3/2019, 11:37 am

Hi ortwashh, I have a copy with the title "Jailbait Janet" and two audition shows. I also have a partial "Ben Thompson" episode. They are not the best sounding but are listenable. If you want them, let me know.

I too appreciate all the work you put into this obsession we call a hobby LOL.

Tom

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Post by otrwashh on 7/3/2019, 8:01 pm

toebig wrote:Hi ortwashh, I have a copy with the title "Jailbait Janet" and two audition shows. I also have a partial "Ben Thompson" episode. They are not the best sounding but are listenable. If you want them, let me know.

I too appreciate all the work you put into this obsession we call a hobby LOL.

Tom
Jailbait Janet
A copy of the 06/14/1952 production of "Jailbait Janet" has been
verified in a collection of the Library of Congress (LOC).
(I provided the LOC with the information needed to verify it.)

Over the years I have found over 20 copies that reputed to be the
06/14/1952 production of "Jailbait Janet."
All turned out to be mislabeled copies of the
06/28/1959 production of "Jailbait Janet."

You can determine if your copy of "Jailbait Janet" is indeed the
1952 production by accessing the following information.
The Plotline For Missing Episode: "Jailbait Janet"
Can be found at:
http://forums.oldradio.net/ftopic2076.html
Repeat Myth: Jailbait Janet
Differences between the two productions of "Jailbait Janet"
can be found at:
http://forums.oldradio.net/ftopic1508.html&highlight=jailbait+janet

Audition Shows
Three Gunsmoke Audition Shows are known to exist.
They are:
06/11/1949 Mark Dillon Goes to Gougeye
Rye Billsbury as Marshal Mark Dillon

07/13/1949 Mark Dillon Goes to Gougeye
Howard Culver as Mark Dillon

03/29/1952 Mark Dillon Goes to Gougeye
John Dehner as Mark Dillon
The date on the Dehner Audition has not been confirmed.
Also, this audition is 9 minutes long.
Parley Baer does the narration.

Partial "Ben Thompson" Episode
The late Russ Hudson read my Internet Old-Time Radio Digest posts and contacted me and mentioned he had a 1952 CBS promotional album that included the first act of “Ben Thompson.” Russ sent a digital copy of the album. The Gunsmoke file is now in circulation.
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Post by toebig on 7/3/2019, 8:35 pm

Thanks for the information otrwashh. The copies I have are as you pointed out copies of the later version. Sorry I couldn't help. I'll keep trying. Sounds like you have the ultimate Gunsmoke collection. Keep up the good work.

Tom

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Post by Seamus on 7/4/2019, 4:34 pm

This thread was interesting read. Thanks Stewart and everyone that posted.
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