Valley News – Over Easy: Hartford’s Not-So-Lost History
The Hartford Historical Society recently shared a list of notable natives copied from Wikipedia. Among them are a series of politicians, Horace Wells, whom you should think kindly of when you go to the dentist, as he was a pioneer in anesthesia, and a name which particularly caught my attention – Phillips Lord , “star radio producer and film director.”
I had never heard of him but was curious. Although I was born too late for the golden age of radio, I dream of this medium because I admire the way it conveyed stories as far as the eye could see and invited the listener’s imagination to s join it.
It has largely been replaced by invasive species that fill your brain. I’m talking about television which, according to a 2019 UK study, will consume 78,705 hours of a typical viewer’s life or, if my calculator is correct, nearly nine years.
The screens are even more obtrusive, as they go places where a 65-inch 4K behemoth with surround sound would be cumbersome, like the beach.
The other day I saw a dad with two extremely cute kids barely looking at them on a local lake with a view, as they say, as wide as everything outside.
His eyes were fixed on his small phone. From time to time he glanced at it.
But Phillips Lord came long before that. He was born in Hartford, at the parsonage of the Congregational Church, on July 13, 1902, the son of the Reverend AJ Lord and Maude Phillips Lord.
It was going to become very important. A 1932 article in The Vermonterthe state magazine, did not hold back: “Vermont is proud to find another son of the country among the galaxies of stars now revered by the public.
This article, reprinted in a 2007 newsletter from the Hartford Historical Society, is a hoot. Although the family moved to Connecticut when Phillips Lord was just 5 months old, his Vermont roots apparently never got rid of: “Neither father nor son strayed from the reliable soil of New England. .
Lord was a go-getter. He went to Bowdoin University in Maine. According to Wikipedia, “While still in college, he started a myriad of businesses, including a book-selling operation, a shoe repair service, and a taxi business.” After graduating, he persuaded the school board in Plainville, Connecticut to hire him as a high school principal when he was 22 years old.
But he gets bored quickly and seeks his fortune in New York. He found it when he first heard a radio show with a character he thought had an atrocious Maine accent. He visited several stations to argue that he could do better. In the late 1920s, Lord created a program for WTIC in Hartford, Connecticut, in which he played Seth Parker, based on his grandfather, Hosea Phillips, of Ellsworth, Maine. It featured local humor, devotional prayers and hymn singing.
Healthy as a church service, it was a success. The National Broadcasting Company signed him up for six shows a week. He published a hymn that sold over 200,000 copies. The Vermonter The magazine’s story noted that “both Catholics and Protestants are impressed by the religious atmosphere created by the hymns, dialogue and story”.
Consider for a moment, dear reader, the difference between yesterday’s and today’s notions of entertainment.
Lord had a lot more in him. In 1933, he bought a schooner, which he renamed Seth Parker, and equipped it with radio equipment to broadcast programs from around the world. The cast and crew made it almost to Australia, where storms damaged the ship and ended the trip. There were accusations that the pleas for help were a publicity hoax, but the Australian government backed it up.
I have spent blissful hours delving into his story and his career. Obscure websites tell the story of his schooner (scuttled on Coconut Island in Hawaii) and the cheesy details of his broadcasting equipment. A Maine columnist declared him a “lost story”, but I was delighted to learn that he is best known for a radio show, gang breakerswhich took place from 1935 to 1957. It was based on true crime stories and opened with machine gun fire, alarms, walking boots and these moving words: “Call the police, call the G- Men and all Americans to war against the underworld.
You can hear it on YouTube even now. For years I said something ‘came like gang breakers” without knowing its origin. I was happy to learn it, even if I don’t come anymore like gang breakers myself.
Lord, who died in 1975, had much more success in radio, television and film and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the author of the article The Vermonter didn’t want people to forget where it all started.
“Remember, he said, he’s from Hartford. We claim it as further proof that the giants of the earth spring from our soil.
Dan Mackie lives in western Lebanon. He can be contacted at [email protected]