Anne Richardson

Radio historian Ron Kramer Leads Tour Of Jazz Age Portland/May 5, 10:00 AM

by Anne Richardson

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Portland creatives resist arrest in this (staged) photo of the KGW Hoot Owls.

During the 1920s downtown Portland virtually crackled with energy soaked up by, and transmitted through, the new medium of radio.  Stylish hotels dotted the growing city and their dance bands were regularly broadcast – often by radio stations located in the same hotels.  Radio and movies hadn’t yet vanquished vaudeville and Portland’s numerous vaudeville theatres provided radio stations with major entertainers. 

Newspapers and department stores vied in launching their own stations – prompting the city fathers to create the Keep Growing Wiser Order of Hoot Owls – an international sensation.  And from this cauldron of creative energy Portland emerged as a vibrant and influential western American radio mecca which launched the career of many major entertainers.  Block by block radio unfolded and enveloped downtown Portland. 

Visit the locations, and hear stories, of the city’s Golden Radio Age on this downtown walking tour of those locales.

On May 5, at 10:00 AM, Ron Kramer leads his second radio history themed tour of downtown Portland.

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Ronald Kramer is the author of Pioneer Mikes: A History of Radio and Television in Oregon. He served as Executive Director of Jefferson Public Radio in Southern Oregon from 1974 to 2012 while also consulting for the Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other organizations.

Radio In Jazz Age Portland

Saturday May 5

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Meet in lobby of Embassy Suites, aka Multnomah Hotel

219 SW Pine

Led by radio historian Ron Kramer

$10

Mel Blanc credited his success in Hollywood to his experience as a performer on the KGW Hoot Owls, which broadcast out of the Oregonian Tower at SW 6th & Alder from 1922 to 1932. The Hoot Owls was a weekly variety show which combined live music, live comedy, and guest appearances by visiting show business celebrities. Mel Blanc became a Hoot Owl cast member in 1927, at age 19. Ten years later, he was making history at Warner Brothers.

When the Oregonian Tower went up in smoke in 1948, all the KGW archives documenting this chapter in Portland entertainment history were destroyed. Ron Kramer used his access to the only remaining private archive of Hoot Owl scripts to construct his understanding of what went on that small broadcasting studio.

Other show business careers which came out of Portland radio include self taught soulster Johnnie Ray, MGM sweetheart Jane Powell, and radio writer Harriet Frank Sr., mother of Academy Award nominated screenwriter Harriet Frank Jr.

Ron Kramer gives this tour as part of the fourth annual Oregon Film History Conference. The tour is open to the public! Just show up with $10, sensible shoes, and a willingness to be amazed.

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Founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, Oregon Cartoon Institute uses new media, archival film, research, networking, and cross disciplinary discussion to explore Oregon film, animation, and print cartooning history. A 501c3 non profit organization, it has no brick and mortar presence, and always works in partnership with organizations which do.

 

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