Tuesday, August 31, 2021

WARB Memories

When I first moved to Covington in 1968, the entire area would tune to the local AM radio station WARB for the morning "School Calls" and "Swap Shop." The school time reminders helped parents and children know when it was time to leave for school, and the Swap Shop was an early Craigslist type of sale/barter exchange, with happy birthdays thrown in from time to time. 

The rest of the day featured country music, local news and ads. The station was well-liked and appreciated, especially for its on-site remote broadcasts of special events and parades.

I recall that Station Manager Rick Webb emceed the Parish Fair Baby Contests and Beauty Pageants each year, and for the last several years he was a mainstay at the Covington Farmers Market selling his jams and jellies.

Rick Webb

The article I wrote about WARB and its on-air personalities during the 1970's is located below. Just click on the image to enlarge it to a readable size.

Here is the text from the above article:

COVINGTON — Rick Webb, Dave Gerdes, Don Phillips and Rick Webb Jr. are names that might not be familiar to some Covington area residents, but anyone who listens to WARB radio is sure to be familiar with their voices.

It is these four personalities who announce for the 250 watt AM Covington station during the week, giving their listeners music and features with which to pass the day. Rick Webb came to the station in 1955, two years after it first opened and is now station manager as well as its chief  engineer. A resident of Robert, Webb got his start in communications aboard ship and has been in the field with airlines, television and radio.

For a time associated with a television station in Baton Rouge, Webb then worked at a Hammond radio station and finally made the move to WARB in Covington. Now with the station for 17 years, Webb has seen the station grow in popularity and attributes this to its action in diversifying the type of music played.

One of his hobbies is amateur radio. He said that he had put the town of Robert on the map as far as radio hams across the nation are concerned. His other activities include gardening, horseback riding and just enjoying his small ranch. He even has a few cows.

Dave Gerdes handles the afternoon music fare Monday through Friday and the Saturday morning program from sign-on to noon. Originally from Metairie, the 22-year-old announcer now lives in Robert also, A graduate of East Jefferson High School, Dave has always been interested in electronics and for a while worked in a retail electronics outlet in New Orleans. Dave has worked at WARB now for a year and-a-half and has been married five months.

Don Phillips Jr. takes over the audio board at noon on Saturdays and also handles the Sunday morning broadcast. Don, the son of Don Phillips, Commercial Rank travel consultant, lives in Covington Country Club Estates and joined the staff in August of last year. Prior to that he "just hung around" the station and helped out however he could. A member of the De LaSalle High School Radio Club in New Orleans, Don first became interested in amateur radio, then got his FCC broadcast license in his junior year.

The 19-year-old Southeastern student is majoring in zoology, looking forward to a career as an Army doctor. At present he runs a disc jockey program, announces the news and does a regular sports show.

Rick Webb Jr., 16-year-old son of the station manager, started working at WARB in May, 1971, in a double capacity. Part time announcer and part time janitor, Ricky handles the Sunday afternoon segment, playing country music, with bands and orchestras included. Ricky attends Hammond High School and is active in amateur radio also. He is also a member of the FFA.

Another voice that frequents the 730 kilocycles is that of Col. Earl Wilson who does much of the commercial work.

While this isn't the entire staff of the Covington based station, they are the personalities whose voices are a familiar sound in a number of Covington homes.

Tours of the station would be given to groups of children. The window above the control panel gave a view into the soundproof studio where interviews would be conducted, along with Sunday morning church programming. 
Richard Warner recalled that WARB was managed by Rick Webb, with Betty Fitzmorris Ferrer (Hank Ferrer's's wife) as the secretary for many years and later, Dorothy Blossman, David Blossman's wife was there. Cy Plummer and his brother, Robert Warner, were disc jockeys there also. This was back in the mid 50's. Bob Minton was their advertising salesman in the early 1960's. Curtis Sharp, Paul Varnado, Don Dubuc, Gene Perry  and Ted Talley also worked at the station for a time. Iain Chaplin was the Sunday anchor with several preachers on the air including Orvile Rainey. 
Warner also remembered when WARB used to broadcast the names of people in the hospital. " I think that was a project of Mrs. Anna Smith, who was the grandmother of the Smiths who now have H.J. Smith's Son Hardware on Columbia St.," he said.

The turntables and cart racks, with Dick Bradley at the control board

Don K. Phillips Jr.
Over on Facebook George Beyl stated that the Badeaux's Drive Inn Sports Show was his. "I worked there in the early '70's while a student at SLU. I did play by play of Covington High football on a tape delay to be played back on Saturday morning. Also did the daily 15 min. sports show and was the weekend D.J. playing top 40 hits on Saturday afternoons and on Sunday."

St. Tammany Parish celebrated the American Bicentennial in 1976 with parades, ceremonies, and fireworks. 

To listen to a WARB radio broadcast of the festivities, CLICK ON THIS LINK for a YouTube audio file. The event was accompanied by several re-enactments with actors in costumes. Among the voices heard on the recording above are Rick Webb, Bill Stubbs, Pat Clanton, Rev. Baxter Pond, and Dorothy Kehoe.

For a year or two I had a daily recorded interview show on WARB. Each week, I enjoyed visiting with artists, business people, politicians, and many others to hear their personal stories and their community concerns. Once while I was describing on air the parish fair parade through downtown Covington, I forgot how loud high school bands were. The radio listeners didn't hear much other than the rousing music on its way to the fairgrounds. 
I was using the pay telephone at the corner of Boston St. and the alley alongside the old courthouse to make that broadcast. 

One of the people I interviewed for the radio show was Al Albert, a Covington printer who also had a big band orchestra. CLICK HERE to hear that interview. 

WARB had a remote broadcasting booth in the Bogue Falaya Mall called "The MusicCube." Below is a photograph of that remote broadcasting booth.

The main studio for WARB was located on U.S. 190 west of Covington High School, across from the entrance to Willow Drive into River Forest Subdivision. CLICK THIS LINK to go to the Google Maps location. 

Dave Blossman was one of the owners of WARB. 

Click on the article above to see a larger, more readable version.  

Standing in front of the WARB studios, Frances Barker with the St. Tammany Parish Fair Association presents station manager Rick Webb with a framed fair poster, after announcing that the 1984 fair would be dedicated to him for his many years of community service. From left to right on the front row are Johnny Bankston (County Agent), Lawrence "Cotton" Jourdan (Covington police officer), Donis Jenkins, Rick Webb, Frances Barker and Sandra McManus.

Color photos from Donna Sharp's Facebook page

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Schools Photographic Archives

While I was working with the St.Tammany Parish Public School System, I put together a photographic archives.  It had hundreds of photographs of people, places and events.

The Koepp school was located on La. Hwy 22 near Madisonville. It was in use around 1915. 

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Capes Created By Polly Anderson

 Polly Anderson has turned her expert sewing skills into something that's a continuing hit at regional science fiction and comic book conferences: the making of unique one-of-a-kind capes to fit with any costumed character.

The number of costumed characters at comic book conventions is considerable, so there's no shortage of potential customers. She has been sewing these special costume accessories for more than 50 years, taking orders on the first day of the convention, then working on them overnight and delivering them in the next day or two to appreciative participants.

Polly Anderson at Carol's Map Place

Years ago Polly was working at Carol's Jahncke's bookstore in Covington, selling books, maps, and paperbacks, when a customer friend of hers walked in and found her hand sewing. "Oh, you sew," her friend said, and Polly showed her some of the hand-stitching she was doing.

Polly had quite a bit of material on hand, since she sewed quite often for her family. The offhand remark  led to an invitation to attend an arts and crafts convention in Baton Rouge, and she hesitantly decided to attend, just to see what it was all about.  However, that first effort didn't work out.

The Convention Circuit

Not long afterwards, another customer, someone who frequented the science fiction section of the bookstore,  saw her sewing and also mentioned how she might want to go to one of those conventions. "I think you'll like it there," she was told. "It's all science fiction."

At that point, Polly explained that she specialized in making capes, and her friend thought that was a great thing to bring to the convention. So Polly made 20 capes to show at the event, and she also took her young son with her. Her first venture in the world of convention costuming got her hooked.

Two of the capes

Polly gave each cape a different look, with different design and fabric flourishes, because she wanted her capes to be unique, one of a kind accessories, something that personalized it. "It was fantastic," she said. The first convention was Coast Con in Biloxi, and she loved it.

"Met a lot of weird people, and I do mean weird. From there I have gone to conventions in New Orleans, Houston, Lafayette, Gulfport and Hattiesburg.

She sets up her sewing machine in the booth in the trade show, brings a bunch of patterns, and stacks and stacks of material piled on her tables. "They would pick out what they wanted, decide on a size, and I would have it for them next day. It is so much fun," she said.

Over the years, she has met many well-known science fiction personalities at the conventions and even wound up making costumes for some of them.  One of her favorite memories is the time she met two guys who had published a unique superhero comic book, and she has a signed first copy of their comic, something she treasures to this day.

Polly Anderson has always been interested in sewing and costumes

She made a costume to go along with their superhero character, and it was a hit at the convention as well. In fact, over the years, she has put together numerous specialty costumes for her friends at the conventions, and many of those have won the various costume contests held as part of the festivities.

Her sewing skills have also caught the attention of local newspapers who attend the conventions, and she has been written up a few times for her fanciful work and creativity in costuming.

No Two Are Alike

She feels that a key to her success is that she never makes two capes or costumes alike. "Anyone who has one of my capes knows that," she says. When she's asked to make a cape for a young person, she gives them the best deal possible because she knows that at future conventions, that person will grow up and bring in repeat business, as well as their friends.

Some of her previous customers may even come to her and ask her to make changes in capes she made at earlier conventions for them.  At some point, people started calling her and ask her for capes for upcoming special events, staged battles, and that ever more popular "cosplay" activities.

"It grew and grew," she said, noting that her son, the same one who went with her to the first one, got more and more involved. "He was a big help," she added. And he also took part in some of the costume contests, winning from time to time. This led to his friends also attending the events, and they started winning costume contests as well.

She's done pirate outfits for local Renaissance Festivals, and a never-ending variety of capes and costumes for the never-ending variety of costume-oriented special occasions.  The CovID pandemic lockdowns put somewhat of a damper on the big events, but they are gradually returning.

Fitting The Cape To The Person

She shares the secret of her success.  "The key is to find out what kind of costume fits a person's personality, not so much what they want to buy, but what's going to work for them," she explained.
"I really enjoy matching the cape to the person," she said. Her photo scrapbook contains many pictures of very interesting people, very interesting costumes, and interesting conventions.

She was going to two or three conventions a year before CovID hit, so as the conventions were postponed/rescheduled/cancelled, she kept busy with the other components of the sewing world.

The growing number of local and regional Comic Cons, the world of comic books and graphic novels, has expanded her market as well, and the new Star Wars events, featuring battles between the good guys and bad guys, has kept her busy. She is well known for her unique designs, blending traditional costumes with new takes based on the expanding universe of fictional characters. Styles range from beautiful to startling, and sometimes a mixture of both.

The World Of Movie Characters

Each year new movies tap into existing comic book genres, and they also generate dedicated costume contests. It sometimes seems there's a costume demand for every new movie. The Disney flick "Frozen" generated a wealth of new costumes for female characters. "I had glitter everywhere," she said, after trying to produce a Frozen worthy costume.

She even offers "reversible" capes, one side with one kind of design and the other side, a different design, to better fit the mood and imagination of the person wearing it. That's another fun part of designing costumes, to see how people, especially kids, put them on and suddenly imagine themselves as the character, acting out the parts, speaking the more memorable lines.

Cape photographs by Marie McGee Cobb 

She has made many friends going to these conventions. Even though these conventions can attract up to five thousands people (and up) she sees the same people over and over again, as they all attend the same conventions, as well as the new conventions, and the specialty events in-between conventions, not to mention the new all-consuming live action gaming.

They have adopted her as one of their own, a seamstress who helps them live their dreams in the costumes and capes of their dreams. "It's a little odd," she admits.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Eye on Ida's Eye


Hurricane Katrina 16 Years Ago

 Tomorrow, August 29th, marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana. Here are several articles from one of the first newspapers to be printed after that disaster, the St. Tammany News, Slidell Sentry News, and News Banner, as published on September 6, 2005.

Click on the images to make them larger. 


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Friday, August 27, 2021

100 Years Ago This August 27, 2021

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  August 27, 1921. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions. 

Rapid Transit Fast Boat Proposed

Driving Courtesy

Madisonville  Restaurant, Water

Covington Post Office To Be Enlarged In Southern Hotel

Slidell Picture Show Opens

Society News

Water, Sewerage Systems Considered