This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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ASK THE EXPERT (Clarence Rundeen, Jr. )
(From Radio Recall, April 2012)
Help! Can you help solve this riddle for me?
It's been driving me crazy for 60-odd years now, ever since I was a kid. This was presented as a contest to win "fabulous stuff" if you could figure out the answer.
Here's the riddle (as best as I can remember).
"Big Chief Windbag gloomy and gray,
I'm one over others that lie in decay.
Where may I be found? On low ground.
That's all. That's all I will say."
Hope to hear from you.
-Richard C. Koch of Kansas City, MO
The tough riddle (which you remember correctly) frustrated many a radio listener in the late '40s. The The answer is "Cairo, Egypt."
This contest came about in 1948 when a new subdivision in California named "Panorama City" offered to give away a new home with a new car in the garage as a publicity stunt. Art Linkletter on his national radio show repeated the riddle on 30 successive shows before they finally got a winner.
Listeners were held in thrall until Vivienne George, a 31-year-old office worker from Oregon, guessed the maddening riddle. The last line tipped her off.
As a college journalism major, she learned to end her stories with "30," a notation to signify the end. "That's all, that's all," she reasoned, could mean 30 degrees longitude and latitude, which pinpointed the location in Cairo, Egypt, a city at a low elevation built on ruins- or decay. And as for clue,"Windbag," Cairo contains the word "air."