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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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The Museum of Broadcast Communications (A Second Look)
by Editor Jack French, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, December 2013)

In the August 2012 issue of RADIO RECALL, Dan Riedstra, a Chicago resident, reviewed the Museum of Broadcast Communications there. He provided an excellent overview of this museum and probably stirred several subscribers to add it to their "must-see" list if visiting the Windy City. (You can read Dan's article on our website.)

Your editor recently found himself in Chicago and, with his now middle-aged son, Brad, a professional juggler in Illinois, visited the museum, located at 360 N. State Street ("that great street") in downtown Chicago.

While the museum does occupy three floors as advertised, the first floor consists only of the admissions office and the first steps leading up to the landing containing a "Tower of Broadcasting." This sculpture is constructed of parts of old radios and television sets ... a few of which are operative.

The second floor is dedicated to old-time radio, although most of it consists of about 175 photos on the wall, all inductees into the "Radio Hall of Fame". Most of these stars deserve all the praise we can muster, including Jack Benny, Bill Conrad, Edward R. Murrow, etc. But a few seem · to be fringe candidates, although they merit the same space: Dr. Demento, shock-jock Howard Stern, and Wolfman Jack. The selection of a couple of inductees was downright silly, i.e. Wendy Williams, the busty TV hostess who apparently once had a radio show.

While a number of interactive "touch" screens promise to air any show of your choice, virtually everything selected by my son and I came up empty ("not available"). Obviously, this floor is a work in progress .....

There are a few small exhibits with equipment under glass, including a few vintage microphones. Also displayed are some 1940s bakelite portable radios, plus several boom-boxes or "ghetto blasters" as an informative poster informs us.

There's a gift shop also on the second floor, but most of its games, books, and assorted merchandise hark back to TV, not radio, history. The only OTR book I recognized there was: Remembering Radio: An Oral History of Old-Time Radio by David S. Siegel, an MWOYRC member and my partner in compiling Radio Rides the Range, which McFarland will publish in November.

Despite the paucity of OTR audio material on the second floor, there are two charming OTR elements. Behind an ordinary door, which has no label or invitation to open, is a remarkable recreation of Fibber McGee's closet. When you open it, a barrage of items nearly fall on you, all of them mentioned in a McGee episode. So we see Fibber's mandolin, his Air Raid Warden uniform and gas mask, his fishing creel, golf clubs, Molly's vacuum cleaner, and in the very center, a can of Johnson's Glo-Coat Wax. And to complete the scene, Molly's voice is heard, imploring him not to open that closet.

The second is a display window, showcasing Edgar Bergen's three main dummies. In full costume are Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd, and Effie Clinker. (While the listening audience had to imagine them on the radio, the studio audience could see them performing with Bergen.)

Trudging up to the third floor, we find where the real interest of the museum curators lies ... in the Wonderful Land of Television ! The third floor is brimming with large screens airing numerous TV shows, an interactive studio where you can see yourself giving the weather report in front of a green-screen, and a variety of vintage and modern TV cameras. (The ones from the 5O's look as big as a snow-mobile on a wheeled platform.)

There was a gigantic special exhibit dedicated to Gary Coleman, the pint-sized star of TV's Different Stokes. In addition to a special screening room for snippets of every show he was ever in, we find large glass cases which display his fan mail, his typewriter, his library, his favorite toys, his awards, and if I'd looked long enough, perhaps his favorite slippers.

About half of the entire third floor is a tribute to Chicago's juvenile TV programs, with entire sets and complete costumes and puppets from several shows. Bozo the Clown rates a display at least 20 feet across, but similar space is accorded to Garfield Goose, Here's Geraldine, Ray Rayner and Friends, Elmer the Elephant, and Cartoon Town with Dusty Dragon. Nearly all of puppets were the creation of Ray Brown, obviously a Chicago legend.

So what's the bottom line? A "must-see" for an OTR fan? Heck, no. A "should-see" for any television aficionado? Yup. A "don't-miss-it" for someone who grew up watching local TV kids' shows in the Chicago region? OMG, Absolutely Yes .... Yes .... Yes!