A memorial for Leonore Allman , Oct. 1989
By Richard Allman
This is rather long, but perhaps it will be interesting to folk who loved radio drama.
One of my earliest memories is coming home for lunch from Clark elementary school in Detroit. The school was only about four blocks away so I had time. Mom wasn't often home. We had a housekeeper. She would fix my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of milk, supervise my lunch, and see that I got off back to school.
Meanwhile, mom was off at that glamorous and mysterious place called "the studio". I knew about that. A huge old Silvertone radio presided in our living room. It was taller than I was, had 20 motor-driven station selector buttons, 23 tubes and a sidecar with a 78 RPM record changer in it. A truly formidable machine.
One of the buttons was labeled "WXYZ". I knew about that too. That was the button to push to tune into wonderful adventures. Adventures set in exciting places: the great old west, where, with his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States. Or the frozen north, where Sergeant Preston and his wonder dog, Yukon King met the Challenge of the Yukon. But especially where, with his faithful Filipino valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matched wits with the underworld so that that criminals and racketeers within the law would feel it's weight, by the sting of the Green Hornet.
I knew about radio. The voices on those dramas were household guests. We had Sergeant Preston, the Green Hornet, Thunder Martin and Mustang Meg and the other heroes and villains of my boyhood live in my living room from time to time. Even the dog, Yukon King, played by Shakespearean actor Ted Johnstone. I knew about radio. I had one of the heroines in my house most of the time. I had Leonore Allman.
Occasionally, when she couldn't get a sitter, I would get packed along to the studio. I liked that. I liked the big brooding mansion on Iroquois St. and Jefferson Ave. Going in through the front door, a massive stairway swept up into the mysterious shadows of the second floor. I was disappointed that I was never allowed up there. I had to find out what was up there years later, from a book on radio history.
Usually I was unceremoniously dragged to the studio, plunked on a chair and threatened with grievous bodily harm if I so much as uttered a peep. Of course I never did. I knew about radio.
So there I perched, eyes wide, watching the actors spin a tale for their invisible audience. The stories didn't seem the same from this vantage point, but radio itself was clearly the single most important thing in the whole wide world.
One of the milestones of my own life was being invited to audition for the school radio station WDTR when I was in the fifth grade. I was the only one in my school who passed the audition and was accepted into this inner circle, the circle of the most important people in the world, radio broadcasters. About once a month I could skip all my classes and take three buses to the WDTR studios on Joy Road. What a wonder. Mom and I were both on the RADIO!
Well, as we all know, radio was engulfed by TV in the mid Fifties, and the radio dramas were extinguished, one by one. Oddly enough, I was on the last live continuing network program from Detroit. Mom had seen an ad in the paper announcing that WJR was auditioning voices for the Don Large chorus for their show "Make Way for Youth". I went, and was accepted! I sang with them every week on CBS radio for six years. Later, my sister Carol did too.
Detroit was never an important center for TV drama. Mom worked on the few live TV shows on the air in Detroit Traffic Court, Night Court, (and, I suppose, Divorce Court), but the end was clearly in sight. It was time for a change.
Change came in the form of teaching. Mom had a degree in theater from City College (later Wayne University). She substitute-taught while going back to Wayne for a master's degree in Education, which was required for full-time teaching. She taught "auditorium", a sort of catch-all class including bits and pieces of theater, speech and rhetoric, radio and TV, and a place to put the kids when it rained and they couldn't go out after lunch. She taught for eight years at the Goodale and Stelwagon schools.
Another milestone occurred for me during this time. Mom was asked to do something at the television center at Wayne. I was in the engineering school at Wayne at the time, but I didn't know there was a TV center. She took me along. I met the chief engineer, and within a week was working for him as a student assistant. I've been working continuously as a broadcast engineer since then. 1957, I think it was.
Mom might have taught much longer, but my dad's company, Standard Accident, was bought by the Reliance Insurance Co. He was offered a choice of moving to their Philadelphia office or finding another job somewhere. Not too hard a choice for someone only a few years from retirement.
Mom didn't want to come east. She had a lifetime's worth of friends and connections in Detroit. She was still close to many of the old radio people. At City College, she had been one of the founders of the Delta Gamma ChI Sorority, and had close ties with many of her sorority sisters and their families. Most of her remaining family was there. Mom was a "people person" who was happiest when surrounded by a crowd. She didn't want to leave all this and come east. Nevertheless, in 1963, she did.
She wanted to teach in New Jersey as she had in Detroit, but it seems her education was deficient. This woman who spent twenty five years as a working actress and eight years teaching in elementary schools in Detroit was not qualified to teach the children of New Jersey.
Mom was not really ready to go back to school once again. So, after a period of stewing (she wasn't really a very patient person, especially with herself), she took up a third career as an artist. She signed up for classes, bought paints and brushes and went to work. Judging by the bunch of photographs of paintings I found, she painted nearly a hundred and fifty oils over a period of about ten years. Although most of them have been sold or burned, or painted over - she really couldn't abide anything that didn't meet her standards, some remain, and there are a few on display here in the back of the church.
Never able to stay away from theater for long, she and dad joined the Haddonfield Plays and Players, a local amateur theater group. Dad built sets and props, and mom did makeup and generally flitted about, probably often giving unsolicited advice.
Mom's last four years were lonely ones. She missed dad a lot. I called her often and visited when I could. But there was a big hole in her life. For someone who liked to be in the middle of the action, there was no action. Friends in New Jersey tried to help, but the loneliness bore down upon her.
One of the bright lights was that old-time radio groups began to be interested in her. She went to conventions and was interviewed on the air. She was solicited for pictures and memorabilia. During this period, she was inducted into the radio Hall of Fame in Philadelphia. She loved it.
Mom was one of the last. The age of radio came and went with great speed, and now, forty years later, few remain who were there to see it happen. But it has passed into the legends of our country and our people. Few may remember the names: Brace Beamer, Fred Foy, Al Hodge, Rollon Parker, Paul Sutton, Tom Doughal, Ted Johnstone, Gilly Shea, Mike Wallace, Ernie Winstanley, Chuck Livingstone, Paul Huges, James Jewell, Lee Allman. But thousands will always remember Yukon King, the sting of the Green Hornet and the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver!
(At this point, my cousin Bill Jewell played the fanfare from the William Tell overture on his trumpet in a corridor at the back of the hall. That's the signature that always preceded the Lone Ranger. I don't thing there was a dry eye in the place I know mine weren't.)