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WNYC WWII broadcasts at the National Library of Norway

History Note: Volume 2, Issue 11

Friday, March 18, 2011 - 12:00 AM

From May, 1934 to April, 1948 Gladys M. Petch was heard regularly over WNYC talking about Norway. The programs Sunlit Norway Calls, Spirit of the Vikings, and News of Norway were underwritten by the Royal Norwegian Information Service. While most of these broadcasts were aired via transcription disc, it appears that during WWII, Petch was in the WNYC studios, as evidenced by these two 1944 News of Norway broadcasts we found at the National Library of Norway site.

In this WNYC broadcast Petch talks about sabotage against the German labor service office in Oslo, the execution of Norwegian patriots, and factories controlled by the Nazis. In a second WNYC broadcast Petch announces the agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom with the Norwegian government in exile. She also comments on the 'arch traitor' Vidkun Quisling and his visit with Hitler and delivers an obituary for the painter Edvard Munch, who died that week. The Norwegian collection includes at least a dozen of these WNYC broadcasts.

Petch, a native of Norway, came to the United States in 1928 after broadcasting in Europe, including a stint teaching English over the air in Oslo. She reportedly was also the first English language speaker to broadcast from Rome and Prague.  Described as a "radio consultant" to the Royal Norwegian Information Services, Petch had signed up with the Chicago-based Redpath Bureau, an agency for speakers and lecturers. In their promotional literature in the 1940s they described her as "the woman with the perfect radio voice." They went on to say:

"Though naturally and decidedly feminine, Mrs. Petch's voice is possessed of a clearness rarely associated with female radio artists. Her delightful speaking accents are transmitted without distortion, leaving with the listener an impression of extraordinary vocal quality. Her descriptions of the land of the Vikings are vivid and life-like. Her views and depictions of the works of Sigrid Undset and Ibsen, of the triumphs of Amundsen, are exceedingly entertaining and educational..."

Writing in the January-February, 1946 WNYC Masterwork Bulletin, outgoing Station Director Morris Novik commented: "Mrs. Petch brings you many interesting human interest stories of the people of Norway including some she just picked up on her recent trip to Oslo where she had an audience with King Haakon who commended her on the fine work she did during the war for the Norwegian people."

For a look at Petch's Redpath Bureau brochures check out the University of Iowa library collections. Many thanks to retired broadcaster and public relations man, Walt Santner for bringing Gladys M. Petch to our attention and providing a load of links to her broadcasts and brochures.

Gladys Petch doing an NBC broadcast in the early 1930s wearing a traditional Norwegian peasant costume.

The above photo is from the December, 1931 edition of Radio Digest. It illustrated a piece written by Petch titled, "Blondes Preferred But ---Where Are They?" The magazine introduces her by saying she was on "her fourth broadcasting trip to the U.S. where she has been lecturing on the traditions, customs, literature and present day life of Norway." Thanks to Walt Santner and Ken Sims for bringing this to our attention!

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Broadcast by WNYC Today in:  

1925: New York State Senator William Lathrop Love discusses the public reaction to his 'Clean Books bill.'  Note: Dr. W.L. Love represented the 8th District of Brooklyn. He was seeking to amend the law pertaining to the sale of obscene literature by making the presence of any obscene, lewd or lascivious work, apart from its context or intent, sufficient ground for suppression of the whole book. The bill was defeated (9 to 2) by the Senate Codes Committee that day.

1938: New York Congressman Hamilton Fish talks about 'the international situation.'  Note: Fish was in Congress (1920-1945) representing Putnam County and was a staunch opponent of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies.

1944: Broadcast of Father Knickerbocker, a dramatization of war problems in New York City. In it there's talk about retailers overcharging 'Mrs. Consumer' while the Office of Price Administration works hard in the fight against inflation and overcharges. Also a reminder from Father Nick that 'loose lips sink ships.'  

1956: Gilbert Seldes talks about censorship in films for this edition of The Lively Arts.

1965: The National Conference of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Conference presents a panel discussion: "Police power -- too little, too much?" The panel is moderated by Muriel Fox Aronson, with panelists Deputy Chief Inspector Patrick V. Murphy, Associate Dean Robert B. McKay, of the NYU Law School, and Dr. Frederick D. Patterson, President of the United Negro College Fund.

1984: Pianist Augustin Anievas and cellist Frederick Zlotkin perform at the Frick Collection.

1990: Richard Oldenburg hosts this edition of Arts Alive from the Algonquin. The topic is "values of works of art." His guests are Kirk Varnedoe, Adam Gopnik, and Linda Shearer.

2002: The Brian Lehrer Show presents: From Bronxistan To Iran: Eustace Tilley's New View Of New York. Brian talks with The New Yorker magazine's Rick Meyerowitz, Maira Kalman, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Malcolm Gladwell.

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