Radio Archives Will Be Housed in Thousand Oaks

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Thousands of scripts, recordings and other memorabilia from the Golden Age of Radio--stored now in a concrete basement in Hollywood--will be added to the extensive display at the Thousand Oaks Library, creating one of the most expansive collections in the world.

"The American Radio Archives is an awesome amenity to have in our own backyard," said Thousand Oaks Deputy City Manager Scott Mitnick. "Our collection already brings people from all over the world."

Mitnick said the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, which administers the library's collection, will seek funding for a new building to display both archives.

The deal was announced Tuesday by the foundation and Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, a 700-member historical group that owns the items being stored in the basement of the Washington Mutual Bank building in Hollywood.

They range from recordings of radio stars--such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Joseph Cotten, Jack Benny, Beatrice Kay and Edgar Bergen--to Bing Crosby's original microphone to models of radios built throughout the 20th century.

There are also posters, statuettes, awards, props and sound effects equipment--chains, chimes, bells, a car door, a front door and a contraption that sounds like a military unit marching.

The library's current collection, amassed over the last 18 years, includes more than 23,000 radio and TV scripts and 5,000 hours of recordings. Featured personalities include Norman Corwin, Carlton E. Morse and Rudy Vallee, whose archives were acquired in 1987 when the library foundation outbid the Smithsonian Institution.

Architect Gary Heathcote said the foundation hopes to build a 15,000-square-foot building beside the library to house the American Radio Archives.

"It will create the largest collection for radio in the country. The Thousand Oaks Library is something special--a prototype for libraries of the future with a great commitment to radio," said Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters President Jack McQueen.

Right now, the items stored in the bank basement are out of sight of everyone except the 700 members of the group. A minimum of 20 years' work in the broadcasting industry is a prerequisite for membership.

The collection contains more than 20,000 historically significant transcriptions and 6,000 tapes from the Armed Forces Radio Library, the KFI Library, World War II Broadcasters and rare radio broadcasts. Each 33 1/3-rpm, 16-inch disc has 15 minutes of sound recorded on each side.

Currently, the discs are in boxes lining walls on hand-built wooden shelves. Descriptions of each recording have been carefully written with black felt-tip pen. "Gunsmoke, 11-25-56," one reads.

There are also rows of file cabinets with scripts and neatly filed metal or glass records. There is a room full of old microphones and walls covered with photos and posters. Old radios and equipment hang from the ceiling and are stacked on the floor.

Child actress and radio star Margaret O'Brien, who played Beth in "Little Women" and won an Oscar for her portrayal of Judy Garland's little sister in "Meet Me in St. Louis," was one of those at the announcement. O'Brien, a Thousand Oaks resident, was the first to donate to the newly combined group, presenting her personal collection of radio memorabilia. Radio announcer Gary Owens, who gained fame on TV's "Laugh-In," was also there, as was Les Tremayne, a Radio Hall of Fame recipient.

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