Bob Montensano in his early teens at the WIBX studio mic.
Bob Montesano is a unique individual. Bob gained employment while a student at Proctor High School. He had the good fortune to be a colleague of Ernie Riep. Bob had so much admiration for Ernie as a professional and as an individual that he gave Ernie's name as a middle name for Bob's first son, Robert E. Montesano. Ernie became my idol, too, although I never worked with him. Betty Cushing Griffin worked with him, as did Mike Fusco and Jack Hagopian. Jack later changed his last name to Fredericks and became a long-time employee of WKTV. But Bob gave me the opportunity to "hang out" at the station each Sunday evening at which time Bob brought me up-to-date on the activities of the week at the station. The station was located on the 9th floor of the First National Bank Building on Genesee Street, corner of Elizabeth. Today the building is known as the Adirondack Bank Building. What a thrill it was to "hang out" at the station. I really became involved in this marvelous technology. Today, Bob is a valued employee of the Utica Cutlery Company. And, what a coincidence, Ed Allen, owner of Utica Cutlery is the nephew of Ernie Riep. Bob worked an early morning shift with Hal Smith, the person who was to gain celebrity as Otis on the Andy Griffith Show. I asked Bob to share some memories of Hal Smith for our remembrance of the early days of AM Radio in Utica New York. Bob says:
When I first started working with Hal Smith, I was still a Post Graduate Senior at Proctor. I signed on at 6:25 AM and worked until 8, then went to school until 1 or so. I owned a 1931 Ford Convertible, which I used to pick up Hal at an apartment on Clinton Place. I would get there about 6 AM so we could get to the station by 6:20 or so. The car had a problem with the starter, which would get stuck if I turned off the motor. Hal was hardly ever ready at 6, so I sometimes turned off the car to wait until he came down from the 2nd floor. On occasion, he would have to push the car down Clinton Place until it would turn over.
As you recall, Hal was stocky and never relished having to "labor" before getting to work, but he seldom complained. Once we arrived at the station, I would park on Elizabeth Street until I left for school. He originally read the 6:25 newscast after signing on, but because he seldom hit the air on time, I took over the sign-on and newscast until he was ready around 6:35. His Dawn Patrol program went until 7:30 as I recall, then we had Morning Devotions until 7:45. Hal had the Goodman's Furniture Good Morning show. I went to school during rhe CBS Early Morning World Roundup. Returned to work in late afternoon.
Hal Smith 1916-1994
As far as pictures of Pop Martin and the Coys are concerned, I do not have any. A few years ago at the Winter Antiques show in Syracuse, I met a dealer who had Hal's original makeup kit for sale. I recognized it because it had something like Pop Martin printed on the outside valise. I asked him how he found it and as I recall he said he got it from an estate sale in Clinton. I can't think of his name but I know he is connected with the County Extension Service.
I tipped off the author John Michaud (who wrote the book about Hal) and told him about the kit. He contacted the dealer who was reluctant to sell or loan it to Michaud. I never heard any more about it.
I met Hal when he returned to WIBX for the 50th Anniversary celebration. He recalled the car incident and the early AM tardiness but others who were there that night (Bowen, Dowdell, Fischer) confirmed Hal was late on many occasions. Dowdell dug out an old OxHart Peanut Butter series of spots Hal had made years ago and played them for Hal. It was actual 16" pressing that was obviously used by many stations.
In Memoriam...January 20, 2008