Friday, February 4, 2022

Working Jean Shepherd

Jean Parker Shepherd, Jr. (1921-1999), often referred to by the nickname Shep, was an American storyteller, humorist, radio and TV personality, writer, and actor. With a career that spanned decades, Jean was best known for the film A Christmas Story (1983), which he narrated and co-scripted. It was based on stories from his youth, growing up in Hammond, Indiana, in the 1930s.

Perhaps lesser known, Jean was a lifelong radio enthusiast and ham operator. In his middle years, he regaled his nightly WOR-710 radio audience with quirky social commentary, stories of post-depression life, of early radio, and his Army years.

I grew up listening to the Jean Shepherd radio show from about 1960 till 1966 when I went into the service. His show was carried by WOR-710 in New York. It was on every night, Monday to Friday, from 10 PM till 11. I was a kid and lived in the Philadelphia area, only 90 miles from NYC. I would lie in bed cuddled up to a 5 tube superhet and then later a transistor radio. In between I would DX. Wolfman Jack would boom in from the Texas/Mexico border.

I got my ham license in 1963, and Jean's previous night's monolog was always the talk of the high school radio club every day. He was idolized among the young ham radio crowd because Jean was also a ham. His call was K2ORS.

I had the privilege of working Jean on 15 meter SSB one day in the early 1980s. I was out of the service and married and lived in the Denver, Colorado area. My call was W0OHF at the time. The band was seemingly dead. I called CQ and this voice came back: "W0OHF, this is K2ORS". It took a few seconds to register. I hadn't thought of Jean in quite a few years. Could it be??

It indeed was. He was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, enjoying a respite of sorts. He was operating portable from the top floor of a condo building with a short stick vertical clamped to the porch railing. We chatted for 45 minutes.

I related the story of my youth to him and how much his radio shows meant to me as a teenager. And I thanked him for that. It was one of the greatest thrills of my radio-life.

His stories of early radio and Army life set the stage for my own life. He was one of my heroes.

If you remember the famed "brass figlagee with bronze oak-leaf palm" or "watch out for live wires", you know of Jean Shepherd.

In 2005, Shepherd was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

"Excelsior, you fathead!!!", he would exclaim.

Thank you, Shep, for all the wonderful memories.

Bill, WE7W

Jean Shepherd, 1921-1999


yardmaster said...

Ah yes the emperor of NY. Crossed plumber helpers rampant on a field of Brillo pads. He broadcast live from the Limelight theater on Saturday nights. I discovered Jean in about 1965. I even made a pillow speaker out of an old telephone ear piece and a small shoe polish can. Didn't want my mom knowing I was staying up late to listen to his show. He was a great story teller.
When I watched The Christmas Story in the theater I kept laughing before the scene was finished because I knew what was going to happen from listening to the story on the radio. I stopped listening when I went to the main campus of Penn state in late 72. too far from NYC and too much QRM in the dorm. Not to mention the challenge of putting up a SW antenna when I was in a dorm. Only heard him when I went home to eastern PA.
thanks for bringing back my memories of Shep. Flick Lives.


Loved your comments, yardmaster. Long live Shep.


Unknown said...

Really nice story, Bill.
Thanks for sharing it with us!
Michael N6TWX