Monday, September 02, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2509, September 2nd, 2013


Father Tom Carten with WRKC Manager Sue Henry. (Photo: Sue Henry Facebook).  
Father Carten at the 35th anniversary party with two of his "regular" readers, Joe and Lillian Caffrey. Joe's dulcet tones could be heard on the RHV up to the very end. (Photo: LuLac archives). 
King's College Alumni who worked with Father Carten always returned for either a reunion or as adults to read on the show. L.A. Tarone (left) served as News Director of the station in the 80s and was highly supportive of the RHV mission, Shivaun O'Donnell (center) started her broadcast and voice over career reading on the Visitor and Pat Fadden (right) was one of the first readers on the show. Pat's three daughters also read on the show giving the RHV a secondary generation of family members. (Photo: LuLac archives). 
The RHV got the unqualified support of the King's College students in the 70s when Father Tom went on retreat or back to New England to visit his mom in the summertime. And the early days of the show  were not without notice from the local news media. Here Jim Gibson controls the board while readers, from  left to right, your blog editor (and yes sadly I wore those shirts in the 70s!), Frank Chebalo later to become the General Manager of WNEP TV, Bob Manfre, then the station manager who made it a requirement that before anyone got a radio show, they needed to put time in on the Visitor and enjoy it and Jill Uskrait Wollett who went on to WILK and then later owned a radio station  in Jersey Shore,  Pennsylvania with her late husband. (Photo: LuLac archives). 
Father Tom doing his last broadcast. (Photo: Sue Henry Facebook page).


As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you can miss it”.
For anyone who has been around the local scene for the past 4 decades and is familiar with broadcasting, one of the marvels of this area was the Radio Home Visitor. The RHV as we called it was one of the finest reading services for the blind in the United States of America. It was started forty years ago by then Brother Tom Carten. Carten was an adult student at King’s completing his education on his way to the Priesthood. Carten had worked in a helicopter factory in his native New England, wrote columns for local newspapers up there and worked at WALE, a notable station in his home area.
Carten came to Student management at WRKC FM with an idea. He wanted to put on a reading service for the blind or visually impaired. Carten presented a two fold plan, to have the daily broadcast air seven days a week from 10am to 11 with a replay immediately after at 11am. While the show’s concept was good, no one had ever heard of an instant replay. (Years later, TV Cable networks would do it all the time!) But Carten said that it would give listeners a chance to hear it again just in case they missed something. After all he reasoned, a blind person can certainly turn a page and not see anything but if they paid attention, they could hear it if repeated. I mean how could they argue with that logic? Carten also said it would be a good training ground for those students who had never been on the radio and cut down on their mike freight. Or for people like me who were already so full of themselves because we were already on the radio, it would refine our somewhat limited skills.
The show was simple in its product. Carten would select articles from the local newspaper, painstakingly put them on paper (looseleaf) with scotch tape and hand them out to student readers.
The show flew by in that first recorded hour. When her had to fill for time, he played a little ragtime music. Just as the years flew by, so did Father Tom’s broadcast commitment (he had become a priest a year later) by first putting his programs on reel to reel, then cassette, then cds, then mp3 and finally on a broadcast computer disc. The program spanned the technology of radio but one rule held fast with Father Tom, “Always behave in a radio studio as if the mike was live” and “Always show up” which he has done with few exceptions for four decades.
Through the years I had the opportunity to read on the Radio Home Visitor as did thousands of King’s students. Hundreds would later go on to broadcast careers thanks in no small part to the RHV on 88.5FM.
Father Tom also played a role in the King’s College religious community saying Masses and coming to wakes of alumni’s families. When he came to my dad’s wake, it was a great comfort to my mother still in shock over my dad’s sudden death. He’d think nothing of calling your name out when he was giving a homily at St. John the Baptist Slovak Church in Exeter, (another ethnic church shut down by the Diocese) at the Saturday night 6:30PM Mass. He’d saunter down the alter, make himself comfortable in the third pew and sit on the edge of the front of it as he gave his spiritual, common sense, down home homilies. That Mass was referred to by some as “The Prairie Home Companion” service.
Carten also penned a few articles under a pseudonym for the Citizen’s Voice. His last one under the pen name Jan Souther ran this past Sunday.
Father Tom Carten was loyal and predictable to a fault. He used one newspaper through the years, one pizza joint to have his 5 year celebrations for the program and the same, easy going predictable voice and style that thousands relied on through the years.
Those years though have now come to an end due to a reassignment by the Holy Cross Fathers to a retirement health care facility in Indiana due to health concerns. I’m sure the Radio Home Visitor will continue in some manifestation in the days and years to come but with all due respect, it will never be the same.
When asked shortly after he began this journey in broadcast history “How long did he plan to keep the show on?”, his reply was simple, “Until we get it right”.
My friend, you got it right a long, long time ago. Thanks for all you did and thanks for all you gave us to further our lives, careers and goals. Now it’s time to pot down your program and fill what will hopefully be more than a little time with some ragtime.


At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No more professor?

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article supports the belief that there are in fact still a few good men out there even in this day and age. Unfortunately it appears we just lost one.
Very nice tribute. Its something you do well but sadly too often.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great piece recognizing Fr Tom and the RHV. The longevity of the RHV are a tribute to his dedication and commitment. It was always an enjoyable and learning experience to read on the program. I hope King's realizes importance and impact and positive reflection the RHV has had for 40 years.

Pat Fadden

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 11:38 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...


At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad you weren't watching hell's kitchen...


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