Sunday, December 19, 2010

Truth or Consequences' Hubert C Smith - An Unexpected Christmas Radio Classic

Today Sirius/XM's Radio Classics channel ran the December 20, 1947 broadcast of Truth or Consequences radio program featuring Hubert C. Smith, a paralyzed U.S. Navy veteran who was recovering at the Long Beach Naval Hospital in California at the time of the live broadcast near Christmas.

Radio's Truth or Consequences set up a minor technical extravaganza complete with links between the radio studio and live audience, the Long Beach Hospital where Hubert was a patient, and many of his hometown friends in Greeneville, Tennessee. This was a multi-location, live broadcast which ran flawlessly during the show's time constraints and advertising breaks - with Hubert's comments being unscripted.

Show host, Ralph Edwards picked out Hubert to answer a question in the format of Truth or Consequences. This was the means to secretly involve Hubert in a radio reunion with friends and family in Tennessee including teachers, store owners and clergy. As a surprise to Hubert (who preferred to be called H.C.) and the audience, he was reunited with his parents and girlfriend, Lyla as they appeared at the hospital on-air. Edwards guided the show to a close and thanked H.C., the various on-air participants and the radio engineers and production staff who must have spent an incredible amount of time to pull off this broadcast.

Radio Classics host, Greg Bell commented after the airing today that so many people have asked about the outcome of Hubert and Lyla. Greg reported that Hubert left the hospital paralyzed, he went to college, bought a farm and eventually married Lyla. H.C. died in 2006. He left an endowment to Greeneville's Tusculum College for scholarships:

"THE HUBERT C. SMITH, JR. '53 ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP FUND was established in 2008 through the estate of Hubert C. Smith, Jr. '53. Mr. Smith was a lifelong supporter of his Alma Mater, which he attended after serving in the U.S. Navy and suffering a serious injury that limited his mobility for the remainder of his life. However, that injury did not hinder him from having an active life and operating a successful farm. Scholarship preference will be given to able and deserving students."

Today was the first time that I ever heard this particular broadcast, let alone even knew of the storyline. While the show's dialogue and music seem a bit sugary by current standards, this broadcast is worthy of any Christmas classic collection. The Hubert C. Smith episode can be purchased on CD as part of various old time radio broadcasts or heard seasonally on Sirius/XM and other radio stations. Search for it - you will not be disappointed. Know that.

12/10/2011 UPDATE: Here is a link to the Truth or Consequences Hubert C. Smith radio broadcast and a 1988 interview with him. Have fun.