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Introduction: Return of the Colonel! by Richard D. Squires

            When I was about 11 years old, my mom and dad gave me a small reel-to-reel tape recorder.  One of the first uses I found for it was to record the sound off the TV of all the Vincent Price movies that came along on the CBS Late Movie.  I’d then listen to the tapes before I went to sleep and during long trips in the car.  There was no picture, home video was just a dream at that time, just the soundtrack.  I’d close my eyes and remember the images from the films as I listened to the dialogue, music and sound effects.  Many times, years later when I had occasion to see some of these movies again, I was often disappointed;  the images I’d created in my mind’s eye over the years while listening to those tapes were better than the real thing.  Such is the power of the imagination;  such is the power of radio.

            In these final few years of this Twentieth Century, as we see today’s technologies rendered antique by tomorrow’s constant advances, I wonder if we can possibly appreciate the impact the medium of radio had on this country during the 1920’s and 30’s.  In the 1920’s, there was live theatre and silent motion pictures.  The former entertained through sight, sound and drama, but little true spectacle, while the latter gave audiences spectacle but no sound.  Radio was the perfect combination.  Its manipulation of the listeners’ imagination could provide both voice and spectacle -- and all within the walls of one’s own home.  Radio could be grand and epic or quiet and intimate.  A single person standing alone before a microphone in some studio could become a listener’s best friend, a virtual family member.  People trusted their radio friends, buying the brands of products they advertised and sharing a chuckle or tear with them.  And when an entertainer came along who had that pleasing combination of talent, humility and personality, they could become a national household word.

            Among those who became part of America’s collective family through the medium of the radio are Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, Rudy Vallee, Kate Smith, Lowell Thomas, Arthur Godfrey and George Burns and Gracie Allen.  These and many others endured for many years, remembered even today because most were able to make a successful transition to films and even television.  Sadly, there are just as many radio stars who were also wildly popular and yet, for various reasons, never bridged over to the newer media.  These names are fading rapidly from the national consciousness, even though the quality of their talents were such that it should have ensured some measure of immortality on their own merits.

            This book came about in a singularly unique way.  Following the publication of my book Stern Fathers ‘Neath the Mould: The Lovecraft Family in Rochester (West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1995), which detailed the immediate ancestry of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, I received a very kind letter from New York City attorney Taylor Briggs saying that he, too, was a descendant of one of the subjects of the book.  He also noted that his uncle, F. Chase Taylor, had been well known in his own right as a radio comedian known as ‘Colonel Stoopnagle.’  What’s more, Mr. Briggs said that Taylor’s son, F. Chase Taylor, Jr., lived here in Rochester!  I wrote to Mr. Taylor, asking if he’d be willing to talk about his father for a possible article.  We met for lunch and enjoyed a very pleasant conversation, after which Mr. Taylor astonished me by bringing out of his car a large box filled with scrapbooks, photographs and other memorabilia kept by his father.  These scrapbooks contain articles, drawings, reviews, letters, telegrams and other items spanning virtually the entire length of Taylor’s life, from his Navy discharge certificate to his obituaries.  I soon realized that there was enough material for many articles -- perhaps even a book.  And after reading the contents of those scrapbooks I realized that the subject of such a book would be a worthy one.  Sadly, I've been unable to interest a publisher in such a project, so -- for the time being -- this website will have to suffice!

            I only hope that through my efforts I have been able to restore in some degree the name of Colonel Stoopnagle to the national consciousness.  His story is remarkable, and his talents worth celebrating.  In so many ways, his surrealistic, oddball humor has many echoes in the today’s comedy.  For this reason alone F. Chase Taylor’s story should be told, during this centenary of his birth.

 Summer 1997

 

This site is dedicated, with love, to my mother,

Helena Bell Squires

(1934 - 1997)

She loved to laugh.

 

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Page created November 15, 2006.  Copyright 1998-2006 by Richard D. Squires.