"When history loses urgency, people tend to live at the expense of the future... their better judgement" William Strauss, Neil Howe – Generations, the History of America′s Future
In the summer of 1989, I was visiting the father of a family friend while he was recovering from hip surgery in the hospital. Joe Spitzer had survived the holocaust with a daring escape from the concentration camp by hiding under the discarded clothing of other prisoners. He recounted to me how he had lost his entire family, his wife and children as well as other members of his extended family. I had never heard a first hand account of those horrific times and to know this man through his second family, made me feel the history that I had only known through my history classes in school.
I left the hospital that day not knowing that a seed had been planted in my mind. That seed grew over the next ten years to become what I now know as the initial thought that led to Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow. Over those years I began to realize that so much of our history, culture and daily lives are never shared with our future generations. It wasn′t until on a trip back to Hot Springs, Arkansas from Dallas that the ideas floating in my mind for ten years began to crystallize into what is now the only radio program anywhere in the country dedicated to the preservation of comparative generational thought. It takes about five hours to make the drive from Dallas to Hot Springs and I really don′t remember anything I saw while driving. It′s amazing that I didn′t end up in Cleveland!
Being a life-long listener to public radio, I knew that this was the only venue that would provide the proper atmosphere for the program. I also knew that I was not a radio professional and had only limited exposure to on-air experience. However, I also knew that I could do it... if I prepared the program properly. I guess being a little older at the time, I realized that I had better practice my pitch a little bit. I decided to approach several commercial station programmers with the idea, hoping that I would be able to learn from my mistakes, but not be so good as to be accepted by them. Isn′t that a little crazy? My motivation was to be able to sell the idea to public radio and I didn′t want to mess it up.
I contacted Ben Fry at KUAR Public Radio in Little Rock and briefly told him about the concept. At the time the station did not have a Program Director and Ben told me to wait a few months till they had filled the position. When Ron Breeding was hired, I was given the opportunity to make my presentation. One of the major goals Ron Breeding had for the station was to introduce new local programming ideas to the station format. I have thought many times since how patience and fate intersected at the time of my presentation. Both Ron and Ben liked the idea and Ron suggested that we go ahead and prepare a program trial.
Our first program aired February 2nd, 2001 and the topic was Parenting. It was taped at Stella Boyle Auditorium on the UALR campus before a very meager crowd. We had thought that it might be a great way to begin the program. Obviously, that was not the way to go. We decided to do the program quarterly at our Stabler Hall studio and that only lasted one quarter before we decided to move to a bi-monthly schedule.
We are now ready to begin our eighth year on the air with over 138 unique topics and over 400 individual guests. Many of our guests have been national figures in politics, science, history and many more fields. Most of our guests are regular people with very unique perspectives on the topics. None of my guests have ever spoken FOR their generations, only FROM their generational perspective.
Our first program was taped on a reel to reel cassette machine and I really don′t know who edited it, but it was about an hour-long program. Ron Breeding gave me one of the best suggestions to date for the program. He said that we needed to make it a half hour long in order to keep it hot for listeners who only had a short time to listen. That was a great move forward for the program. Our first few years were recorded at Stabler Hall in a very cramped studio. I recorded the programs and stayed there editing till the program was ready. That usually took about an hour or two to accomplish.
Now we are in a whole new world and it is great. Our new studio is beautiful and spacious. With technical advances, I now record well over an hour with my guests. I FTP the file to my home in Hot Springs where I can take my time and edit the program. I then FTP the file back to KUAR and William Wagner sets it up in the master computer for airing. It′s a snap, except when I accidentally delete a program! I have done that twice and both times I had to re-record my guests. What a bummer! My other big mistakes have been related to my own carelessness, or goofs, or, as I like to think, my ever increasing "senior moments". Whatever the cause, it isn′t as bad now because I always have a master backup and the most I lose is time. If you have ever accidentally deleted a file after hours of work, you know exactly what I mean.
The program is formatted as a half hour version for airing the first and third Tuesdays each month on KUAR. I also format an hour long version that is posted on PRX, which is Public Radio Exchange, where other stations can access the programs. And finally, I post a Podcast on our site as well as many others. The Podcast is the first clean edit of all that we record. Sometimes it is very long and I use it to glean the most relevant portions of our discussion for the half hour version. Many listeners only have a short amount of time available. The Podcast gives those who are very interested in a particular topic the options to download the much longer version as a matter of convenience. This has been a great new tool.
I look forward to every program we do and I am very excited about the future. I have always thought of myself as another Dave Garaway. Do you remember who he was? Dave Garaway was the first host of the TODAY show. He would walk around the studio with a long stick microphone around his neck with what looked like a clothes hanger as a support. It was so funny looking, but it was the start of something that is still important. I seldom mention my name because that is not important. I am, as Dave was, hopefully the first of many hosts to come.
Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow is a very important and necessary program for public radio′s future. It is the only program where older generations can share their thoughts with middle and younger generations. In all these years and with all the topics we have done, no topic has been repeated.
Every generation seems to be born and have a cohort group that extends for approximately 18 to 22 years before the next generation comes along. If we can manage to keep the program on the air for 20 years or so, we could actually start the topics all over with each generation moving up on category. I have often thought that it would be so wonderful if this program had begun many generations ago. Can you imagine the comparative thoughts Civil War era or WWI era guests would have had on the topics we cover today? For example, just the topic of Technology would be so illuminating to hear from someone born around 1850, in light of what we know now. Just imagine how that same topic will sound 100 years from now, when all of us are mostly gone. That is why Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow is an important radio program. Not for Yesterday, not for Today, but for Tomorrow.
I hope you enjoy the programs.
Phil Mariage – Creator, Producer and first host