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A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 5

December 21, 2014

Hour 5 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • Old Time Radio Clip: “The Nativity Play” from The First Nighter Program, a radio anthology series that aired 1930-1953
  • Rev. Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, delivering his annual Christmas message
  • Old Time Radio Clip: “Ave Maria” sung by Perry Como

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 4

December 21, 2014

Hour 4 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • Neil D. Breslin, New York State Senator and Michael Breslin, former Albany County Executive
  • Ernie Tetrault, former news anchor with WRGB
  • Michael McNulty, former U.S. Congressman from NY, his sister Ellen McNulty Ryan, Mayor of Green Island, and their father John J. (Jack) McNulty, former Albany County Sheriff
  • Old Time Radio Clip: From the Bing Crosby Show, December 1942 – Academy Award winning actress Fay Bainter reads Francis P. Church’s 1897 editorial in the New York Sun which contains the famous quote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 3

December 21, 2014

Hour 3 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • Jack McEneny, former NYS Assemblyman
  • Elisa Streeter, news anchor for NEWS10
  • Fred Foy, Radio Hall of Famer and Announcer/Narrator on “The Lone Ranger” radio show

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 2

December 21, 2014

Hour 2 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • NYS Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, serving NY’s 110th Assembly district
  • Jack Aernecke, former news anchor for WRGB (CBS6 Albany)
  • Greg Floyd, news anchor for CBS6 Albany
  • Old Time Radio Clip: Bing Crosby’s classic retelling of the Christmas story, “The Small One” (recorded March 1947)

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

A Very Special Jack Keenan Christmas – Episode 1

December 21, 2014

Hour 1 of the 2008 Jack Keenan Christmas Special – originally aired on December 24/25 2008, on Talk1300, WGDJ-AM, Albany NY. This hour’s guests:

  • Old Time Radio Clip: “Truth or Consequences” starring Ralph Edwards, aired December 20, 1947 on NBC Radio.
  • “Home for the Holidays” by crooner Perry Como (a guest on the 1992 Jack Keenan Christmas Special!)
  • Interview with Susan Arbetter, host/ producer of public radio program “The Capitol Pressroom”, and former host of “New York Now” on WMHT.
  • Interview with Ann Hughes, former Fox23 anchor
  • Old Time Radio Clip: “The Bob Hope Show”, featuring a sidewalk Santa played by Jack Kirkwood (aired Dec 26, 1950)
  • Interview with Julie Chapman, anchor on Time Warner Cable News (formerly Capital News 9)

Presenting this show to you is my tribute to the late Jack Keenan, who passed away in November 2014. He had always hoped his Christmas Special could have aired for that 30th year, and this is my way of honoring his wish. I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).

The Jack Keenan Christmas Special, Now in its 30th Year

December 21, 2014

I’ve decided to use my blog to share a fond holiday memory with you all. I recently posted about my love of traditions, and my experience producing the Jack Keenan Christmas Special on Albany radio was a holiday tradition for me for ten years.

My friend Jack Keenan passed away a short time ago, just before Thanksgiving 2014. I met Jack in 1999, the year I started working as a producer for 810 WGY in Albany, New York. The Jack Keenan Christmas Special was a staple of the Capital Region airways on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for 29 years, the majority of which was spent on 810 WGY in Albany. The final two years of the show, 2008 and 2009, were aired on Talk 1300 WGDJ-AM Albany. The show had hundreds of guests over the years, but only one host. And let’s not forget the show’s one and only announcer for all of those years – Mr. Gil Roy, Albany radio stalwart who has worked more than 50 continuous years in radio.

Mr. Old Time Radio himself, Jack Keenan

Mr. Old Time Radio himself, Jack Keenan

I was lucky enough to produce the Jack Keenan Christmas Special for its last ten years, 2000-2009. My holiday seasons during those years were a frenetic flurry of celebrity interviews (we got to go inside the NYS Governor’s Mansion twice – to meet Gov. George Pataki and another time to meet Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer – see photo at the bottom of this post), late-night editing sessions, and the off-air antics of Jack and Gil. It was never a dull moment in that studio, that’s for sure.

There was one year, 2008 I believe, where we had to make alternate arrangements for the show production: Jack had suffered injuries in an automobile accident, rendering him unable to drive and thus travel to the studio. The guests that Jack had booked, including elected officials, news anchors, and even Bishop Howard Hubbard, made the trip to Jack’s house where I had set up a makeshift recording studio in his dining room. Everyone joined together over several weeks to make it happen, because there was no way the Jack Keenan Christmas Special wasn’t going to air! Jack lived for that show, and I was proud every year to help him make it.

Jack was always grateful to the program directors at WGY and Talk1300 for allowing him into the homes of Capital Region listeners. He enjoyed “reminiscing” with old friends and local celebrities, who always enjoyed sharing their Christmas memories with listeners. 2009 was the last year that the show was able to find a home on Capital Region radio – a 29 year run. Jack always hoped his Christmas Special could get that 30th year on the air, and presenting this show to you here on my blog is my way of honoring his wish.

I will be sharing with you segments from the final two years of the show –  2008 and 2009. The segments are a wonderful mix of local Capital Region celebrities, clips from the Golden Days of Radio, classic holiday music, and lively banter between Jack and Gil. Each hour of the shows will be posted separately, so you are able to listen online or conveniently download episodes to your device using your favorite podcast app or reader. The episodes will be available shortly after this post is published. To subscribe to the podcast feed, please click here.

Click here to download my press release.

I hope you and your family enjoy listening to this show as much as Jack enjoyed making it (and as much as I enjoyed producing it).I’ll end this post in the way that Jack always ended his “Old Time Radio Theater” show on WMHT’s R.I.S.E:

“In the words of Radio Hall of Famer Red Skelton, good night and God bless.”

I’ll miss you, Jack. You were one of a kind.

Our visit to the Executive Mansion in December 2007. From l-r: Margaret Keenan, Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer, Jack Keenan, me (Wendy Voelker)

Our visit to the Executive Mansion in December 2007. From l-r: Margaret Keenan, Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer, Jack Keenan, me (Wendy Voelker)

Holiday Traditions

November 26, 2014

I love traditions.

But the truth is, my adult life has taken me so far away from my family, that maintaining our traditions has been difficult at best. My family seems to be the catch-as-catch-can variety: my sisters and their spouses are usually working on major holidays (please be thankful for your law enforcement officers), so we’ve held Thanksgiving dinners days, and sometimes weeks, after the fact. Christmas sometimes happens after the New Year, and birthdays are mostly relegated to Skype sessions where you get to watch your nephews open the presents that you shipped to them via UPS.

Even when I was a kid, distance separated my immediate family from my mom’s side of the family. My grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles were a three-hour ride north on the NYS Thruway. But we made the trip often.

Not my family. Not even close.

Not my family. Not even close.

On Thanksgiving, Mom and my sisters and I would pile into the car and head up to my grandparents’ house Albany (Dad very rarely joined us; he’s a dairy farmer and his work duties kept him home. A post for another time). The celebrations there usually involved a lot of yelling (Grandpa was quite a yeller), cousins screaming, laughing and running around the house, too many people crowded around a table in the tiny kitchen, Grandma leaving some side dish either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, people talking over each other, food getting spilled on someone, not enough peas to go around (for some reason Grandma opened only one can of Le Sueur peas for 20 people), everyone asking for a flavor of pie that Grandma didn’t have. It was great.

Christmas was an exercise in cramming as much gift-opening as we could into one day. It started bright and early on Christmas Day, with my sister and I (I have two sisters, but the youngest is much younger than I am, and as such does not figure into my early childhood) waking up before dawn to see what Santa brought us. Our bleary-eyed parents consumed large quantities of coffee while Leanne and I feverishly unwrapped pajamas, pink boomboxes, braided headbands, hand-held arcade games, LifeSavers Storybooks, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and whatever else was hot that Christmas season (it was the 80’s – the best time to be a kid). Then we’d head over to grandparents’ house just up the road (Dad’s parents) and open the presents waiting for us there. Those presents were less exciting, and usually consisted of clothes that were the wrong size, maybe some pajamas, and some other stuff I don’t really remember. Though, I do remember one year my Grandma bought me this purple velour jogging suit that was THE BOMB. I’m not even kidding. I loved that thing. Sorry, no pictures.

After that, Mom piled the two of us in the car (after yelling at us that we could only bring ONE NEW TOY EACH with us) and we drove up to Albany to enjoy Christmas of Chaos with that side of the family. The day was a repeat of Thanksgiving – yelling, screaming, eating – with the added bonus of opening gifts. It was a lot of fun, but Leanne and I could hardly wait to get back home and play with the new toys that Mom didn’t let us bring to Albany. Man, she was MEAN. Did I ever tell you about the toys she bought us but never let us play with? That’s a story for my Christmas post.

Anyway, my point is that we don’t really have any traditions anymore. Nothing is consistent. Sometimes we make it home, sometimes we don’t. I really miss having something predictable (even if it’s insane) to look forward to.

For a few years, before we moved to Ohio, Bob and I would have my family over for Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was great – a houseful of people laughing and enjoying each other’s company, plus got to cook a mess of food and share it. There’s practically nothing I love more than that. Even when my brother-in-law rearranges all of the labels I carefully placed in my serving dishes so I know what goes where, and even when my *other* brother-in-law looks at my dish of cinnamon-sugar butter and shouts, “Why is there cat food on the table?” Even then.

But, the last three Thanksgivings Bob and I have had dinner at home by ourselves. It’s nice, but it’s not the raucous holiday of my memories. I hope I can find a way to bring a little more chaos back into Thanksgiving. It’s the missing ingredient.

Wow, this post got away from me. I wanted to post something positive, but I just made myself sad.

Anyway, I hope your Thanksgiving Day is wonderful – filled with food, family, and whatever traditions you hold dear. Me? I’ll be eating turkey, drinking a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and binge-watching Once Upon a Time. I guess you could say I’m starting a new tradition.

Which seems a little better than this:

o-CAMEL-THANKSGIVING-AD-900

“…smoking Camels with my meals and afterwards builds up a sense of digestive well-being.”

 

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