The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 17, 2014

Teenage media men

During WWII, cities needed radio and newspaper men, but found few, because most of the men were off fighting the Second World War. Women were going into some jobs, such as railroad work, but this had not yet occurred with the media in big numbers.

So, management sought out another source...teenage boys.

When Morgan Sexton came to Clinton and set up Radio Station KROS, their first big story, literally, was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, he was losing his men. Yes, Darlene Gordon had been hired, but they were thinking then of male on-air voices. Hank Dihlmann was soon off to join the military, and replacements were hard to find.

Sexton had an idea. He asked to sit in on Clinton High School classes, including drama. He was looking for male voices that had “changed” and, especially, for boys who could read orally under pressure. Among others, he found young Richard Husmann, (now an 86-year-old retired aeronautical engineer currently residing in Anaheim, Calif.), who was but a student enrolled in a CHS drama class at the time. Dick was found to have the prerequisite skills.

Young Dick Husmann soon found himself tearing tickertape news stories off the wire and, having scarcely read the text beforehand, would sit in the station booth broadcasting tremendous war and news stories from around the world, immediately and live on the air. These news stories had thousands of Clinton County residents sitting on the edge of their seats each day, waiting for any additional word from the warfront. Sometimes the boys didn’t even know where the Philippines or other places were as they read the news and the audience scarcely was aware of the youth delivering the news.

Imagine the experience that a sharp, young student newsman might attain during those exciting times. Husmann didn’t just read news; he also worked at the Clinton Herald, having been a newspaper boy for several years. At both venues, Dick and other teenagers were doing jobs they’d never before dreamed of doing — nor have those jobs been done by teenagers since those amazing days. Needless to say, those young people had extremely wonderful “on-the-job training” and they performed, first adequately, and then extremely well, during those difficult times. One time, Dick said he was even pressed into service running the Herald’s switchboard… despite the fact that he’d hardly ever seen, let alone touched one.

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