"The Golden Age of Radio"
(As originally broadcast on WTIC, Hartford, CT)

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Program 76 - July, 1976 - Will Yolen

Will Hyatt Yolen, a native of Connecticut, was a very successful editor, reporter and public relations man for a string of broadcast and print media, including Life magazine. Mr. Yolen wrote many of the outstanding radio shows of the 1930’s including “Gangbusters” and “We the People.”

Gangbusters was created by Phillips H. Lord. It was one of the all-time classics of radio, running for some 21 years (1936-1957) on various networks. Action-packed stories on the apprehension of major criminals, taken from "actual police and FBI files," were presented in semi-documentary style. There was no continuing cast, but Phillips H. Lord  appeared each week as narrator. At the end of each broadcast, a description of one of the nation's most-wanted criminals was presented, and anyone having knowledge of his whereabouts was asked to phone the local police, the FBI, or Gangbusters direct. Over the years, the "most-wanted" feature of the radio Gangbusters resulted in the apprehension of several hundred criminals.

Beginning with a barrage of loud sound effects, like guns firing and tires squealing, this intrusive introduction led to the term "going on like Gangbusters." The show was first heard, with the name G-men, in July 1935, and changed its name to Gangbusters in 1936. It wa presented in close association with then-director J. Edgar Hoover.

Will Yolen was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1908. He was a journalist and radio writer, but his real passion was kite flying. He was featured as the master kiter in Carl L. Biemiller's mostly fiction for young readers, The Kite of Kilauea.

He once kept 178 kites in the air at one time. No one else saw kites quite as Will saw them. Over the years, Yolen handed out over 35,000 membership cards ("Worldwide Friends through Kiteflying") to his kiteflying friends and to anyone who wrote for a card.

Though Will Yolen's book, Young Sportsman's Guide to Kite Flying (1963), contains instructions for making kites, his one deficiency in the opinion of some kiters is his personal disinclination to build kites. When asked about this, his reply is always, "Did Babe Ruth make his own bats?" It's a feisty, much-quoted, Yolenesque remark.

Yet, as Will says, "I never flew a kite until I was 30 years old, right after the war. I had a brother-in-law, Edward Garrick, who was the chief physicist for the old NACA [National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics], now known as NASA. He and Francis Rogallo came up to my house in New York City. I was living at Central Park West at the time. My daughter Jane was about 4 or 5 years old and I'd come back from the war. Then my brother-in-law shows up with this guy Francis Rogallo. He says, `He's the chief of the wind tunnels at Langley Field [VA]. We're working together on a new way of getting down from the stratosphere. He's got a kite here and he wants to know what he can do to make everybody know about it.'

Yolen's career, though marked with controversy, has also seen some very real triumphs. Signal among his acts was his November 2, 1965, arrest for advertising Lindsay for Mayor by kite in Central Park, New York City. On December 8, defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, Yolen was exonerated. Thus freedom of speech celebrated a victory and all the air spaces over New York's parks were opened to kiteflying.

Of equal publicity value for kiting was Yolen's coaching stint in the summer of 1976 as the head of the Yale Kite Team. The New York Times on August 9 of that year said of Yolen:

"`Kite flying is a gentle sport, but the participants have to be tough,' said Mr. Yolen, a taskmaster who insists that his team members forego the fifth martini at lunch during periods of intensive training."

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Program 76 - July, 1976 - Will Yolen

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