At this point, we hams who most fondly remember this sidekick di tutti sidekicks, Andy Devine, AKA “Jingles,” “Cookie” and WB6RER are, like “Petticoat Junction's Uncle Joe, movin’ kinda slower.
Andy’s been SK since 1977. I’m not certain when he started and stopped playing radio, but I’ve read he was also a big CB buff and given the WB6 prefix, I’m guessing gabbing on the hobby bands began as the retirement pastime of a wonderful character actor who never seemed to want for work in golden age Hollywood movies, moving right along to frequent roles and appearances on national radio and TV into the 1960s.
Love this. The image appears here with generous permission from QSL collector extraordinaire Tom Roscoe, K8CX. Oh yeah. Visit www.hamgallery.com and I’m warning you, better pack a lunch. Tom’s collection is staggering. MNY TNX OM!
Far as Andy Devine’s QSL card, what a keeper huh?
His elegantly simple, spot-on, loose-but together sketch portrait captures what might be Easy Andy’s presumably more subtle off-hours bonhomie. Well done! Wish I could identify the artist. Given Devine’s long career in big time entertainment, I’m sure he had plenty of connections to top artistic talent.
I don’t think I was aware that Andy Devine was a ham until after he died. But it figures like crazy, whether he picked up the radio hobby in retirement, or fooled around with it since he was a kid.
To me, Andy Devine is the essence of ham radio.
Perhaps you’re old enough to remember all those funny AM radio voices, holding forth in the great coast-to-coast Algonquin Roundtable Bar (huh?!) that once was 1960s AM phone. I never heard WB6RER. But I did hear plenty of other marvelous character actors, including some Foghorn Leghorns, and other more laconic oily cattle baron types.
I pictured bemused J.R. Ewing-esque big-ticket cowpokes gazing out Dynasty-style ranch windows overlooking wide-open spaces of grazing dogies and rhombic antenna farms. For some reason, that pleased a kid sitting in his basement in upstate New York. Why? Couldn't tell ya. I pictured a passel of characters in my mind’s eye through the glowing slit dials of my Depression era Hammarlund Super Pro receiver.
Andy Devine was also a pilot and owned a flying school so they say, which goes right along with ham radio, same as ham/entertainer/aviator Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB, and jet pilot/ham/Senator Barry Goldwater, K7UGA. Say who? Whaaat?
Yeah, fewer and fewer of you Protest Kids know who or what I’m talking about, or even catch the dadgum Lou Reed reference, by gee.
But if you do, get this.
For me, ham radio mysteriously weaves my total ju-ju gris-gris favorite things into an admittedly crazy quilt – of rich chocolatey Ovaltine drink mix, chrome yellow Sugar Pops breakfast cereal, 813 finals and 866 mercury-vapor rectifiers.
Oh there’s more, much much more. And it’s all connected, connected I tell you! And QSL cards are the sacred iconography of this ancient Great Attractor!
Another ham hero of mine, humorist/monologist/A Christmas Story screenwriter Jean Shepherd SK K2ORS used Ovaltine as a touchstone throughout his work. No surprise then, ham actor Andy Devine SK WB6RER heavily endorsed Kellogg’s Sugar Corn Pops and hooked me for life. And that bring us to one last Andy thing that might well resonate with aging whippersnappers who at least remember David Lynch movies.
Above all, WB6RER’s finest half-hour was Andy’s Gang, a Saturday morning children’s TV show every bit as strange as Eraserhead.
Trust me, it was that nuts. Andy's darkly surrealist sideshow exponentially out-weirds Pee Wee's Playhouse beyond Paul Ruebens' mildest dreams.
If you don’t know Andy’s Gang, I’m telling you.
Between Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee, when you grow up glued to an idiot box stuffed with flopping grotesques, nothing much fazes you. Still, even then, we grammar school cognoscenti sensed Andy’s Gang was a little different, a portal to The Other – the Very Other, sponsored by perhaps the biggest Other of them all, Buster Brown Shoes. "Buster Who?" I asked my mom back then. I knew the shoes, natch, a common brand. But the kid and dog mascots were utterly baffling. Huh? Who the HELL thought they were cool? Even my mom, who grew up in the 30s, was pretty fuzzy about the origins of Buster Brown, a popular comic strip created by legendary cartoonist Richard Outcault. Legendary, you know, like Beowulf.
Have a look. Look for more. And just keep reminding yourself, this second banana to a rubber squeaky frog was a ham, baby!
Uh-huh. HAM, just like you and me.
Watcha gonna do, huh? Like good old Andy always said, everybody's gotta have a gang.