In 1966, Roger Garis wrote a book about his memories of growing up with his father, Howard Garis, an author best known for the Uncle Wiggily children's stories. (Howard Garis was a prolific writer who, among hundreds of other books, wrote the first thirty-five "Tom Swift" volumes, under the pseudonym of "Victor Appleton"). This extract is an account of an event which took place in 1912, when Roger Garis was about nine years old, and he was thrilled to hear one of his father's Uncle Wiggily stories being read over the Telephone Herald, originating in Newark, New Jersey.
Howard Garis would go on to write an original series of Trippertrot stories for the Telephone Herald. In addition, Uncle Wiggily stories, some of which are still being reprinted today, would later appear in two other audio formats. Beginning about ten years later over WJZ in Newark, Howard Garis made numerous radio appearances to read his stories on the air. Also, some of the stories have been available on audio tape.
My Father Was Uncle Wiggily, Roger Garis, 1966, pages 90-92:
The origination of Uncle Wiggily came about through the help of Edward M. Scudder, owner and publisher of the Newark Evening News. He knew of the books my father had written, and wanted him to do some stories for children which could be published in the News. So my father wrote a batch of stories about the adventures of Uncle Wiggily, bringing in other animal characters. He brought the stories to Mr. Scudder, and the publisher loved them. The first one was published in The Newark News of January 30, 1910. Scudder said he wanted my father to continue writing them, so they'd appear each day.
I don't recall just when Uncle Wiggily began to be popular--I was too young. But an incident occurred which does much to explain about Uncle Wiggily--and about us.
Around 1912 someone invented a device which was similar to a telephone, except it had no transmitter; it was simply a receiver, which was hung on the wall, and which during certain hours emitted news and other items. We subscribed to the service--I don't know how much it cost--and it was a great thrill to pick up the small receiver and hear a voice telling about world events. I don't know where the broadcasts, if you can call them that, originated--I suppose in some central office in New York; and they must have been sent out over the telephone wires. I'm not sure, either, whether entertainment, such as singing, was furnished.
But I do remember one broadcast which we heard, and it changed things in our household drastically. And it started with that little telephonic receiver, hung on the wall in our living room.
It was such a novelty that I could scarcely wait to get home from school and listen to it. It fascinated me. I would listen as long as it was operative, or until I was called to do my homework.
One afternoon, as I sat curled in a chair with the receiver tight against my ear, while both Mother and Father were upstairs, working--I could hear my father's typewriter clicking away, but I couldn't hear Mother, since she used a pen--I was startled by a voice saying:
"Uncle Wiggily Longears, the rabbit gentleman, and Sammie Littletail, the rabbit boy, were walking along in the country woods on Candy Island in the middle of Sugar Lake, where they had been camping for some time."
I dropped the receiver. "Dad!" I called. "They're telling an Uncle Wiggily adventure on the telephone receiver!"
I don't think I said "telephone receiver"--it probably had a special name, which I don't recall. But my father heard me, and stopped typing. He hurried downstairs.
"What was that?" he demanded.
I told him. He grabbed the receiver out of my hand and clapped it to his ear. I saw his face light up.
"They are!" my father exclaimed. "They're telling the story of Uncle Wiggily and the Pinching Bug! They're telling an Uncle Wiggily adventure!" He lowered the receiver. "Lily!" he roared. (And he could roar.) "Lily, come down here and listen to an Uncle Wiggily story over the receiver!"
My mother appeared at the top of the stairs. She may have been deep in whatever book she was writing at that time, because she didn't seem very thrilled.
"What was that, Howard?" she asked calmly.
"Come down here, I tell you! They're broadcasting an Uncle Wiggily story!"
I know my father didn't say "broadcasting." I don't know what word he used, but my mother understood, and came down. With a look of pride as shining as a birthday cake with all the candles lit my father handed her the receiver.
She put it to her ear and listened. I saw no change in her expression.
"Well, do you hear it?" my father demanded impatiently.
"Yes, I hear it," my mother said.
"Isn't it wonderful? Why don't you say something?" "I think it's very interesting," my mother said. "I have to get back to my work now. I'm in the middle of a chapter."
She turned to go. "Good God, woman," my father sputtered, "here you are present at what might well be an historical moment, and all you can say is that you're in the middle of a chapter!"
She continued on upstairs. My father stared after her, his face florid.
"Well, of all the--of all the--" he muttered, when I thought it was time to intervene.
"I think it's terrific that they're reading an Uncle Wiggily story, Dad!" I exclaimed. "Can I listen to it?"
My father handed me the receiver morosely. All the stimulation over this great achievement was gone. He followed my mother upstairs, murmuring to himself. Pretty soon I heard his typewriter going again. At any rate, I thought, he's not taking it too hard.