Young Virgil Torrence at the lighting control board in the "new" Studio 1. About 1955.

*  *  *

Could you have guessed?

Dolly Holiday, host of the midnight-to-5 slot on WBT in the '80s (sponsored by Holiday Inn), was not her real name.

Nor was sexy-sounding Dolly Abbot a "Spring chicken," as they say. In 1955 (!) she was the Gen. Mgr. of an all-girl station in Memphis, WHER.

Now you know.

People | Alan Newcomb

Nazis Twice Potted B-17 Pilot Newcomb

By JIM BABB

The Newcombs, with Robin and Nancy-Ann

One automatically pins the title of "Mr. Versatile" on Alan Newcomb, WBTV's "Man Around The House."

Alan is a philosopher, author, lecturer, humorist, television announcer, family man, and genial host to thousands of Carolina women on his thrice weekly "Man Around The House" program.

Over 4,000 have appeared on television as Alan's guests since the program's inception.

He is the son of a professional lecturer and humorist and actually, he says, "my mother and sister were active in the theater and my brother is the manager of a radio station."

"I decided that I would like to get into either radio or lecturing, when I was still in high school. I majored in speech and dramatics at Ohio Wesleyan University."

Following his graduation from Ohio Wesleyan in 1942, he entered the Air Force. As a B-17 pilot with the 8th Air Force, he was shot down twice and captured the second time by the Germans.

Never one to let opportunity slip through his fingers, he kept a complete diary of events during his imprisonment on tissue paper — and upon his return to civilian life this diary became a book, "Vacation With Pay," which was on the bestseller list in 1947.

Alan started his announcing career in 1946 at Asheville, after a semester of post-graduate work, and what is more important, his marriage to his pretty wife, Jeanne.

He later moved to Columbia and Greenville, S. C., before coming to Charlotte and WBTV. Since 1946 be has made over 600 talks before civic groups, business organizations and charity events. His most popular topic, "The Psychology of Laughter."

Alan is emcee of the musical "Nocturne" show and does the late night "Weatherman" show, in addition to his "Man Around The House" program every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1 o'clock.

He now spends most of his free time at home with Jeanne and their two children, seven-year-old Robin and six-months-old Nancy Ann.

Being the "man around his own home" is the role that Alan enjoys best. Here you find Alan--the husband, the father, the actor, and the "chore-dodger."

Actually, he built his own hi-fi set and recently rebuilt their garage into a room for Robin.

"Jeanne," he said, "Is the real boss though. She has complete charge of running the household and she does such a wonderful job that I just don't interfere."

Note the name of the writer of this article: Jim Babb. Few remember that Jim, before his ascension through the ranks to the highest levels of management, was a scribbler in the WBTV Promotion Department. That was his first job, from Jan. 1956 until Jan. 1959, then became an account executive (salesman) for WBT Radio.

The clipping, likely from the Charlotte News, date unknown, was provided by Jim Furr.

The Charlotte News, Friday, October 21, 1966

Alan Newcomb, 45, Dies in Chicago

Alan Newcomb, public affairs director for WBT-WBTV here, died early today in a Chicago hospital of respiratory failure after surgery for a ruptured appendix.

Mr. Newcomb, 45, had been to Chicago to address the American Photo-Engravers National Convention. He collapsed at O'Hare Airport Wednesday while awaiting a plane to return to Charlotte. He lived in Matthews.

Mr. Newcomb, who had been active in radio and television in the Carolinas for 20 years, was with WBT for 15 years and had been public affairs director since 1962.

He was born in Cleveland, and was a 1942 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University. He served in the U. S. Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot in Europe during World War II. He was shot down twice and spent eight months in a German prisoner of war camp.

Mr. Newcomb was a man of tireless energy and spent many hours preparing his radio and television programs each week.

One of his best known television shows was "Land of the Free" which extolled the American way of life. His new TV show "This Day and Time", a current events discussion made its debut on WBTV last week.

Mr. Newcomb was the voice of "Editorial Opinion" which was broadcast on both WBT and WBTV. Many of the opinions he delivered he wrote himself.

Wallace J. Jorgenson, vice-president and assistant general manager of Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Co. which operates the two stations, said, "Alan's passing is not only a tremendous company and personal loss, but a loss as well to the people of Charlotte and the Carolinas. Working side by side with him has been a rich and rewarding experience for me personally and professionally."

"He was one of those rare individuals who possess many and varied talents. He had a quick mind, sound judgment and amazing perception, We will never be able to replace him in kind."

Thomas B. Cookerly, managing director of this station, said, "I don't know of anyone in broadcasting who was more respected professionally or well liked personally or well liked personally. He was one of the most brilliant and at the same time one of the warmest and most unaffected men I have ever known.

WTBV is planning a memorial program to be run during the evening hours one night next week.

During his years with WBT, Mr. Newcomb produced a nationally, syndicated radio show, "Radio Moscow," a commentary on Soviet propaganda which won him three national awards, including the Broadcast Journalism Award from Sigma Delta Chi professional journalism fraternity.

He served as a member of the Governor's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility and Compulsory Insurance Commission.

He was a member of the advisory board for Charlotte's education television station and taught a 200-member men's Bible class at First Methodist Church and was an active lay leader in the church.

He also was vice president of the Charlotte Executives Club.

James G. White, treasurer and business manager of the First Methodist Church, said, "No one had a bad thing to say about Alan Newcomb. The members of the J. Wilson Smith Bible Class worshiped him. He was always doing something for somebody."

"We won't be able to replace him here. We'll miss him very much."

George Ivey, Jr. president of the Charlotte Executives Club, said he had worked with Alan for two years.

"He was the club secretary when I was vice-president and he would have been president next year. He was a very efficient man, and a real great guy. I am greatly distressed to learn of his death."

Mr. Newcomb was in great demand as a public speaker. Local as well as out-of-state organizations frequently called on his services.

In one of the best-known speeches he urged his listeners to take the "happy road in life and look at things on the cheerful side rather than accenting the frustrations and disappointments."

In August, the Newcomb "Patchwork Farm" home in Matthews was feathered in the fall-winter edition at Home and Garden Remodeling Guide. Mr Newcomb and members of his family did most of the remodeling work and added a patio.

Mr. Newcomb is survived by his wife, the former Jeanne Lilly and two children, Nancy, 10 and Robert, 17. He is survived also by his mother, Mrs. Bertha Newcomb: and a sister, Mrs. Charles Rice, all of Candler.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

 

Reprinted with permission by The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

An Editorial In The Charlotte Observer

Alan Newcomb: A Reasonable Man

A lot of people had the wrong idea about Alan Newcomb. They thought he was an arch-conservative. He wasn't, and he disliked the label, but his job at WBTV left a strong impression of personal conservatism. He broadcast editorials he didn't always agree with.

On one day Harry Golden would write Newcomb to dissent from an opinion he broadcast. But members of the John Birch Society also wrote dissenting letters. Alan Newcomb got it both ways.

This didn't bother him — not that he was callous; far from it. Listening to people was among Newcomb's many talents, and he would talk endlessly with people who wanted to air their minds. This habit made him late to appointments, a failing his secretary had to keep chiding him about.

But it takes times to reason with people, and Alan Newcomb never did anything but reason, patiently, logically, without heat. He had a terrible concern. After eight months as a prisoner of the Germans during World , War II, he wrote a book about his prison experiences, and concluded it:

"Instead of searching and striving for new luxuries and new amusements, Americans had better resolve to turn their creative ability and their rich resources to making this whole world a place wherein the peace we want can settle permanently."

That was written 20 years ago. Since then you would hardly have thought of Alan Newcomb as striving for new luxuries and amusements. He was too concerned — about, communism, about the preservation of democracy, about "creeping socialism," about political extremes both left and right.

He had no use for glossy superficiali­ties. He remodeled an old farmhouse most people would have torn down, and lived in it. He drove a series of used cars, sometimes as many as half a dozen in a year.

Some people thought he was some kind of intellectual super-patriot. Intellectual he was, but not without humor (some of his speeches were quite funny), and certainly not to extremes. His patriotism was not ranting and glassy-eyed, but articulate and studied.

Extremists lose their tempers and bellow, Newcomb never lost his temper. and always reasoned. On occasion, he changed the entire collective mind of WBTV's seven-man editorial board. He had no artifice, no atmosphere of ulterior purpose.

A few months ago Alan Newcomb filled out a background form for Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Co. One question on the form asked for "Your philosophy of life. This is difficult, obviously.."

"Difficult — it's absurd," Newcomb replied. "I believe that feeding, clothing, housing and transporting the physical being is incidental to the purpose of life, and far too much attention is paid to outward existence. Whatever human beings we are brought into contact with are our main responsibility, for our mutual growth and maturing, whether it happens through positive or negative influences between us. The ultimate or spiritual signifi­cance of existence is to learn a completely voluntary and willing surrender of our will to that of God, not as a theological or ecclesiastical character, but as a literal spiritual father of superior understanding and knowledge to our own."

When Alan Newcomb died last Friday, hard-driving an unfortunately frail frame, it was ironic that such a legacy of reason, conceived by a man who spoke so often and so persuasively in public, should be found buried in a file cabinet.

Reprinted with permission by The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

Vacation With Pay

In the fall of 1944, on his seventh mission over Germany, co-pilot Lt. Alan Newcomb and his crew bailed out of their burning B-17. Alan became a prisoner and was transported to Stalag Luft 1, on the Baltic coast. The Stalag was one of the German's largest Air Force officer detention camps, run by the Luftwaffe, containing upwards of 90,000 captured airmen from several countries. (Enlisted men were held in separate camps.) He was held there until the camp was liberated by Russian soldiers in May, 1945.

The book - front and back

Alan kept a careful and accurate account of his prisoner of war experience on German toilet paper, more substantial paper being unavailable. He carried these writings on his person to escape confiscation by the Nazis. He tells of the misery, the perpetual hunger, the incessant cold and damp, the constant struggle to maintain his health and sanity. He and his barracks mates constantly thought, sang and wrote about food, devising long lists of dishes they'd like to eat, instead of their steady but meager diet of horsemeat, cardboard-like bread, rutabaga and potatos. Years later, Alan was heard to say he never got over the being hungry.

On his return to the U. S., Alan transcribed the diary from its original toilet paper manuscript, added a prologue leading up to the opening entries in the diary, and a final chapter updating his life, and his reactions to the current American scene. The book was published in 1947. It's available at the Charlotte Public Library.

When the movie Stalag 17 came out, and again when Hogan's Heroes appeared on TV, Alan entertained the possibility that Hollywood had stolen his book. He was never fully convinced it hadn't.

Alan was a good writer. Thoughtful and thorough, he captured the time and place and his own feelings. Here's a sample.


Chapter Thirteen

December 1, 1944 ..... The first of the month is a good reminder—I had almost forgotten I have a diary. For that matter, interest in everything has been slacking up recently. The Germans have stopped bringing in our Red Cross parcels for the past two weeks, so our meals have been a succession of potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga and black bread. And we had little of our ration left at Thanksgiving, so that occasion was marked only by bitterness and hunger.

The rutabagas here are different from those we have at home. These German ones are big, coarsely grained, colorless things with absolutely no taste at all. Bowden and I are so hungry that we sit beside the stove after Lights Out and chew on cabbage leaves—many of the men can't stomach these cabbages, so they are not so much in demand. They do have a peculiar taste, but at least they fill a little of that aching void. And I can't lie there in bed and go to sleep while I am so hungry. I guess, Bowden feels the same way !

I have been spending my evenings recently participating in a little variety show that some of us have organized. We go to a different barracks each evening before Lock-up to present a program in the halls. A tall fellow named Jacobs is the M.C. and he does a couple of good acts; there is a little orchestra of fiddle, accordion and banjo, and the quartet sings several numbers. I have introduced a new number at Stalag Luft 1 —"I'll Be Seeing You." It was playing on every nickelodeon in the States when I left there. I heard it on the radio all the time in England and it seems strange to be with a group of Americans who have never heard of it!

The song has caught on quickly. I taught it to the quartet and it is very popular, much in demand at our sessions. Now that I consider it, the tune holds a lot of feeling for me too. Those Tin Pan Alley words have a ring of sincerity and promise in this place and all my last memories of the familiar life I knew are tied up with those words—"I'll be seeing you, in all those old, familiar places that this heart of mine embraces, all day through." I am not surprised that when we sing it, a look of reflection and nostalgic sadness comes over the faces of our audience. It is so easy and such a pleasure to play to these men. Starved for entertainment and laughter, they make the most appreciative audience I have ever seen.

In singing with this show, I have made an unusual friend. He is the accordionist, a little English fellow whom everyone calls "Jimmy." He has been here too long and is "around the Bend," the phrase used to describe someone who goes crazy or becomes simple-minded as a result of confinement. Jimmy is the latter. He has a sweet and friendly disposition, but has evidently lost the ability to think accurately or deeply, and spends all his time carrying an accordion around. It was sent into the camp by the YMCA and given by popular consent to Jimmy, who couldn't play when he came here. In the course of three years and more, he has learned to play brilliantly and is always ready to entertain anyone who wants to hear him.

. . . . . .

Alan Newcomb (upper left) and some mates of Block 5, Room 7, Stalag Luft 1

Newcomb, Wright, Adams, Mull,
Amundsen, Grissom, MacAdams, Gremore

Photographs courtesy Bob Newcomb.