When August of 1979 rolled around, Hagger was still in the USA, back in Texas and living in Houston. Over the years he has had plenty of time to meticulously investigate the movements of Ronan O'Rahilly; O'Rahilly's father and everyone and everything associated with his claims about starting a radio station called 'Caroline'.
All of Ronan O'Rahilly's claims are bogus.
That is, if we accept the courtroom mantra of promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But what Ronan O'Rahilly has told those who ask, is a lie, mixed with a little bit of truth, and nothing but a confused and obfuscated story delivered in many intentionally misleading ways. He has fooled most of the people most of the time.
When Hagger was told in the 1970s, that back in June 1963, O'Rahilly had stayed at the Continental Hotel, Hagger began to ask about that location in Houston, but he could not find it. Houston was a city of structures that were "here today and gone tomorrow", and a wrecking ball had demolished the Continental Hotel. But its footprint in time was still traceable, although it took awhile to find the right questions to ask of the right sort of people who would know the right sort of answers. They were the specialists who devoted their free time to a hobby recalling aspects of Houston's past.
Consequently Hagger had to join a group specializing in preserving memories about a bygone Houston in order to locate one person who recalled enough details for Hagger to find a color postcard of the hotel as well as a newspaper advertisement. At the time that O'Rahilly arrived in Houston, the Continental was a modern building in the style of the Nineteen Sixties. A lot of buildings of that time period were constructed in a similar way, but that design style soon fell out of popularity.
The magnificent Sanderson office and showrooms complex on Berners Street in the West End of London, met that same sort of description, but not the same fate. After Sanderson as a company merged into a conglomeration of companies, its temple for interior designers and materials became redundant as a building, and then a new owner was able to turn it into a Sixties' period piece called the Sanderson Hotel.
So when it comes to tracking down the past to determine whether Ronan O'Rahilly really did go to Houston it is necessary to locate individuals who live on what other people would regard as mere trivia. Some members of organizations dedicated to preserving the past can only recall parts of the answer being sought. So it is necessary to find several members in order to assemble, and then cross-check, several pieces of information in order to assemble a documented past. That is both a time-consuming and costly process, if you need to find authentic answers to a lot of questions relating to a lot past activities.
People like Ronan O'Rahilly count upon that factor as a form of protection from being discovered to be a fraud. He thought that no one would bother to look, or pay the price. But time again, Ronan O'Rahilly has been proved wrong, because he never counted on 'The Trio' taking an interest in what he was saying, which was more than what he was actually doing.
Long before Hagger stayed in Don Pierson's Pullman train car on May 21, 1983, where he was shown those cardboard boxes in which he discovered his own unanswered letter dated August 16, 1967, he had already made his first visit to Eastland and met Don Pierson for the first time. It was just an initial introduction for Hagger more than anything else.
Hagger explained his interest in the days of 'Swinging Radio England', but he was doing so at a time when Don Pierson was living in a more recent past that resulted in the costly aftermath of his own activities in the Caribbean. Hagger knew nothing about that when he first met Pierson, In fact, Hagger was only interested in the disastrous financial offshore radio exploit which had consumed the time and money of Don Pierson years earlier in the United Kingdom.
That first meeting with Pierson in 1979 came and went, and Hagger returned to Houston over three hundred miles away. No one does distances in a small way in Texas, and back then, flying from Houston to Dallas, and then driving from Dallas Love Field airport to the City of Eastland, was the only way to get to see Don Pierson, unless you had your own private plane or you took a Greyhound or Trailways bus. Train service was not available.
In early 1979, Hagger was drawn back to Eastland due to an event that took place at KSL-AM in Salt Lake City, Utah. At that time Hagger was working with a colleague on project in Houston, but but he was still interested in getting Don Pierson to explain why he had created the twin stations 'Radio England' and 'Britain Radio' in a country so far away, and so unrelated to his own business interests in Texas.
However, although the topic that Hagger used to open the door to a new invitation was radio broadcasting, its source location in Salt Lake City, Utah, was not exactly next door to Eastland, Texas. In fact, it was over one thousand, one hundred miles away! However, on February 9, 1979, clear channel KSL in Salt Lake made a decision that Hagger decided to bring to the attention of Pierson.
The transmissions of KSL with 50,000 watts of power were heard over a huge slice of the geographical United States, although proportionately not a lot of the population of USA. Those that it did reach included a lot of listeners belonging to a pioneering broadcaster named Herb Jepko. His career in radio began around the time that the Beatles and other groups began to invade the U.S. airwaves with British pop music, but the audience of Murray the K and the station raving about "W-A-Beatles-C", was not the the audience that Herb Jepko was concentrating upon.
Jepko's groundbreaking career centered around finding a profitable use for the broadcasting hours that mostly remained silent after midnight. That is when the majority of U.S. commercial radio stations were turning off their transmitters. The reason was the cost of keeping them switched on.
It was not just the cost of staff, but the cost of electricity, and that made broadcasting after midnight unprofitable for most stations. They were deriving their income by selling airtime for commercials, and their sales departments could not generate enough income from selling time in the overnight hours to pay both the costs of operation, let alone generate a profit. Broadcasting overnight was not a worthwhile proposition because few people were awake during those hours.
Jepko knew that the heartbroken who could not sleep; the patients still awake in their hospital beds; the party-goers and bar hoppers; the police and fire station personnel, as well as night-shift workers, were all still awake, and some of them must have been twiddling the dials on their radio sets in the pre-push-button age, hoping to find something to listen to on the airwaves of America.
Long before Music TeleVision (MTV) first debuted just after midnight on August 1, 1981 in New York City, Mervyn Hagger had begun by casually following the career of Herb Jepko. It happened quite by chance as one of Jepko's listeners. In the early Nineteen Seventies, shortly after arriving in the USA, Hagger was working "on the side where the moonbeams play" trying to rescue a failing weekly newspaper which back in the Nineteen Forties had been a daily newspaper. Now with the market contracting, this tiny weekly newspaper was surviving from an income derived from publishing legal notices.
The person who owned the newspaper was a lawyer and it was in his interest and those of his fellow attorneys to publish their legal notices where they would not be seen, read and acted upon to cause these lawyers trouble. But at the same time, this particular Texas lawyer who came from a German genealogical immigrant background, wanted to influence the local voters to veer away from Hispanic interests and support the residents with a European background. The city was divided in its population both by geography and numbers. The only way this could be achieved was by hiving off a part of the paid circulation newspaper in order to create a home-delivered free edition covering a large part of the genetically European population, while leaving the legal notices in the original edition. In that way new and bigger advertisers such as grocery stores could be added to revenue stream.
In an instance of serendipity, Hagger breezed on to the scene and was hired to do the job. But because the paper's resources were meagre, the job involved missing one night's sleep a week, while still working at the paper during the day. This is how Hagger came to hear Jepko at work, because the signal from far away Salt Lake City found its way at night into the past-up and pre-print production area of the newspaper where he also employed his soon-to-be wife. It was her job to type-in copy on extremely noisy, punch-driven 'Justowriters' in thos days prior to computer graphics and barely beyond Linotype hot lead.
Until Herb Jepko came along, most stations turned off their transmitters in the early morning hours, because high-powered stations such as KSL could not sell enough airtime to make enough money to cover their transmitter electricity bills, let alone make a profit. Making a profit was the reason for operating a commercial radio station, even though KSL was owned by a company controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or 'Mormons').
Jepko spent his career life in radio broadcasting, and his observations were similar in some ways to those of Todd Storz in Nebraska. Storz observed that the same records were being repetitiously played on juke boxes, and Herb Jepko who was working in California, noticed that the same listeners were calling in to Ben Hunter's local 'Night Owl' talk show that was aired over KFI in Los Angeles. They were loyal listeners who wanted to talk to their neighbors, and Herb Jepko understood that nationally there were a lot of potential listeners like that.
Although the overnight hours were lonely hours when the majority of people were asleep in bed; stores were shut and offices were dark, except for the cleaners who came in after everyone else had gone home. But there were night workers, insomniacs, patients in hospital, and those individuals who are today classified as 'front line' employees maintaining essential services. All of them could be linked by radio signals that can travel hundreds of miles to reach their listeners.
Beginning on February 11, 1964, Jepko applied this formula of broadcast repetition to his idea of neighbors leaning over their garden fence and repeatedly chatting to each other in a low-key way that neighbors are want to do. It was all low key and with Jepko as a moderating friend, he kept the conversation neutral and steered it away from anything controversial such as discussions about party politics or denominational religion.
As time went on and the format became established, at the top of each hour the program restarted following station identification, news and local station announcements with the 'Ballad of Herb Jepko. It was a recording made by Don Ray who sang to lyrics written by a Jepko listener: ".... we rally round our Nite Cap Show on the brand new side of the day; on the quiet side, on the starry side, on the side where the moonbeams play, yes we rally round on the morning side on the early side of the day ...." But that rallying call fell silent on Jepko's flagship station KSL after February 9, 1979, when his contract was not renewed, and that put his entire operation in financial jeopardy
From a small beginning Jepko began to build his own network of radio stations. He bought the time, resold it to his own sponsors and produced the show in his own studio. On November 4, 1975 his audience increased overnight when his 'Nite Cap Show' took place when the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) added it to their roster of about 90 station affiliates. But when it became obvious that Jepko had proved that there was money to be made after dark, MBS ramped-up their own expectations and wanted to put him on more of their affiliate stations.
There was just one snag: Jepko had to surrender his neutrality and become a controversial tall show host. Jepko refused, and so Mutual dropped Jepko's show on May 29, 1977. This gave rise to competitors such as Larry King. He began to do what Mutual wanted him to do, and occasionally he would cut off his callers in mid-sentence just to prove that he was not going to be another Herb Jepko.
Meanwhile Jepko continued on with his own format, but over a greatly reduced network of his own. He was still on KSL in Salt Lake City which remained as his flagship station. However, the loss of Mutual also meant a huge drop in his potential audience size, and with that cut back came a drop in advertising revenue.
Tomorrow: Herb Jepko meets Don Pierson
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