Why is it at that end of every year all radio announcers must walk around with trumpets under their arms and in a voice full of foreboding tell us all the things we did with such dramatic force that we don't even know they're talking about us?
— WNYC Announcer
At the close of 1949 New York City was facing a serious water shortage. Previously, at this time of year, residents could depend on 253 billion gallons of water from Catskills and Croton reservoirs. But Gotham at mid-century was running dry with a reserve of only 100 billion gallons. Newspapers, radio and television were enlisted in a massive region-wide water conservation campaign. This drama was just one of many public service efforts made by WNYC at year's end to save water.
With a slight tip of the hat to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the tale of Jeremiah P. Driftwood and his leaky faucet unfolds. It might also be said that this is a drama with the moral: "be careful what you wish for, you might get it..." The impatient Mr. Driftwood is visited by some civic-minded ectoplasm that admonishes him to turn off the faucet he's left running. He is told there is a shortage but he refuses to cooperate. In fact, he wishes he had nothing to do with the city and his wish is granted. Poor Jeremiah then finds himself in one of those Hitchcockian spirals where he can't accomplish anything, since everything he needs to do depends on some municipal government, law, code, or regulation. His trash won't be picked up by the Sanitation Department; the subway turnstile won't turn for him because it is regulated by the transportation department; the taxi's meter won't run because the driver reports to the hack bureau, etc, etc...
The last straw comes when Driftwood discovers he can't get a marriage license without the city's help. He awakens from this nightmare and immediately turns off the dripping faucet. Suddenly, all is right with the world, well mostly. Performances were by: Jim Bose, Anne Toviak, Arthur Anderson, Ed Latimer and Ruth Last. The script was written by Lou Drobkin and Felix Leon and directed by George Wallach.
Audio courtesy of NYC Municipal Archives.
Bowery philosopher Billy Casey: comments during the city's 1949 water shortage: 'I haven't noticed any water shortage.'
ANDY LANSET, Director of Archives, New York Public Radio
Growing up in New Jersey, Archivist Andy Lanset was probably the only 8-year-old who spent all of his paper route money on records and wind-up phonographs at the flea market and then cataloged them all in a 3x5 card file. Since then, he has gone on to amass an archive of his own as well as to collect, organize, and preserve thousands of recordings, photographs, and station-related ephemera for the WNYC and WQXR archive collections.
Mission Statement: The New York Public Radio Archives supports the mission and goals of WNYC and WQXR by honoring the broadcast heritage of the radio stations and preserving their organizational and programming legacy for future generations of public radio listeners. The Archives will collect, organize, document, showcase and make available for production all original work generated by and produced in association with WNYC and WQXR Radio.
The NYPR Archives serves the stations staff and producers by providing them with digital copies of our broadcast material spanning WNYC and WQXR's respective 90 and 77 year histories. We also catalog, preserve and digitize, provide reference services, store, and acquire WNYC and WQXR broadcast material (originals and copies) missing from the collection. This repatriation effort has been aided by dozens of former WNYC and WQXR staff as well as a number of key institutions. Additionally, our collecting over the last ten years goes beyond sound and includes photos, publicity materials, program guides, microphones, coffee mugs, buttons and other ephemera. We've left no stone unturned in our pursuit of these artifacts. TheHistory Notes is a showcase for many of these non-broadcast items in our collection.
In fact, if you’ve got that vintage WNYC or WQXR knick-knack, gee-gaw, or maybe a photo of someone in front of our mic, an old program guide or vintage piece of remote equipment and would like to donate it to us, or provide a copy of the item to us, write to Andy Lanset at email@example.com.
The Archives and Preservation series was created to bring together the leading NYPR Archives related, created, or sourced content material at WNYC.org.