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From Diaries Roger Manning Never Kept..
By Cadet Jan Merlin (ret.)



Of course,I arrived late. My plane was delayed and my wife,Barbara, and I got to Newark a bit after expected. Frankie and hiswife, Virginia, met us with relief and worried frowns, and the wivesimmediately abandoned us to our reminiscences. It was Thursday night,with not much else to do but mill around with the convention guests.

What a treat to see Ezra Stone (HENRY ALDRICH) and MargotStevenson (THE SHADOW), Earl George (DOC SAVAGE) and Raymond Johnson (INNER SANCTUM)..and a host of other dearly remembered voices from beloved radio dramas of a vanished era..

The rest of our TOM CORBETT SPACE CADET invitees were notpresent and wouldn't be until later in the weekend,so Frankie and I busiedourselves with getting involved in some of the recreations beingpresented..Frankie was the famous detective in SHERLOCK HOLMES, (naturally, since he also writes current new novels about the man!) andI managed to be cast in it as an ancient Chinese 'heavy'.and also got todo a German nasty in DOC SAVAGE..both shows were presented on Friday. Itwas a grand warmup for the TC appearances which were scheduled forSaturday.

At breakfast on Saturday morning, Frankie and I and ourspouses were chatting over scrambled eggs while scouting the room forfaces we knew..and Frankie spotted Jackson Beck, our formerannouncer.. I'm afraid I didn't recognize him until he spoke..andthat stentorian voice was still there in full force, as was hisfriendly charm. I remembered how he used to love playing cards withhis friends..and was saddened by knowing some were gone.

OTR  reunion - 13.7 K
First Cast Reunion After 40 Years

Left to Right: Al Markim ("Astro"), Frankie Thomas ("Tom Corbett"),
George Gould ("TV Series Director"), Jan Merlin ("Roger Manning")
Shortly after, Al Markim and Ed Bryce and George Gould turnedup, each instantly recognizable. George was with his wife, Nancy,and Alwith his Sandra,and we drew several tables together for all of us toshare. Ed Bryce had come alone, but brought enough news about his familyto make us think they were there. We lied to one another about how wellwe looked and how we had not changed so much as a hair, and wereastonished to be at ease, as if not a day had passed since we last metsome forty years earlier..

Then it was time to rehearse. Our director was Don Ramlow, andwe sat around a long table in a side room, marked our scripts, read ourlines, and eyed each other with surprise-for nothing had changed. We wereas we had been. Same voices. Same quips. Same attitudes,, same easydissolving into the characters we were to play. And Jackson Beck boomedour introduction as of yore, with George Gould looking on with pleasure,recalling all the television episodes he had directed with this happygang.
tcotr1.jpg - 15.7 K

During an audience question session: Jan Merlin explains his reasons for quitting the series to work in films and Television in Hollywood.
Seated: George Gould, Al Markim, Frankie Thomas, Ed Bryce ("Capt Strong")

When it was time to do the show for the convention, our wiveswere seated in the front row, Frankie's wife,Virginia, sitting withBarbara and Sandra and George , faces alight with grins as we horsedaround, doing those idiotic things we always did to amuse ourselves thatno radio audience ever saw..and the years faded away.. it was the 'olddays' again; audience and performers once more young. It's true; not awrinkle in sight among the lot of us! Don't take my word for it..get acopy of the VCR shows everything I could hope to say..

You were wondering if I goofed my lines again. Naturally. AndFrankie picked them up for me and I read his until we were able tocatch it up properly-with the audience none the wiser about the errors.It wouldn't have been the real Monty unless I had done that with thisscript..just as I had always done years before.

Well, more years have passed now. Frankie and I see Al eachsummer when he and Sandra get out to the Coast on holiday; we keep intouch with the rest by cards and letters.

tcotr2.jpg - 12.9 K

Original Cast:
Re-creating radio version of "Tom Corbett Space Cadet "
for Friends of Old Time Radio Convention
Newark N.J. October 1993
Al Markim, Frankie Thomas, Ed Bryce, Jan Merlin

Dear sweet gentle Virginia is gone, too .. and it is an uneasy feeling to yearn foranother reunion, knowing there is small chance of having it happen. Idon't read the obits in the papers anymore..I'm afraid to find someoneI knew there.

reunion- 10.1 K
The Polaris Unit: Together after 40 years
Left to Right: Al Markim ("Astro"), Jan Merlin ("Roger Manning"),
Ed Bryce ("Capt Strong"), Frankie Thomas ("Tom Corbett")
But, hey! Take a gander at the photos from that reunion! Wewere happy as could be then. You can almost detect the cocky youthfulcharacters we once were. Out here,it's not like that. The people I'veworked with in films have all aged equally; we're all bow-legged andsaddle sore and some still stagger onto a set for a scene or two. None ofthat fast action stuff for us. No derring - no battles ;nothing like theactivities of the Space Cadets. Those were from that earlier age..on themoon first, first on Mars and Venus, and still wet behind the ears. I wasfighting Mercurians long before I fought with Audie Murphy..and livedthrough all my space days..unlike what happened in Hollywood, where mostof my roles ended in a horizontal position.

But there's still a reflexive twitch whenever I hear

"Stand by for blastoff!".

Jan Merlin

Photos courtesy of Jan Merlin
Check out Old Time Radio's page on the Event
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