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Ancient History -
From Diaries Roger Manning never kept..

By Cadet Jan Merlin
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Roger Manning In full uniform

I used to wonder why I had a black and silver band around the upper arm of my uniform..was it a rank? Did it mean I was a step higher than my fellow cadets? Or did it simply signify I was the guy who dashed up the ladder to his station in almost every show?? No matter. Roger loved having something the other cadets didn't. In those days,we didn't ask and nobody told. It didn't do to question too much what we coped with in the plots..nor did we break into laughter, if we could help it, when a space pirate died on the deck of the control room with a comic book visibly protruding from the top of his boot. One of our guest actors had trouble remembering his lines and carefully arranged scraps of paper with them in and under various portions of the set..having taken note of it, a nameless cadet made a complaint to the stage crew of the messy set..and on air, we watched a frantic actor peer -anxiously everywhere while his missing lines were delivered by others in the scene as their own..

Hey, Roger Manning was frantic, too. I recall vividly the time Captain Strong was floating off in space and the other cadets were determined to go to the rescue after him. I had a long, long, long complicated speech to say, explaining why we should all go back to the Space Academy to get help and then go after him..but, alas, on air and coast to coast live, I could not remember a word of the speech..and when Astro , giving me my cue for the speech, exclaimed, "You mean to say you'd leave Captain Strong out there to die?!!"

I looked at him,sputtered, and declared, "Why not?"

Well, Roger always had been a troublemaker. What better answer could he give? We got out of that gaffe, just as we did a multitude of others, usually due to Frankie's quick thinking and his inevitable knowledge of the scripts and ALL the lines. On several of our radio shows, he and I often found ourselves saying one another's lines because my attention had wandered and he would pick it up because I hadn't..We still do that. We did it in Memphis at a collector show when recreating one of the scripts..and again at Newark, N.J., at a re-creation for the Friends Of Old Time Radio Convention in 1993. Forty years had passed and we were still the same cadets we had been. That was a fabulous reunion. Ed Bryce, Al Markim, Frankie and I, and George Gould, our tv director, in attendance, and the stentorian voice of Jackson Beck announcing the show as he always had done for our radio versions..

I wonder if we'll ever get together again for another nostalgic performance..

There was a great hoopla recently about a "live" version of ER..what was all the noise about? In our day,ALL the shows were live. It wasn't a problem to anyone since actors came from theatrical backgrounds then and were accustomed to performing that way. The performers having trouble then were generally film people with little or no theater foundation..often resulting in hilarious errors..Lon Chaney, jr., hoisting a huge chair into the air over his head as he portrayed the Frankenstein monster, saying to the camera,"I'll break it on air.." He thought it was still another rehearsal. The audience loved those mistakes. ER was just taking a giant step backwards, forgetting that the whole point of filming shows was to present them without flaws.. think what an "event" the TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET series might have been if done on film.... no errors, classier effects, casts of thousands.. Never mind. We liked it the way it was.

Jan Merlin

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