How many times had I heard that familiar and unmistakable voice booming out of my radio to let me know that Paul Harvey was going to have me “stand by for news”. It was a clear voice that, like clear eyes, reported and commented on the ebb and flow of the world in its own unique way, taken in and reflected back.
Wars were fought, presidents were assassinated, terrorists attacked New York — big things. Yet Paul Harvey also reported regularly on couples that were married sixty and seventy years. He himself was married about as many years to his wife, Angel, who died about a year ago.
This isn’t going to be a biography of Paul Harvey, because others have done that much better elsewhere.
Paul Harvey has been a part of my life for most of my life. For some reason I’ve always been a radio listener. When I was young I used to sneak one of those “space age” pocket transistor radios into bed at night and listen to the reports from all over the Midwest. At that time, the state of the art only had the AM band, because there was nothing on FM, so the muffled sounds from beneath my pillow was talk and news and top 50 rock and roll music.
And Paul Harvey — repeats of his news and commentary going out at night to towns big and small and into the stars. He broadcast from Chicago for many decades, ignoring the lure of New York and Los Angeles. I liked that about him, as I lived in Chicago.
Paul Harvey used to trick me, though. He would mix his commercials right in with his news and commentary. You’d think you would be hearing the latest on some new scientific breakthrough, and it was really a live read on the latest cutting or dicing gadget. Harvey had a way with words that made you think that something that just cut carrots belonged in the NASA moon program.
Later, when I was traveling across the Midwest, through Illinois and Indiana and Wisconsin and Missouri, through the small towns and larger cities, I was almost always traveling alone. I was in my early twenties and it was part adventure and part loneliness. The roads all looked the same and the towns came and went. You didn’t know anybody long term anywhere.
Then I’d punch the car radio buttons and there would be Paul Harvey, turning to “Page 2” , or later in the day relating “the rest of the story” that had a twist on some famous person or event that was surprising and amusing. Cars had big buttons to punch back then, and if I punched a few I’d find Paul Harvey across the dial. Sometimes I’d catch Paul Harvey in one of his famous pauses, and almost move on, before his voice filled the speaker.
Paul Harvey was big. Bigger than mega radio talker Rush Limbaugh –even today.
Paul Harvey was a kind of surrogate father for me traveling those roads. His voice was always optimistic and clear. Nothing was ever so bad that he didn’t think Americans couldn’t bounce back and move forward. He’d be the fatherly voice saying “Hey, keep going. Don’t get down. Things will be just fine”.
Just 10 days or so ago I heard Paul Harvey on the air. I was driving, which was fitting. His voice was aged and like my grandfather’s, but it was still clear and distinct. He was showing up daily and doing his radio program at 90 years of age.
There’s no more big buttons to punch on my car radio, though. There are many talkers on the air today. Some are good and some are not, some that build up and some that tear down.
Paul Harvey was above all of them. He reflected us, we the people.
He was the rest of the story, mile after mile.